- Boston hasn’t played like champions most of the season but one of its young stars says they’ll end up with the Larry O’Brien trophy. Jayson Tatum declared to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols (hat tip to Nick Goss of NBC Sports Boston) that the Celtics are going all the way. “We’re gonna win the Finals this year,” Tatum said. “Feb. 16, Jayson Tatum says (the Celtics) are going to win the Finals this year.”
- Kyrie Irving agreed to some extent with Marcus Morris‘ criticism shortly before the All-Star break that the Celtics weren’t playing hard enough or having enough fun, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald relays. Boston won its last two games before the break after Morris’ comments. “Well, I mean, there was some truth into it,” Irving said. “You know, we obviously understand that we have a lot of talent in our locker room, so it’s been a lot to manage. But we’ve come out pretty successful — obviously not as successful as we would like to be, but that’s just overall the attitude that you have to have in order to win in this league.”
Jayson Tatum has heard his name in trade rumors a lot lately, but he’s accepting it as part of life in the NBA, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Tatum is considered a key figure in the Celtics‘ push to acquire Anthony Davis, and although rumors have quieted somewhat with the passing of the trade deadline, they are sure to ramp up again this summer.
“I get asked that question a lot,” Tatum said about the trade talk. “And my response is always the same; control what I can control, I don’t take it personal. I understood coming in that it is a business. They have to make the best decision for them, whatever that may be. Especially right now; I can’t control it.”
Tatum’s on-court performance hasn’t suffered in the wake of the rumors, as Blakely points out that his stats have remained constant since Davis’ trade request became public. Showing star potential at age 20, Tatum may be in Davis’ position some day, but for now he is on the second season of a four-year rookie contract and has no control over where he plays.
“You learn pretty quickly that when you are under contract, you don’t have too much say-so,” he added.
There’s more from Boston this morning:
- During All-Star media events Saturday, LeBron James spoke further about his phone call with Kyrie Irving last month, relays Chelsea Howard of The Sporting News. Irving called James to apologize for some of the things he did in Cleveland and said he understands the situation better now that he is a veteran leader with the Celtics. “I think I’ve always loved Kyrie, from before I met him, until when I became his teammate, to even now,” James said. “So the phone call, more than for me, I think just to see his growth … It takes a real man and a real person — and a real person to understand who they are — to be able to call, or to do anything and be able to see their wrongdoings or believe they have some wrongdoings.”
- If Irving decides to leave Boston, he could affect the fate of several teams, notes Danny Leroux of The Athletic. The Celtics would lose one of their top talents and their best hope of signing Davis to a long-term deal if they do acquire him in a trade. The Knicks, Lakers and Clippers all have room to make a major impact in free agency and might welcome Irving if he becomes available.
- Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston checks on the status the three first-round picks the Celtics could be owed this summer and finds that two of them may not convey. The Grizzlies’ choice is top-eight protected, while the Clippers’ selection will only be moved if they make the playoffs.
Knicks president Steve Mills had informal talks with Demps last month about a deal involving Davis and Kristaps Porzingis, according to Isola. Porzingis was since shipped to the Mavericks in a trade that enabled New York to open two max salary slots for free agency.
A source tells Isola that Demps wanted to wait until after the draft lottery before resuming talks so he would know where New York would be picking. Second in the league in our current Reverse Standings, the Knicks have a 14% chance of winning the lottery and getting a shot at Duke standout Zion Williamson, whom Demps was intrigued by. Demps also has a prior connection with New York, having served as a scout for the organization.
The team has a much different relationship with former Cavaliers GM David Griffin, who is considered one of the potential front-runners to replace Demps in New Orleans. Another source tells Isola that Griffin was considering an offer to become GM of the Knicks two years ago, but turned it down when he discovered he wouldn’t be solely in charge of personnel decisions. While Griffin was negotiating with New York, Mills signed Tim Hardaway Jr. to a long-term contract.
Another top contender for the Pelicans post, Celtics assistant GM Michael Zarren, presents an even worse scenario for the Knicks and Lakers, Isola adds. Zarren is considered “the right-hand man” to Boston GM Danny Ainge and has a strong familiarity with the young players who would be key to any deal with the Celtics.
Anthony Davis confirmed today that he intends to play in Sunday’s All-Star game and the remainder of the season, and also confirmed the list of his preferred trade destinations during media availability with reporters Saturday in Charlotte.
The Pelicans’ All-Star suffered a left shoulder muscle contusion on Thursday in a collision with Thunder center Nerlens Noel. After he requested a trade from New Orleans but was not dealt ahead of the February 7 deadline, Davis’ future for the rest of the season became unclear.
