Brad Stevens

Celtics Notes: Udoka, Grousbeck, Stevens, Centers

During a press conference on Friday, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said a law firm hired to investigate coach Ime Udoka’s intimate relationship with a female staff member uncovered “a volume of violations,” writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. The team reached out to the law firm this summer after being made aware of the nature of the relationship. Grousbeck added that the investigation focused entirely on Udoka, and no one else in the organization is facing disciplinary action.

Grousbeck received the firm’s report on Wednesday and talked to several shareholders before deciding to impose a season-long suspension on Udoka that runs through June 30. He added that there is a “a significant financial penalty” that goes along with the suspension, but didn’t specify whether Udoka will go through the entire year without being paid.

“This felt right, but there’s no clear guidelines for any of this,” Grousbeck responded when asked whether Udoka should have been dismissed. “This is really a conscious, gut feel and being here 20 years.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Team president Brad Stevens‘ answer about the level of communication Udoka will have with the team during his suspension was troubling, contends Steve Buckley of The Athletic“I’m not going to get into specifics of what I, how we’re moving forward with that,” Stevens said at the press conference. “But I will say that he’s got a lot of relationships with a lot of people. As we alluded to earlier, yesterday wasn’t an easy day for a lot of people in a lot of ways.” Buckley warns that any conversations between Udoka and the players could undermine 34-year-old interim coach Joe Mazzulla and recommends that the suspended coach should be banned from talking to them during the season.
  • Stevens wasn’t interested in returning to his former job as head coach while Udoka is suspended, per Brian Robb of MassLive. Grousbeck brought up the idea, but Stevens believes he can better serve the team by staying in his current position and acting as an advisor to Mazzulla.
  • Stevens told Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe that the Celtics won’t overreact to Robert Williams‘ injury by signing a veteran big man before giving a chance to players already on the roster. Washburn suggests that could mean more minutes for Luke Kornet and possibly two-way player Mfiondu Kabengele.

Latest On Ime Udoka

The affair with a staff member that led to coach Ime Udoka’s year-long suspension has been known about by some members of the Celtics organization since July, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Franchise leaders originally believed the affair was consensual, but sources tell Charania that the woman recently accused Udoka of making “unwanted comments” to her. That led to several internal interviews that resulted in Thursday’s announcement that Udoka won’t coach the team this season.

Team owners and president Brad Stevens met for several hours Thursday to determine what action to take against Udoka, Charania’s sources add. Stevens and some front office officials also talked to players about Udoka’s fate at the team facility.

The 45-year-old coach issued a brief statement Thursday night apologizing to players, fans, the team and his family. He said he accepts the decision and won’t comment any further on the situation.

There’s more on the potential effects of Udoka’s suspension:

  • Udoka may become a candidate for other head coaching jobs that open up, possibly as soon as this season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on a SportsCenter appearance (video link). Udoka wasn’t given any assurances that he will return to the Celtics’ sidelines once his suspension is over, and Woj indicates that the team is still figuring out its next step. Wojnarowski also said the decision to impose a one-year suspension rather than firing Udoka right away could be “legal protection” for the organization.
  • Joe Mazzulla, who will take over as interim coach, will be in a difficult position all season, Jared Weiss of The Athletic says in a discussion of how Udoka’s actions will affect the team. Mazzulla is getting his first head coaching opportunity at age 34, but not as the result of going through the normal hiring process. The Celtics have confidence in Mazzulla, but the pressure to succeed will be intense. The team expects to contend for a title after its run to the NBA Finals last season, and there could be calls for a change if Mazzulla doesn’t succeed right away.
  • Don’t be surprised if the Celtics consider bringing in Lakers head coach Frank Vogel as an assistant, tweets Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Vogel has a long relationship with Stevens and would bring some head coaching experience to the team’s bench.
  • The Udoka situation could have negative repercussions long past this season, suggests A. Sherrod Blakely of Full Court Press. Udoka was hired partially because of the bonds he formed with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on Team USA, and Blakely wonders if his potential departure might make those stars look elsewhere when they become free agents.

Brad Stevens Met With Jaylen Brown, Likes Roster

While the news of Kevin Durant withdrawing his demand to be traded broke on Tuesday, Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens already had a candid discussion with Jaylen Brown regarding trade chatter, as Christopher Price of the Boston Globe relays.

Speaking on radio station WEEI, Stevens said that he met with Brown — the most prominent player that any Durant suitor was reportedly willing to part with — in Los Angeles last week.

“Jaylen’s been through this from the standpoint of listening and the noise has been around him for a long time,” Stevens said. “I think one of the things you have to be able to do is ignore the noise and know what’s important. Also, [to] be able to reach out and have candid and transparent communications with the people involved. We’ve had those, and been very open from the get-go as all of this has been going on for any of our guys.”

