Enes Freedom

COVID-19 Updates: Raptors, Thunder, Stewart, Freedom, Strus

After briefly having no players in the NBA’s health and safety protocols for the first time in weeks, the Raptors placed Svi Mykhailiuk and Yuta Watanabe in the protocols today, tweets Eric Koreen of The Athletic.

According to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (via Twitter), only three players on the Raptors’ roster have avoided entering the protocols in the last month. Two of those players – David Johnson (injury) and Goran Dragic (personal) – have been away from the team, leaving Chris Boucher as the lone active player not to be affected.

Here are a few more protocol-related updates:

  • Thunder guard Tre Mann and big man Darius Bazley have cleared the health and safety protocols, acting head coach Mike Wilks said today (Twitter link via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman). That leaves rookie Jeremiah Robinson-Earl as the only Oklahoma City player still in the protocols.
  • Celtics center Enes Freedom returned to practice today, having exited the COVID-19 protocols, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link). Aaron Nesmith is the only Celtic who remains in the protocols.
  • Isaiah Stewart has cleared the protocols and met the Pistons in Charlotte, tweets James Edwards III of The Athletic. It’s unclear if the big man will be available on Wednesday vs. the Hornets or if he’ll need more time to get back into game condition.
  • Heat guard Max Strus is no longer in the protocols, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link). Miami now has four players in the protocols, with six hardship additions on 10-day deals, so not all of those players will be able to be active going forward.
  • The full list of players in the COVID-19 protocols can be found right here.

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.

COVID-19 Notes: Freedom, McClaughlin, Kings, Vaccines

Celtics center Enes Kanter Freedom has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Freedom was out of the rotation during the first month of the season, but had appeared in 19 straight games for Boston and even played 40 minutes in his first start of the season on Monday vs. Philadelphia.

As our tracker shows, the Celtics now have eight players in the COVID-19 protocols. They’re probably still a few days away from some of those players returning, since all of them have entered the protocols in the last week.

Here are a few more COVID-related updates:

  • Mavericks two-way player JaQuori McLaughlin has entered the health and safety protocols, according to the team (Twitter link). McLaughlin joins Luka Doncic and five other teammates — Dallas has had to place seven players in the protocols in the last six days.
  • In a well-reported story on the impact of the NBA’s COVID-19 surge, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Baxter Holmes share a number of interesting anecdotes, including how both Kings equipment managers contracted COVID-19 and couldn’t work, forcing the team to temporarily transfer those duties to a video room intern and a game-night attendant.
  • Within that ESPN story, Wojnarowski and Holmes say that some team executives around the league believe asymptomatic players should be allowed to play, but that idea is a “non-starter” for now in the eyes of NBA and NBPA leadership. ESPN’s duo also reports that almost one-third of the NBA’s vaccinated players initially received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which offers a lower level of protection than the Pfizer or Moderna shots.

Atlantic Notes: Durant, Walker, Kanter, Riller

Ahead of the Knicks‘ eventual 112-110 loss to their cross-town rival Nets on Tuesday night, New York All-Star forward Julius Randle praised Brooklyn All-Star forward Kevin Durant, per Peter Botte of the New York Post.

“He’s the best player in the league, for sure,” Randle raved on Monday. “[I’ve] never seen a 7-footer that skilled… [He can] do anything, everything, on the court. No weakness. That’s him. He’s tough. Great player, but I love competing against him.”

In an MVP-level season for the Nets, Durant is averaging 28.6 PPG, 7.5 RPG, and 5.6 APG in 35.8 MPG, with a shooting line of .539/.389/.863.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The demotion of Kemba Walker from starting Knicks point guard to a DNP-CD serves as clear evidence of head coach Tom Thibodeau‘s zeal to win, per Ian O’Connor of the New York Post. Though the move for the 31-year-old hometown hero may not be a popular one, Thibodeau knows it will help the club’s defense significantly. “I just don’t like the way we’ve been trending, the inconsistency of our team,” Thibodeau said. “I want to get bigger. I want our defense to get bigger at the point of the attack.” The six-foot Walker, never a good defender, has seen his efficacy on both sides of the ball decline following knee injuries while with the Celtics. Fred Katz of The Athletic notes that the disparity in points per possession when Walker plays as opposed to when he sits represents the difference between what would be the best defensive efficiency in the NBA (when he sits) and what would be the worst (when he plays).
  • Upon becoming a US citizen on Monday, Celtics reserve center Enes Kanter has officially changed his name to Enes Kanter Freedom, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN (Twitter link). “It was really important to me” to acknowledge the freedom that the Turkish native gets to enjoy as an American citizen, the freshly-anointed Kanter Freedom said.
  • Sixers two-way player Grant Riller injured his right shoulder during a contest for Philadelphia’s NBA G League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats, this past Sunday, tweets Derek Bodner of The Athletic. Bodner adds that Riller’s health status will be reassessed in a week. The No. 56 pick in 2020 out of the College of Charleston, Riller has yet to appear in a game for the Sixers this season. The 6’2″ point guard is averaging 5.5 PPG, 2.3 APG and 1.5 RPG across four games for Delaware.

