Enes Kanter

Celtics Notes: Memphis Pick, Brown, Poirier, Walker

The Grizzlies‘ first-rounder that the Celtics own is a volatile asset heading into this year’s trade deadline, Sean Deveney writes for Forbes. The pick is top-six protected and becomes unprotected in 2021 if it doesn’t convey this year. Memphis is currently eighth in the West, but only three-and-a-half games ahead of the 14th-place Pelicans.

“(The Celtics) have been active in terms of seeing what is out there,” a general manager told Deveney. “I don’t think they want to sit on their hands. I am not sure how much they can realistically get done, though, because the Memphis pick is such a wild card. They can’t do anything significant unless they move that pick.”

Deveney identifies the WizardsDavis Bertans and the Timberwolves‘ Robert Covington as possible trade targets. He states that Bertans is probably available for the Memphis pick, along with Enes Kanter and Semi Ojeleye. However, Bertans is entering free agency and Boston probably can’t afford to re-sign him with Jayson Tatum due for an extension. Covington is under contract for two more seasons and Deveney suggests the Celtics could get him for Kanter, Daniel Theis and the Bucks‘ 2020 first-rounder, allowing them to keep the Grizzlies’ pick.

There’s more out of Boston:

  • Jaylen Brown doesn’t believe Brandon Ingram was referring to him when he talked about being surprised that certain players received rookie scale extensions, relays Tom Westerholm of MassLive. “When we talked about the extension, of course, I’m human,” Ingram said in a recent interview with ESPN’s Andrew Lopez. “When I look at other guys, I’m like, ‘This (expletive) got an extension? Oh my god. Man, we can lace up right now and play one-on-one to 15 and this (expletive) won’t score.’ That’s how I looked at it as a competitor.” Asked about the comments after last night’s game against the Pelicans, Brown, who received a four-year, $115MM extension, responded, “I don’t feel any type of way, because I don’t feel like they apply to me.”
  • Vincent Poirier could soon provide some depth at center, coach Brad Stevens tells Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Poirier is nearing a return after being sidelined since December 17 with a broken finger.
  • The Celtics snapped a three-game losing streak last night, but the recent downturn wasn’t alarming for Kemba Walker, who brings an outsider’s perspective after his years with the Hornets, writes John Karalis of MassLive. “I’ve lost so many more than three games in a row throughout the course of my career,” Walker said. “Plenty of times, so this is nothing to me personally. It’s just about getting back on track at this point.”

Celtics Notes: Smart, Brown, Tatum, Kanter

Celtics guard Marcus Smart is on the upswing after a brutal case of viral conjunctivitis caused an infection in both of his eyes, sidelining him for much of December, writes ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. Smart isn’t playing today in Toronto, but thinks he’s at “about 80 percent” and is focused on getting his conditioning back to its usual level. Mostly, he’s relieved that the worst of his eye issues appear to be behind him.

“I thought I was going to go blind for a while. I think it was the worst case of viral conjunctivitis that they’ve seen,” Smart said. “… I couldn’t see. I had outdoor sunglasses everywhere. Even in the dark I was wearing sunglasses. It was that bad. Just every morning I would wake up just having sticky discharge coming out of my eyes, sealing my eyes shut. It was really just gross.”

With Gordon Hayward back in their lineup today, the Celtics appear to be getting close to getting fully healthy. In the meantime, let’s round up a few more notes out of Boston:

  • Although the Celtics look capable of vying for a spot in the NBA Finals, finding the one last piece to cement their place as a contender will be difficult, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, who outlines why the club may not be able to make a significant trade this winter. We touched on a similar topic last week.
  • Terry Rozier is impressed with how his former teammates Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum has looked this season, suggesting that the two young wings are “superstars in the making,” as Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald details. “I’m not just saying it. Them guys put the work in,” Rozier said. “They really care. They want to learn the game, and them boys can really play.”
  • Celtics big man Enes Kanter isn’t taking today’s game in Toronto for granted. Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston explains why Kanter’s safety may be at risk when he travels outside the United States.

Eastern Notes: Collins, Jackson, LeVert, Irving, Kanter

Hawks forward John Collins decided against appealing his 25-game NBA suspension, Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

“I was going to take the first step, but after reconvening with my team and talking some things out, we just decided it was best to move forward,” Collins said. “But it was definitely in consideration.”

Collins, who returned to action without a minutes restriction on Monday after finishing out the suspension, admits the ban for testing positive for a growth hormone injured his reputation.

“I’ve seen some of those comments and they hurt me a little bit, saying ‘This guy’s a cheater,’” Collins said. “I would want to let them know I’m not a cheater and this is something that will never happen again, if I can control it.”