Stevens indicated that the Celtics front office hasn’t been engaged in trade discussions for awhile, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston tweets.

Stevens believes that the acquisition of point guard Malcolm Brogdon from Indiana has already upgraded the team’s chances for another deep playoff run.

Since the Brogdon trade, we’ve felt really good about our team,” he said. “We felt really good about building around these guys that we’ve been building around, trying to accentuate our best players. We’re excited to move forward with our team, and that’s really been our focus for a while.”

Extension talks with Brown are also on the agenda. Stevens says he’d like to lock up Brown beyond his current contract, which runs through the 2023/24 season, Forsberg adds in another tweet.

“He is a huge core piece of what we’re doing and has been for six years now,” Stevens said. “We’re excited to hopefully put our best foot forward to have him here for a long time.”

The Celtics wing is eligible for a three-year extension this offseason. However, it’s probably in his best interests to wait until next offseason or until free agency to maximize his earnings and to try to qualify for a designated veteran extension.

Atlantic Notes: McBride, Randle, Stevens, Tucker

The addition of Jalen Brunson could make playing time scarce for Miles McBride but he’s trying to remain confident, Zach Braziler of the New York Post writes. The 2021 second-round pick played in 40 games last season and projects as the Knicks’ third-string point guard behind Brunson and Derrick Rose. “Doing whatever I can to be on the floor [is my mindset],” he said. “If that means making shots, bringing the ball up, finding the open man, playing defense, I’m doing anything I can to be on the floor.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Julius Randle showed his leadership by inviting young players Jericho Sims and Feron Hunt to summer weight and cardio sessions in Dallas, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News notes. “It was cool. He wanted me to come down, so I said, ‘Hey, he’s a big-time player, why not get close to him, build that relationship,’” Sims said. Randle is trying to improve an image that was tarnished during a disappointing season for him and the Knicks. He’s at the beginning of a four-year extension.
  • Brad Stevens is happy with his current status as the Celtics’ top executive but he’s not ruling out coaching again someday, as he told Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com. “I’ve enjoyed both roles I’ve been in. I love the people I’ve worked with in both roles, and my family loves it, so, yeah, we’re really happy,” he said. “I’m not going to try to predict the future. I have no idea. No idea. I don’t know if I’d ever coach again. We’ll see.”
  • Toughness, durability and 3-point shooting are among the attributes that P.J. Tucker brings to the Sixers. Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com breaks down all the aspects of Tucker’s game and the intangibles he adds to the table as the veteran forward transitions from one Eastern Conference contender to another.

Eastern Notes: Bridges, Evans, Thomas, Brown, Stevens

Restricted free agent Miles Bridges will likely get somewhere in the neighborhood of $25MM per season, according to Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer. At minimum, Bridges will be seeking more than $20MM per year. He’ll be restricted, allowing the Hornets to match an offer sheet, if they extend the wing a $7.92MM qualifying offer.

Portland and Detroit are two teams that have been mentioned as possible suitors. President of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak wants to re-sign Bridges, calling him a “big part of our future.”

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Tyreke Evans, who has visited a number of teams since being reinstated by the NBA, worked out recently for the Nets, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets. He participated in a workout with the Warriors on Wednesday.
  • Pistons Hall-of-Famer Isiah Thomas became a mentor to Jaylen Brown during Brown’s college days and Thomas is proud of how his pupil has blossomed, Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com writes. “Look at where he was as a basketball player a couple of years ago and where he’s at today,” Thomas said. “That’s work ethic, that’s wanting to be. You have to give him a lot of credit. You know, it’s one thing when a teacher gives you a book; it’s another thing when you go home and actually read it and then comprehend what you’ve got.”
  • Brad Stevens’ best move might have been leaving coaching to become the Celtics’ president of basketball operations, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today opines. Stevens developed many of the players on the roster, then found the right pieces around them in his current job. “I think he’s done a phenomenal job as GM,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “The moves he made this year, adding (Al) Horford and Derrick White, brilliant.”

Atlantic Notes: Horford, Udoka, Ainge, Raptors

Al Horford, who was languishing with the rebuilding Thunder a year ago, is now headed to the NBA Finals in his second stint with the Celtics and couldn’t be more grateful, Jared Weiss of The Athletic writes.

“On the phone, I would look at photos from a year ago, exactly what I was doing at the moment, and today my son actually graduated from kindergarten,” Horford said. “So I remember that we had pictures for him, and I picked him up from school, and we had the cupcakes and we had all this stuff. So it’s like perspective for me, like I always look back and see where I was just day to day. I’m just very grateful to be in this position with these guys.”

Horford, 35, has been a major factor in the Celtics’ run. He is averaging 11.9 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.5 APG and 1.6 BPG in the postseason. As we noted earlier, Horford now has a $19.5MM guarantee on his $26.5MM contract for next season.