Lakers Notes: James, Kanter, Davis, Nunn

Lakers superstar LeBron James offered his thoughts about the comments recently made by Celtics big man Enes Kanter, addressing the ongoing feud between the two after Saturday’s game.

Kanter recently called out James on social media, writing, Money over Morals for the “King.” Sad and disgusting how these athletes pretend they care about social justice. They really do “shut up & dribble” when Big Boss says so. Did you educate yourself about the slave labor that made your shoes or is that not part of your research?”

When asked about the post, James noted that he typically doesn’t bother engaging. But, as mentioned previously, this isn’t the first time the pair has had an issue, which includes a face-to-face altercation during a game back in 2017.

“I think if you know me, you know I don’t give too many people my energy,” James explained, as relayed by Analis Bailey of USA TODAY. “He’s definitely not someone I would give my energy to. He’s trying to use my name to create an opportunity for himself. I definitely won’t comment too much on that.

“He’s always had a word or two to say in my direction, and as a man, if you’ve got an issue with somebody, you really come up to him. He had his opportunity tonight. I seen him in the hallway, and he walked right by me.”

There’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • It’s apparent the club can’t win without LeBron, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes. In the seven games that James has played this season, the Lakers are 4-3. Without him, the team is 4-6.
  • The team has committed to Anthony Davis at center, but the defensive kinks must be worked out by committee, Goon writes for the Orange County Register. Starting Davis at center allows the Lakers to improve its offensive spacing, but it reduces the team’s size in the frontcourt. The club must now determine its starters alongside Russell Westbrook, James and Davis.
  • Backup point guard Kendrick Nunn (right knee bone bruise) isn’t expected to return anytime soon, Goon tweets. Nunn signed a free-agent deal to join the organization back in August. He averaged 14.6 points, 2.6 assists and 29.5 minutes in 56 games with the Heat last season.

Atlantic Notes: Kanter, Schröder, C. Thomas, Gibson

Entering Monday’s game, Celtics center Enes Kanter has appeared in just two games this season, logging less than total 10 minutes in his latest stint in Boston. Kanter, who has been an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, published a social media post on Sunday implying that there may be a connection between his limited role on the court and his political stances off of it.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Celtics head coach Ime Udoka dismissed the idea that Kanter has been out of the rotation due to his comments in the press and on social media.

“My thing is strictly basketball,” Udoka said, per Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston (Twitter link). “We’re switching a lot and doing some things that probably are not as natural for him and that’s limited his time to some extent … Nothing basketball-related will be based on [social media].”

Kanter ended up seeing a little action on Monday in Cleveland, scoring five points in eight minutes as Boston defeated the Cavs by a score of 98-92.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Dennis Schröder is off to a strong start with the Celtics this season, averaging 17.1 PPG and 5.2 APG through 14 games (33.0 MPG). However, as Forsberg writes for NBC Sports Boston, the better Schröder plays, the less likely it is he remains in Boston beyond 2021/22, given the team’s cap constraints going forward.
  • Nets rookie guard Cameron Thomas has new representation, according to Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype, who tweets that Thomas has signed with Jim Tanner and Terrence Felder of Tandem Sports + Entertainment/You Sports. Thomas is in the first year of his rookie scale contract, so it will likely be a while before his new agents have to negotiate a new deal.
  • Mitchell Robinson tweaked his ankle on Monday and Nerlens Noel has battled injuries all season, so Taj Gibson has played a greater role than the Knicks may have anticipated when they re-signed him this offseason. The veteran big man has responded admirably when called upon, as Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. In 29 minutes on Monday, Gibson had more fouls (three) than points (two), but grabbed eight rebounds and was a plus-22 in a game New York won by eight points.

Atlantic Notes: Fournier, Randle, Kanter, Simmons

Knicks guard Evan Fournier made an impressive debut against his former team, posting 32 points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists in a double OT victory over the Celtics on Wednesday. Fournier struggled with his shooting in preseason games, but coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t fazed, according to Zach Brazilier of the New York Post“I was never worried about him making shots,” he said. “To me, he has proven throughout his career that that is who he is.” Fournier was acquired in a sign-and-trade with his four-year contract worth up to 78MM.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Julius Randle‘s first game after signing a four-year, $117MM extension showed that he’s not resting on his laurels, Ian O’Connor of the New York Post writes. The Knicks forward racked up 35 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds. “Julius had that monster year, got a new contract and all that and he’s hungrier now than last year, which I thought was impossible,” Thibodeau said. “He comes in every night like clockwork. You know he’s going to be in there.” Randle was fined $15K by the league for throwing the ball in the stands at the end of the team’s opening-night win, Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press tweets.
  • Chinese video-streaming giant Tencent won’t show Celtics games in the foreseeable future after comments made by center Enes Kanter, according to Eva Dou and Lyric Li of the Washington Post. Kanter posted a video voicing his support for Tibetan independence. In response, Tencent cut the live broadcast of Wednesday’s game between the Celtics and the Knicks. Sixers president and former Houston GM Daryl Morey created a firestorm between the Chinese government and the NBA with his public support in 2019 of Hong Kong pro-democracy protestors.
  • The Ben Simmons saga with the Sixers even has NFL players in Philadelphia voicing their opinions. Eagles center Jason Kelce said Simmons needs to own up to his shortcomings, ESPN’s Tim McManus writes. “I don’t want to crush any other players, but what’s going on with the 76ers, Ben Simmons, stuff like that, all of that is because of a lack of accountability, a lack of owning up to mistakes and a lack of correcting things,” Kelce said. “If all that got corrected, if you’re fixing free throws, if you’re getting better as a player, none of this is happening. So everybody can b—h and complain about how tough this city is to play in. Just play better, man. This city will love you.”