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Celtics center Enes Kanter will play at Toronto on Christmas, he wrote in a story for The Globe and Mail. Kanter has an ongoing dispute with the current regime in his native Turkey and the government has issued a warrant for his arrest. Kanter wrote in part, “I want to thank Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, U.S. and Canadian law enforcement, U.S. Senator Ed Markey, the Celtics, the NBA and my managers for working diligently to make my Christmas game against the Raptors possible and ensuring my safety there. And, on Christmas night, I will play in my first game as a Celtic outside the U.S. when I take the court against the Raptors.”
  • Nets guard Caris LeVert is close to returning, ESPN’s Malika Andrews tweets. LeVert participated in most aspects of the team’s practice on Monday and did contact work with the Nets’ coaches. LeVert has been out since mid-November with a thumb injury. Kyrie Irving, who is trying to work his way back from a shoulder injury, still hasn’t been cleared for contact and is unlikely to play Thursday against New York, Andrews adds in another tweet.
  • Pistons guard Reggie Jackson will soon get another evaluation on the back injury that has sidelined him since the first two games this season, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Jackson has been doing non-contact activities for several weeks, Ellis adds.

Knicks Notes: Fizdale, Kanter, Player Development

The Knicks are in the midst of another dreadful season but one Western Conference scout tells Ian Begley of SNY.tv that the team has more talent than its 4-16 record indicates. So why does the team have a worse record than it did at this point last year? “Some of the blame [for the Knicks’ struggles] has to be put on [David] Fizdale,” the scout said.

The Knicks have trailed by at least 20 points in seven of the team’s 16 losses and Fizdale’s future with the club is far from certain, with reports last month suggesting that the front office was laying the groundwork for his dismissal.

As of this writing, Fizdale remains the coach of the Knicks, so let’s take a look at more notes from New York:

  • Despite the struggles this season, Knicks players are still supporting Fizdale. “He can’t go out there and play for us. Obviously, everybody points at the head coach with that. But it’s on us to go out there and perform well,” Bobby Portis said (via Begley in that same piece).
  • Former Knick Enes Kanter recently said that he and owner James Dolan are “text buddies” and reiterated that Dolan gets too much criticism for the team’s struggles and lack of free-agent signings, as Begley relays in the same piece. “I got no problems with him. Some other people have problems with him, but I have no problem with him,” Kanter said. “And I will say this: it’s terrible they blame it on this guy every time. I feel like he has done nothing to do with it.” Kanter said in September that he believed a negative perception of ownership is a factor in free agents not considering the Knicks, but has suggested he doesn’t necessarily share that perception.
  • Fizdale will not be judged solely on the team’s win-loss record but also by the progress he makes with the team’s young talent. Marc Berman of the New York Post ranks the importance of each young player on the team in terms of player development goals.

Atlantic Notes: Walker, Embiid, Kanter

Celtics point guard Kemba Walker will return to the court tonight less than a week after he collided head-to-head with teammate Semi Ojeleye and had to be taken off the court in a stretcher.

“It was a scary moment for myself,” Walker said (via Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com). “When I was in the moment, it was pretty tough to be in, obviously. I know it was scary for everybody…It was tough, but thank God I’m OK.”

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com (video link) hears that scouts around the league aren’t worried about Joel Embiid. Embiid has struggled this season (by his standards) with a new-look roster around him on the Sixers.
  • Enes Kanter says he is “disappointed that former Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving won’t be making a return to the court in Boston today, as Justin Leger of NBC Sports Boston relays. “We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, and now he’s hurt and not playing? I’m really disappointed. But there’s two games, of course, and he’s going to come back. And… we’re going to welcome him somehow,” Kanter said.
  • Former Celtics guard Tony Allen said he’s long been a fan of Marcus Smart‘s game and applauds Smart’s improvement from behind the arc, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald passes along. “I won’t say he’s my protégé, really, but he’s become that 3-and-D player everyone wants,” Allen said. “With what he does defensively, he’s also become a shooter. He’s really transitioned to the new game.”

Atlantic Notes: Kanter, Celtics, Jordan, Raptors

After signing with the Celtics in the offseason, Enes Kanter was the team’s starting center on opening night, but hasn’t suited up since then, having been on the shelf since the regular season opener due to a left knee contusion. Having missed seven games, Kanter has now been cleared to return, as Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston tweets.

