- Celtics guard Kemba Walker didn’t have a minutes restriction during the All-Star Game last week, according to Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Walker missed Sunday’s contest against the Lakers due to a knee injury, which was made worse by the highly competitive style of play in the All-Star Game.
- Rookie Celtics shooting guard Romeo Langford has closed out three Boston victories thus far in February as a defensive stopper, per Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. The 6’4″ wing out of Indiana, the No. 14 pick in the 2019 lottery, appreciates the faith that coach Brad Stevens has in Langford’s growing abilities on that side of the ball. “It’s good that (Stevens) already, like, trusts me,” Langord said. “So I’ve just got to go out there and deliver.”
The three-team trade that sent Marcus Morris from the Knicks to the Clippers two weeks ago also landed Isaiah Thomas in Los Angeles by way of Washington. However, Thomas’ stint with the Clips was short-lived, as the team waived him just two days later.
Speaking to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, Thomas admits he was “surprised” the Clippers released him, especially considering the team seemed to be in the market for a point guard.
L.A. will reportedly sign Reggie Jackson after he clears waivers later today, so perhaps the club already knew of Jackson’s interest through back-channels. Thomas, who isn’t a particularly strong defender, may also just not have fit the profile of what the Clippers were looking for.
In any case, Thomas told Kennedy that he understands the Clippers just viewed him as a “throw-in” in the deal, and isn’t bothered by it.
“It’s not like they were really trading for me; they were trading for Marcus Morris, which I understand,” Thomas said. “In my nine years in the NBA, I’ve learned that anything can happen. I thought it could work and I thought it was a good fit for me, but they thought otherwise. That’s okay. Now, I’m just trying to figure out the best situation moving forward.”
In his conversation with Kennedy, Thomas addressed several other topics, including his health, his possible next destination, his favorite Kobe Bryant stories, and much more. The Q&A is worth checking out in full, but here are some highlights from IT as he navigates free agency:
On his health:
“My health is good. As everybody has seen this season, I’ve been able to play every game and I’ve been able to practice every day. I wasn’t having to take days off; I was able to just focus on working and getting better. With my health, there are no questions. Now, I’m staying in shape and staying ready for the next opportunity.”
On whether he has been in touch with NBA teams since his release:
“Yeah, I won’t say specific teams, but we’ve had talks with several teams. Teams are interested, but we’re just trying to figure out what’s the best situation for me. Also, we know that other things may open up very soon.
“I’m just trying to stay as patient as possible when it comes to this while knowing that I’m ready for any opportunity that I’m given. Whether it’s a playoff team where I’ll be whichever piece they need to complete their puzzle or an up-and-coming team where I’m helping the young players and being a good veteran, I’m going to take advantage of whatever opportunity I’m given.”
On whether he’d want to play in Boston again after being unceremoniously traded by the team in 2017:
(Note: the Celtics reportedly don’t have interest in Thomas at the moment)
“For sure, if the opportunity presented itself. I hold no grudges, and they know that. I have genuine love for the city of Boston. If that were to happen, I’d love to be part of what they have going on. You never know. I’m always open for any opportunity to be in the NBA and play the game that I love at the highest level. If that opportunity presents itself, for sure. Time has passed.”
Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker have been teammates since Walker signed with the Celtics last summer, including their time together with USA Basketball for the FIBA World Cup, but they will be on opposite sides in tonight’s All-Star Game, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Tatum was drafted by Team LeBron while Walker went to Team Giannis, and they can’t wait to face each other on the court.
“Playing against Kemba’s going to be fun,” Tatum said. “Hopefully we get matched up once or twice so I can take him to the post. I’m going to go right at him, so that should be fun.”
“I’m going to hit him with his own move,” Walker responded. “I already got it down pat. I’m going to hit him with a step-back to the right or left, which he usually does. I’m going to get him. He’s been talking some trash, I seen. Said he’s going at me.”
There’s more Celtics news to pass along:
- Tatum failed to defend his title in Saturday’s Skills Competition, being eliminated in the first round by the Pacers‘ Domantas Sabonis, notes Marc D’Amico of NBA.com. Tatum blamed the defeat on a lack of practice time. “I didn’t get no practice in before. I shoulda practiced,” he said. “They let you practice like 30 minutes before they open the doors or something. I got busy taking pictures and other stuff.”
- Kevin Garnett expressed thanks on Saturday for the Celtics’ decision to retire his number and took a swipe at the Timberwolves, who still haven’t made that decision, relays Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. “Listen, I have some great years in Minny, but when comes to management, it’s not even close,” Garnett said. “Minny, they run their team one way. Boston has a culture of basketball. They run it a whole other way and I respect that.”
