Celtics Rumors

Muscala Seems Unlikely Fit For Celtics

  • Jaden Springer didn’t anticipate getting traded at this stage of his career, he admitted to Gina Mizell of the Philadelphia Inquirer. He was dealt from the Sixers to the Celtics earlier this month. “I wasn’t expecting that,” the 2021 first rounder said. “But I [didn’t] really think about it too much. It happened, and I was OK with moving on to the next thing. I’m here [in Boston] now, and that’s what I’m really focused on.” Sixers exec Daryl Morey didn’t view Springer as a rotation player in the postseason for the next few seasons, Mizell explains, which is why he was shipped out for an asset — a 2024 second-rounder — that could potentially be flipped for a veteran role player.
  • The Celtics are eligible to sign Mike Muscala but it doesn’t seem likely, Brian Robb of Masslive.com writes. Muscala was bought out by the Pistons this week after he was acquired in a trade with Washington in mid-January. However, teams like the Knicks and Sixers would appear to be better fits, given that Muscala could get immediate playing time in their frontcourts. Boston would not be able to offer him any regular minutes while the team is healthy, and the C’s added a big man at the trade deadline in Xavier Tillman.

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Collins, A. Ainge, Bryant, Rozier

Despite being involved in countless rumors in the months leading up to the trade deadline, the Hawks‘ front office decided to stand pat. As John Hollinger of The Athletic writes, Atlanta hasn’t made any type of significant move since trading John Collins to Utah last June in a salary dump.

It’s strange for a middling team to be so inactive, especially since the Hawks had high hopes after trading for Dejounte Murray a couple years ago. But pairing him with Trae Young hasn’t worked out over the past two seasons, particularly on the defensive end, Hollinger notes.

However, Young underwent successful hand surgery on Tuesday and will be sidelined for at least four weeks, giving Murray an opportunity to play his natural position — point guard — while Young is out. As Hollinger observes, despite his relatively diminutive stature, Young has been quite durable over the course of his career, so it will be the Hawks’ first real opportunity in several years to see what they can do without the three-time All-Star.

If the Hawks play well without Young, Hollinger wonders if they’ll be more inclined to trade the 25-year-old this summer instead of Murray, who is on a less expensive long-term contract. Either way, Hollinger argues the Hawks shouldn’t continue their transactional inactivity, as the current roster is too good to bottom out but not good enough to contend for anything meaningful.

Here’s more from the Southeast:

  • John Collins had an emotional return to Atlanta on Tuesday, per Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. The former Hawks big man spent his first six seasons with the team before being traded to the Jazz last offseason. “I was aware it was going to be very emotional for me. I was doing my best to not let it, but it did,” Collins said.
  • After previously reporting a few “prime” contenders to become the Hornets‘ new lead basketball executive, veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein adds another name to the list of possible candidates (via Twitter): Celtics assistant GM Austin Ainge, the son of Jazz CEO Danny Ainge. Austin has been with Boston in various roles for well over a decade.
  • The NBA will allow Heat backup center Thomas Bryant to receive his 2023 championship ring on Thursday in Denver, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link), who notes that suspended players are not normally permitted inside arenas on game days. However, the league decided to make an exception for Bryant, who will have to leave after the pregame ceremony. Bryant was a role player last year for the Nuggets.
  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald takes a look at what the Heat are expecting from trade acquisition Terry Rozier, who returned to action on Tuesday after battling a knee sprain. Rozier says he’s still trying to find the right balance now that he’s not the top offensive option like he was for part of the season in Charlotte. “For sure,” Rozier said. “Not trying to do too much, but you got guys over there screaming at me, telling me I need to shoot the ball. Just trying to figure it out. Wins is all we really care about.

And-Ones: Holiday, Team USA, Galloway, Top 2024 FAs

Celtics guard Jrue Holiday is expected to be a part of the Team USA roster that competes in the 2024 Olympics in Paris this summer, sources with knowledge of the situation tell Shams Charania and Joe Vardon of The Athletic. According to The Athletic’s duo, there’s a belief that Holiday has made a commitment to USA Basketball officials in recent weeks.

Holiday is one of several players who are considered locks for the 12-man U.S. roster as long as they remain healthy and interested. Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid, and Jayson Tatum also fall into that group, per Charania and Vardon.

