Dalano Banton

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Thibodeau, M. Robinson, Raptors

Despite being one of the NBA’s marquee franchises, the Celtics haven’t hosted the All-Star Game since Bill Russell played for the team, back in 1964. According to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, the team may be interested in changing that. Sources tell Washburn that the Celtics’ ownership group is taking steps to submit an application to host the event.

As Washburn writes, the Celtics don’t own the TD Garden outright, which is a logistical hurdle that must be overcome, and the locales for the next two All-Star Games – Utah in 2023 and Indiana in 2024 – have already been set. But the fact that Boston is taking steps toward applying is noteworthy, according to Washburn, who says the ownership group’s interest level in hosting the game has long been “tepid” until now.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Marc Berman of The New York Post argues that Tom Thibodeau shouldn’t be the fall guy for a disappointing Knicks season, observing that the front office made multiple roster moves Thibodeau wasn’t gung-ho about, including adding Kemba Walker and letting Reggie Bullock walk in free agency. Thibodeau also reportedly wasn’t exactly pushing for last month’s Cam Reddish trade. “They haven’t collaborated with him like they did last year,” a coaching source tells Berman.
  • Sean Deveney of Heavy.com spoke to one rival general manager who thinks Mitchell Robinson‘s next contract will be in the range of the full mid-level exception, projecting a three-year, $33MM deal. The Knicks center, who is currently extension-eligible, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
  • Eric Koreen of The Athletic looks at some of the questions facing the Raptors for the rest of the 2021/22 season, including how important Precious Achiuwa and Dalano Banton are to the franchise, both in the present and future. As Koreen notes, Achiuwa and Banton have played well enough to warrant regular roles, but they don’t contribute much in the half-court offense, which has been Toronto’s biggest Achilles heel.
  • Within the same story, Koreen suggests the most likely outcome for the Raptors‘ open 15-man roster spot is that two-way player Justin Champagnie is promoted to fill it.

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Simmons, Smart, Banton

The Sixers need to make the best possible deal for Ben Simmons before the trade deadline or they’ll risk wasting a remarkable season from Joel Embiid, argues Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Embiid is putting up MVP-level numbers with 29.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.4 blocks per night. He has scored at least 25 points in 17 straight games and has Philadelphia in contention for the top spot in the East even though Simmons hasn’t played.

There has been speculation that Sixers president of basketball operation Daryl Morey is hoping to use Simmons to land James Harden during the offseason, but Pompey sees that as too great a risk. He notes that there’s no guarantee that Harden or any other star will be available this summer, meaning the offers for Simmons won’t be much different from what they are now. He also points out that the Bucks won a title last season after making minor improvements around Giannis Antetokounmpo.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics guard Marcus Smart is a supporter of coach Ime Udoka, who has come under criticism during his first season in Boston, per Jay King of The Athletic. Smart complimented Udoka on the job he’s done so far and said he trusts his coach to act in his best interests. “Being in Boston and coaching for Boston, it’s not easy, especially for your first year,” Smart said. “So we just have to continue to help him. I’ve gotta continue to help him. I’ve been here the longest. I know the guys more than he does. And I’ve gotta be that quarterback out there for him.”
  • Smart admitted Saturday that he still has pieces of glass in his right hand after punching a picture frame four years ago, tweets Keith Smith of CelticsBlog. “Yeah, it gets like this ever since the picture frame incident,” Smart said. “There’s still some glass in there. The doctors said it would cause more issues to take it out, so I still have glass in there. Sometimes I can’t really feel my hand.”
  • Raptors rookie Dalano Banton doesn’t mind the extra work of playing in the NBA and the G League at the same time, according to Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. “Going up and down to the G League and playing up here with the Raptors, I feel like I’m putting myself in a position to have a good, long career,” Banton said. “Everybody here looks out for me. They never let nothing slide with me. Everybody holds me accountable.”’

COVID-19 Updates: Celtics, Lakers, Raptors

Celtics reserve point guard Dennis Schröder has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and will not play in today’s Christmas game against the Bucks, the team has announced (Twitter link). He joins eight other Celtics in the protocols.

In a more positive twist, Juancho Hernangómez, Jabari Parker, and Brodric Thomas have exited the league’s COVID-19 protocols and are available for today’s game, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (via Twitter). Guards Marcus Smart, who has been dealing with a hip injury, and Romeo Langford, who has missed time due to an Achilles injury, are also available. Boston center Al Horford is out of the league’s coronavirus protocols but is still working on his conditioning and has been ruled out for the contest.

