Brad Stevens

Celtics Notes: Parker, Injuries, Fournier, Stevens

Jabari Parker looked comfortable Saturday night in his new role with the Celtics, writes Sean T. McGuire of NESN. Playing in his first game since joining the team, Parker scored 11 points in 16 minutes and was on the court for several crucial possessions in a win over the Warriors.

The output was more than he scored all season with the Kings before being waived last month. The second overall pick in the 2014 draft, Parker is only 26 and now has an opportunity to establish himself as a scorer off the bench in Boston. His new contract has two guarantee dates for next season if he can stay on the roster.

“We just told him to go out there and play as hard as he can everything else will fall in,” Marcus Smart said. “He did very well. We were definitely ecstatic with the way that he came out, not really knowing the system and just playing basketball, being a basketball player. So, once he gets more involved into the plays and learning everything else will kind of mesh in well. But for his first time out there, he played very well, and we’re proud of him.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • With six straight wins and a healthier roster, the Celtics look like a threat to the top teams in the East, states Mark Medina of USA Today. Injuries and illness have forced the team to go through long stretches without Smart, Kemba Walker and Tristan Thompson, but all three are contributing as the team heads into the final four weeks of the regular season. “The No. 1 reason for our little run is we’ve been, for the most part, healthier,” coach Brad Stevens said. “We just missed lot of guys earlier. I know that sounds like an excuse. I hope it doesn’t. But we tried to stay afloat as well as we could and hope we get to a time where we’re a little bit healthier and put together some weeks of good basketball.”
  • Boston could get another boost this week with the return of Evan Fournier, who has been in the league’s health and safety protocols and hasn’t played since April 4, Medina adds. The Celtics acquired Fournier at the trade deadline to provide another scorer, but he only appeared in four games before entering the protocols.
  • Indiana University would have offered Stevens a seven-year, $70MM contract to take over as head coach, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (video link from Charlie Clifford of WISH-TV in Indianapolis). Stevens said last month that he has no intention of returning to college basketball.

Celtics Notes: Barnes, Trade Deadline, Starting Lineup, Stevens

With the Celtics slipping under .500, a major move may be necessary before Thursday’s trade deadline to solidify Boston’s playoff chances. One of the hottest rumors surrounding the team has been a deal for Kings forward Harrison Barnes, and Jared Weiss and Jason Jones of The Athletic examine what a potential trade might look like.

The Celtics are in the market for a wing player with size who can improve the team’s defense. Barnes handles the toughest wing matchup for Sacramento and may be able to provide some minutes at center in small-ball lineups. Weiss notes that would enable Boston to explore moving Tristan Thompson, who is under contract at $9.72MM for next season.

Weiss proposes a deal sending Barnes, Nemanja Bjelica and Hassan Whiteside to the Celtics in exchange for Thompson, Grant Williams, Javonte Green, an unprotected first-round pick this season, and a partially protected first-rounder in 2023.

Sacramento played the Celtics on Friday, and Barnes was asked about the possibility of a trade. “Obviously Boston’s a great franchise, but for the time being I’m with the Kings and that’s where my focus is — my teammates in the locker room, going out there, putting it on the line every night and trying to win games,” Barnes responded.

There’s more from Boston:

  • Without breaking up their core, the Celtics only have modest assets if they decide to become sellers rather than buyers before the deadline, according to Brian Robb of MassLive. Robb projects that Thompson, Semi Ojeleye or Daniel Theis would only bring second-round picks or unproven bench players in return, while Jeff Teague and Green have virtually no trade value.
  • Bruce Castleberry of The Boston Herald believes immediate changes are necessary for the Celtics to turn their season around. He proposes putting Robert Williams and Payton Pritchard in the starting lineup in place of Theis and Kemba Walker. Castleberry states that Williams is Boston’s best big man, while a reduced work load could help Walker be fresh for the playoffs.
  • Brad Stevens has no intention of returning to college basketball, even though his name has been floated for the vacant Indiana job, according to Jeff Borzello and Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Smart, Thibodeau, Sixers, Rose

There are positive signs that the PistonsRaptors game in Tampa will be played on Wednesday but Toronto will have to go without three starters. Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby have been ruled out under the league’s health and safety protocols, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. Malachi Flynn and Patrick McCaw will also be sidelined by the protocols. Jalen Harris and Donta Hall have been recalled from the G League bubble in Orlando, Lewenberg adds.

