Brad Stevens

Mannix’s Latest: Smart, Ball, Blazers, Simmons, Oladipo, Z. Collins

Celtics guard Marcus Smart is extension-eligible this offseason, but president of basketball operations Brad Stevens – who has coached Smart for the last several seasons – has been frustrated by his “unpredictable play,” sources tell Chris Mannix of SI.com.

Two people familiar with the Celtics’ thinking tell Mannix that Smart appears more likely to be traded than extended before the start of the 2021/22 season. When Boston shopped Smart last season, the team sought multiple first-round picks, but one Eastern Conference executive who spoke to Mannix suggests the guard’s value is more along the lines of one first-rounder and possibly a rotational player.

Here’s more from Mannix:

  • Although re-signing Lonzo Ball doesn’t seem to be the Pelicans‘ top priority in free agency, several rival executives expect New Orleans to match any offer Ball receives if the club strikes out on its top free agent point guard targets, writes Mannix. That would allow the Pels to avoid losing Ball for nothing and would create the option of trading him down the road.
  • The Trail Blazers haven’t given any indications at this point that they intend to deal Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum, according to Mannix, who says forward Nicolas Batum is among the free agents on Portland’s radar.
  • The Sixers‘ asking price for Ben Simmons remains high. “Forget a Harden haul,” one exec in contact with the 76ers said to Mannix. “They want what Boston got for KG and Pierce.”
  • Mannix adds the Mavericks to the list of teams that are expected to show interest in point guard Dennis Schröder.
  • Teams are “increasingly wary” of Victor Oladipo‘s long-term health and multiple executives believe the two-time All-Star may go unsigned for a few months while he gets healthy following his latest quad tendon surgery, says Mannix.
  • Mannix believes the Thunder could be in the mix for Zach Collins, observing that the big man is the kind of low-risk/high-reward player that Sam Presti loves.

Celtics Rumors: Richardson Trade, Fournier, Thompson, Parker

The Celtics may have been quiet on draft night, but they’re making noise now. After agreeing to trade Tristan Thompson for the Hawks’ Kris Dunn and Bruno Fernando and sending Moses Brown to the Mavericks for Josh Richardson, the Celtics have given themselves some extra flexibility from both a financial and roster perspective, writes The Athletic’s Jared Weiss.

Evan Fournier‘s market seems to be in the range of $12-$20MM per year, according to Weiss, who points out that dealing for Richardson affords the Celtics the option of walking away if the bidding war gets too rich for them. It sounds like that’s a very realistic possibility, as Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald hears from a source that Boston is unwilling to meet Fournier’s asking price of $80MM over four years.

“It’s not looking good,” Murphy’s source said of the Celtics’ negotiations with Fournier.

Meanwhile, there’s no guarantee that the Celtics will hang onto Dunn, according to Weiss, who says the former lottery pick  could be flipped again. Weiss suggests that two viable options for dealing Dunn could be to the Cavaliers – along with one of the Celtics’ young players – in a deal for Larry Nance Jr., or to the Pelicans – with Marcus Smart – in a Lonzo Ball sign-and-trade.

We have more rumors on the Celtics:

  • According to Weiss, while Thompson was beloved by teammates, he butted heads with the coaching staff and the organization throughout the year and was widely expected to be moved this offseason.
  • In the same piece, Weiss cites The Athletic’s Danny Leroux, who explains that the Celtics now project to be about $4.36MM below the tax line if Jabari Parker (who has a non-guaranteed contract) is waived.
  • The Celtics wanted to send more guaranteed money to the Mavericks in the Josh Richardson deal, but Dallas initially didn’t want to take any money back, tweets Keith Smith of Spotrac. Moses Brown was the compromise found, given the low guarantee on his deal ($500K).
  • Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated tweets that the Celtics’ front office, especially Brad Stevens, has long been a fan of Richardson, who will be looking to get back on track in Boston after a down year in Dallas.

