Celtics Rumors

Celtics Notes: Third Star, Brown, Williams, Kanter

The Celtics probably need to find a third star to become title contenders, but they may not have the assets to acquire one, Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes in an extensive look at how the franchise arrived at its current position. Boston has been on a hot streak this month, winning eight of its last 11 games and putting up the NBA’s best defensive numbers during that stretch. But as Bontemps talked to team officials around the league, he found skepticism about whether the Celtics are built to win in the playoffs.

“They probably need another guy,” an Eastern Conference scout said. “I love Al Horford, but he’s getting older. And I love (Marcus) Smart. But once you get past (Jaylen) Brown and (Jayson) Tatum — and especially past (Horford and Smart) — every guy is a question mark for me. They’re down to two legitimate stars, (and) you normally need three (to win).”

Bontemps traces Boston’s misfortunes over the past three years, including the losses of Horford, Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris in free agency and draft picks acquired from the Kings and Grizzlies that both fell to 14th, which was much lower than initially expected. Center Robert Williams has been the only full-time rotation player the Celtics have drafted in the past four years.

There are also concerns about whether Brown and Tatum are good enough to lead the team to a championship.

“Jaylen and Jayson aren’t making anyone better,” a Western Conference scout said. An Eastern Conference assistant coach added, “Jayson Tatum is about Jayson Tatum. I don’t think he cares about winning now, and if he does, it is on his terms. He doesn’t want to score 15 and win. He wants to score 39 and win.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Brown was cleared to play tonight, but coach Ime Udoka said he will be considered questionable for every game for the next week or two as he works his way back from a strained hamstring, Bontemps tweets.
  • Williams was thrilled to receive an extension during the offseason that will keep him in Boston for four more years, he said in an interview with Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. “I told my agent as soon as the season was over, I want to go back. I want to be back,” Williams said. “I feel like we’ve building something great here with a young core getting stronger and stronger every day. And I want to be a part of that celebration when we get to the chance where we raising that banner, I want to be a part of it. To be able to say we went through it all together. It was a big emphasis on me staying.”
  • Nets owner Joe Tsai is the latest target of criticism from Celtics backup center Enes Kanter, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. In a Twitter post, Kanter calls Tsai a coward and a puppet of the Chinese government.

Jaylen Brown Cleared To Return For Celtics

All-Star wing Jaylen Brown will be available on Monday for the Celtics‘ game against Houston, the team announced today (via Twitter).

Brown, who last played on November 4, has missed Boston’s last eight games due to a right hamstring strain. Ime Udoka said on November 8 that Brown would likely miss “a week or two” due to the injury — that was exactly two weeks ago.

The Celtics were below .500 at the time of Brown’s injury, but have bounced back nicely during his absence, going 5-3 in those games, including 4-0 at home.

The Celtics also should have big man Robert Williams back in the rotation on Monday night. Williams, who has missed the last three games due to left knee tendinopathy, is listed as probable.

Jaylen Brown Remains Sidelined Due To Hamstring Strain

  • While the Lakers are still waiting to see if LeBron will be available for Friday’s game, the Celtics have already ruled out Jaylen Brown, the team announced today (via Twitter). Brown has been on the shelf since November 4 due to a right hamstring strain.

ESPN Writers Not Too Concerned About Celtics' Slow Start

  • A handful of ESPN writers took a closer look at some underperforming teams to assess how concerned those clubs should be about their slow starts. The Hawks, Bucks, and Celtics are among the teams that shouldn’t be too worried quite yet, but the panic meter is already high for the Pelicans.

Atlantic Notes: Kanter, Schröder, C. Thomas, Gibson

Entering Monday’s game, Celtics center Enes Kanter has appeared in just two games this season, logging less than total 10 minutes in his latest stint in Boston. Kanter, who has been an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, published a social media post on Sunday implying that there may be a connection between his limited role on the court and his political stances off of it.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Celtics head coach Ime Udoka dismissed the idea that Kanter has been out of the rotation due to his comments in the press and on social media.

“My thing is strictly basketball,” Udoka said, per Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston (Twitter link). “We’re switching a lot and doing some things that probably are not as natural for him and that’s limited his time to some extent … Nothing basketball-related will be based on [social media].”