Holiday holds a player option for the 2024/25 season, but he’ll become eligible to sign a long-term extension with the Celtics on April 1 (he’s technically extension-eligible already, but can only currently sign a short-term deal). Getting an extension done this spring would put the veteran guard in position to compete with Team USA this summer without having to worry about an unresolved contract situation.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Jaylin Galloway, a 21-year-old forward who played for the Sydney Kings in Australia’s National Basketball League this season, is generating NBA interest and is a candidate to sign with a team before the end of the 2023/24 season, Marc Stein writes in his latest article at Substack. Galloway played in last July’s Las Vegas Summer League with the Timberwolves, who are one of many teams around the NBA with an open roster spot.
  • LeBron James, Tyrese Maxey, and Paul George sit atop a list of the top 25 free agents of 2024 compiled by Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. James and George are considered likely to remain with their respective teams in Los Angeles, while Maxey will be a restricted free agent and will almost certainly sign a lucrative long-term deal with Philadelphia.
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic takes a look at the NBA’s new rule requiring players to appear in at least 65 games for award consideration, noting that it was a priority for the league ahead of negotiations for its next media rights deal. As Vorkunov writes, before the rule was implemented, at least one the NBA’s major television partners had expressed frustration to the NBA about star players sitting out marquee broadcasts.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Griffin, Sixers, Trent, Raptors

After appearing in 41 games for the Celtics last season, Blake Griffin hasn’t been on an NBA roster at all in 2023/24. However, if it were up to the Celtics’ players, Griffin would still be in Boston.

As Brian Robb of MassLive.com writes, guards Derrick White and Payton Pritchard said during an appearance on the Pardon My Take podcast that several Celtics players tried to get Griffin to sign with the team earlier in the ’23/24 league year.

“I think the whole team has been begging him to,” White said.

“I texted him actually a week ago or two jokingly being like, ‘Coming back for one last ride?'” Pritchard added. “He says he’s enjoying his life.”

According to Robb, multiple Celtics players reached out to Griffin during the team’s West Coast road trip in December to ask about a possible return. However, the six-time All-Star has opted to sit out this season to spend more time with his family, Robb writes.

“He told me at the end of last year that his family was the most important thing and I stopped talking to him about it,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said when asked on Monday about White’s and Pritchard’s comments about Griffin (Twitter link via Jared Weiss of The Athletic).

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Celtics have held the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference for all but six days this season and appear highly likely to keep the top spot the rest of the way, according to Jay King of The Athletic, who explores whether any conference rivals could realistically catch Boston. The Celtics have a 7.5-game lead on the No. 2 Cavaliers, with just 25 games left to play.
  • With Joel Embiid unavailable and players in and out of the rotation this month due to injuries and trade-deadline moves, the Sixers have struggled to find a rhythm, losing nine of their past 13 games, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (subscription required). “There’s a lot of different combinations of guys,” head coach Nick Nurse said, “and we’re trying to make sure when we’re doing stuff that we can figure it out and get more on the same page. It’s just a bit disjointed at times when it gets tough.”
  • While Gary Trent Jr.‘s 41.4% three-point percentage is excellent, his season as a whole has still felt like a bit of a letdown, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic, who considers whether or not that assessment is fair and whether the Raptors will re-sign Trent, who is a free agent this summer. A multiyear offer worth somewhere between the mid-level exception and $20MM annually might be reasonable for the 25-year-old, Koreen suggests.
  • Zulfi Sheikh of Sportsnet.ca identifies six storylines to watch for the Raptors down the stretch this season, including whether the team actually has a shot at a play-in berth and RJ Barrett‘s progress in his first few months with his new team.

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Porzingis, Van Gundy

Being named MVP is one of Jayson Tatum‘s career goals, but leading the Celtics to an NBA title ranks higher on his list, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Tatum said at All-Star Weekend that he believes voters look at him differently based on a subpar performance in the 2022 Finals, Washburn adds. Although Tatum averaged 21.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 7.0 assists in that series, he shot just 31% on two-pointers and had difficulty scoring inside against Andrew Wiggins.

“Of course you want to win those things,” Tatum told reporters last weekend in Indianapolis. “But you can’t take precedence over playing the right way and doing the things that you have to do in order for your team to essentially be the best team in the league and have a chance to win a championship. Would I love to win? Yes. But apparently us losing the Finals two years ago affects what people think of me now, so I guess I’ve got some ground to make up.”