A majority of the coaching staff, including head coach Nick Nurse, will also miss the game, Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets. Those coaches were placed under the protocols prior to the team’s game on Friday. Sergio Scariolo will once again run the team on Wednesday. The Raptors, who had their game against Chicago on Sunday postponed, were originally scheduled to face Detroit on Tuesday.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Marcus Smart is “getting a lot closer” to returning to action, according to Celtics coach Brad Stevens. Mark Murphy of the Boston Globe tweets that Smart will benefit from additional team practice time after the All-Star break. Smart has been out since January 30 due to a Grade 1 left calf strain.
  • Tom Thibodeau has established himself as a serious candidate for Coach of the Year in his first season with the Knicks, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Knicks players have been impressed with how hard the staff works and it has resulted in a winning record entering Tuesday’s game.
  • The Sixers have been given the go-ahead by the city of Philadelphia to bring back crowds in a limited capacity, the team tweets. The team will be allowed to have crowds at 15% capacity, or approximately 3,100 fans.
  • Knicks guard Derrick Rose missed the team’s game against San Antonio on Tuesday after being placed under the league’s health and safety protocols, the team’s PR department tweets.

Celtics Notes: Ainge, Trade Exception, Stevens, Collins

Appearing today on Toucher & Rich on The Sports Hub 98.5 WBZ-FM in Boston, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge discussed his team’s recent slump and reiterated a couple points he made last week, expressing a belief that the team as constructed as not “good enough” to compete for a title and putting the blame on himself for the roster’s shortcomings (Twitter links via Keith Smith of RealGM).

While Ainge accepted responsibility for the holes on Boston’s roster, he also shared some concerns about the team’s intensity level. Ainge stressed that he believes in the club’s current players, but said, “I wish they were playing harder” (Twitter link via Smith).

The intensity level hasn’t been there,” Ainge said (Twitter link via Smith). “I don’t know how to explain it. Our team isn’t playing well. They don’t play hard all the time. I don’t have an explanation. It’s been frustrating for the players and the coaches.”

According to Ainge, surrounding Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown with more scoring and more “dynamic talent off the bench” is a priority. While the Celtics’ top executive restated that he doesn’t want to make a move just to do something, he said the team is always looking for ways to upgrade its roster. “Time will tell” if it happens before the deadline, Ainge added (Twitter links via Smith).

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • Specifically addressing the possibility of utilizing the Celtics’ $28.5MM trade exception before the trade deadline, Ainge noted that the exception might be easier to use during the offseason, when the hard cap isn’t a concern and more teams around the NBA can afford to make big-money deals that drastically shake up their rosters (Twitter link via Smith).
  • Appearing on Felger & Mazz on 98.5 FM in Boston, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck made it clear that the franchise is happy with Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens, despite the club’s struggles. They’re our guys and we’re sticking with them, and it’s not even a question in my mind,” Grousbeck said (audio link via NBC Sports Boston).
  • Hawks big man John Collins is one potential trade candidate who could appeal to the Celtics, so Chris Kirschner, Jay King, and Jared Weiss of The Athletic dug into a hypothetical trade to try to determine whether there’s a match between the two teams. Kirschner – who cover the Hawks -and the two Celtics’ writers ultimately agreed that something like Payton Pritchard, Carsen Edwards, and two or three first-round picks might work.

Celtics Notes: Ainge, Tatum, Smart, Hayward

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge doesn’t think head coach Brad Stevens is to blame for the team’s underwhelming play so far this season, telling Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe that he’d assign more responsibility to Boston’s players and to himself.

“We’re not playing with the passion that we need,” Ainge said. “I think that’s on the players. And the players on the team are on me.

“… This is a team that was put together by me,” he continued. “And we’re not playing with enough consistency and urgency, and it’s my job to look to see what we can do to improve the team, but that’s always much harder than improving from within.”

While Ainge stressed that “just changing faces” isn’t necessarily a way to upgrade a roster and improve a team’s outlook, he acknowledged that some roster changes may be necessary. The Celtics will look to avoid falling below .500 when they take a 13-13 record into a home game vs. Denver on Tuesday.