“When he came back, that gave us a sense of security,” Marcus Smart said. “We got Al back there, he’s always going to make the right play on both ends.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Ime Udoka was the runner-up for numerous head coaching jobs but is glad that he wound up with the Celtics instead of a rebuilding team, he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports“You really want me to tell you? Detroit, Indiana, Cleveland,” Udoka said of the jobs he nearly got. “I can go down the list. That was tough because I believe I was ready. But I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of an organization that’s pushing for winning and championships. You can be in a lot of different situations. There are only 30 teams and I get that, but to not be in a rebuild and being in an expectation pressure-filled situation, I wouldn’t trade that in any day.”
  • In an interview with Heavy.com’s Steve Bulpett, Jazz CEO Danny Ainge offered high praise to the man who replaced him in Boston, former Celtics coach Brad Stevens. Getting Kemba Walker‘s contract off the books was a particularly shrewd move, according to Ainge. “I think that, by moving Kemba, it allowed Marcus, Jaylen (Brown) and Jayson (Tatum) and Robert Williams to really thrive in positional size, with Horford taking up a big responsibility in the front line for Robert and moving Jaylen, Jayson and Marcus to their positions where they can have size advantages.”
  • Fred VanVleet can re-enter the free agent market with a player option next summer and The Athletic’s John Hollinger believes the Raptors should pursue an extension with him in the range of $25MM annually. Hollinger and Eric Koreen takes a closer look at all the Raptors’ free agent, draft and extension decisions.

Celtics Rumors: Trade Deadline, Schröder, Stevens

The Celtics‘ recent hot streak appears to have shifted the team’s perspective heading into the trade deadline, according to Chris Mannix of SI.com, who hears from sources that Boston has gone from being a possible seller to a potential buyer.

Celtics head coach Ime Udoka likes what he has seen from his team lately and doesn’t sound particularly eager to break up the current group, but he acknowledged that Boston’s eight wins in its last nine games, including six victories in a row, may change the deadline equation for the front office — especially since the Celtics’ strong recent play may boost the trade value of some of their players.

“We’re happy with how we’re playing, happy with what the guys are doing and seeing our full group together now,” Udoka said, per Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.“I’m sure it changed some of the [trade] conversation based on what we’re doing lately.”

Here are a few more Celtics-related notes and rumors:

  • According to Mannix, Boston continues to shop Dennis Schröder in trade talks, but teams that have talked to the Celtics say they’re asking for a player and draft capital in any deal involving the guard. The C’s seem unlikely to part with Schröder unless they get a rotation player in return, says Mannix, adding that the Bucks, Cavaliers, and Mavericks remain in the mix. We wrote on Tuesday about what a Milwaukee or Cleveland deal for Schröder might look like.
  • Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com has also heard that the Celtics want something of value back for Schröder and aren’t just looking for a deal that gets them under the luxury tax line. “He’s been playing well, and he’s been a good part of what they’re doing lately,” one league exec said to Bulpett. “I still think they might prefer to move him, but now they’re looking for an asset in return. They don’t feel like they HAVE to trade him now, and they’d like to turn him into an asset for next year.”
  • Some people in the organization would like to keep Schröder for depth purposes, while others would be comfortable using Josh Richardson and Payton Pritchard to replace his minutes, says Bulpett. According to Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link), Boston also expects veteran point guards to be available on the buyout market, which could be an option if the team trades Schröder without receiving a point guard in return.
  • Rival teams seem to enjoy talking trades with new Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens more than they did with Danny Ainge, Smith adds (via Twitter). It’s less like you’re giving up rights to your first-born,” one opposing executive said. Another said Ainge had a tendency to try to “get blood from a stone and squeeze for ‘one more thing.'”

Atlantic Notes: Williams, Durant, Thybulle, Stevens

Celtics center Robert Williams III had a strong performance in the team’s 114-112 victory over Chicago on Saturday, Jared Weiss of The Athletic writes. Williams finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and two blocks, helping Boston secure a much-needed win at home.

“I think he was just out there playing with a lot of energy, staying solid, and he’s handled it very well,” Celtics veteran Al Horford said of Williams. “He looks more and more comfortable, and that’s a good time for us.”

Williams agreed to a four-year, $54MM contract extension with Boston last summer. In 35 starts this season, he’s averaged a career-best 10.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks, playing 29.3 minutes per game. The Celtics rank sixth in defensive rating (107.3) largely because of his play.