Pacific Notes: Warriors, Lacob, Moody, Larranaga

Prior to the draft, the Warriors’ top players were reportedly urging the front office to make a major deal by using assets such the No. 7 and 14 picks in the draft. Golden State ultimately didn’t make a deal, instead drafting Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.

Majority owner Joe Lacob said it’s “unlikely” will swing a big deal this offseason, Anthony Slater of The Athletic reports. The Warriors don’t want to give up an established star for another one.

“I know this isn’t popular with a lot of people. They think we ought to go get the next star,” Lacob said. “We already have the stars. And we have a payroll that’s — and I’ve said this when I was interviewed before, but nobody listened. It’s very unlikely, I’ve said that we’re not going to trade for anybody that people are expecting. Very unlikely.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • In the same story, Lacob said he’s ecstatic how the draft unfolded. “We’ll probably never have two lottery picks again. If we do, we’ll have a problem,” he said. “The thing that’s most amazing to me is how it worked out. I shouldn’t say where they were on our board, but it’s hard for me not to say it. I’ll just tell you they were both clearly in our top 10. We feel like we got really fortunate on Kuminga. Then with Moody, I think it’s pretty common knowledge we were seriously considering him at seven.”
  • Warriors stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson attended Moody’s draft workout, Alex Didion of NBC Sports Bay Area relays. Moody also has the same representative as Draymond Green and they had conversations leading up to the draft.
  • Jay Larranaga is joining Tyronn Lue’s coaching staff with the Clippers, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated tweetsLarranaga has been Brad Stevens top assistant with the Celtics over the past seven seasons.

Atlantic Notes: Udoka, Smart, Raptors, De Colo, Simmons

New Celtics head coach Ime Udoka was intrigued by the chance to work under Brad Stevens, a president of basketball operations uniquely positioned to understand Udoka’s role as well as anyone, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

The Celtics, in turn, were drawn to Udoka due to his work ethic, his pedigree – including his experience working under Gregg Popovich – and his ability to connect with a young team. According to Himmelsbach, during Udoka’s previous stints as an assistant, he’d often go out for dinner with players to learn more about them.

Udoka’s final interview with the Celtics took place on Sunday, with Stevens, team owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca, and VP of player development Allison Feaster all present. While that group ultimately made the decision to hire Udoka, the C’s also sought input from former president of basketball ops Danny Ainge and multiple players, including Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Himmelsbach notes.

As Udoka takes the reins in Boston, he’ll be tasked with rebuilding the Celtics’ defensive identity and developing the club’s young talent, Kevin Pelton of ESPN writes in an Insider-only story. Pelton suggests that Udoka may also prioritize increasing the team’s ball movement and putting players in positions to create shots for teammates — Boston’s rate of assisted field goals ranked 27th in the NBA in 2020/21.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Marcus Smart isn’t a traditional point guard, but he’s a “criminally underrated” passer, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston, who outlines why Smart could be the Celtics‘ starter at the point in 2021/22 with Kemba Walker gone.
  • The Raptors secured the fourth overall pick in a draft that is viewed as having at least four top-tier prospects, but that doesn’t mean they’re content with simply staying put and taking whichever player drops to them, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. General manager Bobby Webster suggested the club will be open to a variety of scenarios with that selection. “All of our options are open,” Webster said. “As much as we would love the pick, we’re going to see what it yields outside of the draft.”
  • Veteran guard Nando De Colo, who technically remains a Raptors restricted free agent despite not having played in the NBA since 2014, will return to Fenerbahce in Turkey for at least one more season, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. Toronto has issued De Colo a qualifying offer for seven straight years to retain his RFA rights and will likely do so again this summer.
  • While there’s no guarantee that the Ben Simmons era in Philadelphia will come to an end this offseason, Chris Mannix of SI.com believes that it should, arguing that Simmons and the Sixers would both benefit from a fresh start.

