Danny Ainge

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Hollis-Jefferson, Ntilikina

The Celtics had a historically busy offseason, Chris Forsberg of ESPN writes, involved in so many major transactions that it’s hard to pinpoint just one single deal to to summarize the commotion. In early July it was announced that the C’s had agreed to a deal with Gordon Hayward, the only thing they lacked was cap room.

Given that it was a known fact around the league that the Celtics would need to shed salary, Boston executives were swamped with calls from teams looking to facilitate their Hayward signing by helping the club clear space. The eventual deal that was agreed upon – the one that would send Avery Bradley – to the Pistons – was struck at the last minute.

News of the deal was initially kept quiet while the Celtics and Pistons set out to inform the respective players involved but Detroit managed to get in contact with Marcus Morris well before the C’s were able to reach out to Bradley. Bradley, it’s said, had to find out that he was traded through Google.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Entering his third season with the Nets, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has yielded praise from head coach Kenny Atkinson, Greg Joyce of the New York Post writes. “I’ve really been kind of thrilled with his performance and that’s from the first day of training camp,” Atkinson said. “He’s matured. I think he’s more level, even-keeled, I think he’s more consistent. It’ll be huge if he can continue that type of demeanor, that type of approach.
  • In response to comments that Isaiah Thomas would, possibly, never talk to Danny Ainge ever again, the Celtics‘ general manager said the guard would forever be a part of franchise history. ESPN’s Chris Forsberg posted a transcript of Ainge’s exact comments on Twitter.
  • The Knicks have been impressed with Frank Ntilikina‘s eye for Xs and Os, Zach Braziller of the New York Post writes. The guard apparently picked up on new plays that Jeff Hornacek added to the rotation while watching a preseason game from home as he nursed a knee injury.

Celtics Notes: Ainge, Thomas, Rozier, Pierce

Celtics president Danny Ainge says the decision to include Isaiah Thomas in a package to get Kyrie Irving from Cleveland was “the toughest call I ever had to make,” relays Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Thomas shared his thoughts on the deal in an article this week for The Players Tribune, which Ainge called a “fabulous job.” As a former player, Ainge said he empathizes with the feelings of being sent from one organization to another.

Ainge refused to explain his motivation for the deal, but explained that he is always trying to improve the team. “It’s in everybody’s best interest that I don’t share all the reasons [for the trade],” he said. “But the bottom line is obviously I felt like it was the right thing for our franchise to do. But it’s a deep and complicated process. It’s not as simple as people think it is. … It’s not easy for these office people that become great friends with the players. There’s a reality that I see and that’s what makes any sort of trade challenging. But it’s just part of the world that we live in, but it’s got to be done. You’ve got to do what’s best for the franchise. The franchise is bigger than all of us. Bigger than one individual.”

There’s more out of Boston:

  • Terry Rozier wasn’t worried about being traded over the offseason, he told Adam Kaufman of 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. Entering his third season with the Celtics, Rozier is among the most tenured players on the team following this summer’s roster shakeup. He said he concentrates on producing on the court and leaves the personnel decisions to the front office. “The guys up top, their job is to get the team together and our job is to play,” Rozier said. “I’m pretty sure Danny and all our organization who make the decisions will have us ready, put us in the right spot.”
  • Paul Pierce is ready to end his feud with Ray Allen, according to Adam Reisinger of ESPN. Pierce posted a photo on social media of himself and Allen, who are both serving as coaches for a celebrity basketball game in Shanghai, with a caption that read, “Time to get the band back together.” Allen has been an outcast with many of his former teammates since leaving Boston to sign with the Heat in 2012.

Atlantic Notes: Porzingis, Stauskas, Nets, Celtics

A report earlier this week suggested that friction between the Knicks‘ young phenom Kristaps Porzingis and head coach Jeff Hornacek caused the Latvian to skip his exit meeting earlier this offseason. However, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports that issues between the player and coach were not the source of Porzingis’ issue with the team.

