Brad Stevens

Lowe’s Latest: Walker, Brogdon, Mavs, Rubio, Butler

The Celtics might be the frontrunner for Kemba Walker‘s services but devoting most of their cap space to the All-Star point guard would leave them without any proven frontcourt players and limited ways to acquire them, ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes in an in-depth look at free agency. The addition of Walker would force coach Brad Stevens to use either Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum or Gordon Hayward at power forward, Lowe notes. Walker also ran more pick-and-rolls with the Hornets than Kyrie Irving did with the Celtics, yet Irving was sometimes accused of being a ball hog, Lowe adds.

Here are some other interesting tidbits from Lowe’s column:

  • Bucks restricted free agent Malcolm Brogdon will lose a suitor if the Celtics ink Walker. The Suns, Bulls, Mavericks and Pacers could potentially extend Brogdon an offer sheet but some teams are concerned about his foot issues.
  • The Mavericks are not looking to sign any high-level free agents.
  • The Pacers are looking to make a run at point guard Ricky Rubio. They are also likely to let power forward Thaddeus Young walk and go with a frontcourt of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner.
  • The Heat could get involved in the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes via a sign-and-trade.
  • The Nets have no interest in doing a sign-and-trade with the Timberwolves involving restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell if it means taking back Jeff Teague or Andrew Wiggins.

Celtics Preparing For An Offseason Of Change

Slightly over a year ago, the overachieving Celtics were competing with LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the conference finals. The landscape in the Eastern Conference has changed dramatically over the ensuing 13 months and Boston has not been left out of the league-wide shake-up.

The franchise is now operating as if Kyrie Irving and Al Horford won’t be back. Irving has been in communication with the Celtics since the season ended and the point guard has been “forthright” about his intentions, sending both public and private signals that he’ll be departing in free agency, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Brooklyn will likely be Irving’s next destination.

Early in the season, Irving declared to a packed crowd at the TD Garden that he would be re-signing the club once his contract expired. That was before a 2018/19 season in which ‘chemistry’ became a buzzword akin to the words ‘disrupter’ or ‘synergy’ in corporate speak.

A number of factors contributed to the uneasiness in Boston’s locker room. Jackie MacMullan (via Dane Delgado of NBC Sports) hears that coach Brad Stevens’ dedication to Gordon Hayward caused some issues. Stevens wanted Hayward to regain confidence and he gave the wing opportunity after opportunity on the court to show his pre-injury form.

Stevens has a history with Hayward from their Butler University days, though the coach would have taken the same approach with any player coming back from a major injury. Hayward continued to struggle, proving he wasn’t ready for the minutes and with many mouths left unfed, the crabs-in-a-barrel mentality festered.

Next season, different elements will contribute to the team’s locker room chemistry. Hayward will outlast Irving in Boston, as the veteran wing has two more years left on his deal (the final year is a player option worth slightly less than $34.2MM). Horford appears set to be elsewhere, and new faces will surround the tandem of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown as the team hopes of remaining competitive in an enhanced Eastern Conference.

Last spring, the narrative out of Boston centered around how the team was ready to compete in the present but was also built for the future. The Celtics’ story is a lesson in never underestimating how much things can change in just one year.

Celtics Notes: Horford, Irving, Stevens, Future

Celtics center Al Horford hopes to stay with the Celtics past this season and could take more of a team-friendly number on a new deal, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald writes, citing a league source.

Horford has a player option worth $30MM+ for the 2019/20 season. He could choose to opt in and become a free agent next summer, opt out and negotiate a new contract, or opt out and sign with another team for his 12th NBA season.

“I’ve enjoyed being in Boston,” Horford said after the team’s Game 5 loss to Milwaukee, according to Bobby Manning of SB Nation. I just have to wait and see what we’re going to do as a team, and the steps that management’s going to be taken forward.”

Horford appeared in 68 games with Boston on the year, averaging 13.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.3 blocks per contest. He remains a key cog in the team’s gameplan on both ends of the floor.

Whether Horford stays with the Celtics could largely depend on where Kyrie Irving chooses to go in free agency, as well as whether Boston chooses to pursue an Anthony Davis trade with the Pelicans.