- Evan Turner believes his former Celtics teammate, Jared Sullinger, is capable of returning to the NBA, Bulpett adds in a separate story. Sullinger, 27, is in his third year of playing in China. “He’s supposed to be entering his prime. I mean, it’s crazy when you play with him and he’s not in the league,” Turner said. “But, I mean, the league it’s not easy, but sometimes it’s little stuff. It’s right fit. It’s timing. You know, you went from signing with Toronto, broke his foot, was rehabbing and they trade him off to an organization that was kind of like rebuilding (Phoenix, which waived him a day later), just trying to get rid of stuff, and that’s how he ended up lost in the shuffle. So unfortunately that’s what happens every now and then.”
The judges at Saturday’s dunk contest intended for the event to end in a tie, but their plan failed when three of them awarded nines on Aaron Gordon‘s final jam, according to Malika Andrews and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
After Derrick Jones Jr. and Gordon both received 50s on their first dunks in the dunk-off, Jones finished his night with a running slam from just inside the foul line that received a 48. Gordon sought to clinch the trophy in dramatic fashion by jumping over 7’5″ Celtics rookie Tacko Fall, but after a long wait the judges awarded him three nines and two 10s for a final score of 47.
“We thought it was going to be tied. We were like, ‘This is a tie!'” said hip-hop artist Common, who served as one of the judges. “But somebody didn’t do it right. I don’t know who it is.”
A second judge, Candace Parker, confirmed Common’s comments, saying the intent was for the dunk-off to end in a tie, which would have meant a poll of the judges to determine a winner.
“I really felt it was an even battle, and we, as judges, felt the scores should be even and they should just have a judge-off,” Common said after a breath-taking series of dunks from both competitors. “We had the cards. Put your card up for who had the best dunks.”
Gordon started the event with perfect scores on his first five dunks. He expected a sixth after dunking over Fall, and he and the crowd at the United Center in Chicago were visibly dismayed when the final results left him a point behind Jones. It was a familiar experience for Gordon, who also lost the 2016 dunk contest to Zach LaVine in a controversial decision.
“We’re here to do four dunks,” Gordon told reporters afterward. “It should be the best of four dunks. I did four straight 50s — five straight 50s. That’s over. It’s a wrap. Let’s go home. Four 50s in a row in an NBA dunk contest, it’s over. But I don’t know. Who’s running the show?”
There’s more on the wild finish to All-Star Saturday Night:
- Despite the controversy, Jones believes he was the rightful winner and was unhappy with the score he received on his final dunk, relays Andre Fernandez of The Athletic. “When I got that 48, it was tough because that was a dunk that I was doing since high school,” Jones said. “I know that’s 50-worthy. There’s no way I should have gotten a 48.”
- Jones also said he could have kept dunking as long as the contest remained tied (video link from Ben Golliver of The Washington Post). “I just turned 23,” said Jones, who had a birthday cake wheeled onto the court before his first dunk. “I’ve got legs for days, bro.”
- Fall tells Shelburne that his role in Gordon’s final dunk wasn’t pre-arranged (Twitter link). After a night that saw several dunks over other people, Gordon picked out the tallest man in the building. “I was scared for my life,” Fall admitted.
- Dwyane Wade, one of the three judges who gave Gordon a nine on his final attempt, denied that the score was a favor to Jones, his former Heat teammate. “I wasn’t the only one who gave him a 9, let’s talk about that!” Wade said in a video tweeted by Complex Sports.
- Several commentators suggested that the controversy may affect the league’s ability to get elite dunkers in future competitions. After watching the event, Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant, who many wanted to see participate this year, tweeted, “Y’all just made my decision easier,” then later sent out a video of American Idol judge Randy Jackson saying, “Yeah, it’s a no from me dawg.”
- Dwight Howard offered a tribute to Kobe Bryant with his second dunk, taking off his shirt to reveal a Superman jersey underneath, then taking away the S logo to to show a number 24. He told Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times that Bryant had agreed to be part of the dunk before his tragic death last month (Twitter link).
Kemba Walker left the only franchise he ever knew during the offseason, signing a four-year deal with the Celtics. After years of finishing in the lottery or competing for a low playoff seed in Charlotte, he’s enjoying his time in Boston, as Jared Weiss of The Athletic details.