Celtics Notes: Roster, Two-Way Slot, Tax, Begarin

Speaking today to reporters, Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens suggested the team has completed its major offseason moves.

Stevens pointed out that Boston has 16 players on standard contracts (15 guaranteed salaries, plus Jabari Parker‘s non-guaranteed deal) and said he’s comfortable bringing this group to training camp, noting that any additional moves will likely be “tweaks around the edge” (Twitter links via Keith Smith of Spotrac).

The Celtics do still have one open two-way slot, and Stevens said the team is still considering how to fill it. There’s no rush to do so, since Boston could end up targeting a player who gets waived by another team this fall, according to Stevens (Twitter link via Smith).

Here’s more from the Celtics’ new president:

  • Discussing Boston’s key offseason additions, Stevens said the team likes Josh Richardson‘s toughness and ability to play multiple positions, and added that the Celtics were “very fortunate” to land Dennis Schröder and Enes Kanter for the taxpayer mid-level exception and the veteran’s minimum, respectively (all Twitter links via Smith).
  • Stevens has the green light to go into luxury-tax territory in 2021/22, which is why he didn’t want to trigger a hard cap this offseason by acquiring a player via sign-and-trade or using more than the taxpayer portion of the MLE, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic.
  • Stevens confirmed that second-round pick Juhann Begarin will remain overseas for at least the 2021/22 season (Twitter link via Weiss). Stevens added that the team will be monitoring Begarin and 2020 second-rounder Yam Madar “quite a bit” in Europe this year (Twitter link via Smith).

Celtics Sign Enes Kanter To One-Year Deal

AUGUST 13: Kanter has officially signed his contract, according to a team press release.

“Enes has a unique ability to both score and rebound. Beyond his on-court contributions, he is a great teammate. We are thrilled he chose to return to Boston,” Celtics president Brad Stevens said in a statement.

AUGUST 4, 11:21am: Kanter’s one-year deal will be worth $2.7MM, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe (Twitter link).

The veteran’s minimum for a player with Kanter’s 10+ years of experience is about $2.64MM, so it sounds this will be a minimum-salary contract.

However, Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link) says there’s still a chance the C’s could bump up that number and use part of the mid-level exception to complete the signing, depending on how the rest of the week plays out. Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald (Twitter link) hears that the club has “three or four balls still in the air,” albeit nothing too major.

10:58am: The Celtics have reached an agreement to bring back veteran center Enes Kanter on a one-year contract, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Kanter has bounced back and forth between Boston and Portland during the last few seasons. He finished the 2018/19 campaign with the Trail Blazers, spent ’19/20 with the Celtics, rejoined the Blazers for ’20/21, and is now headed back to the C’s for the coming season.

Kanter is a reliable scorer and rebounder, who played in all 72 games for Portland in 2020/21 and averaged a double-double (11.2 PPG, 11.0 RPG) while logging just 24.4 minutes per game. He’s not a strong defender, but he’ll fill a hole in the Celtics’ frontcourt following the departure of veteran center Tristan Thompson, who is being traded to Sacramento.

It’s an interesting signing from an optics standpoint for the Celtics, who essentially salary-dumped Kanter a year ago when they sent his contract to Memphis along with the No. 30 pick in the draft (Desmond Bane) in exchange for two future second-rounders. A year later, new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens is signing up for a reunion with the 29-year-old.

Jusuf Nurkic Ready To Return On Friday

The Trail Blazers made a splash on Thursday by agreeing to acquire Norman Powell from the Raptors. They’ll also add another key piece in-house, as center Jusuf Nurkic is ready to return from a lengthy absence. The big man tweets he’ll be in the lineup against the Magic on Friday.

Nurkic underwent surgery on January 19 to repair a fracture in his right wrist. He suffered his latest major injury against the Pacers while attempting to block a shot. He was cleared to play this week.

The 6’11” Nurkic missed nearly the entire 2019/20 season due to a major leg injury suffered late in the previous season. He’s averaging 9.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 2.8 APG in 12 games (23.3 MPG) this season. He enjoyed a career year, averaged 15.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG and 3.2 APG, in 2018/19 before fracturing his left leg.

Nurkic has a partially guaranteed base salary of $12MM next season. He’s guaranteed $4MM and the Trail Blazers will have to decide whether to give him a full guarantee this summer.

Enes Kanter, who is averaging 12.1 PPG and 11.6 RPG, will return to a second-unit role with Nurkic back in action.