While it’s not clear what role he’ll play in his first game back, Kanter should be active for the Celtics on Monday night vs. Dallas. Boston won all seven contests he missed and will look to keep up that streak now that the big man is reentering the rotation.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • With Tony Parker set to have his jersey retired in San Antonio, Mike Monroe of The Athletic revisits the 2001 draft, when the French point guard was nearly selected at No. 21 by the Celtics. As Monroe tells it, new Boston GM Chris Wallace was prepared to select Parker, but was overruled by C’s legend and team president Red Auerbach, who wanted Joseph Forte instead. Forte only ended up playing in eight games for the Celtics, while Parker – selected by the Spurs at No. 28 – became a six-time All-Star and future Hall-of-Famer.
  • In his Friday column for ESPN.com, Zach Lowe noted that DeAndre Jordan has gotten off to a poor start in the first season of a lucrative four-year contract with the Nets, failing to deter opponents from scoring at the rim. Brooklyn will need more from the veteran center going forward to justify its investment, Lowe argued. As Brian Lewis of The New York Post details, Jordan was one of the few bright spots during a blowout loss to Phoenix on Sunday, scoring 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting and grabbing 12 rebounds.
  • In the wake of the Raptors‘ impressive shorthanded win over the Lakers, Mark Medina of USA Today explores how Toronto has set itself up in both the short-term and long-term to stay competitive despite the loss of Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.

Knicks Notes: Ntilikina, Kanter, Randle, Trier

As head coach David Fizdale promised, Frank Ntilikina is getting his chance to prove whether he can be the Knicks‘ solution at point guard, writes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. After barely being used in the first few games, Ntilikina made his first start of the season Friday night, playing 38 minutes in a narrow loss to the Celtics.

The third-year point guard’s strengths and weaknesses were both on display. He defended well against a variety of players, but only had two assists and his shot remains a concern. He was 4-of-9 for the game, but has made just 7-of-24 attempts from the field for the season and is only 3-of-10 beyond the arc.

“He’s learning,” former teammate Enes Kanter said. “Obviously, he was learning last year, but there was too much pressure on him. Now I feel he feels more comfortable and more confident out there. Obviously, I think he’s one of the best defenders out there and his vision on the court is amazing. I’m happy to see him grown because he’s an amazing dude on and off the court.”

Although Fizdale has vowed to give all the players in New York’s crowded backcourt a chance to prove themselves, Ntilikina’s start came largely because of circumstance with Elfrid Payton injured and Dennis Smith Jr. absent because of a death in the family. Even though the Knicks offered a show of confidence in their No. 8 pick from 2017 by picking up his fourth-year option last month, Ntilikina will eventually have to produce more on offense to earn consistent minutes.

There’s more this morning from New York:

  • Although Kanter had a contentious end to his time with the Knicks, he enjoyed a friendly reunion with the team Friday night, Vorkunov adds in the same story. Upset over a lack of playing time, Kanter asked for a trade and was eventually waived in February. All seems to be forgiven as he hugged team president Steve Mills on the court. “I like all these guys — even with Julius Randle, because we had this beef and everything,” Kanter said. “… I see there are a lot of good characters on the team. I’m really excited to see them grow together.”
  • Not having a play-making guard to rely on is affecting Randle’s game, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Randle took just seven shots Friday and had a season-low eight points. He turned the ball over six times, giving him 25 in the past five games, and is just 1-for-15 on 3-pointers for the season.
  • Opening-night starter Allonzo Trier has fallen completely out of the rotation, Berman notes in the same piece. Fizdale wouldn’t explain why Trier racked up his third straight DNP, but his time has gone to free agent addition Wayne Ellington. Another offseason signee, Taj Gibson, also wasn’t used against the Celtics.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Atlantic Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Atlantic Division:

Fred VanVleet, Raptors, 25, SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $18MM deal in 2018
VanVleet was a key reserve in the Raptors’ run to the championship. With Danny Green‘s departure, he’s now a backcourt starter alongside Kyle Lowry. Green was mainly a floor spacer, while VanVleet has provided the added element of playmaking to help make up for the enormous loss of Kawhi Leonard. He’s averaging a team-high 7.2 assists through the first five games while getting the line more often and delivering his usual excellent shooting from deep. An unrestricted free agent next summer, VanVleet will attract plenty of attention in a weak FA market.

James Ennis, Sixers, 29, SF (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $4MM deal in 2019
Ennis has bounced around the league, wearing six different uniforms since his rookie year in 2014/15. He saw action in 18 regular-season and 11 postseason games with Philadelphia after being acquired from the Rockets in a trade deadline swap. Thus far this season, Ennis has retained a rotation spot and helped around the boards (5.8 RPG in 14.0 MPG). Ennis has a $2.13MM player option after the season — if can remain a contributor on a contender, perhaps he’ll feel comfortable opting out and testing the market for additional security.

