Danny Ainge

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Raptors, Marks

As the top-seeded Celtics struggle against a Bulls team that nearly didn’t make the playoffs, all eyes are on general manager Danny Ainge who, to the chagrin of many, elected not to make any moves at the trade deadline, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post writes.

There were a number of moves that the Celtics could have made, Bontemps says, without necessarily making a major splash involving a superstar or giving up one of their coveted Nets draft picks. Serge Ibaka and Taj Gibson are two quality rebounding forwards who were obviously available that day. Lou Williams is another.

Alas, without the acquisition of a solid rebounder or an additional bench scorer, the Celtics are down two games to none against Chicago.  Earlier this week, Ainge himself spoke with CSN New England saying that critcism of their decision to stand pat was “fair”.

Regardless, it won’t be long before the rest of the series unfolds and we find out whether sitting tight was the right call or not.

There’s more from the Atlantic:

  • While the Raptors have faced adversity and prevailed in the past, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun writes that change could be in the air regardless of how they make out over the rest of their first-round matchup. Additionally, Josh Lewenberg of TSN echoes the sentiment, tweeting that players and coaches are fighting to keep their jobs.
  • A team of writers at ESPN (Insider required) took a deep dive into the Knicks‘ upcoming offseason, discussing a number of issues like Phil Jackson‘s extension and whether or not Carmelo Anthony will finally be traded.
  • The Nets will need to approach their rebuild strategically, says general manager Sean Marks. Nets Daily broke down what the executive has said about his vision for the future thus far. “The objective for us is to be in the playoffs. When that comes, we’ll see,” Marks said. “You don’t want to go and sign free agents and then the next thing you know your payroll is capped out and you’re a 25-win team. We’re going to have to build this strategically, have patience with it.”

Celtics Notes: Ainge, Brogdon, Yabusele

With Cleveland losing tonight, Boston has reclaimed sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference. Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck is thrilled with how the team is playing and he’s pleased with the direction of the franchise, as A. Sherrod Blakely of Comcast Sportsnet relays. “There’s no reason to put a ceiling on the season,” Grousbeck said. “I think this season already looks good to me. I love our coach. I love our young players. I love our draft picks and our potential cap room [this summer]; all of our fans. So I’m already happy with where the team is going.”

Here’s more from Boston:

  • The Celtics knew Malcolm Brogdon would be available in the second-round, but chose to pass on him because of the team’s surplus of guards, as GM Danny Ainge tells Comcast Sportsnet. Boston had the No. 31 overall and No. 35 overall picks but traded them to Memphis for a future first-rounder. Milwaukee selected Brogdon with the No. 36 overall pick last June.
  • No. 16 overall pick Guerschon Yabusele has officially joined the Maine Red Claws, the D-League affiliate of the Celtics, Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com tweets. Yabusele played for the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association this season. The CBA’s season concludes earlier than the NBA’s, which gives Yabusele a chance to run with Boston’s D-League to close the season.

Atlantic Notes: Atkinson, Tucker, Thomas, Knicks

Chris Mannix of The Vertical spoke with Nets coach Kenny Atkinson about the team’s rebuild; a process Atkinson admitted can be overwhelming.

“I look at it like I deserve … like I deserve to start at the bottom. This is how it should be. I shouldn’t be handed some prime job,” Atkinson said. “I really believe that I have to pay my dues, and it’s great. It’s funny the situation we are in, without our picks, we never use that as a crutch. We never talk about the past. We’re talking about getting better in the here and now, and getting better in the future.”

Atkinson certainly has paid his dues; the Nets are currently 11-52, having won just 3 of 34 Eastern Conference games. Atkinson discussed the vision he shares with GM Sean Marks.

“Sean and I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy task,” Atkinson said. “We needed guys that were going to be able to keep pushing through and guys with high character that, despite the won-loss record, they’re going to come in here with a smile on their face and keep working their tails off, and that’s exactly what we’ve gotten from one to 15. We push these guys pretty hard, but everyone wants to be coached, accepts coaching. That attitude, that work ethic, that’s eventually going to pay off.”