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Nets Free Agents, Nets Assistants, Stevens

After the Sixers suffered through a seven-game second-round playoff exit as the top seed, head coach Doc Rivers has stated that the club will address the shooting struggles of All-Star Ben Simmons during the offseason, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“I believe, without going into detail with what we’re doing, I believe we know what the right work is, and the right type of work, and the right way to do it,” Rivers said of the Sixers’ plan for Simmons. “We’re not hiding that Ben has to become a better free throw shooter and a more confident free throw shooter.”

During the playoffs this season, Simmons connected on just 34.2% of his 6.1 free throw attempts per game, and attempted one total three-pointer. The Sixers guard was timid in looking to score late in games. He had just three fourth-quarter field goal attempts in the entire series, fewer than role players Dwight Howard, Matisse Thybulle, George Hill, Tyrese Maxey, and Furkan Korkmaz.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Several key Nets players will be free agents during the 2021 offseason, prompting Michael Scotto of HoopsHype to project the market value for the likes of Spencer Dinwiddie, Blake Griffin, Bruce Brown and Jeff Green. The league executives Scotto spoke with speculated that Dinwiddie is looking to leave Brooklyn and will hope to command an annual salary in the “high teens.” Rival NBA executives peg the value of both Griffin and Green as ranging anywhere from the bi-annual exception to the taxpayer mid-level exception. Because Brown is a restricted free agent, the Nets will be able to match any offer sent his way. Executives project Brown to net a yearly salary between $4-7MM.
  • The Nets might not just be undergoing some changes on the hardwood. Their sideline may look a bit different for the 2021/22 season too, as many assistants are in the running for the seven currently available NBA head coaching jobs, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. Berman writes that assistant coach Mike D’Antoni appears to be a finalist for the Trail Blazers head coaching gig, while fellow assistant coach Ime Udoka is in the running for the Celtics’ vacancy.
  • For the first time, Celtics team president Brad Stevens has discussed his decision to trade point guard Kemba Walker and two picks to the Thunder in exchange for Moses Brown, old friend Al Horford, and a 2023 second-round draft pick, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN“The ability to make our wings (All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown) better is going to be a huge part of the people that will be around them,” Stevens said Monday in explaining the thinking behind the deal. Stevens, of course, coached Walker for two injury-plagued seasons before moving into the front office earlier this month. Stevens also cited future finances as a consideration in his decision.

Celtics Notes: Walker, Stevens, Fournier, Williams, Smart, Griffin

Kemba Walker, who was traded to the Thunder on Friday, had a “tension-filled” season with former coach and now president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Multiple team sources tell Weiss there was dysfunction in the Celtics‘ locker room and Stevens was seen as being tougher with Walker than other players. Weiss adds that after Gordon Hayward left to sign with the Hornets, he told Stevens that he needed to take a more forceful stance with players for the team to be successful.

Stevens became harder on several players, including Walker, whom he frequently criticized for errors on defense. Walker and Stevens often argued, sources add, but they maintained a working relationship and respect for each other.

According to multiple sources, Walker, who signed with Boston two years ago in free agency, became angry about the team’s disappointing season and boos directed at him by Celtics fans. He began talking privately about moving to another team and was willing to accept a trade.

There’s more on the Celtics, all from Weiss:

  • Trading Walker was a first step toward keeping free agent guard Evan Fournier and young center Robert Williams, who is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer. The Celtics hope to bring back Fournier on a long-term deal while creating only a modest tax bill. The trade will also make it easier to add a maximum-salary slot for 2022 free agency, as Horford’s contract has just a $14MM guarantee in its final season.
  • Multiple sources told Weiss that several players were hoping for a coaching change, believing Stevens didn’t hold some of his star players accountable. There was also frustration with the coach’s “college offense” and complaints that players would get stuck in isolation. There seems to be a preference in the locker room for a Black coach with NBA playing experience, and Chauncey Billups, Ime Udoka and Darvin Ham are among the candidates being given second interviews.
  • Marcus Smart stands to inherit the starting point guard role and will hope to re-establish a culture of accountability on defense that he built along with Al Horford, who returns to the team in the Walker trade. Teammates often ignored Smart after Horford left, according to Weiss’ sources, which led to his confrontation with Jaylen Brown after Game 2 of the 2020 Eastern Conference finals.
  • After Blake Griffin‘s buyout with the Pistons, he asked a Celtics player about joining the team and was told there was too much dysfunction.

