Danny Ainge

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Irving, Grousbeck, Baynes, Horford

Former Celtic Paul Pierce believes Jayson Tatum would reach his All-Star potential if he drove to the basket more often, as he told Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.

“For a guy with his athleticism, his skill set and his ball-handling, his height, he should be a guy that gets to the line at least six times a night and makes five out of six,” Pierce said. “That’ll take him from a 16-point scorer to a 20-point scorer, and he’ll be in the conversation for All-Star every year on a winning team.”

Pierce also believes Tatum won’t fully blossom until he’s relied upon as a primary scorer.

“Look at James Harden,” he said. “We didn’t know James Harden was going to be this until he went to Houston. He was the sixth man on OKC. Now he’s a perennial MVP and arguably the best player in the league.”

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Kyrie Irving’s decision in free agency could be decided by how the postseason plays out, Bulpett speculates in the same article. While events during the season have seemingly tilted the odds in favor of Irving signing elsewhere, that could change if the team makes a deep run, Bulpett adds.
  • Danny Ainge attributed a seemingly critical comment by Irving against the coaching staff as frustration after a loss. Charlotte’s Kemba Walker scored 36 points against Boston in a recent loss and Irving said they should have trapped Walker more often. Ainge’s response came on a radio interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich” and was relayed by Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston“I did hear (Irving’s comments). It’s not that uncommon,” the GM said. “Guys get frustrated, and maybe that was the first thing that came to his mind is, ‘We should have done something different with Kemba.'”
  • Owner Wyc Grousbeck believes the team can flip the switch during the postseason, he told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. Grousbeck admits the team has underachieved but still believes better days are ahead. “We have not played at an elite level this year,” Grousbeck said. “We have to admit that at the moment. We’re in fifth place in the East. It’d be great to take that step now, or we’ll try to take it next year if we have to. But what I’m seeing, with the playoffs around the corner, I’m going to go into the playoffs with good energy and optimism and seeing what happens.”
  • Pairing Al Horford and Aron Baynes can give the Celtics more toughness inside but it would only work against certain lineups, as coach Brad Stevens explains to NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg“With their size and length, I think we have a different impact at the rim. But when you’re playing a team that’s super small and spread out, that’s tough to guard when you have a more traditional lineup.”

Woj: Davis May Only Sign Extension With Lakers

League sources expect Anthony Davis and his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, to inform the rest of the league that he only plans to sign an extension with the Lakers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

That means Davis would be just a short-term rental for anyone else who tries to acquire him. He has a $28.75MM player option for the 2020/21 season and can become a free agent next summer.

The Pelicans won’t rush into a deal, Wojnarowski adds, writing that it will take an “overwhelming” offer to get Davis out of New Orleans before the February 7 trade deadline. The Lakers plan to try to reach that standard, with trade talks between the two teams expected to begin soon. L.A. is in position to offer a max contract in free agency this summer, but sources say the team would give that up to acquire Davis. The Lakers are willing to part with draft picks and some combination of young players Kyle KuzmaBrandon IngramJosh Hart and Lonzo Ball in their trade proposal.

The Celtics, who have been collecting assets in hopes of making a deal for a star, are reportedly among the teams willing to take the risk of trading for Davis without a guarantee of a long-term arrangement. Sources tell Wojnarowski that president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has been calling the Pelicans for more than a year to let them know of his interest in Davis. There is also a tight bond between Davis and Kyrie Irving, who would be virtually assured of re-signing in Boston if Davis becomes part of the team.

Although he doesn’t identify them, Wojnarowski adds that several other teams are considering a deal for Davis, even if it’s only for the rest of the season. They could use him to make a run at the title, then flip him for other assets this summer.