Porzingis was reportedly frustrated with the front office (particularly ex-president Phil Jackson) and the team’s treatment of Carmelo Anthony. Issues between Hornacek and Porzingis suggest that his problems with the team went beyond Jackson and company. Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reported in July that Porzingis and Hornacek’s relationship “sat on rocky terrain” for most last season, partly because of his loud and critical treatment of the Knicks’ former first-round pick.

“We try to get good relationships with all our guys, not just the star guys,” Hornacek said to Bondy about his relationships with players on the team. “We’re talking to these guys every day. We see them every day. We travel with them. As a group we’re trying to do more things as a team, kind of family-type stuff. We’ll try to grow on that, that way.”

For what it’s worth, the Knicks have insisted that the organization’s future rests on its young assets with the 22-year-old Porzingis at the forefront. With key changes to the front office and the roster, New York enters 2017/18 with cooled expectations but a clearer vision for the future.

Below you can read additional news around the Atlantic Division:

Atlantic Notes: Ntilikina, Okafor, London

While the plan has always been to bring rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina along slowly, the fact that the Knicks failed to land a notable veteran at the position this offseason gives the first-year player an opportunity to sneak into the starting lineup.

Of course [I want to start],” Ntilikina told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, before stressing that he’s a team player more concerned with simply improving over the course of his first campaign with the Knicks.

The Knicks added Ramon Sessions over the summer but while Sessions brings a source of veteran leadership, he hasn’t been a consistent starter previously in his 10-year career.

Regardless of where he ends up in the rotation, the Knicks’ eighth-overall pick acknowledges a need to work on his body and brace for the physical challenges of stepping into the NBA.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Although his name has frequently come up in trade rumors, Sixers big man Jahlil Okafor “couldn’t be happier” in Philadelphia. The center spoke with Tom Moore of the Bucks County Courier Times about the idea of suiting up for another squad.
  • The Celtics aren’t about to plan their offseason around what the Cavaliers are doing. “We have our own problems and our own challenges and trying to put players together that can win and compete in the league today is very difficult,Danny Ainge said recently on the Dan Patrick Show (via CSN New England).
  • The Celtics and Sixers will take their talents to the United Kingdom this season, an NBA.com press release reveals. The two division rivals will square off in NBA London Games 2018 on January 11.

Ex-Cavs GM Suggests Celtics On Irving’s List

In an appearance on ESPN’s “The Jump” on Monday (h/t to CSNNE.com), former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin suggested that the Celtics are on Kyrie Irving’s short list of preferred destinations.

Griffin mentioned Brad Stevens and Gregg Popovich as “really good coaching situations” that Irving covets, as well as Irving’s desire to play with “Gordon Hayward in Boston” or “Kawhi Leonard in San Antonio.”

The Spurs had previously been reported as a team on Irving’s list, but this is the first the public is hearing about the Celtics as a desired destination for the disgruntled point guard. Aside from the Spurs, the Knicks, Heat, and Timberwolves were reported by Chris Haynes as Irving’s top choices for landing spots.

While the Celtics certainly have the assets to land Irving, with a trove of draft picks and Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and other desirable players, Danny Ainge has been reluctant to part with these assets in trades for Paul George and Jimmy Butler, which led to the pair being traded elsewhere for far less than the Celtics could have offered.

Furthermore, if the Celtics were to strike a deal for Irving, he and Isaiah Thomas would make for an awkward fit starting in the backcourt, and a particularly troublesome pairing for Boston on defense, with neither point guard known for his defensive prowess. Irving also has reportedly wanted to be the lead guy on his next team, but Thomas is – and would likely continue to be – the Celtics’ franchise player. More likely, in the improbable event that the teams make a trade involving Irving, Thomas would have to head the other way.

Celtics Notes: Crowder, Morris, Thomas

The Celtics landed Gordon Hayward and Marcus Morris this week but the reigning Eastern Conference No. 1 seed isn’t comfortable yet.

Per a CSN New England report, president Danny Ainge is searching for further moves that can improve their roster this offseason. It’s just a matter of figuring out what those moves might look like.

Initially the report speculated that Ainge could be targeting rebounding, something the Celtics lacked in 2016/17, but the executive noted that he feels young forwards Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum could help in that regard.

