Enes Kanter

Atlantic Notes: Tatum, Kanter, Knicks, Embiid

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is not thinking of sitting out the remainder of season due to concerns over a contract extension, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston reports. According to another report earlier this week, Tatum had expressed some reluctance about playing this summer because of an elevated risk of injury, which could potentially impact his ability to reach a max rookie scale extension this offseason. Tatum does have some concerns about contracting the novel coronavirus in the Orlando bubble and the league’s plans on addressing the issue, according to Blakely, but it’s not worrisome enough for the 22-year-old to sit out.

We have more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • While some NBA players believe that playing again this season might take the focus away from social justice reforms, Celtics center Enes Kanter believes it would be far more effective to get the point across while playing. He made those comments on The Enes Kanter Show podcast (hat tip to Justin Leger of NBC Sports Boston). “The whole world is going to be focusing on you, right? You can make a huge difference,” he said. “All the microphones will be on your face, so you can get your message out. Whatever you want to talk about, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ freedom, justice, democracy. Whatever you want to talk about, the whole world will be listening to you.”
  • The Knicks’ head coaching search will begin in earnest next week with introductory interviews scheduled with candidates, SNY’s Ian Begley tweets. Those initial conversations will be brief and take place over video conference. They will be followed by longer, more formal interviews, likely also via video conference, Begley adds. Thus far, nine candidates have been identified as probable interviewees.
  • Joel Embiid‘s contract is now fully guaranteed, but there was very little chance it wouldn’t have happened anyway, as Derek Bodner of The Athletic explains. Embiid’s salaries for the next three years were previously conditionally guaranteed, but the NBA’s recent agreement to prorate bonus clauses and performance incentives this season impacted his max contract. Even if the Sixers had wanted in the future to recoup some of the non-guaranteed money in Embiid’s contract, he not only needed to miss time with ailments related to prior injuries, but the team would have had to waive him. In that scenario, the Sixers would have still been on the hook cap-wise for the guaranteed portion of his salary.

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Kanter, Facility, Theis

The Celtics will “most likely” offer Jayson Tatum a maximum contract extension whenever the offseason arrives, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (hat tip to Tom Westerholm of MassLive). Windhorst addressed the situation today on SportsCenter, saying Tatum is the young star the franchise plans to build around.

“If Jayson Tatum is the superstar that they envisioned when they began this whole rebuilding process when they traded Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for all of those draft picks hoping to land a player like this, we could see ‘Glory Days’ for the Celtics again,” Windhorst said. “But it’s very much up in the air, and I’m gonna tell ya, they’re gonna have to pay him like it because after this season ends, he is going to get most likely a max contract. They’re going to bet that he becomes that player.”

Westerholm notes that the best outcome for Tatum would be if the league agrees to a temporary freeze on the salary cap, which is at risk of declining significantly due to the lockdown. Tatum will be eligible for a new contract starting at 25% of the 2021/22 cap (or up to 30% of the cap if he meets certain benchmarks).

There’s more from Boston:

  • After spending most of the past two months in Chicago, Enes Kanter is on a road trip back to Boston so he can be there when the team facility reopens Monday, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Kanter explained that he’s traveling by car instead of flying so he won’t have to quarantine for 14 days. “I need some kind of discipline in my life right now,” Kanter said of returning to basketball. “Because, like, right now, I’m waking up late and eating whatever. I work out whenever I want to work out. Once you are in Boston, I think my life is going to be a little bit more disciplined. And I’m going to be more focused because, when you’re not in Boston, your head is all over the world.”
  • In an appearance earlier this week on FS1, Kanter raved about how hard his teammates have worked to stay in shape during the hiatus, relays Chris Cotillo of MassLive“We have these virtual workouts with the Celtics,” Kanter said. “We get on the call with the strength coach and literally just do push-ups and sit-ups. I see some of the players doing workouts with suitcases because they don’t have the tools to work out. I’m like, that is going to bring us a championship, that’s that championship mentality.”
  • Center Daniel Theis is one of few Celtics who has experience playing games in empty arenas, writes Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston. Appearing on the network’s “Celtics at Home” series, Theis recalled his days in Germany when nobody would show up for preseason contests. “You hear every voice, every word, every step,” he said. “It’s annoying.”

