Boston Celtics

Central Notes: Rondo, Hoiberg, George, Bucks

Rajon Rondo faces an uncertain future with the Bulls, but he got an endorsement from coach Fred Hoiberg after tonight’s season-ending loss, tweets Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago. “I love Rondo,” Hoiberg told reporters. “I love the kid. I Iove coaching him.” Rondo is set to make $13.397MM next season, but only $3MM of that is guaranteed through June 30th. The 31-year-old point guard had a rocky regular season, but was instrumental in the eighth-seeded Bulls taking a 2-0 lead over the Celtics before he got hurt and missed the final four games of the series.

There’s more tonight from the Central Division:

  • There were loud chants of “Fire Hoiberg” toward the end of tonight’s 22-point loss, but the second-year coach said he sympathizes with fans who are upset (Twitter link). “I understand the frustration,” Hoiberg said. “We got off to a 2-0 lead but couldn’t finish it off. I do understand.” He has three seasons left on the five-year, $25MM contract the Bulls gave him in 2015.
  • The results of next month’s draft lottery could impact a potential Paul George trade, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. The Celtics, who enter the lottery with the best odds, and the Lakers, who are third, are the two teams most often mentioned as trading partners for George. Either could improve their bargaining positions by landing a top-two pick and giving the Pacers a shot at Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball. With Jeff Teague entering free agency, Indiana might be tempted to unload George in exchange for its point guard of the future. Pincus notes that the Celtics could trade for George and still be able to make a max offer in free agency (Twitter link).
  • The Bucks need another star but may not have the resources to add one, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Milwaukee will be over the cap if it re-signs Greg Monroe or Tony Snell, and would have less than $20MM to offer if both players leave, not enough to attract a max-level free agent. O’Connor believes keeping Snell should be a priority. In the draft, the Bucks have all their future first-rounders, but will pick 17th this year and won’t move any higher as long as they keep making the playoffs.

Panelists Debate Thomas Value

  • Does Isaiah Thomas deserve a max contract? A panelist of NBA writers at CSN New England discussed the topic in a recently published video segment and were torn as to whether or not the Celtics could justifiably pay up.

Poll: Which 2-2 Series Will End In Upset?

Last year’s NBA Finals combatants, the Cavaliers and Warriors, made quick work of their first round playoff opponents, dispatching the Pacers and Trail Blazers respectively in four games apiece. However, many of the other first round series around the NBA remain very much up in the air.

Currently, four series are tied at 2-2, with two of those Game Fives scheduled for tonight, and two more on tap for Wednesday. The Clippers and Jazz have each split their home games, resulting in a 2-2 tie, while the No. 7 seeded Grizzlies won two home games over the Spurs following David Fizdale‘s post-Game 2 “take that for data” rant, pulling even in that series. Those four teams will be in action tonight.

Over in the Eastern Conference, the No. 1 seeded Celtics find themselves tied with the No. 8 Bulls in an unusual series in which road teams are 4-0 so far. Meanwhile, the Hawks ripped through the Wizards‘ defense in two games in Atlanta, evening that series at 2-2. Both of those series will resume on Wednesday.

In each of those four series, the higher seed maintains the advantage, with two of the final three games on their home court. But most of those higher seeds don’t look as formidable as they did entering the postseason.

What do you think? Will any of these series result in upsets? If the Jazz are able to knock off the Clippers, should that series even be viewed as a legit upset, given the absence of Blake Griffin and the teams’ identical regular season records?

Vote below on which lower seeds will make it through the first round — you can pick as many as you want. After placing your vote, share your thoughts in the comments section!

Latest On Paul George And The Lakers

Paul George has been talking about playing for the Lakers for years, an anonymous former teammate tells Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News. The small forward never made his desire to play for Los Angeles a secret within the team’s locker room, according to George’s former Pacers teammate.

Lakers team president Magic Johnson will likely pursue George and look to build a title contender around him, sources tell Lawrence. Johnson alluded to such plans during a recent episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Lawrence acknowledges that George is a tremendous talent but hears that his leadership ability is being questioned around the league. Rival teams noticed how George handled himself in the media following the team’s Game 1 loss where C.J. Miles took the last shot instead of passing it to George. “C.J. took it upon himself,” George said following the game. “I’m confident in all my guys taking shots, that’s not the issue. But in that situation like that, I’ve gotta get that.”