Tatum’s MVP case is boosted by the dominance of the Celtics, who won their eighth straight game Saturday in New York. Boston holds the league’s best record by a wide margin, but its roster is so talented that Tatum doesn’t have to carry the team, which often limits the stats that voters tend to look at when casting their ballots. Coach Joe Mazzulla made that point after Tatum’s 19-point performance against the Knicks.

“I thought today was a beautiful display of basketball from Jayson that will go underlooked and will not go into the most valuable category,” Mazzulla said. “But his ability to control the game with his pick-and-roll pace, his pick-and-roll passing; his defense, he put himself on ((Jalen) Brunson. And the poise of welcoming the two-on-ones (double teams) and creating for others was great.”

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Kristaps Porzingis, one of Boston’s major acquisitions last summer, gives credit to the front office for its bold moves in assembling the current roster, per Souichi Terada of MassLive. “When the opportunity presented, for me at least, I said this is gonna work, 100%,” Porzingis said. “Or we’re gonna figure it out sooner than later. And it just worked right away because of the fit, because of where I am in my career, and adding Jrue (Holiday). … So just overall great players but also great people and that makes the team connect very easily.”
  • With an eight-game lead for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, Mazzulla will have the opportunity to rest players for the remainder of the season to keep them fresh for the playoffs, notes Brian Robb of MassLive. He adds that it’s a luxury for a team that may have worn itself out by chasing seedings in past years.
  • Senior consultant of basketball operations Jeff Van Gundy has stayed out of the spotlight, but he has been a welcome addition to the Celtics’ management team, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. “One of the best things he does is he’s just a great listener,” Mazzulla said. “And so you don’t realize how long he’s been in the NBA. You don’t realize the playoff series that he’s been in, the experiences that he’s had, because he waits for the opportunity to come up and almost waits for you to ask him. So he’s very patient. He’s a great listener. And then just a guy that you can bounce ideas off of.”

Eastern Notes: Tatum, P. Williams, Nesmith, Cavs, LeVert

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum says he was “devastated” when Boston lost to Golden State in the 2022 NBA Finals, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Tatum was determined to advance as a play-maker after that experience, something he has continually improved upon over the years.

The easiest way to say it is, I was devastated,” Tatum said. “I got so close and didn’t perform the way I wanted to, and we didn’t win. At that time, besides my family, nothing else mattered but getting better and getting back to that point.”

Tatum had plenty of individual and team success through his first six seasons, with three All-NBA nods and three other trips to the Eastern Conference Finals. However, as Weiss writes, Tatum knows that the only way to become “the face of the league” is by claiming a championship.

I feel like it’s mine to take,” Tatum said. “I do feel like, if we win a championship, it would be more distinguished and clear. But I understand I’m in that shortlist for sure.”

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Bulls forward Patrick Williams is undergoing season-ending left foot surgery. He told reporters on Saturday that he had been trying to get back on the court by the end of February, but imaging revealed a fracture in his injured foot (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago). Williams is scheduled for surgery on March 6 in New York, with an expectation that he’ll resume basketball activities in July. As Johnson writes in a full story, the 22-year-old said he’s open to returning to Chicago as a restricted free agent this summer. “I don’t think anybody knows what their future is to be honest,” Williams said. “I would love to continue to be a Bull. I love it here. I love the opportunity we have to build culture, to build something special with this group and this team. I think I could really be a cornerstone piece for this team. But you never know what the future holds, and I understand it’s a business.
  • Fourth-year forward Aaron Nesmith, who is having a career-best season for the Pacers, was sidelined for Thursday’s win over Detroit due to an ankle injury and is considered day-to-day. Head coach Rick Carlisle said the 24-year-old was able to increase his activity a bit during Saturday’s practice, tweets Tony East of SI.com. The Pacers’ next game is Sunday against the red-hot Mavericks, winners of seven straight.
  • The Cavaliers dropped their first two games after the All-Star break without Donovan Mitchell, who has been battling an illness. Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscriber link) says the Cavs need more from their bench unit, particularly from Caris LeVert, who was just 3-of-21 from the field in those two losses. “I liked my looks tonight, especially in the second half,” LeVert told Fedor after going 1-of-11 on Friday. “I’m happy with how the ball is leaving my hands. Sometimes you go through that. Is what it is. It’s the NBA. Try not to think too much about it. Just continue to do what I do and be who I am. Do the same stuff outside of games and things like that. Just gotta keep going. I’m due for a big game.”