Another area that Boston could address is their backup point guard position. That said, the team president also mentioned that he was currently impressed with backup point guard Terry Rozier.

There’s more from Beantown:

  • The Celtics have no intention of trading Jae Crowder, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe tweets. The forward had been floated as a possible component of a sign-and-trade deal to bring Gordon Hayward to Boston prior to the Avery Bradley deal.
  • Veteran point guard Isaiah Thomas told CSN New England’s A. Sherrod Blakely that he believes he’s a max contract guy and that the Celtics are aware that they’ll need to bring the Brinks trucks out to retain his services when he becomes a free agent next summer.
  • Newly added Celtics forward Marcus Morris comes with legal baggage and a CSN New England report breaks down the pending trial that will begin on August 21.
  • The Celtics wouldn’t have had enough Brinks trucks to retain both Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas, Chris Forsberg of ESPN writes, a harsh reality that led to the trade that sent Bradley to the Pistons.

Suns May Have Pushed Josh Jackson To Cancel Celtics Workout

There are rumblings out of Boston that the Suns may have encouraged Josh Jackson to skip his workout with the Celtics so he would be available for Phoenix with the fourth pick.

A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE passes along the theory that Suns GM Ryan McDonough, who spent 10 years in the Celtics’ organization, was behind Jackson’s decision to cancel a scheduled session with the team in Sacramento. McDonough joked about the situation Friday in Jackson’s introductory press conference, but later offered hints that there might be some truth to the allegations.

“Look, it is a competition,” he told reporters. “The Celtics were ahead of us at No. 3 and they could have selected whoever they wanted to. I think they got a very good player in Jayson Tatum, but that doesn’t mean [Jackson’s agent] B.J. [Armstrong] and I and … other members of my staff couldn’t talk and try to formulate the best plan to get a player we were really high on to a place we felt he really wanted to go and would be a great fit for him.”

McDonough pointed out that it wouldn’t violate any NBA rules if he and Armstrong had worked together to steer Jackson to Phoenix.

The Boston contingent, made up of president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, coach Brad Stevens and assistant GM and team counsel Mike Zarren, didn’t find out about the cancellation until their plane landed in Sacramento, which sparked some anger toward Jackson.

“Flew across the country, are you kidding me? I had to get up at 4 o’clock and fly back home,” Ainge said.

Jackson claimed he had a phone conversation with Stevens this week, but Ainge said on draft night that no one in the organization had direct contact with the Kansas forward, Blakely relays in a separate story. Some believe Jackson was bitter that the Celtics didn’t give him serious consideration when they had the No. 1 pick and he didn’t want to join the team after it traded back to No. 3.

“There was something that he didn’t want to play for the Celtics,” Ainge added.

Atlantic Notes: Jackson, Ainge, Raptors, Nets, Sixers

After much speculation, the Knicks ultimately decided to select French point guard Frank Ntilikina with the eight pick in the NBA Draft. Names like Dennis Smith Jr. and Malik Monk — both of whom were still available when the Knicks were on the clock — were bypassed in favor of the athletic guard.

As Ian Begley of ESPN writes, team president Phil Jackson spoke about New York’s highly-debated selection and the ability that made the 18-year-old a must-have prospect.

“We like the size of this young man, we like his aptitude for the game, athleticism, actually the ability to incorporate himself in a winning type of a situation,” Jackson said.

New York used its 44th pick on Houston’s Damyean Dotson and its 58th pick on Serbian guard Ognjen Jaramaz. Under Jackson, the Knicks have emphasized selecting European talent and college seniors; with the team looking to build aorund young talent, it’s likely that the 2017 draft picks — particularly Ntilikina — get decent looks next season.