Here are more COVID-19 protocol updates from around the NBA:

  • Lakers guards Avery Bradley and Malik Monk have left the league’s COVID-19 protocols and will be able to suit up today for Los Angeles against the Nets, per Bill Oram of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • Raptors players Khem Birch, Isaac Bonga, and Justin Champagnie have entered the league’s COVID-19 protocols, though Dalano Banton has apparently exited, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN (Twitter link). A total of 10 Toronto players are now in the protocols. Toronto’s previously-scheduled game on Wednesday, against the Bulls, was canceled as a result of the Raptors not having enough players available. The team’s next game is scheduled for tomorrow against the Cavaliers. Lewenberg adds (via Twitter) that Raptors rookie shooting guard David Johnson (calf) and veteran point guard Goran Dragic (personal) also continue to be unavailable.
  • Keep track of all the NBA players within the league’s health and safety protocols on our tracker here.

Pascal Siakam In Health And Safety Protocols

Raptors forward Pascal Siakam has been placed in the league’s health and safety protocols, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. Teammate Dalano Banton is in the protocols as well, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter link).

There’s no word on whether either player tested positive for COVID-19, but if they did, they will miss a minimum of 10 days unless they return two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart. They are the first two Toronto players to enter the protocols, according to our tracker.

Siakam has helped the Raptors climb up near the .500 mark after returning in early November from shoulder surgery. He is averaging 19.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 17 games. Banton has earned regular playing time in his first NBA season, averaging 4.1/2.3/1.8 in 12.7 minutes per night through 27 games.

Lakers’ Westbrook, Cavs’ Okoro Enter COVID-19 Protocols

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin (Twitter link). Lakers guard Avery Bradley has also been placed in the protocols, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Westbrook and Bradley are the fourth and fifth Lakers to enter the protocols within the last three days, joining teammates Talen Horton-Tucker, Dwight Howard, and Malik Monk.

It’s unclear if the two Lakers guards have registered confirmed positive tests for COVID-19, but if they have, they’ll be sidelined for at least 10 days or until he returns two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.

The news of Westbrook and Bradley entering the protocols coincides with reports that the Lakers have agreed to sign Isaiah Thomas to a 10-day contract using a hardship exception. Westbrook’s and Bradley’s absences should open the door for Thomas to get some run at the point guard spot.

Here are a few more COVID-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Cavaliers forward Isaac Okoro has entered the health and safety protocols, sources tell Kelsey Russo of The Athletic (Twitter link). No other Cavs players are currently in the protocols, so we’ll have to wait to see if Okoro is a one-off or if any of his teammates join him in the coming days. If Okoro tested positive for COVID-19, he’ll be in the protocols for at least 10 days or until he returns two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.
  • Bulls head coach Billy Donovan told reporters, including Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times, that Coby White and Javonte Green are the only two players on the team who have cleared the health and safety protocols and have been conducting individual workouts. That leaves eight players in the protocols, and many of them – including Zach LaVine, Ayo Dosunmu, Alize Johnson, and Troy Brown Jr. – may not be back until after Christmas, according to Donovan.
  • Raptors big man Precious Achiuwa has cleared the health and safety protocols, tweets Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Koreen also provides a few injury updates on Raptors players — Dalano Banton (illness) is good to go, while OG Anunoby (hip) and Khem Birch (knee) will be listed as questionable for the club’s game vs. Golden State on Saturday.

Raptors Notes: Practice, Sabonis, Turner, Achiuwa, Banton

Like the Pacers, the Raptors opted to cancel their practice on Thursday due to an “abundance of caution” related to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, tweets Blake Murphy of The Athletic.