Marcus Morris, Knicks, 30, SF (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $15MM deal in 2019
Morris caused a lot of consternation in the Spurs’ organization by reneging on a two-year verbal agreement and then signing a one-year deal with New York, giving him more money this season and the freedom to explore the market again next year. In his first five games with the Knicks, Morris is the one doing the squawking. He’s already picked up a league-high three technicals. He’s also off to a slow shooting start (35%). It’s hard to see Morris enhancing his value with New York but his expiring contract could be attractive to a contender looking for a frontcourt player.

Daniel Theis, Celtics, 27, PF (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $10MM deal in 2019
Theis’ $5MM salary for next season isn’t guaranteed until July 3rd and there will a number of factors playing into the Celtics’ decision next summer, especially whether Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter opt in. What Theis can control is being productive when he gets opportunities and making it a tougher decision for the front office. Theis needs to have more nights like he did Wednesday, when coach Brad Stevens used him for 28 minutes and he produced 11 points and nine rebounds. The 6’8” Theis will see quite a bit of time at the ‘five’ spot in downsized lineups.

Wilson Chandler, Nets, 32, SF (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2.56MM deal in 2019
Chandler quietly latched on with the Nets on a veteran’s minimum contract while they inked deals with high-profile free agents Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan. Chandler’s chances of carving out a role in coach Kenny Atkinson‘s rotation was squashed by a 25-game league suspension for a failed PED test. It’s uncertain what Brooklyn plans are for Chandler once he becomes eligible on December 15. However, the suspension won’t make it any easier for his agent to find his client work next summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Celtics Notes: Theis, Strus, Langford, Williams

Daniel Theis is making a strong case to start at center for the Celtics, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston reports.

Theis, who has only started five of the 129 regular season games he’s played with Boston over the past two seasons, has more experience in Brad Stevens’ system than any other big man on the roster. That could give him an edge over Enes Kanter and Robert Williams. He’s also adept at making defensive switches.

“If you watch closely, that’s a tied-together group on that end of the court,” Stevens said of playing Theis with the other starters. Theis is making $5MM this season but his $5MM salary for 2020/21 is not guaranteed.

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Max Strus is a serious candidate to get the 15th and final spot on the opening night roster, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald tweets.  The shooting guard just had his two-way contract converted to a standard two-year deal with a partial guarantee. The guarantee is worth $415K, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. However, he could still be waived, Murphy adds. The 23-year-old Strus went undrafted after playing his college ball at DePaul.
  • Stevens offers high praise for his first-year players, including Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, Tacko Fall, and Carsen Edwards, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe tweets“That’s as good of a group of rookie workers that I’ve ever been around …those guys grind,” he said.
  • The team has picked up the 2020/21 options on Jayson Tatum and Williams. Get all the details here.

Atlantic Notes: Kanter, Davis, Boucher, Robinson

The Celtics are still decided whether to use center Enes Kanter as a starter or have him play a bigger role on the second unit, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reports. Kanter signed a two-year deal worth approximately $10MM to be a rotation player for Boston.

“Everybody’s preference is to start,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “But he didn’t seem to me like he was losing sleep over it. He understands what we were thinking, and I told him no decisions have been made. We’re still mixing and matching. We’ll be doing it all the way until Oct. 21.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors guard Fred VanVleet has taken rookie Terence Davis under his wing, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun writes. The former Ole Miss guard went undrafted but earned a two-year deal from Toronto after impressing with the Nuggets’ summer league team. “He’s got to get a lot better obviously to be able to help this team but you see flashes,” VanVleet said. “You see what he brings to the table. But he’s kind of in an awkward position. I know they’re asking him to do some primary ball-handling which is probably not natural for him so I think in a more traditional second unit with a point guard (on the floor with him) he can play off the ball more.”
  • Raptors power forward Chris Boucher has impressed coach Nick Nurse to the point where he might be a rotation player, Wolstat tweets. Boucher’s $1,588,231 salary becomes guaranteed if he makes the opening night roster. Up to that point, Boucher has a $125K guarantee. The 6’10” Boucher appeared in 28 games with the Raptors last season and is one of eight players on the training camp roster with a partial or non-guaranteed contract.
  • Center Mitchell Robinson has already outplayed his team-friendly four-year contract and an extension may be in the Knicks’ best interests, as Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News examines. Robinson is eligible next summer for a four-year extension in excess of $53MM. Robinson could sign that extension as early as July and would require the Knicks to tear up Robinson’s $1.8MM team option for 2021/22, Bondy adds.