More from the Atlantic…

  • Jackie MacMullan of ESPN discussed the Nets’ challenge of “rebuilding from nothing.” MacMullan spoke to Heat president Pat Riley, who was hesitant to criticize former GM Billy King for the infamous Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett blockbuster trade. “I’m a gambler — I might have done the same thing,” Riley said. “At the time, they were trying to build something. They had a new arena, a new owner, and so you go after the best players, and you tell everybody you are going to win. It didn’t work, and now they are paying the price.”
  • Doug Smith of The Star wrote about P.J. Tucker‘s adjustment to Toronto. Tucker, who became an immediate fixture in Dwane Casey‘s rotation, now has a thorough understanding of the team’s “schemes and nuances.” “A lot of stuff was on the fly: just people talking on the court, coaches yelling to me from the sidelines, literally the other team hearing them telling me what I’m doing,” Tucker said. “When you come into a team in the middle of the year that is doing well, you just want to kind of follow along and fall in place.”
  • Isaiah Thomas didn’t mean to throw coach Brad Stevens under the bus by saying “we can’t be experimenting in Game 63,” after a recent loss. Thomas, who met with GM Danny Ainge regarding his remarks, clarified his point of view with Chris Forsberg of ESPN“That’s not me. I just said how I felt at that time,” Thomas said. “I was frustrated, I thought we should have won. I was always taught to speak my mind. But for the most part, I don’t want to be a distraction. My teammates know that. It’s bigger than how I feel, I guess.”
  • There’s plenty of room for the Knicks to improve their draft position down the stretch, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Monday’s victory, Berman notes, dropped the Knicks from being in a tie for the sixth-worst record in the NBA to ninth-worst. Despite the team’s clear incentive to tank, coach Jeff Hornacek isn’t yet on board with throwing in the towel. “Until you’re out of it and doesn’t look good, it would come from management,’’ Hornacek said. “If we’re out of the playoffs, we’ll start doing that. There’s veteran guys here who will never give up until they’re out of it. We’re going to try to still win games.’’

Celtics May Pursue Danilo Gallinari

The Celtics may try to pick up Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari before Thursday’s trade deadline, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald.

Boston GM Danny Ainge has long been a fan of Gallinari, according to Bulpett, and has tried to deal for him before. There haven’t been any trade rumors linking the Celtics and Gallinari this year, but the author notes that was also true with Isaiah Thomas before Ainge dealt for him two years ago.

Gallinari has been slowed by a groin injury and hasn’t played since February 1st. He has a player option worth $16.1MM next season.

Boston is hoping to add another scorer through trade, and Ainge has been active in talks during All-Star Weekend, both as a main participant and a facilitator, according to Bulpett. So far, Ainge hasn’t found a deal worth giving up his most valuable assets, which include the Nets’ first-rounders this season and in 2018.

“Danny’s let it be known that he’s willing to talk about the Nets’ picks,” said an unidentified executive. “But you want one of those guys, you have to be willing to give up a star.”

Ainge would also prefer to stay away from players whose contracts expire this year or next year. The Celtics had some interest in Serge Ibaka before Orlando traded him to Toronto, but they weren’t willing to part with much because they weren’t sure they could re-sign him in free agency.

Bulpett adds that the Celtics are very protective of their cap space and are reluctant to make a move that would hurt them on the free agent market. He speculates that it would take someone like Jimmy Butler or Paul George to tempt Boston to add significant salary in a pre-deadline trade.

The Celtics are also significantly less interested in trading for Jahlil Okafor than they were a year ago, Bulpett notes. They had talked to the Sixers about an Okafor deal at last year’s deadline, but after signing Al Horford the Celtics only want front-line players who they believe are compatible with him. Boston might have more interest in Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel, but the team won’t offer as much as it would have in 2016.

The author believes the Celtics would love to pick up Andrew Bogut from Dallas if the Mavericks decide to be sellers, but again wouldn’t pay a high price in a deal.

Celtics Notes: Thomas, Trade Deadline, Draft

A panel of CSN New England reporters agreed yesterday that the Celtics were unlikely to make a big trade before the February 23 trade deadline. Citing lofty “in-season” price tags, Chris Forsberg went so far as to say that there was “no way,” general manager Danny Ainge would give away too many assets for one star player.