There’s more tonight out of Boston:

  • Frank Urbina of Hoops Hype examines the potential landing spots for Irving, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Urbina lists the Lakers, Clippers, Nets, Knicks and Celtics as possible destinations for Irving, one of the most talented free agents on the open market.
  • Brad Stevens needs to take this summer to do some soul searching on how to move forward after a disappointing 2018/19 season, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe writes. The Celtics were eliminated in five games to the Bucks last round and now head into the offseason with uncertainty surrounding their roster, but the team has a talented coach in Stevens who could benefit from looking back on why the campaign went wrong.
  • David Aldridge of The Athletic examines where the Celtics can go as a franchise heading into the summer. The team has an array of future assets, current stars and competitive roster that general manager Danny Ainge could work with for next season and beyond.

Eastern Notes: Knight, Sixers, Bucks

Brandon Knight, who was sent to the Cavaliers at this season’s trade deadline, is embracing his role as a mentor to Collin Sexton, Joe Vardon of The Athletic writes.

“I don’t know what the process was before I got here … I do know since I’ve gotten here I try to talk to [Sexton] as much as I can,” Knight said. “I see myself a lot in him as a young guard having vets around me, having to learn when to score and when not to score, trying to use my speed but also trying to slow down. There’s a lot of things I had to deal with. So when I see him do certain things I’m like, ‘Man, I used to do that.’ ”

Knight and Sexton were each selected eighth overall in their respective drafts. Knight started for most of his career and he knows what it’s like to feel the pressure of being a top selection.

“It took me a couple years,” Knight said. “If we can get him to do that — what I learned year four — by year two, how much better will our team be? I just try to tell him those little things.”

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Sixers assistant coach Billy Lange has interviewed for the St. Joe’s head coaching job, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Lange has been with the team for six seasons.
  • The Wisconsin Herd, the Bucks‘ G League affiliate, has fired coach Jordan Brady, according to the team’s Twitter feed. “We greatly appreciate Coach Brady and his staff for their efforts the past 2 seasons,” GM Dave Dean said. “While they have played a significant role in the organization’s growth on the court and in the community, we feel it’s in the best interest of the Herd to explore other options.”
  • Something needs to change in Boston, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports contends. Inconsistency has plagued the Celtics all season, prompting Forsberg takes a look at some potential lineup changes that coach Brad Stevens could make.

Eastern Notes: Magic, Howard, Hayward

Nikola Vucevic is in his seventh season with the Magic and he has yet to see the postseason with the club.

“In past years, this time of year we’d already be planning our vacations, unfortunately,’’ said Vucevic, who will be a free agent at the end of the year (via John Denton of NBA.com). “It’s much different now and much more fun. As a basketball player and a competitor, you want to be in this situation, fight for something, play for something and be in the big moments. So, it’s up to us to respond.’’

Orlando entered the day just one game behind the Heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Vucevic, who made his first All-Star game this season has been a major reason why the playoffs are in reach. The big man prides himself on his consistency.

“Being able to sustain a certain level of play is important for individuals and teams,” Vucevic said. “For us, that’s been the biggest issue. When play well, we’re very good and when we don’t, we struggle. But for me personally, [consistency] is something I take a lot of pride in, and throughout my career I feel like I’ve been able to show that when I’m out on the court, you know what you’re going to get from me.’’

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic coach Steve Clifford believes Vucevic’s stability and smarts are two things that set him apart from other centers, as Denton adds in the same piece. “It’s invaluable to have anybody else on the floor who can do that other than your point guard, particularly a center who can play like that,” Clifford said. “In many ways, when he’s out there, it’s like playing with two point guards.’’
  • The Wizards have yet to rule out Dwight Howard out for the season, though head coach Scott Brooks says the big man isn’t over his injury woes yet, as Candace Buckner of the Washington Post passes along on Twitter. “He’s still getting his work in — the hamstring problem has not turned the corner,” Brooks said.
  • Gordon Hayward remains in the early stages of the league’s concussion protocol, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated tweets. Coach Brad Stevens called Hayward doubtful for the Celtics‘ game on Wednesday but left the door open for him to play on Saturday against Charlotte.

Atlantic Notes: Kawhi, Harris, Dolan, Stevens

Many of the players on the current Raptors roster weren’t a part of the team during its repeated playoff failures in recent years and won’t have that weight on their shoulders this spring. Plus, the fact that LeBron James is no longer in the Eastern Conference bodes well for a deeper postseason run for Toronto in 2019.

Still, as Sporting News’ Sean Deveney outlines, the Raptors will face a different sort of pressure this year, since their success in the playoffs figures to go a long way toward determining whether Kawhi Leonard sticks with the franchise beyond this season.