A star should want the ball at the end of the game, but taking issue with teammates through the media is not the way top players should lead. “He’s not a winner by saying that [stuff] in public,” one GM told Lawrence. “That’s no way to support a teammate, but that’s how Paul rolls.”

Those comments after Game 1, along with George’s statements about Lance Stephenson‘s body language, have irritated members of the Pacers organization, particularly coach Nate McMillan and team president Larry Bird.

Several NBA executives are under the belief that George’s unhappiness and public blaming of teammates is a result of the Pacers not surrounding him with the right pieces.  Lawrence believes the Lakers need to surround George with “strong-willed” veterans should they trade for him this year or sign him next summer. One GM told Lawrence that the Celtics would be a much better fit than the Lakers because of Boston’s personnel.

Lawrence speculates that the team could part with D’Angelo Russell and/or Julius Randle in a hypothetical trade for George. The scribe adds that Brandon Ingram may not be on the table due to his high ceiling.

George said publicly that he hasn’t yet made a decision on his future with Indiana. “I ain’t even at that point, yet,” George said. He can become a free agent next summer by turning down a player option, which is worth approximately $20.7MM.

Eastern Notes: George, Williams, Lowry

It’s time for the Pacers to deal Paul George since he can become a free agent next summer, Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders contends. Hamilton compares the Pacers’ situation to the Jazz’s back in 2011. Utah sent Deron Williams to the Nets when the point guard still had over a year left on his contract. Brooklyn gave up quite a haul for Williams and the Jazz were able to easily rebuild. Hamilton names the Lakers as a potential trade partner.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Cavaliers won Game 4 against the Pacers today and Williams played a key role in the win, as Chris Fedor of The Northeast Ohio Media group details. Williams can to Cleveland via the buyout market this season. It was previously reported that the waiver and buyout process could be altered this offseason.
  • Coach Brad Stevens surprisingly started Gerald Green in Game 3 of the Celtics’ series against the Bulls and Green will get the nod again in Game 4, Jared Weiss of SB Nation relays. Green is on a one-year, minimum salary deal and he’ll be a free agent this offseason.
  • Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post wonders if the Raptors are going to pay Kyle Lowry a max contract if they lose in the first round. Bontemps believes rival teams, like the Sixers, will be willing to pay him the max for his services regardless of Toronto’s playoff success. Lowry can become a free agent this summer.

Celtics Questioned For Not Making Deadline Deal

As the top-seeded Celtics struggle against a Bulls team that nearly didn’t make the playoffs, all eyes are on general manager Danny Ainge who, to the chagrin of many, elected not to make any moves at the trade deadline, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post writes.

There were a number of moves that the Celtics could have made, Bontemps says, without necessarily making a major splash involving a superstar or giving up one of their coveted Nets draft picks. Serge Ibaka and Taj Gibson are two quality rebounding forwards who were obviously available that day. Lou Williams is another.

Alas, without the acquisition of a solid rebounder or an additional bench scorer, the Celtics are down two games to none against Chicago.  Earlier this week, Ainge himself spoke with CSN New England saying that critcism of their decision to stand pat was “fair”.

Carmelo-To-Celtics An Offseason Possibility?

In the days and weeks leading up to the trade deadline, reports indicated that the Celtics weren’t overly enamored with the idea of acquiring Carmelo Anthony from the Knicks. According to Marc Berman of The New York Post though, the Celtics coaching staff was in favor of making such a deal. GM Danny Ainge, however, had “too many reservations,” per Berman.

One of Ainge’s primary concerns, according to Berman, was that trading for Anthony would compromise the Celtics’ projected salary cap room for the summer. The Post’s report isn’t the first to suggest that the ability to have free agency flexibility is important for Ainge — it was believed to be one roadblock for a major deadline trade. If the Celtics remain well under the cap, they could attempt to land a top free agent – such as Gordon Hayward – and then would still have the ability to make a big splash on the trade market after using their cap space.