When the conversation shifted to Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler in particular, there was consensus among the scribes that Chicago may be asking too much. “It’s going to take a godfather offer [from the Celtics],” Abby Chin explained, “including two of the Nets picks.”

Over the course of the last few seasons, the Celtics have shown patience in their rebuild and that pattern, they say, is unlikely to end.

There’s more Celtics news:

  • Despite the impending trade deadline Celtics head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t anticipate significant changes to his roster. “When we have a team like we have now, I don’t anticipate a ton of change but you never know what comes to the table,” Stevens told Kyle Draper of CSN New England. “Those are discussions that Danny and his staff will have and they’ll bring anything serious to my table.”
  • The Celtics need a better scorer to take some pressure off of Isaiah Thomas in the playoffs, says Bob Ryan of CSN New England, in addition to a role playing rebounder. The scribe echoes a popular sentiment that trading away the Nets’ 2017 first-rounder pick for a player of marginal impact, however, would be unwise. Ryan goes on to acknowledge Jimmy Butler’s strengths as a two-way player but says that the player he would want the C’s to pursue most is DeMarcus Cousins.
  • When Isaiah Thomas participates in All-Star festivities this weekend, he’ll be doing so with an ulterior motive. “I’m going to see what guys are talking about and dip my head in there and hopefully bring some more talent to Boston,” the guard told A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England.
  • The Celtics will have plenty of decisions to make in the next six months, long after the trade deadline comes and goes. One such decision will involve which rookie to draft with the Nets’ 2017 first-round pick writes Johnny Auping of RealGM. Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, “two ball-dominant guards with unusually developed skillsets for freshmen,” sit atop most mock drafts at this point in the season.
  • The forthcoming trade deadline will give the NBA community a clear sense of whether the Celtics plan to win-now or build for the future, writes Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders. Hamilton writes that, given the age of their core, the C’s may not want to wait three-to-four years for their young players (and a possible 2017 lottery pick) to develop.

Celtics Rumors: Ainge, Smart, Bradley, Ibaka

Celtics GM Danny Ainge is not interested in a quick-fix deal and is driving a hard bargain when it comes to his best trade assets, he said during a radio interview posted by CSNNE.com. Ainge doesn’t want any “band aids” for the final 25 regular-season games. “We’re trying to build something that’s a little more sustainable than we are to rent a player,” he said. The Celtics have the ability to dangle some tantalizing draft picks, as well as young players, to acquire the “long-term” impact player that he’s seeking. Boston has the right to swap first-rounders with the Nets this season and also owns Brooklyn’s 2018 first-rounder. Ainge says “there’s a lot of interest in” the Nets pick, though he didn’t clarify whether he was referring to one or both. “Everybody knows the assets we have and the young players we have, so that’s the challenge,” he said. “In any conversation we have, the price is a lot because of what we have in the bank.”

In other notable developments regarding the Celtics:

  • Combo guard Marcus Smart‘s strong play has made Avery Bradley expendable, Mike Petraglia of WEEI.com argues. Smart has averaged 12.3 PPG, 5.4 APG, 4.0 RPG and 2.3 SPG over the past 12 games and the team has gone 11-1 during that stretch, Petraglia notes. Bradley, sidelined the last 15 games with a sore right Achilles, has one more year left on his very affordable four-year, $32MM deal and could be packaged with draft picks to land an All-Star caliber player like Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins, Carmelo Anthony or Andre Drummond, Petraglia adds.
  • Bradley believes he’ll be ready to go right after the All-Star break, as he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com and other reporters. “I’m feeling really good. I wish I could be back now, but I just have to do whatever is smartest at the moment,” Bradley said. “The medical staff thinks it’s smarter for me to just wait until after the All-Star break.”
  • The team did not make a push for power forward Serge Ibaka last summer because they had no interest in signing him to a long-term deal, a source told Kyle Draper of CSNNE.com. Boston did not want to get into a bidding war for Ibaka, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Ibaka was shipped by the Thunder to the Magic in a draft-night blockbuster, and then moved by the struggling Magic this week to another Eastern Conference contender, the Raptors.