Here are some other notes from the Atlantic:

  • Alex Schiffer of The Athletic examines what Kevin Durant‘s MCL sprain means for the Nets. Durant is averaging 29.3 points per game this season, his highest mark since the 2012/13 season. He’s also shooting 52% from the floor, 37% from three and 89% from the charity stripe. “We’ve been a resilient group all year since I’ve been here,” James Harden said. “So, we just got to keep pushing.”
  • Sixers wing Matisse Thybulle will be out for at least one week after an MRI revealed a right shoulder sprain, Tom Moore of the Bucks County Courier Times tweets. Thybulle missed the team’s game against Miami on Saturday due to the injury, starting in 17 of his 32 games so far this season.
  • A. Sherrod Blakely of Full Court Press spoke to Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens about the upcoming trade deadline. The deadline falls on February 10 this season, just three weeks from Thursday. “It’s always the same goal here,” Stevens said. “Whatever we do has to make sense…putting yourself in the mix to compete for the next banner.”

Atlantic Notes: Riller, Celtics, Stevens, Walker, McBride

Grant Riller was waived by the Sixers on Sunday and new details have emerged why that move was made. He’s undergoing right shoulder surgery and will miss the next four-to-six months, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype tweets. Riller was on a two-way contract and could return to Philly next season after he recovers. Riller, a 24-year-old point guard, suffered a torn meniscus in early October and injured the shoulder in a G League game last month.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Boston has new vaccine requirements for indoor dining, fitness, and entertainment establishments going into effect next month, according to a Boston Globe report. However, all professional athletes are exempt, meaning it won’t have any impact on the Celtics or visiting players, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps tweets. Under the new mandate, proof of at least one vaccine dose will be required after January 15 to enter those facilities except for medical or religious reasons.
  • Brad Stevens has had far more hits than misses in the moves he’s made since becoming president of basketball operations 200 days ago, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston opines. Forsberg breaks down each transaction while noting that those moves can’t be fully judged until Stevens utilizes the cap flexibility generated by them.
  • Kemba Walker and Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau have not discussed the point guard’s situation since he was removed from the rotation, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. However, Walker doesn’t want to be a distraction. “I’m not starting, I ain’t playing,” Walker said. “So I’m here for my team, I’m here for my teammates. I can’t say it enough. Whatever’s asked of me that’s what I’m here for.” Walker erupted for 29 points in 37 minutes for the depleted Knicks on Saturday, his first action since Nov. 26.
  • Thibodeau has been impressed by the team’s rookies, particularly guard Miles McBride, Steve Popper of Newsday writes. “The thing that I was most proud of is the way those guys all worked. ,,, they’ve been phenomenal and not just in the way they work but when they were competing in practice,” he said. McBride is currently in the health and safety protocols.

Atlantic Notes: Harden, Madar, Sixers, Simmons, Springer

After convincing the team to let him play on Friday against Atlanta, Nets star James Harden agreed to take a rest day on Sunday vs. Detroit, as Zach Braziller of The New York Post details. Head coach Steve Nash said that Harden essentially forced his way into the lineup on Friday, but the club has been concerned about his workload (36.2 minutes per game) and was happy he agreed to take a game off on Sunday.

“He had a heavy stretch of games and we’re gonna try to steal some games for these guys here and there. And fortunately, he was open enough for [this] to be the night,” Nash said, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “So we’ll miss him [on Sunday] but it’s important and it pays this forward hopefully to the end of the season.”

Harden’s 20.8 PPG, .404 FG%, and .337 3PT% so far this season represent his lowest marks since his Oklahoma City days (the three-point rate is a career worst). While Sunday’s day off could help recharge him, Harden may just not be the player he was during his prime, Braziller writes in a separate story for The Post.

Harden and Kevin Durant are both former MVPs, but it has been clear so far this season that the ex-Rocket is Brooklyn’s No. 2 option behind Durant – who scored a season-high 51 points in Sunday’s win – rather than a true co-star, says Braziller.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens has been in Serbia as of late, attending multiple ABA League games, according to a Eurohoops report. Stevens’ scouting trip has focused on Yam Madar, a Celtics second-round pick in 2020 who is currently playing for KK Partizan and could be brought stateside as soon as next season.
  • The Sixers have held their own without Ben Simmons available this season, particularly in games Joel Embiid has played, but they still lack a consistent second option on offense to complement Embiid, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Pompey suggests that Tobias Harris, Seth Curry, and Tyrese Maxey are solid players, but are better suited to be third or fourth options for a legit contender.
  • In an Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks and Kevin Pelton outline why the Sixers will be hard-pressed to acquire a top-25 player in any Simmons trade, and consider which borderline stars may be realistic targets. Brandon Ingram, Domantas Sabonis, and CJ McCollum are among the players discussed by Marks and Pelton.
  • Sixers rookie Jaden Springer sustained a concussion during a G League game and will be sidelined until he clears the concussion protocols, tweets Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com. The 19-year-old hasn’t been a part of the NBA rotation at all this season, appearing briefly in just one game.