Not only does Davis intend to play in the All-Star game, but the six-time All-Star confirmed he plans to suit up the remainder of the season. The Pelicans face potential fines from the league if they elect to sit a healthy Davis for the rest of the season.
In 45 games this season, Davis has averaged 28.1 PPG, 12.9 RPG and 4.2 APG for the Pelicans. Before Thursday’s injury, New Orleans reportedly planned to play Davis but reduce his workload and sit him in the back end of back-to-back games.
The 25-year-old also spoke candidly on his trade request and his possible destination. Davis confirmed his reported list of four preferred teams in a trade ahead of the deadline, which includes the Lakers, Clippers, Bucks and Knicks.
“Whatever list that came out that’s between the Pelicans and my agent,” Davis said, per Sean Deveney of Sporting News. “But it’s true.”
The Lakers were the most aggressive team pursuing the big man but failed to agree on a trade. Davis also called the Knicks a “great franchise” during his media session, before mentioning a possible fifth destination: the Celtics.
“They are on my list,” Davis said of the Celtics (via Sporting News’ Sean Deveney). “….I never said they weren’t on my list.”
Boston was unable to acquire Davis this season without including Kyrie Irving in a proposed deal due to Rose Rule restrictions. However, with Irving hitting unrestricted free agency this summer, Boston would no longer be hindered by that rule and could potentially pair him along with Davis.
As we relayed, the Celtics are reportedly prepared to offer an “explosive” package for Davis. A potential Boston trade could include any combination of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and a slew of future first-round picks, including selections from the Kings, Clippers, and Grizzlies.
In a later interview with NBA TV, Davis claimed he never gave a preferred destination and is merely seeking an opportunity to win.
“All 29 other teams are on my list,” Davis said. “I don’t have a preferred destination, I just want to win. Big market, small market [teams] — I don’t care, I want to win. Obviously, whatever team I get traded to, play for it that year or whatever…Then, when free agency comes, we’ll see what happens.”
Former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin is among the possible preliminary candidates to replace Dell Demps as the Pelicans‘ GM, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren may also be a target for New Orleans, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times.
Team owner Gayle Benson, who wants to find a pathway to sustainable success in a small market, intends to be aggressive in pursuing the “best available candidates” to run the club’s basketball operations, according to Wojnarowski.
[RELATED: Pelicans parting ways with GM Dell Demps]
Elsewhere in his full report on Demps’ dismissal, Wojnarowski relays that Benson is looking to take back control of the Pelicans from the “outside forces” she believes have tried to push the franchise in a direction that isn’t in the club’s best interests.
While Woj doesn’t get into specifics, it seems safe to assume that’s a reference to the efforts Anthony Davis‘ camp made to get him moved to the Lakers prior to the trade deadline.
Here’s more on the Pelicans and their front office shakeup:
- The determination to fire Demps was made by Benson, making it the first major decision of her tenure as Pelicans owner, tweets Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune.
- The Pelicans have known for weeks that Demps would likely need to be replaced, according to Scott Kushner of The Advocate, who says (via Twitter) that the club had initially hoped to wait until the end of the season to finalize its decision.
- Kushner also suggests (via Twitter) that today’s move makes it clear that the Lakers/Davis saga leading up to the deadline was controlled by team ownership rather than Demps, since the club wouldn’t have let him make the final call on a decision of that magnitude if he was about to be fired.
- Prior to Demps’ dismissal, Chris Mannix of SI.com dropped an interesting tidbit in a story about Davis and the Pelicans, citing sources who said that New Orleans may have been more open to dealing with the Lakers at the deadline if Davis’ trade request had been “handled quietly.”
- Jordan Greer of Sporting News argues that – after Davis’ latest injury and Demps’ firing – the time is right for the Pelicans to sit AD for the rest of the season.
- Celtics guard Kyrie Irving will be joined by team physical therapist Brian Dolan and personal trainer Robin Pound during the All-Star break in Charlotte, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald writes. Irving will continue rehab from a strained right knee suffered against the Clippers last Saturday, but his status for Sunday’s All-Star Game with Team LeBron has yet to be announced.
Morris was dealt from the Wizards to the Pelicans last week and subsequently waived. He has not played since December 26 due to a neck injury, but was cleared to resume full basketball activities on Monday by spinal specialist Dr. Robert Watkins of Los Angeles, Haynes continues. He’s expected to decide which team to join this week, Haynes adds.
Morris, 29, has appeared in 34 games this season, including 15 starts, averaging 11.5 PPG and 5.1 RPG.
All of Morris’ reported suitors have open roster spots via deals made prior to last week’s deadline. They’re also playoff contenders seeking a rotation piece for the stretch drive and postseason.