Here’s more out of Boston:

  • More than a month after he first tested positive for COVID-19, Jayson Tatum is still feeling the aftereffects of the virus, telling reporters on Tuesday that it “messes with your breathing a little bit,” according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “Just running up and down the court a few times, it’s easier to get out of breath or tired a lot faster,” Tatum said. “I’ve noticed that since I’ve had COVID. It’s just something I’m working on. It’s gotten better since the first game I played, but I still deal with it from time to time.”
  • When Marcus Smart was diagnosed with a calf strain at the end of January, the Celtics announced a projected two- or three-week recovery timeline. However, as Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe writes, it seems likely that Smart, who said on Friday that he’s still walking with a slight limp, will miss more time than that.
  • Having lost 10 of their last 15 games, the Celtics appear to be missing Gordon Hayward and could really use someone to fill the role he played last season, says Jared Weiss of The Athletic.

Atlantic Notes: CP3, Nash, Stevens, Hayward

After the Sixers were swept out of the first round of the 2020 playoffs, the team fired longtime head coach Brett Brown, who had survived several front office shakeups. But the on-court personnel could use some changes, too. Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer makes the case for a Chris Paul trade.

Paul, an All-Star in 2020 during his first season with the Thunder, is scheduled to earn $41.3M and $44.2M in the final two years of his current contract. With the Sixers, the 35-year-old point guard could give All-Star guard/forward Ben Simmons more off-ball opportunities and serve as a first-rate facilitator for All-Star center Joel Embiid.

Pompey posits that current Sixers forward Tobias Harris or center Al Horford could be packaged (presumably along with future draft equity) into a deal for Paul.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • New Nets head coach Steve Nash acknowledges that he was brought on board with the franchise because of his interpersonal relationships and culture-building skills, rather than his knowledge of X’s and O’s. “I think they understand that my acumen for the game is strong and I can catch up on any of the tactical aspects,” Nash told Pelicans guard J.J. Redick in a recent edition of Redick’s The Old Man and the Three podcast (per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News). “I think they hired me because of my experience, the personality to work with these guys and help them grow and reach their potential and bring it all together.”
  • Following an emotional postgame locker room conversation, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens held a late-evening hotel meeting with four of his frustrated stars, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart met with Stevens to unpack their feelings following a Game 2 loss to the Heat that puts Boston in an 0-2 hole for the Eastern Conference Finals.
  • Celtics forward Gordon Hayward is hoping to return to action for Game 3 on Saturday, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link). Hayward’s addition to the active roster would give Boston much-needed lineup flexibility and shooting help.

Celtics Notes: Raptors Series, Restart Campus, Langford

An intense seven-game war of attrition against the Raptors in the Eastern Semifinals helped prepare the Celtics for their conference finals matchup against the Heat, per Taylor Snow of Celtics.com.

“We lost on a game-winner, we lost a double-overtime game [during the Raptors series], and while we are frustrated, [the Game 1 overtime loss to Miami is] just one game,” starting Celtics center Daniel Theis opined. “We’ve got to do our adjustments, and it’s easy; we’ve just got to get back in transition.”

There’s more out of Boston:

  • The NBA’s Orlando restart campus atmosphere has more or less neutralized a home court advantage for higher-seeded teams, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today“Obviously, as much as the NBA has tried to make the home stuff matter, it just doesn’t,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens observed. “It has no impact, unfortunately.”
  • Celtics rookie shooting guard Romeo Langford left Game 2 of Boston’s Eastern Conference Finals series against Miami early with a right adductor strain. The team tweeted that he was doubtful to suit up again for the contest.
  • In case you missed it, we discussed the gradual progress of forward Gordon Hayward as he continues to rehabilitate from a right ankle sprain.

Celtics Extend Brad Stevens

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, currently in the midst of his seventh season with the club, isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The team has announced today that it has extended Stevens’s contract. The specifics of the new deal have not been divulged.

After leading Butler to two NCAA Finals games, Stevens was brought on board by Celtics president Danny Ainge to replace Doc Rivers in 2013, initially signing a six-year, $22MM deal. The team extended its head coach’s initial contract in 2016.

Stevens sports a 318-245 (.565) regular season record for Boston. He has led the club to six playoff appearances during his seven seasons, including two runs to the Eastern Conference Finals. This season’s team is locked into the third seed in the East with a 48-23 record. The club has one Orlando seeding game left ahead of the 2019/20 playoffs.