Celtics Notes: Udoka, Ham, Billups, Walker, Fournier, Williams, Smart

Assistant coaches Ime Udoka (Nets), Darvin Ham (Bucks) and Chauncey Billups (Clippers) are expected to get interviewed a second time by the Celtics’ brass for the head coaching job vacated by new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. While that trio is viewed as serious candidates for the job, others are still under consideration.

Udoka has received endorsements from Celtics players who were members of the U.S. national team in the 2019 World Cup tournament, according to Wojnarowski. Ham has interviewed for several head-coaching jobs in the past two years, while Billups has drawn interest from the Trail Blazers, Wizards, Magic and Pelicans for their current openings.

We have more Celtics news:

  • By shedding Kemba Walker‘s salary in a trade with the Thunder on Friday, the Celtics believe they’ll have a better chance of re-signing free agent Evan Fournier, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald tweets. The trade also increases the possibility of signing another free agent to the full mid-level exception, Murphy adds.
  • Walker’s 15% trade kicker was nullified due to his large salary, Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus tweets. Walker’s $34,379,100 salary this season, coupled with him being a nine-year veteran until August 2, exceeded the $32,742,000 maximum. He couldn’t earn anything above that, so the trade bonus was voided. If Walker had been traded once the new league year began in August, he could’ve received a portion of that bonus.
  • Robert Williams and Marcus Smart are two other prominent players who could be on the move, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Boston’s roster is overloaded with centers and Williams could be used to bring in a backcourt piece. Smart has an expiring $14.4MM contract next season and is eligible for an extension that could go as high as $17.MM in the first year. If Smart believes he could get more on the free agent market next year, the team may consider moving him now and getting assets in return.

Fischer’s Latest: Celtics’ Front Office, Ainge, Billups, Brown, More

As the Celtics transition from the Danny Ainge era to the Brad Stevens (presidential) era, they will have a lot of decisions to make, both in regards to the front office and the coaching staff. Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer suggests that two names to watch in regards to the front office are current assistant general manager Mike Zarren and director of player personnel Dave Lewin. Both are long-time members of the Celtics organization and seem set to move up the organizational hierarchy.

Fischer writes that Zarren has long been the primary voice in trade negotiations, and that there is belief that Stevens will out-rank him as a decision maker more in name than in practice. If Zarren is promoted to general manager, it’s believed that Lewin will be promoted to assistant general manager.

Another name Fischer mentions is Hawks assistant general manager Landry Fields, who has previously been cited as a potential front office candidate for the Celtics.

“All teams are monitoring Landry Fields,” said a Western Conference executive, “because he’s going to get a real shot here to run his own team soon.”

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • While the possibility of Ainge joining the Jazz has been previously reported, Fischer adds that Ainge has also been linked by league sources to the Trail Blazers in some capacity. The Blazers have already fired longtime coach Terry Stotts after the team’s first round exit, and more shake-ups may be on the way.
  • Chauncey Billups may not have experience as a head coach, but Fischer says Billups has been considered the lead candidate among league personnel to replace Stotts as the Trail Blazers‘ head coach for weeks now. The former Pistons point guard – and current Clippers assistant – is considered one of the top head coach candidates on the market.
  • Mike Brown is on the lookout for another head coaching job after five years as an assistant coach with the Warriors, according to Fischer’s sources. Brown is a veteran who has previously been the head coach for the Cavaliers and Lakers, but he hasn’t had a team of his own since the 2013-2014 season.
  • With so many options on the market, it seems unlikely that the Celtics head coach will come from the team’s bench, according to Fischer, who says people around the league don’t expect the Celtics to promote an assistant coach with no prior experience head coaching in the NBA.