Berman suggests that revisiting an Anthony trade is one possibility for the Celtics in July, and there’s some logic to that idea — an early exit from the playoffs is more likely to spur action for Ainge and the C’s this summer, and the acquisition price for Anthony wouldn’t be as high as it would be for players like Jimmy Butler and Paul George, given Carmelo’s contract situation.

According to Berman, the Knicks would have interest in Jae Crowder in any talks with the Celtics. Reports in February about the Celtics’ inquiries on Butler and George suggested that Boston would likely have to include multiple players from the Crowder/Marcus Smart/Avery Bradley/Jaylen Brown group, along with at least one Nets draft pick, to make a deal with either Chicago or Indiana. I’d expect those Brooklyn picks to be off the table in any Anthony trade talks, and the Celtics may also be reluctant to give up multiple productive rotation players.

In any case, it’s somewhat premature to get into what a potential Anthony trade would look like, as there’s no guarantee Ainge will change his position. The Knicks clearly have interest in moving the veteran forward and would probably love to bring Boston back to the negotiating table, but it will likely just be one of many options considered by the Celtics this summer.

NBA D-League Assignments/Recalls: 4/20/17

Here are the D-League transactions for the day:

  • The Raptors recalled forwards Bruno Caboclo and Pascal Siakam from Raptors 905, the team’s media relations department tweets. Neither player was active for Game 3 of Toronto’s playoff game against the Bucks on Thursday. Siakam had 15 points and 10 rebounds against the Maine Red Claws on Wednesday as Raptors 905 advanced to the D-League Finals. Caboclo scored 16 points in the 103-88 victory.
  • The Celtics recalled big man Jordan Mickey and point guard Demetrius Jackson from the Maine Red Claws, according to the team’s Twitter feed. Mickey had 13 points and nine rebounds against Raptors 905, while Jackson contributed 21 points and five assists in the season-ending loss.
  • The Thunder recalled forward Josh Huestis from the Oklahoma City Blue, the team announced in a press release. Huestis had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds during Wednesday’s 102-114 season- ending loss to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. He averaged 17.7 PPG and 6.7 RPG in six postseason games with the Blue.

Gallinari To Opt Out, Prefers To Stay With Nuggets

Danilo Gallinari plans to opt out of his contract, but remaining in Denver is his first choice, he said in an interview with BlitzTV. The interview was conducted in Italian, but a small excerpt was translated by Emiliano Carchia of Sportando.

Gallinari, who is scheduled to make $16.1MM next season, will be seeking a long-term deal. Nuggets GM Tim Connelly has said the organization is taking a “wait and see” approach about re-signing the veteran forward, and the Celtics are among the teams expected to be interested if he hits the open market.

“The relationship between me, the city and the organization is great,” Gallinari said. “This is the reason why I would love to reach an agreement to remain in Denver. I love it here. And I would love to remain with the Nuggets.” 

Gallinari has been with Denver since midway through the 2010/11 season, when the Knicks included him in the Carmelo Anthony trade. The 28-year-old averaged 18.2 points and 5.2 rebounds this season and appeared in 63 games, the most since knee surgery forced him to miss all of the 2013/14 season.

David Fizdale, Marcus Smart Fined By NBA

The NBA handed out a pair of fines on Wednesday, docking Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale $30K for his post-game rant about the officiating following his team’s Game 2 loss in San Antonio. The league also fined Marcus Smart $25K for making an obscene gesture toward home fans during the Celtics’ Game 2 loss to the Bulls.

Fizdale was a lock to be fined even before his Monday night rant concluded with the “take that for data” line that instantly went viral. The Grizzlies head coach spent time after Monday’s loss pointing to the free throw discrepancy between the two teams, after Kawhi Leonard shot more free throws than the entire Grizzlies squad.

According to Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal and Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter links), Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley sent Fizdale a text early on Tuesday morning thanking him for his comments. Conley and his teammates intend to reimburse Fizdale for the $30K fine as a sign of appreciation for aggressively taking a stand on their behalf.

Meanwhile, Smart received his $25K fine after TNT cameras showed Smart appearing to exchange words with a fan in Boston before flipping him the bird. Head coach Brad Stevens called the incident, which came midway through the fourth quarter with the Celtics trailing the Bulls by a 14-point margin, “unacceptable.”

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