Eastern Notes: Pistons, Morris, Wood, Sixers

The Pistons’ top brass is expected to meet in Los Angeles today to discuss ways to improve the team, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reports. Owner Tom Gores, coach Dwane Casey, senior adviser Ed Stefanski and vice chairman Arn Tellem will discuss how to revive the playoff hopes of the floundering team and provide star forward Blake Griffin with a better supporting cast. Detroit got off to a 13-7 start but has lost 16 of its last 20 games.  A point guard and a wing player capable of creating offense top the wish list but the team’s cap situation makes it difficult to swing a deal, Ellis continues. The roster is littered with bad contracts and injury-prone players and the team is just under the luxury tax line, Ellis adds.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Tempers flared between Celtics players Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown during a second-quarter timeout on Thursday but GM Danny Ainge is downplaying the incident. The duo exchanged words and Morris, who apparently told Brown to play harder, shoved the swingman before Marcus Smart separated them, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Ainge told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe the altercation was no big deal. “It’s two good kids that are competitive,” he said. “They both want the same thing. Emotions happen in games, and I’m not worried about it.”
  • Bucks big man Christian Wood is relieved that the team guaranteed his salary for the remainder of the season, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. His $1,512,601 salary became guaranteed on Thursday. He has a $1,645,357 non-guaranteed salary for next season. The 6’10” Wood has appeared in six games with Milwaukee while biding most of his time in the G League. “It’s real nice,” Wood said. “I talked to (GM) Jon (Horst) before the deadline passed and he said my time is going to come, I’ve just got to keep working, keep staying with the program and keep doing everything I’m supposed to do. He thinks I’m a good fit for this team.”
  • The 76ers named Annelie Schmittel as the team’s VP of player development, according to a team press release. She will be responsible for creating, managing and overseeing the holistic development and implementation of programs that support professional and personal growth of players, staff and families. She spent the last three seasons with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders.

Atlantic Notes: Nets, VanVleet, Sixers, Hayward

As a result of the Nets owning their own first-round pick for the first time in four years and the struggles the team has dealt with after losing Caris LeVert, many fans have brought up the idea of tanking this season to land another top prospect. However, as Greg Logan writes for Newsday, the Nets and head coach Kenny Atkinson won’t be actively trying to lose games any time soon.

The Nets have suffered several tough losses in recent weeks, having built up leads against the 76ers, Grizzlies and Thunder, only to fall short of victories on all three occasions. However, the team had a strong weekend, securing back-to-back victories over the Raptors and Knicks.

As it stands, the Nets sit at 10-18 and 11th in the Eastern Conference. The conference has a plethora of struggling teams, which would make it more difficult for the Nets to fall down the standings. It looks like this Nets team will continue fighting and scraping for every victory it can get.

There’s more from the Atlantic division:

Atlantic Notes: Burke, Carroll, Ainge, Porzingis

Knicks guard Trey Burke didn’t see any action in the team’s game against the Hawks on Wednesday, catching the 25-year-old by surprise. Burke. a six-year NBA veteran, has averaged 9.5 points per game in 11 contests this season.

“I’m just as surprised as everyone else,’’ Burke said, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. “I’m going to continue to stay ready and control what I can control.”

Knicks coach David Fizdale opted to use Emmanuel Mudiay more instead of Burke, who rooted for his team from afar. Mudiay registered 11 points and five rebounds in 21 minutes. For Burke, the sudden adjustment won’t change what he’s been doing throughout his career: Staying ready, waiting for his opportunity.

“I’m a competitor,’’ Burke said. “I’m ready to go every single game to help this team win. Of course it was frustrating but you can’t show that. I’ve been through the fire in this league. At this point, nothing can break me. Nothing can make me fold. I got to stick to what I’ve been doing. My faith will get me through all this. It has before and will again. If the opportunity presents itself again, I’ll be ready.’’

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets forward DeMarre Carroll expects to make his season debut on Friday against the Nuggets, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Carroll has missed the team’s first 11 games due to right ankle arthroscopic surgery. The Nets are officially listing him as “probable” for the game.
  • Danny Ainge doesn’t imagine retiring in the near future, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Ainge has served as the Celtics’ president and general manager for over a decade, and explained that he loves his current job. Ainge has constructed several contending teams during his 10 years with the organization, a list that will likely include this season’s roster.
  • There’s still no timetable in place for Kristaps Porzingis‘ eventual return, according to Steve Popper of Newsday.com. Porzingis tore his ACL in February and could miss the rest of the season depending on how his rehab goes. He’s made some appearances at Knicks games and practices, offering support to his teammates and coaches.

Celtics Notes: Smart, Rozier, Larkin, Baynes

The Celtics would like to retain both Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier next season as they look to maintain depth, sources tell Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. While the franchise would like to bring everyone back, GM Danny Ainge acknowledged that tough decisions could be on the horizon.