“I think the Lakers are out, but the Clippers are the ones who think they have a shot at him if they decide to go that route,” one front office executive told Deveney when asked to handicap Kawhi’s future. “You hear a lot, he still wants to be on the West Coast. But give that group in Toronto all the credit in the world. They’re making it a tough decision for him. It might come down to just, ‘All right, how did the playoffs go, and how far are we from a championship?'”

In an effort to make Leonard more comfortable in Toronto this season, the Raptors have carefully managed his workload, holding him out of the lineup once every week or two to make sure he’ll be at 100% by the time the postseason rolls around. So far, it’s working — the Raptors hold the No. 2 seed in the East, Leonard is fully healthy after missing all but nine games a year ago, and the star forward sounds pleased with how the plan has played out.

“We’ve been doing a great job of making sure that nothing flares up or gets out of control,” Leonard said this week, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link). “It’s just been great. I’m just happy that I’m able to play… It’s amazing. I feel good and we have something to look forward to.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Within his look at several contenders for the 2019 NBA championship, Sam Amick of The Athletic writes that a source close to Tobias Harris has “raved” about Sixers general manager Elton Brand. While that doesn’t guarantee that Harris will re-sign with Philadelphia in free agency, it’s certainly a positive sign, Amick notes.
  • During a Tuesday radio appearance, Knicks owner James Dolan strongly hinted that the club has heard from certain players and/or agents, and suggested that he believes the Knicks will have a “very successful offseason when it comes to free agents.” While those comments raised some eyebrows, a lawyer familiar with the NBA’s tampering policy tells Marc Berman of The New York Post that Dolan worded them carefully enough to avoid running afoul of the league’s policy. “If an agent walks up to [president] Steve Mills and says, ‘Clear cap space, player X wants to come,’ and Steve doesn’t engage, then it’s not tampering,” the lawyer said. “It appeared Dolan was pretty careful to make it seem like that was the deal.”
  • Count former Celtics head coach Doc Rivers among those who isn’t ready to place the blame on Brad Stevens for Boston’s struggles this season. In fact, Rivers still has full confidence in the C’s despite their up-and-down year. “They’re going to be fine,” the Clippers’ coach said, per Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. “They are as good as anybody in the East and as talented as anybody in the NBA. And when the playoffs start, I think everybody will see that.”

Atlantic Notes: Dinwiddie, C’s, Baynes, Knicks

As they fight to hang onto the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, the Nets will get some rotation reinforcements this week. According to Michael Scotto of The Athletic (via Twitter), head coach Kenny Atkinson said today that injured guard Spencer Dinwiddie is set to return to the court for Brooklyn on Friday.

Dinwiddie, who last played for the Nets on January 23, underwent surgery a month ago to repair torn ligaments in his right thumb. At the time, the estimated timeline for his recovery was three to six weeks, so he’s ready to get back right in the middle of that window.

Dinwiddie and veteran forward Jared Dudley were assigned to the Long Island Nets, Brooklyn’s G League affiliate, today in order to get some practice time in, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Both players are expected to suit up for the NBA club on Friday vs. Charlotte.

Here are a few more items from around the Atlantic:

  • While Danny Ainge acknowledged during a Toucher & Rich radio appearance on Thursday that “everybody has some fault” in the Celtics‘ struggles this year, the club’s president of basketball operations offered a strong defense of his head coach. “There’s blame to share for everybody, but I will say this: He’s the least, by far, of anybody that there is to blame,” Ainge said of Brad Stevens (link via Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston).
  • Aron Baynes, who has been sidelined with a left foot injury since the start of February, appears to be almost ready to play, Stevens said on Wednesday, per Taylor Snow of Celtics.com. “I would say that Friday is unlikely,” Stevens said of Baynes’ return date. “But beyond that, I think he could play any time in the days after that depending on how he comes out of (Wednesday’s) workout.”
  • Knicks fans – including Spike Lee – may be happy to see the team embrace the tank and improve their draft lottery position, but losing games isn’t head coach David Fizdale‘s goal the rest of the way, as Steve Popper of Newsday writes. “I’m lucky because Steve [Mills] and Scott [Perry] and Mr. [James] Dolan have all said to me, you play every game to win and you don’t worry about where we land in the draft and all of that stuff,” Fizdale said.
  • Although the Sixers are missing a couple big men and have Justin Patton for Thursday’s game, the young center probably won’t play, head coach Brett Brown told reporters today (video link via Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer). We had more on Patton and the 76ers in an earlier round-up.