Enes Kanter Plans To Eventually Join WWE

Even if the NBA never comes back, Enes Kanter won’t be without a job. The Celtics center has been offered a deal to compete in the WWE and he plans on accepting it after his basketball career is over, as he tells Shams Charania of The Athletic (video link).

Kanter previously explained to JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors why he felt an attachment to professional wrestling.

“I’m very serious about it. I feel like it’s my world,” Kanter told Shaw last season. “You just got to go out there, talk trash, troll people. Lifting, I love lifting. It’s just fun, man. I don’t want to stop my sports career when I’m done with basketball. A lot of people go into broadcasting, coaching, but I want to continue opening the door in sports. That’s why I’m very serious about it.”

Kanter has been in contact with the WWE for some time, as he has relationships with some of the wrestlers in the league. The 27-year-old still has plenty of basketball left in the tank. In his eight-year career, the 2011 No. 3 overall pick has appeared in 634 games, averaging 11.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest.

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Kanter, Robinson, Musa

Sixers center Joel Embiid is joining forces with team managing partner Josh Harris and co-managing partner David Blitzer on a $1.3MM contribution to fund testing for 1,000 health care workers in the Philadelphia region, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reports. The donation has been confirmed in a team press release.

Embiid said he learned that “testing for COVID-19 antibodies has the chance to let health care workers know if they are immune to the virus.” The big man notes that the workers who have immunity can work in “risky environments” and donate blood to help patients recover. Embiid’s partnership with team ownership should quell speculation that he has a fractious relationship with the organization which could eventually lead to his departure.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics center Enes Kanter remains hopeful that the remainder of the season, or at least the playoffs, can be played, The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach writes. “We are competitors man, so we want to go out there and finish the season,’‘ Kanter said on Zoom. “Especially, like, it’s crazy — we actually have a really good chance to go out there and win a championship.”
  • Knicks center Mitchell Robinson might have the league’s most team-friendly contract, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. The big man has a $1.66MM salary for next season with a $1.8MM team option for 2021/22, Berman notes. The Knicks’ net rating improves by 5.3 points per 100 possessions with Robinson on the court, Berman adds.
  • The Nets’ European players — Dzanan Musa, Rodions Kurucs and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot — have been separated from their families indefinitely during the coronavirus pandemic, Brian Lewis of the New York Post notes. Travel restrictions prevent them from reuniting with their families. “They are coping, and their families are coping with this. But that’s really difficult,” Nets GM Sean Marks said. “Their families are completely separated. They’re not in the same time zone, they’re in completely different countries, and obviously there is a travel ban in place.”

Celtics Notes: Fall, Smart, Kanter, Ojeleye

Tacko Fall has learned to enjoy his status as the latest cult hero in Boston, writes Jared Weiss of The Atheltic. Even though he has gotten into just six game for the Celtics and has played 24 total minutes, fans go crazy whenever the 7’5″ rookie approaches the scorer’s table. He also draws plenty of attention when he goes out in public with his teammates.

“They’ve been really good about it and sometimes I feel bad, ’cause I don’t want to take too much attention from the team,” Fall says. “And especially with coach Brad (Stevens), I don’t want them to see me like Tacko the rock star or Tacko the superstar. If you know me and the person I am, I don’t like to take too much attention away from them. But they actually give me attention, which is crazy.”

Fall’s size and potential make him an easy choice as a fan favorite, even though he went undrafted out of Central Florida last summer. He signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Celtics in July and earned a two-way deal in training camp. He has spent most of his first season with the organization’s G League affiliate in Maine, but still drew nearly a million All-Star votes from fans. Fall appreciates the attention, but said his immediate goal is to obtain a standard contract and eventually a spot in the rotation.

“I didn’t want that to happen, but it kinda gave me more motivation to someday earn that right,” he said of the voting. “You know, earn it on the court and then also have the fan votes where it’s like, ‘OK, I’ve really worked hard for this and all these people (are) cheering me on, wanting me to be there, so I’ve really earned it. It’s like, God put me in that position and I earned it.’”