As was the case with Indiana, Toronto didn’t provide any additional details to explain the decision. However, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link) hears that it’s “not a player issue,” which suggests that perhaps a staff member either tested positive for COVID-19 or is a close contact of someone who did.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • The Raptors will have to decide in the coming weeks whether they intend to be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, Grange writes for Sportsnet.ca. As Grange observes, upgrading the center spot or adding a reliable backup point guard could help make Toronto a more legitimate playoff contender, but the team could also decided to take a longer-term view toward the future and shop a couple veterans.
  • A league source tells Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca that the Raptors have had “their eyes on” Pacers big men Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner for years, so they’ll likely at least kick the tires on the two veteran centers. Doug Smith of The Toronto Star (subscribers only) argues that Toronto should seriously pursue either Sabonis or Turner in an effort to solidify the five spot.
  • Raptors center Precious Achiuwa is once again sidelined due to shoulder tendinitis, and head coach Nick Nurse isn’t sure how long Achiuwa will be out, writes Lewenberg. “Obviously, it’s aggravated again,” Nurse said of the injury. “I don’t know what to say. Hopefully it’s short-term, but you never know.”
  • Rookie guard Dalano Banton is pulling double duty this season, playing frequently for both the Raptors in the NBA and the Raptors 905 in the G League. As Smith writes for The Toronto Star, Banton welcomes that challenge, knowing that current Raptors stars like Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam spent plenty of time with the 905 when they first entered the league. “I’m not getting tired of it,” Banton said. “I’m just kind of trusting in the process that they have going on for me. … I trust in the development of the Raptors and I’ve seen it countless times of guys who came before me.”
  • Eric Koreen of The Athletic addressed a handful of Raptors-related topics in his latest mailbag, including Yuta Watanabe‘s future and what the team could get back in a trade involving Chris Boucher.

Raptors Notes: Birch, Anunoby, Watanabe, Boucher, Banton

Raptors center Khem Birch has already been ruled out for Friday’s game in Indiana, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. It’ll be the fifth game in a row that Birch has missed, but head coach Nick Nurse doesn’t view the swelling in the big man’s right knee as a serious issue.

“There seems to be nothing really wrong with it other than it’s not handling some wear and tear, I guess, and it’s going up and down a little bit in the last couple weeks,” Nurse said before Wednesday’s game, per Eric Koreen of The Athletic.

The only other player on Toronto’s injury report for Friday is OG Anunoby, who is once again listed as questionable due to his left hip pointer. Anunoby was also listed as questionable for Wednesday’s contest but was ultimately held out of his fourth straight game.

Let’s round up a few more Raptors-related items…

  • Yuta Watanabe made his season debut on Wednesday after missing more than a month due to a calf injury. While his offensive numbers were modest (three points on 0-of-3 shooting), Watanabe made a strong impression on Nurse and the Raptors with his performance, which included two steals and two blocks in 14 minutes. “I thought (Watanabe’s play) was awesome,” Nurse said after the game, per Koreen. “I just think he ran down some loose balls — and we were really having some trouble doing that — he kept a few of them alive on the offensive end, got a great block. Just some really good, hard play.”
  • If Watanabe hangs onto a regular rotation role, it’ll put Chris Boucher in danger of losing minutes, Koreen observes. Boucher averaged 24.2 minutes per game last season, but has played just 13.9 MPG this season and logged only seven minutes on Wednesday. Boucher is at his best when he’s blocking shots on defense and hitting threes on offense, but his numbers in both categories have dropped off this season, making it hard to justify playing him much, Koreen writes.
  • The Raptors are getting all they expected and more from second-round pick Dalano Banton, says Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. The rookie is one of just three players on the roster who has appeared in all 19 games so far, and he’s earning praise from team leaders like Fred VanVleet. “The kid is really talented,” VanVleet said of Banton. “He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes and he plays really hard. He’s fearless and I like him.”

Raptors Notes: Boucher, Dragic, Siakam, Banton

Nothing has gone as planned for Raptors big man Chris Boucher this season and it’s hard for him to explain why, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. After a breakout season in 2020/21 in which he averaged 13.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 60 games, Boucher has seen his playing time cut nearly in half as his numbers across the board have plummeted. His shooting has been particularly troubling as he has dropped from 51.4% to 37.2% from the field and from 38.3% to 18.4% from three-point range.

“I feel like I’ve been searching to get that feeling again, feeling like you’re doing the right thing and in the right spot,” Boucher said. “I’ve been missing that feeling … I’m not satisfied. These 10 games I played like I couldn’t play or wasn’t the player I’m supposed to (be).”

The slow start may be partially explained by a surgical procedure on a sprained finger that caused him to miss the preseason. Smith notes that Boucher didn’t return with the same energy and his shooting stroke was off as his misfired on 27 of his first 33 three-point attempts.

“I was doing so good in training camp, and then you get hurt in preseason,” Boucher said. “The team gets chemistry (when) you’re out of it. You’ve got to find a way to introduce yourself to the team.”