Atlantic Notes: Stevens, Raptors, Musa

There’s no denying that Brad Stevens wasted little time establishing himself as one of the best strategically minded coaches in the NBA. Now, amid rampant Anthony Davis discussion and speculation that Kyrie Irving will renege on his verbal commitment to re-sign with the Celtics, Stevens is getting a taste of a big league coach’s other responsibility: managing melodrama.

Sean Deveney of Sporting News writes that even though the Celtics have been winning games at an elite rate (nine of their past 10), Stevens will need to manage the personalities in his locker room more carefully than he ever had to during his time coaching in the NCAA.

Deveney writes that it’s been said that Stevens “tends to handle his players with too much emphasis on Xs-and-Os and not enough TLC.” The fate of this Celtics team could depend on him striking a balance.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Pressure is mounting on the Raptors to click and establish themselves as the legitimate title contenders that stakeholders hoped they would be after the acquisition of Kawhi Leonard. As Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star writes, if Leonard does choose to leave the organization, the stakes will be lower than they’ve been in years. That ought to make the time leading up to the decision particularly tense.
  • Recent comments from Anthony Davis‘ father have cast new light on one of the teams most commonly linked to the superstar. Thomas Lott of Sporting News writes about Davis’ father slamming the Celtics organization for their treatment of former star Isaiah Thomas during the summer of 2017. Davis’ father says that although he would not want his son to play for the franchise, that’s not necessarily how the youngest Davis feels.
  • Rookie guard Dzanan Musa will remain with the Nets‘ G League affiliate in Long Island for the foreseeable future, Brian Lewis of the New York Post tweets. The 19-year-old will stay with the minor league squad to get minutes. Musa is recovering from a shoulder injury that sidelined him in December.

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Smart, Baynes, Irving

As the 2019 trade deadline approaches, more and more reports are surfacing regarding which teams are looking to make additions to their roster ahead of this season’s stretch run. Ken Berger of Bleacher Report recently wrote about the Bradley Beal sweepstakes, in which it is revealed that the Raptors may be looking to add an elite shooting guard this season.

The Raptors have been one of the best teams – if not the best team – in the league so far this season and certainly have the ingredients on their roster for a run to the NBA Finals. However, the team’s shooting has slipped in recent weeks as they are down to 34.3% shooting on 3-pointers, good for 24th in the league (they rank 11th in attempts per game).

While it may be hard for the Raptors to enter the Beal sweepstakes (especially if the Wizards aren’t focused on moving him), it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Toronto does make a move to add another shooter to its rotation for the remainder of the season.

There’s more from the Atlantic division:

Celtics Notes: Stevens, Horford, Lineup Change, Morris

After watching his team fall to .500 with its third straight loss Wednesday, coach Brad Stevens wondered if maybe the Celtics were overrated all along, relays Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston.

“I just don’t know that we’re that good. Maybe it’s not a wakeup call if you keep getting beat,” Stevens said after a home loss to the Knicks. “We have to play better. It’s not because we’re not capable of being good. It’s not because we weren’t good at one time in our lives. It’s you’re good if you play good and the results are speaking for themselves.”

The Celtics entered the season as the favorites in the East and were considered a legitimate threat to win the NBA title after reaching Game 7 of the conference finals last year without injured stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Instead, they have experienced struggles on both offense and defense as Stevens has tried to work out effective combinations of his veterans and younger players.

“It’s not one guy. It’s not two guys. It’s all of us,” Stevens said. “We’re not playing with the same personality we played with last year. That’s the easiest way to describe it. And then the 50,000 issues that are below that, we have to tackle one at a time.”

There’s more today out of Boston:

  • Al Horford said the team’s “effort” isn’t where it needs to be, relays A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. However, he suggested that the early-season struggles could benefit the team down the road. “These are the times I feel like make teams stronger,” Horford said. “I feel last year, what made us stronger was that adversity that we faced with different injuries and things like that. Different situations make teams tougher. Right now, as much as I don’t like losing and going through this, I feel like this is what’s making us stronger as a unit.”
  • Hayward came off the bench for the second straight game Wednesday as center Aron Baynes remained in the starting lineup, Blakely notes in a separate story. In addition to improving the first-team defense, Stevens explained that the move puts players in their more natural positions. “There’s a comfort level to that,” he said. “As we continue to try and grow and get to the best version of ourselves, we’re going to have to be able to play both ways. We’re gonna have to be able to play small; we’re gonna have to be able to play big.”
  • With the Wizards contemplating a sell-off, Tom Keegan of The Boston Herald suggests that the Celtics might benefit from acquiring Markieff Morris to play alongside his brother, Marcus.