Kanter ended up seeing a little action on Monday in Cleveland, scoring five points in eight minutes as Boston defeated the Cavs by a score of 98-92.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Dennis Schröder is off to a strong start with the Celtics this season, averaging 17.1 PPG and 5.2 APG through 14 games (33.0 MPG). However, as Forsberg writes for NBC Sports Boston, the better Schröder plays, the less likely it is he remains in Boston beyond 2021/22, given the team’s cap constraints going forward.
  • Nets rookie guard Cameron Thomas has new representation, according to Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype, who tweets that Thomas has signed with Jim Tanner and Terrence Felder of Tandem Sports + Entertainment/You Sports. Thomas is in the first year of his rookie scale contract, so it will likely be a while before his new agents have to negotiate a new deal.
  • Mitchell Robinson tweaked his ankle on Monday and Nerlens Noel has battled injuries all season, so Taj Gibson has played a greater role than the Knicks may have anticipated when they re-signed him this offseason. The veteran big man has responded admirably when called upon, as Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. In 29 minutes on Monday, Gibson had more fouls (three) than points (two), but grabbed eight rebounds and was a plus-22 in a game New York won by eight points.

Jaylen Brown Not Yet Ready To Return

  • According to Celtics head coach Ime Udoka, Jaylen Brown (hamstring) went through on-court work on Sunday, but it was determined that isn’t ready to return to action yet (Twitter link via Chris Grenham of Forbes). Brown will remain on the shelf for Monday’s game in Cleveland, with the C’s hoping he can make it back later in the week.

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Knicks Chemistry, Thibodeau, Tatum

Should disgruntled Sixers point guard Ben Simmons rejoin his Philadelphia teammates without the proper attitude, the feel-good vibes of the team’s 8-6 season start could take a hit, opines Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Simmons has yet to suit up this season, hoping for a trade out of town.

“I don’t think that’s something we thought about yet,” swingman Danny Green said of a potential Simmons-Sixers reunion this year. “We don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon. But it’s something that hasn’t really crossed our minds yet.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • With the Knicks set to play their next three contests at Madison Square Garden, Tommy Beer of Basketball News writes that they have an opportunity to improve the shaky chemistry that has led to the club going 2-4 in its last six games. Starters Julius Randle and RJ Barrett have struggled lately. Beer adds that playing at home will allow for head coach Tom Thibodeau to hold more practices than are possible on the road, which could help the Knicks kick-start their energy.
  • To help improve the on-court performance of the Knicks‘ starting five, head coach Tom Thibodeau opted to give his starters stricter set plays and less improvisational optionality in a productive practice today, per Marc Berman of the New York Post. “The first thing you ask [is] are we playing hard enough and executing properly?” Thibodeau said. “If what we’re doing is not good enough, that’s when you change… In all fairness to Julius [Randle] and [starting point guard Kemba Walker], because of who they are, they probably get the brunt of what’s going on. The reality is we have to play well together as a group. It’s not one, two guys. We can say new guys, old guys. We can say first unit, second unit.”
  • Celtics All-Star forward Jayson Tatum is struggling through one of his worst-ever shooting stretches, prompting Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe to consider the possible cause of the issue and potential solutions. Tatum currently has a career-worst shooting line of .388/.322/.742.

Schroder Excels On One-Year Deal

Dennis Schröder signed a one-year contract for the taxpayer mid-level exception in the hopes of building his value. So far, so good. Schröder erupted for 38 points on Friday in the Celtics’ victory over Milwaukee and elicited MVP chants from the home fans, Jared Weiss of The Athletic writes. Schröder is averaging 20.8 PPG and 5.8 APG as a starter.

“He’s finding his way,” Celtics head coach Ime Udoka said. “He’s brought his bench role to the starting lineup. He’s been very aggressive.”

Atlantic Notes: Horford, Knox, Boucher, Barnes, Anunoby

Offseason re-acquisition Al Horford has been a bright spot for the Celtics, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston.

At age 35, Horford says he’s used to people labeling him an elder statesman, but he’s not surprised by his strong play.

For me, honestly, I’m kind of used to it because when I was 30 here, I feel like people were bringing it up like, ‘Oh, he’s 30!’ and all this stuff. I play how I play, I’ve kind of been kind — I feel really good, physically. I feel really good. I know where I’m at. I know what I can do. And, yeah, I’m 35, but I feel as long as I’m putting in the work — I am putting in the work — I’m doing everything that I need to do and I feel like I can keep playing at a high level,” Horford said.