Atlantic Notes: James, Knicks, Harden, Celtics

Nets guard Mike James stepped up in the absence of James Harden (hamstring) during the team’s Game 1 victory oevr Milwaukee, Jonathan Lehman of the New York Post writes.

James pitched in 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists off the bench in the win, shooting 5-of-11 from the floor in 30 minutes. The team will continue to rely on his production as it plays without Harden, who has already been ruled out for Game 2 on Monday.

“It’s happened to us all year where something’s happened, some sort of adversity, someone goes down and the next man’s up,” head coach Steve Nash said. “Mike, who would have thought before the game he’d play 30 minutes?

“Scored the ball, rebounded, made a few plays and hustled. It was great to see guys who haven’t been in the rotation get an opportunity, step up and play well.”

Here are some other notes from the Atlantic tonight:

  • Despite making good progress this season, the playoffs showed that the Knicks must continue making upgrades for the future, Steve Popper of Newsday writes. New York finished with the fourth-best record in the East at 41-31, though the team lost its first-round series against Atlanta in just five games.
  • Alex Schiffer of The Athletic examines whether the Nets could continue to win without James Harden available. In addition to Mike James‘ strong play, Brooklyn also received solid production from Kevin Durant (29 points and 10 rebounds), Kyrie Irving (25 points and eight assists), and Blake Griffin (18 points and 14 rebounds), winning the contest 115-107.
  • Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe explores where new Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens could turn to fill the team’s head coaching job. Boston will consider multiple candidates for the position — both internally and externally — as Stevens looks to find someone for his old role.

Celtics Notes: Allen, Stevens, Lawson/Hammon, Ainge

Current Celtics assistant coach Jerome Allen will interview for the vacancy left by Brad Stevens when the latter opted to step into a front office role with Boston, writes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Allen has been an assistant on Stevens’ staff for the last six seasons. Stevens will be leading the search for his replacement.

Pompey notes that Allen had an opportunity to become an assistant coach with the Mavericks during the 2020 offseason, but opted to remain in Boston, hoping to one day become the next Celtics head coach.

“For six years, I either sat behind [Stevens] or next to him and watched him not only work, I watched him prepare,” Allen said. “I watched him show-in to other people. Watched how he operated.”

Pompey writes that Allen has developed strong relationships with current Celtics Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams, and Marcus Smart. Before transitioning to the NBA, Allen was previously the head coach at the University of Pennsylvania.

There’s more out of Boston:

  • In a new piece, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe details how Brad Stevens emerged as the replacement for departing Celtics team president Danny Ainge. Ainge officially informed Celtics ownership of his intentions after the March 2021 trade deadline. Upon hearing this, owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca approached then-head coach Stevens about transitioning into the team president role.
  • There are several viable female candidates who could become the Celtics’ next head coach, writes Steve Buckley of The Athletic. Buckley examines the potential fits of former Celtics assistant coach Kara Lawson, as well as longtime Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon.
  • Outgoing Celtics team president Ainge has outfitted the team with plenty of promising players, but new president Stevens will need to make some key adjustments to bring Boston back to title contention, writes Jay King of The Athletic“These last two years have been tough,” Ainge acknowledged. “In the [2020 NBA restart] bubble and all the rules and scrutiny and protocols that we had to go through has not made the job as much fun.” King notes that the 62-year-old Ainge may yet join another team’s front office in some capacity. Ainge drafted current Boston All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but Stevens will need to figure out how to navigate his way around the league’s luxury tax while improving the roster around the Celtics’ two best players, writes King.