Here are additional notes from around the Atlantic Division:

  • Per Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (via Twitter), the Raptors tried trading up in the draft to select OG Anunoby but were pleasantly surprised when he was still available come the 23rd pick.
  • On a similar note, the Nets liked Michigan’s D.J. Wilson and tried trading up, but did not have the assets to do so, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk (via Twitter). Wilson was taken 17th overall by the Bucks.
  • Despite rumors linking the Celtics to Jimmy Butler, general manager Danny Ainge told reporters, including ESPN’s Chris Forsberg, that no recent discussions to acquire the former Bulls All-Star happened.
  • Per Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly (via Twitter), all of the Sixers‘ international picks are expected to stay overseas next season.
  • After drafting Markelle Fultz this year, Ben Simmons last year, and assembling a drove of young talent, now is the time for Sixers head coach Brett Brown to put together a winning product, Philadelphia Inquirer’s Bob Cooney writes.

Celtics Notes: Ainge, Fultz, Tatum, Theis

Danny Ainge, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations, has risked his legacy by trading the top pick in this year’s draft, writes Chris Mannix of The Vertical. Mannix points out that Ainge gave up Markelle Fultz, a player who scouts seem unanimously sold on, for a chance at Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum, who play the same position as Boston’s first pick from last year, Jaylen Brown. Ainge may be preparing for a larger deal, but the Pelicans seem to have no desire to move Anthony Davis, and the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler or the Pacers’ Paul George would probably be just a brief rental. Mannix believes Philadelphia now has a team that can contend for the playoffs next season and possibly grow into the East’s next power. If that happens, Ainge’s reputation will take a major hit.

There’s more news out of Boston:

  • The Celtics get an A-minus for the deal and the Sixers get an A-plus from Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated. He writes that Fultz’s skills don’t fit with Boston’s immediate needs and his presence would have complicated Isaiah Thomas‘ free agency in 2018. Ainge, who owns Brooklyn’s unprotected first-rounder next season, may have two lottery picks to work with if the Lakers’ choice falls between No. 2 and 5. If not, he will have the Kings’ first-rounder in 2019.
  • Despite reports that they are pursuing another deal, the Celtics are telling agents they plan to use the No. 3 pick, tweets Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.
  • Tatum is a strong possibility for the Celtics if the Lakers opt for Jackson at No. 2, according to Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald (Twitter link). Boston ranks Fultz, Jackson, Tatum and Lonzo Ball as its top four prospects.
  • The trade slightly raises Boston’s cap space to $19.8MM, tweets Keith Smith of Real GM, who adds that it can still be increased with other moves. The Sixers now have $40.2MM available, second only to the Kings.
  • Tom Ziller of SB Nation examines the Celtics’ possible motives for the deal, including a desire to take Jackson, to avoid conflict with Thomas, to set up a bigger deal involving Butler or George or to build a team capable of taking over the East when LeBron James retires.
  • The Celtics have “serious interest” in German forward Daniel Theis, relays Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. The 25-year-old is a free agent after his contract with Brose Bamberg expired.

Atlantic Notes: Fultz, Horford, Celtics, 76ers

Celtics GM Danny Ainge was impressed by Markelle Fultz after the point guard spent two days in Boston, reports Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Boston owns the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft and is strongly considering using the pick on Fultz.

“It went well. I had dinner with him last night. He had a physical yesterday and he had a workout this morning with Brad [Stevens]. Everything went well. He’s very talented,” Ainge told Himmelsbach by phone Tuesday.

But that is not all going on in the Atlantic division:

  • Fresh off the first season of his sizable contract with the CelticsAl Horford opens up about the high expectations and immense pressures he faces in an article from Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. Horford explains how he copes: “My biggest thing, and I learned this at an early stage in my career, was to not read any of that information or see anything, good or bad…One day people love you, the next they hate you, it’s really up and down, and my focus was making sure the team kept getting better as a group, and not worry about anything outside. One thing that helped me was not paying attention to a lot of things.”
  • 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo is not speeding up the team’s rebuild and instead appears to be patiently and strategically building a contender a la Sam Hinkie‘s “The Process,” writes Bob Cooney of Philly.com.
  • The 76ers will hold a pre-draft workout on Wednesday, reports Keith Pompey of Philly.com (link via Twitter). The scheduled participants are Jordan Bell (Oregon), Thomas Bryant (Indiana), Tyler Dorsey (Oregon), Elie Okobo (Élan Béarnais Pau-Orthez), L.J. Peak (Georgetown), and Steve Vasturia (Notre Dame).
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