“Brad is one of the most intelligent and hard-working coaches in the game today,” Ainge raved. “We are honored to have him with us as we continue to pursue our next championship.”

Stevens is the second Eastern Conference head coach to receive a contract extension today, as the Pacers also reached a new deal with Nate McMillan.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mike Budenholzer, Billy Donovan Win Coaches Association Award

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer and Thunder head coach Billy Donovan have been voted the co-coaches of the year by the National Basketball Coaches Association, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

This award, introduced in 2017, isn’t the NBA’s official Coach of the Year award, which is voted on by media members and is represented by the Red Auerbach Trophy. The winner of that award is expected to be announced at some point during the postseason this summer.

The Coaches Association’s version of the award – named after longtime NBCA executive director Michael H. Goldberg – is voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches, none of whom can vote for himself.

Budenholzer, who also won the NBCA’s award in 2019, has had even more success with the East-leading Bucks this season. His team has a 54-13 record and – before the season was suspended – had been on pace to surpass the 60 victories that last year’s Milwaukee squad racked up.

As for Donovan, he has exceeded expectations with a Thunder team that was viewed as a borderline playoff contender and a candidate for a full-fledged rebuild. Instead of returning to the lottery following the offseason departures of Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Oklahoma City is 41-24, good for sixth in the Western Conference. A strong finish over the next couple weeks could result in a top-four record in the conference for the Thunder.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, widely viewed as the favorite to win the official Coach of the Year award in 2020, was one vote away from finishing in a three-way tie with Budenholzer and Donovan, per Wojnarowski.

Sources tell ESPN that Taylor Jenkins (Grizzlies), Nate McMillan (Pacers), Erik Spoelstra (Heat), and Brad Stevens (Celtics), and Frank Vogel (Lakers) also received votes.

Atlantic Notes: Kemba, Martin, Thibodeau, Milton

Following individual workouts in Boston ahead of traveling to the Orlando campus for the NBA’s season restart, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens noted that All-Star point guard Kemba Walker‘s knee gave him “a little discomfort” and he was subsequently held out of practice Monday, per Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston.

Though Walker is expected to have an increased role in practice tomorrow, these early reports on the 30-year-old ahead of the season restart on July 30 in Orlando raise obvious red flags. Restrictions will be placed on Walker’s minutes in team scrimmages and any upcoming seeding games ahead of the NBA playoffs in mid-August.

Losing Walker for any amount of time would be a huge blow for Boston’s playoff hopes. Superstar forward Jayson Tatum and two-way force Jaylen Brown have clearly benefitted from Walker’s veteran leadership. In 50 games for the Celtics during the 2019/20 season, Walker is averaging 21.2 PPG, 4.9 APG, and 4.1 RPG, while shooting 37.7% from three-point range and 86.7% from the free throw line. The 43-21 Celtics are the No. 3 seed in the East.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Rookie Nets point guard Jeremiah Martin, who went undrafted out of Memphis in 2019, has been proving himself a valuable asset to the team, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post“I’d say Jeremiah Martin has been a surprise for us, his ability to compete,” interim head coach Jacque Vaughn. “That’s all we ask at this beginning stage, is to compete. Whether that’s knowing the plays, knowing different implementation, or having yourself ready every day.”
  • Head coach interviews for the Knicks are heating up, according to The New York Post’s Marc Berman. Tom Thibodeau remains the leader in the clubhouse for the gig, though Jason Kidd is nipping at his heels following a strong second interview. Kenny Atkinson also remains in the running for the position. The team conducted at least 11 three-hour second interviews that wrapped up yesterday.
  • Second-year Sixers guard Shake Milton has taken over starting point guard duties in team practices, moving All-Star Ben Simmons to the power forward slot and big man Al Horford to the bench, the significance of which has been unpacked by The Athletic’s Derek Bodner. Horford, 34, signed a splashy four-year, $97MM contract (worth up to $109MM with incentives) in 2019 free agency, but has underwhelmed during his first season of that deal. “I think [Milton] has a huge opportunity to help us accomplish what we believe we can, and he’s been doing an amazing job just running the team,” All-Star center Joel Embiid said of the move.