Ryan Arcidiacono Joining Bulls’ G League Affiliate

Veteran guard Ryan Arcidiacono is joining Chicago’s G League affiliate, the Windy City Bulls, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link).

Although neither Windy City nor the Maine Celtics have officially announced it yet, the two teams made a trade sending Arcidiacono’s G League rights to the Bulls, according to the G League’s transaction log.

Arcidiacono, who played in Chicago for four seasons at the start of his NBA career from 2017-21, has spent the majority of the past three seasons with the Knicks. A Tom Thibodeau favorite, the 29-year-old guard is considered a welcome presence on the bench and in the locker room, but played very sparingly in New York — he went scoreless on 0-of-6 shooting in 45 total minutes of action across 20 games this season.

The Knicks sent Arcidiacono to the Pistons in the trade that saw Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks land in New York. Detroit, facing a roster crunch, subsequently waived him.

Thibodeau and the Knicks, who had three roster spots available earlier this week, probably wouldn’t mind re-signing Arcidiacono and reuniting him with fellow Villanova alums Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart, and Donte DiVincenzo. However, they’re ineligible to do so. A team that trades away a player can’t bring back that player as a free agent later in the season if he’s waived by the team he was traded to.

Celtics Notes: Brown, Springer, Tillman, Stevens, Porzingis, Holiday

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown finished second in the All-Star dunk contest and he’s open to participating again, according to Souichi Terada of Masslive.com. Brown said he had a “great time” during the event.

“If nobody else cares to do it, (expletive) it, I’ll do it again,” Brown said. “I don’t really care. People think like memes and stuff. But like I said, I think dunking is an art form. Obviously, I think I got more in the tank than what I displayed. I think I could perform better. I had a great time.”

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Boston returned from the All-Star break with a fully healthy roster, Brian Robb of MassLive.com reports. Jaden Springer, who was acquired from Philadelphia at the trade deadline for a second round pick, had been sidelined with a right ankle impingement during the past two weeks. Big man Xavier Tillman, who was acquired from Memphis a day before the deadline, has been cleared to play for the first time since the trade. He has been recovering from left knee soreness for the past few weeks. Both saw playing time in the team’s victory over Chicago on Thursday.
  • President of basketball operations Brad Stevens noted during a wide-ranging interview with Heavy.com’s Steve Bulpett that team building goes well beyond the player roster. “I feel very, very responsible for putting a team together that not only includes the players, but coaches, trainers, nutrition, analytics and everyone else that is on one page and represents the Celtics really well,” Stevens said. “We will be judged on how well we play and how many games we win and our competitive character that we exhibit through it. So just putting all of the right people in all of the right spots to do that is, I think, the No. 1 responsibility. Get the right people on the bus, and make sure that we’re all moving in one direction.”
  • In his midseason evaluation of the Celtics’ strong first half, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe details how much Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday have changed the way the team plays.

Several Two-Way Players Nearing Active Game Limit

A player who signs a two-way contract with an NBA team is permitted to be active for up to 50 regular season games. That limit is prorated if the player signed his two-way deal after the regular season got underway — for instance, a player who finalized a two-way contract halfway through the season would be permitted to be active for up to 25 contests at the NBA level.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors Glossary: Two-Way Contract]

Several two-way players have been promoted to standard contracts recently, eliminating those games-played limits. GG Jackson (Grizzlies), Keon Ellis (Kings), Lindy Waters III (Thunder), Craig Porter Jr. (Cavaliers), Duop Reath (Trail Blazers), and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Pelicans) have all signed new deals since the trade deadline.

However, there are still a number of players on two-way contracts around the league who are at or near their active-game limit for the season. Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link) identifies Celtics big man Neemias Queta, Mavericks guard Brandon Williams, Grizzlies guard Jacob Gilyard, and Hornets teammates Leaky Black and Nathan Mensah as two-way players who have 10 or fewer active games left, while Hawks guard Trent Forrest has already reached his 50-game limit.

In some cases, promotions to the standard roster may be forthcoming. Queta, for instance, has been a semi-regular contributor off the bench for the Celtics, who have an open spot on their 15-man roster, so if Boston wants to make him playoff-eligible and ensure he’s able to be active for the rest of the regular season, a contract conversion would be pretty straightforward.