There’s more from Toronto:

  • An injury to Fred VanVleet forced the Raptors to turn to Goran Dragic for the first time in three weeks Saturday night and the veteran guard logged a season-high 28 minutes, per Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Dragic may still be unlikely to finish the season with Toronto, Koreen adds, but he provides creativity and can be useful on a fill-in basis. “I was out of breath, but it was fine,” Dragic said. “I found out before the game so I was a little bit surprised, but I was ready.”
  • Pascal Siakam played nearly 35 minutes on Saturday and it appears his minutes restriction is about to be lifted, Koreen states in the same piece. Siakam played his third game since returning from shoulder surgery and has been lobbying the team’s director of sports science to clear him for full-time duty.
  • Rookie Dalano Banton, who has bounced back and forth between the Raptors and the G League, played for the fourth straight night Saturday, Koreen adds. “He’s carved out a role on this team maybe faster than anyone expected,” coach Nick Nurse said. “It was a little bit of a tricky situation, playing four in four. He wanted to play. There were some things he wanted to work on. For the big picture, it’s a good move for him and for the team.”

Atlantic Notes: Iverson, Sixers, Watanabe, Raptors, Celtics

Former Sixers star Allen Iverson would be interested in working for an NBA team, he said during a conversation with Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report (video link; hat tip to RealGM). Iverson told Rooks that he’s “forgotten more basketball than some people know” and would love to put his expertise to use by helping current NBA players — especially if he could so in Philadelphia with his old team.

“I’m a Sixer for life. I’ve got Sixer blood pumping through me. Everybody knows that I want to help that organization,” Iverson said. “I’ve been retired, what, 11 years? I don’t know how I’m not a part of that staff (in) some kind of way.”

Iverson added that he’s not necessarily interested in being “the guy that’s right up front” (ie. a head coach) and that even just being a consultant for the Sixers would make him happy.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Addressing reports that the Sixers and Pacers have discussed a potential Ben Simmons trade, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer says that if the 76ers can get Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert, and a future first-round pick in exchange for Simmons, they should pull the trigger. Philadelphia and Indiana have reportedly discussed both Brogdon and LeVert, though it’s unclear if either club has made an offer along those lines.
  • Raptors forward Yuta Watanabe is battling a left calf strain and won’t be available for Thursday’s game in Philadelphia, tweets Blake Murphy of The Athletic. As Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca tweets, the injury is considered minor, so hopefully it won’t affect Watanabe’s standing as he fights for a spot on Toronto’s 15-man regular season roster.
  • While Scottie Barnes is drawing far more interest, the Raptors‘ “other” rookies – Dalano Banton and Justin Champagnie – are also vying for playing time, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca details. Given the team’s roster turnover and injury issues, there are opportunities in the rotation available for the taking, Grange writes for Sportsnet.ca.
  • Al Horford‘s return to Boston reunites him with Robert Williams, who considered Horford a veteran role model during his previous stint with the Celtics. Jared Weiss of The Athletic spoke to the two big men about their relationship during Williams’ rookie year in 2018/19 and how they can help one another going forward.

Raptors Notes: Roster Battles, Mykhailiuk, Bjorkgren, Banton, Achiuwa

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse cited COVID-19 and injuries as reasons why the battles for the last two or three spots on the team’s regular season roster are more important than ever, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. As Nurse pointed out, even if a player makes the team as a 13th or 14th man, he may end up being thrust into a rotation role if others ahead of him are sidelined.

Ishmail Wainright, Yuta Watanabe, Freddie Gillespie, Sam Dekker, and Isaac Bonga are the five players believed to be fighting for spots on the 15-man squad. Toronto has 12 players with fully guaranteed salaries — assuming none of those players are traded or cut, there would be room on the roster for up to three players from that five-player group.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk said on Friday that he received interest in free agency from the Trail Blazers and Lakers before deciding to sign with the Raptors, per Eric Koreen of The Athletic (Twitter link). Mykhailiuk likes the opportunity he has to earn playing time and develop his game in Toronto.
  • Former Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren is at the Raptors’ training camp as a consultant, tweets Koreen. Bjorkgren was an assistant on Nurse’s staff before being hired by Indiana.
  • Raptors rookie Dalano Banton has been able to recognize two dreams this year — being selected in the NBA draft and joining his hometown team in Toronto. Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press (via The Toronto Star) has the story on the first Torontonian to be drafted by the Raptors.
  • Doug Smith of The Toronto Star and Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca lay out what newly-acquired big man Precious Achiuwa can bring to the Raptors. The franchise is hoping that Achiuwa – who was the centerpiece of the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade – can become a long-term cornerstone.