Forberg writes that Horford has arguably been the team’s best two-way player to start the season, despite missing the first game after battling COVID-19. He’s averaging a career high 2.4 blocks per game, and his 9.0 rebounds are his highest mark in nine seasons.

Hoford is grateful for the time he spent with the Thunder last season, saying they have impressive medical and performance staffs who helped him get healthy.

[The Thunder medical staff was] great. They just had great support systems, kind of like what we have here now, but they really — looking at my nutrition, helping me with treatments before or after practice, the lift, or the performance stuff, kind of mapping the schedule out and kind of making the player involved in everything that goes into playing the games, which is something that we’re doing here as well,” Horford said.

And that, for me, that year was very beneficial, for me to feel good again, get healthy, and things like that. They have a great program over there. I was really impressed. And they really helped me be in this position, from a basketball standpoint, health-wise.”

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • In his latest mailbag, Fred Katz of The Athletic says there’s no clear path to Kevin Knox getting minutes for the Knicks anytime soon. Katz notes that Knox is behind Obi Toppin on the team’s depth chart, and even if they wanted to utilize Knox’s three-point shooting, the Knicks would probably be more inclined to play rookie Quentin Grimes, who Katz says is a superior defender. Knox will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season if the Knicks tender him a qualifying offer, which seems pretty unlikely at this point. If they choose not to, he’ll become unrestricted.
  • Chris Boucher has had a poor start to the season for the Raptors, but he’s starting to turn things around, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. Boucher says it’s been tough to get acclimated with his new teammates after undergoing hand surgery in the preseason. “I was doing so good in training camp, and then you get hurt in preseason (and) the team gets chemistry (when) you’re out of it,” said Boucher, “you’ve got to find a way to introduce yourself to the team. … I’m sure a lot of people were disappointed in the way that I’ve been playing and what I’ve been giving this year. I have a good circle and they help me stay within myself and focus on the right things, knowing every day is a new day and coming in with the same energy and being ready to change some games.” Boucher was one of the most improved players in the league last season and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.
  • Strong play from Scottie Barnes and OG Anunoby suggests a bright future for the Raptors, according to Dan Devine of The Ringer. Devine provides stats and video breakdowns of the two Toronto forwards with enormous wingspans.

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Brown, Schröder, VanVleet, Bonga, Claxton

A report stating that the Celtics have interest in Ben Simmons prompted Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe to explore whether Boston should aggressively pursue a deal for Simmons, and Jay King and Rich Hofmann of The Athletic to discuss whether the 25-year-old would make the C’s a better team.

Simmons’ play-making ability would make him an intriguing fit for the Celtics and Washburn hears from a league source that the three-time All-Star would be interested in coming to Boston. However, the general sense is that it would be very difficult for the two division rivals to find an agreement that works for both sides. The Sixers are unlikely to accept an offer that doesn’t include Jaylen Brown, whereas the Celtics are unlikely to include Brown in any offer.

In fact, multiple league sources who spoke to Brian Robb of MassLive.com were “adamant” that the Celtics don’t have any interest in moving Brown at all, either for Simmons or in any other deal. I’m sure Boston would reconsider that stance if a player a tier above Brown became available, but presumably the team doesn’t view Simmons as that sort of player.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Celtics intend to keep Dennis Schröder in their starting lineup while Brown recovers from his hamstring strain in order to have Josh Richardson and the club’s young wings remain in their bench roles, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic.
  • Besides wanting to get back to the playoffs, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet has a series of individual goals that he’d like to achieve, as he said on The Raptors Show with Will Lou (link via Sportsnet.ca).“I definitely would like to be an All-Star,” VanVleet said. “I want to win all the awards. I want to be All-Defensive … Those are all goals that I have. The good thing for me is that I probably won’t achieve any of those if we aren’t a good team or a top team.”
  • Raptors forward Isaac Bonga has accepted a G League assignment, according to Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter links). Because he’s in his fourth NBA season, Bonga had to sign off on being sent to the NBAGL. The 22-year-old has only logged seven minutes across three games in Toronto so far, but should get a chance to play a starring role for the Raptors 905 when they open their season on Thursday.
  • The Nets recalled center Nicolas Claxton from the G League on Tuesday, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Despite being back with Brooklyn, Claxton has been ruled out for Wednesday’s game and there’s still no indication he’s closer to returning from the illness that has sidelined him since October 25.