“We’ve been managing the payroll pretty well up to this point and we know that there are some really big, tough decisions going forward,” Ainge said.

[RELATED: Will Marcus Smart Be A Celtic Next Season?]

Here’s more from Washburn on the Celtics:

  • Shane Larkin, who will be an unrestricted free agent, will likely command a multiyear offer, as other teams will see him as a player who could hold down the backup point guard spot, Washburn speculates. The scribe adds that Larkin could see a substantial raise on his 2017/18 salary, which came in at slightly more than $1.47MM.
  • The market for Smart will be difficult to predict, Washburn contends in the same piece. The Celtics are expected to allow Smart, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, to find an offer and evaluate whether or not it makes sense to match.
  • If the Celtics are going to bring Aron Baynes back, they may have to use their mid-level exception since they do not own his Bird Rights, Washburn notes. The scribe argues that the team should attempt to sell Baynes on a one-year discounted deal with the lure of playing for a serious championship contender. However, he admits that such an arrangement is unlikely given the big man’s solid 2017/18 campaign.
  • Washburn believes Greg Monroe is unlikely to return next season. Monroe’s defense prevented him from carving out a significant role during the Celtics’ postseason run.

Atlantic Notes: Ivey, DiVincenzo, Lin, Bridges

In some similar news for two different franchises from the Atlantic Division, both the Knicks and the Sixers are reportedly interested in hiring Royal Ivey as an assistant coach, reports Michael Scotto of The Athletic and Ian Begley of ESPN.

Ivey, who is from New York City, has been an assistant coach for the Thunder for the last two seasons after starting his post-playing career as a coach for their G League team, the Blue, but could perhaps be looking for an opportunity closer to home.

Per Begley, Ivey has already interviewed with the Knicks for a position of new coach David Fizdale’s staff, while the Sixers are reported to simply have interest in the 36 year old at this time.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge is apparently interested in combine standout and Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo, as the former NBA guard and the current Wildcat went to lunch together after DiVincenzo’s workout in Boston, reports Adam Zagoria of SportsNet New York.
  • In a wide-ranging piece for The Athletic, Mike Vorkunov details the return from injury for Nets’ point guard Jeremy Lin, who signed a three-year, $36 million contract in 2016 but has been unable to play very often since signing the deal, appearing in only 37 games in the past two seasons. Lin now says he is nearly ready to play and “pretty much at that point where everything is good to go.”
  • One target and/or option for the Knicks at No. 9 in the upcoming 2018 NBA Draft is Villanova swingman Mikal Bridges. Per Ian Begley of ESPN, team president Steve Mills, GM Scott Perry, and director of scouting Kristian Petesi were all at his pro day today in New York.

Central Notes: Cavs, Bulls, Pistons, Bogdanovic

While the Cavaliers could still land an impact player with the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick (No. 8 overall), the on-court results from the Kyrie Irving trade have been extremely underwhelming to date. Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder were ineffective in Cleveland and were flipped at the deadline for players like Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood, and Larry Nance, who haven’t made an impact in the postseason.

As Jason Lloyd of The Athletic writes, at least one Cavaliers player was ready to call the Irving blockbuster a net negative for Cleveland several months ago. After one bad loss during the winter, the unnamed player turned to Lloyd and said, Danny Ainge is a f***ing thief.” Given the results of the Eastern Conference Finals so far, with the Irving-less Celtics up 2-0 on the Cavs, that player probably isn’t alone in his view.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • While Bulls executive John Paxson acknowledged that versatile wings are more important than ever in today’s NBA, that doesn’t mean the club is zeroed in on acquiring such a player with the No. 7 pick. As Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago writes, Paxson said the Bulls intend to take the best available player. Paxson added that the club won’t rule out the possibility of trading up, though he admitted that’s “hard to do.”
  • In a separate article for NBC Sports Chicago, Strotman lays out a case for why the Bulls should use the No. 7 pick to select Missouri prospect Michael Porter Jr., who is recovering from back surgery.
  • The Pistons no longer have their 2018 first-round pick, but they’ll be on the lookout for second-round options at this week’s combine. Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press identifies five names to watch, while Keith Langlois of Pistons.com details why the club could draft a player at any position.
  • Speaking of the Pistons, they don’t yet have a new head of basketball operations in place, so GM Jeff Bower continues to run the front office — despite the fact that his contract is set to expire on June 30. Writing for The Detroit Free Press, Ellis has the story on Bower’s unusual situation.
  • Count Pacers forward Bojan Bogdanovic among the players who intends to represent his country during this summer’s 2019 World Cup qualifiers. As he tells FIBA.basketball, Bogdanovic will look to turn things around for Croatia after the squad went 1-3 in the first two sets of qualifiers.