Other cases could be trickier. While the Hawks would presumably like to have Forrest available for the rest of the season, they have a full 15-man roster, so they’d have to waive someone to make room to promote him.

Atlanta at least has some viable release candidates on its roster — for instance, veterans Patty Mills and Wesley Matthews haven’t played much and aren’t owed guaranteed money beyond this season. But that’s not the case in Memphis, where Gilyard has made a strong case for a promotion from his two-way deal by averaging 4.7 points and 3.5 assists in 37 games (17.7 MPG), with a .425 3PT%.

The Grizzlies have already promoted Jackson and Vince Williams from two-way contracts and may not have any expendable players left on their 15-man roster who could be cut to make room for Gilyard. Luke Kennard ($14.8MM team option for 2024/25) and Lamar Stevens (unrestricted free agent this summer) are the only Grizzlies not owed any guaranteed money after this season, and both are playing rotation roles for the banged-up club.

“We’ll see what happens when the time comes,” Gilyard said of his uncertain situation, according to Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “As a basketball player, it’s definitely on your mind. I try not to let it affect me. I think that’s probably the worst part about being a point guard is you start to understand things and start to grasp things like that.”

“It’s kind of a juggling act,” Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins said of working within those active-game limits for his two-way players, including Gilyard and Scotty Pippen Jr. “It’s hard to make those decisions, trying to preserve those dates. (Pippen’s) understood it. I was very upfront with him when he came in, (general manager) Zach (Kleiman) and myself. I think when he came in, we were maybe on the 40-game mark, but he didn’t have 40 games available, so it’s very unfortunate.

“Maybe it’s something that we look into as a league because I think he’s earned the opportunity to play every single night. We just have to balance the games he actually has available to him.”

Besides those players who are approaching their games-played limits, there are a few others on two-way contracts around the league who look like candidates to be promoted to standard rosters before the end of the regular season. Nets forward Jalen Wilson and Warriors guard Lester Quinones are among those who were playing regularly for their respective clubs leading up to the All-Star break.

Promoting a player to a standard contract would open up a two-way slot for his team, allowing that club to reset its active-game counter for that slot — at least to some extent. Due to the prorated nature of those game limits, a player who signs a two-way contract today could only be active for up to 16 games the rest of the way, but that’s 16 more games than, say, Forrest is eligible to play for the Hawks as long as he remains on his current two-way deal.

Teams have until March 4 to sign players to two-way contracts, so I expect to see a good deal of roster activity related to two-way slots within the next couple weeks.

And-Ones: Barton, All-Star Game, Buyout Market, More

Will Barton, who reportedly reached an agreement with CSKA Moscow last month, will return stateside without having played for the Russian club, per an announcement from CSKA (Twitter link). Barton’s contract was terminated via an early exit clause.

An 11-year NBA veteran who appeared in 56 games last season for Washington and Toronto, Barton could be a candidate to return to the league down the stretch. However, Alessando Maggi of Sportando hears from sources that the wing’s departure from CSKA Moscow was related to failed medical tests. If that’s accurate, any NBA teams with interest in Barton will be sure to do its due diligence on his health situation.

CSKA Moscow indicated in its announcement that it remains on the lookout for a player who can help out at shooting guard and small forward.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Ten basketball writers for The Athletic shared their thoughts on how the NBA could improve its All-Star Game. Some of their ideas? Combining All-Star weekend and the in-season tournament final four into one event; turning the All-Star game into a two-on-two or three-on-three tournament; or simply naming All-Stars and not playing the game.
  • In an Insider-only article for ESPN, Bobby Marks and Kevin Pelton take a closer look at what sort of impact the NBA’s rule tweaks have had on the buyout market and consider which player will be the most impactful buyout-market addition this season. Of the veterans who have already found new homes, Pelton views Lakers guard Spencer Dinwiddie as the player capable of making the greatest impact.
  • Joe Vardon, Sam Amick, and David Aldridge of The Athletic polled several players at All-Star weekend on a variety of topics, including the best player and team in the NBA, whether the league has become too offense-heavy, and what rule changes they’d implement if they had Adam Silver‘s job for a day. The Celtics earned the most votes (five) for the NBA’s best team, with the Clippers (four) coming in second.