“I think I’ve definitely earned respect from my peers and people around the league,” the four-time All-Star says. “But for me personally, I just really haven’t — I’ve only been to the playoffs two times in eight years. I played well in the playoffs, but I never got out the first round. So I haven’t really done much, you know? Definitely still have some ways to go.”
Walker believes that Kyrie Irving would have gotten the All-Star start if the Brooklyn point guard hadn’t gotten hurt.
“He’s playing well,man, he just wasn’t healthy,” Walker said graciously.
Irving had taken the starting spot over Walker in past years. Walker was seen as a player who was just putting up stats, someone who wasn’t able to carry a team to great heights.
“Obviously, last year was my first (All-Star) start,” Walker says. “I mean, the game was in Charlotte. I think that’s probably why I really got the start. I was averaging about 26 and a half (points per game) at the time. This year, like 21, something like that or whatever. But now I’m more so being recognized for being on a winning team, not more so recognized for my stats, you know?”
Prior to Thursday night’s game against the Celtics, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers raved about Jayson Tatum, suggesting that the young forward is already “one of the better players in the league,” adding that it will be “amazing” to see where he ends up after a few more years of development, per Darren Hartewell of NBC Sports Boston.
Although Rivers joked before the game that he didn’t need to see “any more growth” out of Tatum on Thursday, the 21-year-old gave the Clippers fits, turning in arguably the best performance of his career in a double-overtime win. He went off for a game-high 39 points on 14-of-23 shooting and made a handful of plays on both ends of the floor that helped clinch the win.
“He was incredible,” Kemba Walker said of his All-Star teammate, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. “He made every right play. He made every big shot. He was the best player on the court tonight.”
Tatum won’t be among the starters in Sunday’s All-Star game like Walker will, but the former No. 3 overall pick has emerged as the Celtics’ best all-around player this season, Forsberg argues. Tatum’s ascent is well-timed, as he’ll be extension-eligible for the first time during the 2020 offseason. Barring a major slump or injury in the second half, it’s hard to see how his next contract won’t be worth the maximum salary.
Here’s more out of Boston:
- Appearing this week on radio show Toucher & Rich, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said there’s nothing on the buyout market that interests the team for the time being, per Forsberg (Twitter link). That includes free agent point guard Isaiah Thomas — Ainge praised the former Celtic, but suggested the fit may not be right with Boston’s current roster, as Forsberg relays.
- Whether or not Gordon Hayward picks up his 2020/21 player option this spring, the Celtics are “very interested” in retaining the veteran forward long-term, a league source confirmed to Brian Robb of Boston Sports Journal. Hayward isn’t necessarily a lock to exercise his $34MM option, since he could command a larger overall payday on a longer-term contract.
- The Celtics announced on Thursday that they intend to retire Kevin Garnett‘s No. 5 jersey at some point next season, as Taylor Snow details at Celtics.com.
Celtics guard Kemba Walker, who was teammates with Marvin Williams for five seasons in Charlotte, said he spent several weeks trying to convince the veteran forward to join him in Boston when he was eventually bought out by the Hornets, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. After Williams joined the rival Bucks instead, Walker called up his longtime teammate to congratulate him on his new deal.
“He said that he wished he could have gotten to Boston with me, but I’m just happy for him,” the Celtics’ All-Star point guard said, per Himmelsbach. “That’s my guy, man. That’s one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever been around. That’s my vet. I was upset that we didn’t get the chance to get him, but I’m happy for him. He deserves it. He’s been in the league for a very long time. He works hard. He deserves to be on a winning team.”
The Celtics figure to keep a close eye on the buyout market in the coming weeks, though they’ll have to waive a player from their 15-man roster if they want to bring anyone in.
The Knicks have had a miserable 12 months, finishing the 2018/19 season with a league-worst 17 wins, missing out on their top free agent targets, and then firing head coach David Fizdale and president of basketball operations Steve Mills during the 2019/20 season.
None of that seems to have had a noticeable impact on the team’s market value though. Once again, the franchise is considered the most valuable of any of the NBA’s 30 clubs, according to a report from Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes. The Lakers and Warriors aren’t far behind, having both surpassed the $4 billion mark for the first time this year.
For the first time, all 30 NBA teams have a perceived worth of $1.3 billion or more, per Forbes’ annual report. Every team’s value increased by at least 6% since Forbes put out their 2019 valuations last February, with a handful of franchises jumping by 20% or more.