Atlantic Notes: Ainge, Sullinger, Bradley

The Celtics remain the most likely team to make a splash before the deadline, writes Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. The abundance of draft picks and valuable supplementary assets put them in a unique position to either get a deal done directly or facilitate one for others.

I don’t think any move of significance gets done before the deadline without [Celtics general manager] Danny Ainge being given the chance to put his fingerprints on it,” one executive tells Bulpett.

The Celtics, of course, have been featured in trade speculation all season and are one of the possible destinations that Carmelo Anthony would supposedly consider waiving his no-trade clause for. Sources around the league, Bulpett writes, say that Ainge is “patrolling the marketplace in hopes that a player worthy of some of the assets he has accumulated becomes available.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Fifth-year big man Jonas Valanciunas isn’t a good fit in Toronto, writes Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun. Valanciunas’ defensive deficiencies — and Lucas Nogueira‘s lack of strength — make Bismack Biyombo‘s absence this season all the more noticeable during Raptors games. Still, Wolstat argues, while it’s hard to put a value on talented big men like Valanciunas, you can’t just give them away without getting something substantial in return.
  • When Jared Sullinger went to the D-League for a rehab start over the weekend, he did so of his own volition, writes Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun. “I thought it was great,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “You can’t force him to go. He decided to go. He wanted to go. It was a great step.”
  • The steady growth of Avery Bradley has been invaluable for the Celtics, writes Steve Bulpett in a separate story for the Boston Herald. “Isaiah’s having a spectacular year, and I think that’s a little bit overshadowed how great of a year Avery’s having,” said president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. “[…] Listen, he is our best defensive player, and he’s our second-best offensive player. And that’s a rare combination for a player.” Bradley has been out of action since January 16 but is expected to return this week.
  • The Knicks have struggled this season but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Derek Fisher was the better head coach. The former New York bench boss recently slammed current Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek in a Lakers broadcast where he now serves as an analyst. “There’s enough analysts and reporters who like to talk about: coulda, shoulda [in] what they did,” Hornacek told Marc Berman of the New York Post. “We don’t pay much attention to it. I think he’s also trying to push himself in a light that maybe someone else will give him a job.”

Latest On Carmelo Anthony

Although the Celtics have stated that they’re not interested in dealing for Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks haven’t given up on them as a trade partner, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. New York had a scout at Saturday’s Celtics game and the organization is “intrigued” by several of Boston’s players.

A source told Washburn that Knicks president Phil Jackson has issued orders to move Anthony, who has indicated that the Celtics are one of the teams he would consider waiving his no-trade clause to join. Another source says Brad Stevens would love to coach Anthony, but president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has rejected the Knicks’ overtures. Washburn adds that Boston could serve as a third team to help send Anthony to the Clippers.

There’s more this morning on the Anthony trade front:

  • The Celtics present the only realistic trade destination for Anthony, according to Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports. In a video posted on CSNNE, Mannix says Ainge is in a “great position” to present the Knicks with a lowball offer and dare them to keep Anthony past the February 23rd deadline. Mannix speculates that any deal wouldn’t involve the Nets’ first-rounders that Boston owns for the next two seasons, but may include other Celtics draft picks. He also dismissed recent rumors of a Knicks-Clippers deal, saying it won’t happen unless New York is willing to accept a “garbage package” involving Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford and others.
  • Anthony admits the trade rumors can be a distraction, relays Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com“You’ve got to deal with that, even though I try not to read it,” he told reporters. “And everywhere you go, even if you don’t hear about it, somebody is telling you about it, somebody is saying something. It can be mentally draining, mentally fatiguing.”
  • If the Knicks trade Anthony, they should also get rid of Derrick Rose and some of the other veterans they added over the offseason, suggests Newsday’s Al Iannazzone. Rose is a defensive liability and has already deserted the team once, Iannazzone notes, adding that he doesn’t appear to be part of the team’s “long-term solution.” He also writes that free agent additions Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings didn’t come to New York to play for a team without Anthony, and believes the organization should commit to rebuilding if Anthony is traded.