Atlantic Notes: Ainge, Hayward, Fizdale, Casey

The Celtics had plenty of doubters heading into the playoffs, including president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Without injured stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, Ainge thought his team’s chances were “50-50” to get past Milwaukee in the first round.

Boston surprised the Bucks and the Sixers on their way to the conference finals, but Ainge said the season could have been considered successful regardless of the outcome. Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier have given the team a base of young talent to build on next season.

“I don’t really look at where you get to,” Ainge said. “I just think our guys have played well all year — whether they lost to Philly or lost Game 7 to Milwaukee. I mean, obviously those are good things, because they get to keep playing and they keep gaining experience in playoff games. But, I mean, I’ve just seen a lot of good things out of a lot of our guys this year. It’s been fun to see their development.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Hayward participated in Saturday’s walk-through, but coach Brad Stevens again squelched any speculation that he might return, relays NBC Sports Boston. Hayward updated his rehab progress Friday, saying he feels “like an athlete again” in a post on his blog“He was just out here as we walked through some things earlier,” Stevens told reporters. “Got to be a part of the walk-through which was fun, just to have him back out here. He’s getting better too, but we’re going to figure out how to be the best version of ourselves for the rest of the season without those guys [Hayward and Irving].” 
  • The tough conditions where David Fizdale grew up prepared him for any challenges he might face as coach of the Knicks, writes Howie Kussoy of The New York Post. Fizdale was raised in the South Central section of Los Angeles, where gang activity was common. Former WNBA star Tina Thompson, a childhood friend, said Fizdale had the character to survive his surroundings. “David was always seen as one of the guys who was always gonna be successful,” she said. “It was clear by his focus, how he went about his business. For the many young men in our area, he was different in that respect.”
  • Former Raptors coach Dwane Casey penned a letter thanking fans for welcoming him and his family during his time with the organization. “Coaches know that this is an industry built on change, and we willingly accept that reality,” he wrote. “They say that “Home is not a place … it’s a feeling;” so thank you Toronto for making us feel at home here.”

Celtics Notes: Smart, Rozier, Ainge, Youth, Brown

There was a point this year when it seemed that injuries and an off-the-court family issue could end Marcus Smarts season. However, he’s back now and helping the Celtics as they try to get past the Sixers and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. ESPN’s Chris Forsberg writes that Smart’s ability to help Boston in multiple facets of the game has been a help to their case.

“I think it all starts with his competitiveness,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said. “He has the ability to make plays that nobody else makes. Like, whether it’s ripping the ball out of somebody’s hands, or the [offensive rebound] he made against [Joel] Embiid where he laid it in and got fouled [in Game 1]. We have a number of clips over the years of him rebounding over the top in traffic where no guard can get that ball. He brings a contagious element to our team that you can try all you want to quantify it, but other than winning and losing, you can’t quantify it.”

Smart’s defense on Ben Simmons in Game 1 is specifically highlighted as one of the ways Smart helped Boston. Forsberg’s story also covers Smart’s mother battling cancer and how she still supports him back home in Texas.

Check out more Celtics notes below:

  • In a separate story, Forsberg writes that the Celtics’ youngsters have been playing like veterans, which has enabled the team to play well in the face of multiple injuries.
  • Entering the offseason, Terry Rozier envisioned himself as the Celtics’ starting point guard leading the team to the playoffs. However, the acquisition of Kyrie Irving put that vision on hold. Then, Irving went under the knife and Rozier found himself leading the Celtics through the postseason, Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report details.
  • The Celtics’ roster has withstood massive injuries to Gordon Hayward, Irving, Smart, and others. Taylor C. Snow of NBA.com writes that president and general manager, Danny Ainge, deserves the credit for the Celtics’ depth and resilience.
  • Jaylen Brown, who seemed doubtful for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals with a right hamstring strain, was upgraded to probable on Thursday, the Celtics announced. Brown did not start Game 2, but did play in the game.