The NBA-wide average of $2.12 billion per team in 2020 is also a new record — that league-wide average surpassed the $2 billion mark for the first time. NBA franchise values are up almost sixfold over the last decade, according to Badenhausen.
Here’s the full list of NBA franchise valuations, per Forbes:
- New York Knicks: $4.6 billion
- Los Angeles Lakers: $4.4 billion
- Golden State Warriors: $4.3 billion
- Chicago Bulls: $3.2 billion
- Boston Celtics: $3.1 billion
- Los Angeles Clippers: $2.6 billion
- Brooklyn Nets: $2.5 billion
- Houston Rockets: $2.475 billion
- Dallas Mavericks: $2.4 billion
- Toronto Raptors: $2.1 billion
- Philadelphia 76ers: $2 billion
- Miami Heat: $1.95 billion
- Portland Trail Blazers: $1.85 billion
- San Antonio Spurs: $1.8 billion
- Sacramento Kings: $1.775 billion
- Washington Wizards: $1.75 billion
- Phoenix Suns: $1.625 billion
- Denver Nuggets: $1.6 billion
- Milwaukee Bucks: $1.58 billion
- Oklahoma City Thunder: $1.575 billion
- Utah Jazz: $1.55 billion
- Indiana Pacers: $1.525 billion
- Atlanta Hawks: $1.52 billion
- Cleveland Cavaliers: $1.51 billion
- Charlotte Hornets: $1.5 billion
- Detroit Pistons: $1.45 billion
- Orlando Magic: $1.43 billion
- Minnesota Timberwolves: $1.375 billion
- New Orleans Pelicans: $1.35 billion
- Memphis Grizzlies: $1.3 billion
The Raptors are among this year’s big “winners,” with their value rising 25%, from $1.675 billion a year ago to $2.1 billion this year following their first NBA championship. The Clippers also had a noteworthy bump, moving from ninth place on Forbes’ list to sixth after landing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer.
Although every franchise’s value increased, the Nets had the smallest jump, just 6%. The Magic‘s modest 8% increase resulted in the team slipping from 23rd on last year’s list to 27th this year.
It’s worth noting that when a franchise has been sold in recent years, the price often exceeds Forbes’ valuation, so these figures are just estimates.
USA Basketball has formally announced a preliminary group of 44 players who are candidates to be part of the program’s roster for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The final roster will only consist of 12 players, so most of these finalists won’t actually play for Team USA at the Olympics. Some will likely withdraw from consideration, while others simply won’t make the final cut. However, these players have all expressed interest in being involved in the process.
“This is the first step in USA Basketball identifying the 12 players who will represent the United States as members of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team in Tokyo,” said USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo.
“… Over the course of the remainder of the NBA season we’ll continue to monitor all of the athletes. Selecting the 12-man USA roster will obviously be an extremely challenging and difficult process, and we will again attempt to select the very best team possible to represent our country and who we hope will be successful in our difficult mission of repeating as Olympic champions for a fourth consecutive Olympics.”
Although the U.S. men’s team has won three consecutive Olympic gold medals, the program had a disappointing showing at last year’s World Cup, finishing in seventh place. Team USA will be looking for a bounce-back performance in Tokyo this summer, with many players from that World Cup squad among the 44 finalists announced today.
Here’s the full list of players who are candidates to play for Team USA at the 2020 Olympics:
- Bam Adebayo (Heat)
- LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
- Harrison Barnes (Kings)
- Bradley Beal (Wizards)
- Devin Booker (Suns)
- Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers)
- Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
- Jimmy Butler (Heat)
- Mike Conley (Jazz)
- Stephen Curry (Warriors)
- Anthony Davis (Lakers)
- DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)
- Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
- Kevin Durant (Nets)
- Paul George (Clippers)
- Draymond Green (Warriors)
- James Harden (Rockets)
- Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)
- Joe Harris (Nets)
- Tobias Harris (76ers)
- Gordon Hayward (Celtics)
- Dwight Howard (Lakers)
- Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
- Kyrie Irving (Nets)
- LeBron James (Lakers)
- Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
- Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
- Damian Lillard (Blazers)
- Brook Lopez (Bucks)
- Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
- Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
- JaVale McGee (Lakers)
- Khris Middleton (Bucks)
- Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
- Victor Oladipo (Pacers)
- Chris Paul (Thunder)
- Mason Plumlee (Nuggets)
- Marcus Smart (Celtics)
- Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
- Klay Thompson (Warriors)
- Myles Turner (Pacers)
- Kemba Walker (Celtics)
- Russell Westbrook (Rockets)
- Derrick White (Spurs)