Atlantic Notes: Davis, Ainge, Brown, Poeltl

Celtics play-by-play announcer Mike Gorman isn’t a believer in the Anthony Davis to Boston trade rumors. Speaking on the Toucher and Rich radio show, Gorman said neither Davis or the Pelicans are interested in a trade. “Joel Meyers, who’s been around the league forever and is a great play-by-play guy who does New Orleans, [told Brian Scalabrine] and I  . . . ‘No shot [Davis is] leaving.’ There’s no shot he’s leaving. He is anchored to New Orleans, loves New Orleans, loves living there and wants to ultimately be the leader of a good team in New Orleans,'” Gorman said. “Well, good luck to him if that’s the case, because that’s going to take a while.” Gorman also doesn’t think DeMarcus Cousins or James Harden would be a good fit with the Celtics.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge speeded up the rebuilding process by making 19 trades since coach Brad Stevens was hired in July of 2013, writes Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com. Forsberg analyzes all 19 deals and finds that Ainge got at least equal value in return every time.
  • A coaching change in Philadelphia would be a mistake, argues Marcus Hayes of The Philadelphia Daily News. Hayes states that Brett Brown can’t be judged fairly until Joel Embiid has time to develop his game, the minutes restrictions are lifted on Embiid and Jahlil Okafor and the Sixers acquire a decent starting point guard.
  • Jakob Poeltl and fellow rookie Pascal Siakam have already been used as starters by the Raptors, notes Spencer Davies of Amicohoops. It’s a unique position for young players to get that opportunity on a team coming off the conference finals, and Poeltl addresses that topic in a wide-ranging interview. “It’s great for us to be out there and get the chance to learn,” he said. “Obviously, we had some injury problems — like, that played into it — but it’s great for [coach Dwane Casey] to be like, ‘Okay you know, I’ll give these young guys a chance. Let’s see what they’ve got.’ I think that shows a lot about him.”

Celtics Notes: Thomas, Horford, Ainge, Zeller

Isaiah Thomas believes the Celtics might have landed Kevin Durant if they could have gone into their meeting with a commitment from Al Horford, relays Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. In a wide-ranging interview, Thomas discusses the bright future in Boston, the additions the Celtics were able to make and how close he believes they came to getting Durant. “In our meeting, he was a fan of what he had going, was a fan of [coach] Brad Stevens and [president of basketball operations] Danny Ainge and those types of things,” Thomas said. “I honestly felt like we probably didn’t have enough for him in that situation. He’s trying to win a championship now. Like I said, if we had Al Horford going into that meeting, I think that would have been enough.”

There’s more today out of Boston:

  • The Celtics recognize that they could use another shooter and a rim protector, but Ainge tells The Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett that chemistry is a concern when it comes to making moves. “It would be nice to add a rim protector that didn’t hurt our offense,” Ainge said. “It would be nice to have a shooter that didn’t hurt our defense. But I feel like we have a lot of guys that are good shooters. But the kind of guys you’re talking about, those guys are hard to find.”
  • After appearing in a career-low 60 games last season, center Tyler Zeller hopes his new contract brings a larger role, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. Zeller re-signed with Boston for $16MM over two seasons after becoming a restricted free agent this summer. Even though the second year of the deal is not guaranteed, it represents a significant raise for Zeller, who earned a little more than $2.6MM last year. Zeller often got overlooked in the Celtics’ crowded frontcourt last season, playing 10 minutes or fewer 28 times. “It was a frustrating year for me, but at the same time it was a time where I could work on my game,” Zeller said. “I was able to work out a lot, put a lot of time in the gym. Hopefully I continue to grow as a player and be even better this year.”
  • Evan Turner‘s decision to sign with the Trail Blazers has created an opportunity for Marcus Smart, according to Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com. The third-year guard made it into 61 games last season, mostly as a reserve, but Stevens believes he has earned a shot at more playing time. “I think his greatest strength will always be that he’s a guy that makes winning plays that sometimes aren’t quantified,” the coach said, “whether that’s guarding a [Paul] Millsap for eight minutes, or guarding [Kristaps] Porzingis for six minutes, or guarding the point guard for the next four. He’s just a guy that will do anything you ask to help this team win.”
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