Celtics forward Marcus Morris posted a tweet on Monday expressing his desire to become teammates with his brother again, as they had been in Phoenix. However, the Celtics have not shown any interest in making that happen, according to an NBC Sports Boston report.
There’s no joy in TD Garden.
So says Celtics forward Marcus Morris, who lamented the bad vibes around the team after it blew a 28-point lead to the visiting Clippers on Saturday.
The weight of expectations, along with individual agendas, has turned the season into a slog for the preseason Eastern Conference favorites.
“It’s about the attitude that we’re playing with. Guys are hanging their head,” Morris said. “It’s just not fun, it’s not fun. We’re not competing at a high level. Even when we’re winning it’s still not fun. I just don’t see the joy in the game. I watch all these other teams in the league, guys up on the bench, up on the court; they’re doing stuff that looks like they’re enjoying their teammate’s success, they’re enjoying everything and they’re playing together. And when I look at us, I just see a bunch of individuals.”
With LeBron James in the Western Conference, the Celtics seemed poised to become the next powerhouse in the East. They possess a nice blend of youth and experience, one of the league’s top guards in Kyrie Irving, a budding star in Jayson Tatum and arguably the conference’s deepest bench.
Instead, the Celtics have proved to be surprisingly vulnerable. Mainly due to struggles on offense, they were a .500 team after 20 games. They reeled off eight consecutive wins, then went 7-8 over their next 15 games before winning 10 of 11.
Just when things looked rosy, home losses to the two Los Angeles teams last week led to more uneasiness and prompted Morris to sound off.
Returning from the horrific leg injury he suffered during his Boston debut, Gordon Hayward hasn’t been able to recapture the form that made him one of the most coveted free agents on the 2017 market. Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier have struggled with reduced minutes after playing starring roles in the postseason.
Irving has delivered a career year, according to PER, but questions about his impending free agency casts a pall over the organization. The front office’s well-known desire to acquire Anthony Davis this summer also has to weigh on the minds of some players, not knowing whether they’re part of the long-term plan.
The good news is it’s only February. The Cavaliers often looked disjointed before the All-Star break, then flipped the switch and got hot in the playoffs. But the competition for this year’s Celtics has suddenly gotten stiffer with the powerhouse lineup the Sixers have put together, plus the rise of the offensively-gifted Bucks and the continued excellence of the Raptors.
That leads us to our question of the day: Will the Celtics live up to their preseason billing and make the NBA Finals or are they doomed to fall short of expectations?
Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.
The Knicks were surprised to discover how much Kristaps Porzingis‘ trade value had dropped when they started shopping him, reports Marc Berman of The New York Post. Some of that was because of the ACL injury that has sidelined him for a year with still no clear date for a return. But some executives also expressed reservations about “where his mind was at and his actual skill set,’’ a source tells Berman.
The Knicks had three criteria in any trade for Porzingis: a good young prospect, which they got in Dennis Smith Jr.; enough expiring contracts to offer two max deals in free agency, which Wesley Matthews and DeAndre Jordan provided; and future first-round picks. Of eight to 10 offers that were available, the Dallas deal was the best one that checked all three boxes.
But New York could have gotten much more if it had traded Porzingis prior to the 2017 draft, when former team president Phil Jackson first raised the idea. Berman reports that the Celtics offered a package of young assets, while the Suns were willing to part with Devin Booker along with a draft pick swap that could have brought Lauri Markkanen to the Knicks.
There’s more this morning from New York City:
- Signing two elite free agents is just one way the Knicks can take advantage of their cap space, Berman notes in the same story. They could also use that money to absorb Anthony Davis‘ $27MM salary in a potential trade with the Pelicans. New York attempted to convince New Orleans GM Dell Demps to accept Porzingis as part of a package for Davis rather than wait for a trade this summer, a source close to Demps tells Berman, but the Pelicans didn’t believe Porzingis would be willing to re-sign in a smaller market. Berman states that the Knicks will become a serious contender for Davis if they land a top-two pick on lottery night.
- A lack of interest in their available players led to the Knicks being quiet on deadline day, Berman adds. Virtually no one wanted to take on Enes Kanter‘s $18.6MM contract when a buyout was expected; offers for Frank Ntilikina “underwhelmed;” Damyean Dotson sparked some inquiries, but not enough for New York to act; and few teams made offers for Noah Vonleh.
- G League callup Kadeem Allen continues to impress, Berman and Howie Kussoy write in a separate story. Allen, who signed a two-way contract with the Knicks last month, played in his seventh straight game last night and produced career highs with 14 points and six assists. “He’s a tough little runt. I love him. I really do. He fits my personality,” coach David Fizdale said. “He’s a grimy kid. He’s really worked his way to where he’s at. He keeps getting better and better.”