There’s more Celtics news to pass along:

  • Marcus Smart has been fined $35K for “confronting and verbally abusing” officials after Tuesday’s loss to the Nets, the NBA announced (Twitter link). The amount of the fine “reflects his multiple prior violations of acceptable on-court decorum,” the release from the league states.
  • Enes Kanter may see a diminished role for the rest of the season now that the other Celtics centers are finally healthy, observes Alexandra Francisco of MassLive. Kanter has seen a combined 30 minutes over the past three games and didn’t play at all in Saturday’s loss to the Rockets.
  • The short-handed Celtics were able to pull out a win in Cleveland last night because of a career-high 22 points from Semi Ojeleye, writes Mariva Lewter of Heavy. The third-year forward continues to build a reputation by taking advantage of opportunities. “He’s a great worker, he’s a great teammate,” Stevens said. “When everything is not going your way, he’s a guy that you know is in everybody’s corner, and I think that that’s huge when you start talking about team. And you also know he can not play one night and be effective in his role the next.”

Trade Rumors: Covington, Randle, Henson, Celtics

The Clippers are among the teams pursuing Timberwolves forward Robert Covington, Sean Deveney of Heavy.com reports. A package of their first-round pick this year, forward Maurice Harkless, and a young player such as Jerome Robinson or Terance Mann could be enough to secure Covington, Deveney continues. Grizzlies forward Andre Iguodala, Suns center Aron Baynes and Magic guard D.J. Augustin are among the other potential targets for the Clippers, Deveney adds.

We have more trade chatter:

  • The Knicks have engaged in trade talks with the Hornets involving forward Julius Randle, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer tweets. Charlotte would be a surprising landing spot for Randle, who has a guaranteed $18.9MM salary for next season. However, the Hornets have three frontcourt players with large expiring contracts and will need reinforcements.
  • The Knicks had talks with the Cavaliers which included center John Henson but those discussions have died down, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. Henson has an expiring $9.7MM contract.
  • Celtics GM Danny Ainge would like to strengthen the team’s bench but doesn’t see the center position as a major weakness, Jacob Camenker of NBC Sports Boston relays. The Celtics are reportedly one of the teams interested in acquiring Rockets center Clint Capela. Ainge indicated the roster “probably too many really young guys” but claimed he’s content with Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter, and Robert Williams manning the middle. “We’re not getting beat at the center position,” Ainge said. “We’re getting 17, 18 points per night. We’re getting double-figure rebounds. We’re just doing it as a team.”

Atlantic Notes: Anunoby, Kanter, Embiid, VanVleet

Much like they did with current All-Star Pascal Siakam and swingman Norman Powell, the Raptors are determined to turn erratic third-year forward OG Anunoby into a consistent, high-level contributor, according to Doug Smith of the Toronto Star.

“I think he needs more reps,” coach Nick Nurse reflected. “He needs some more chances to go out there and develop his game, and that’s got to be on me a little bit.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers center Joel Embiid hopes to resume his All-Star season on the floor next week, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. Embiid underwent surgery January 10 to repair a torn radial collateral ligament in his left ring finger.
  • Due to a right hip contusion, Celtics center Enes Kanter will not return to action until at least Tuesday against the Heat, Brad Stevens relayed to Boston’s team Twitter account (link). In just 18.5 minutes per night, Kanter has produced impressive averages of 9.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 60.2% field goal shooting.
  • Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet, an unrestricted free agent in 2020, could be a great fit for the Knicks, Greg Joyce of the New York Post suggests. VanVleet, the best point guard in a limited free agent class, should be in line for a major pay upgrade from the two-year, $18MM contract he signed in 2018.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2020: 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:

Furkan Korkmaz, Sixers, 22, SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $3.34MM deal in 2019
This was the player the Sixers envisioned when they made Korkmaz a draft-and-stash pick in 2016. Korkmaz has become a steady presence in Philadelphia’s rotation and is averaging 8.9 PPG while shooting 39.5% from deep. He’s made a significant impact in the last five games, averaging 16.6 PPG while lifting the Sixers to four victories. With Josh Richardson out a few weeks with a hamstring injury, Korkmaz figures to get even more playing time in the near future. Korkmaz’s $1.76MM contract for next season isn’t guaranteed but it’s a foregone conclusion Philadelphia will retain him.

Joe Harris, Nets, 28, SF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $16MM deal in 2018
Overall, Harris’ numbers are virtually identical to last season’s output, other than a dropoff from an outstanding 47.4% success rate on 3-point tries to a still very solid 40.8%. However, like his team, Harris has been in a slump. He’s scored 13 or fewer points in his last seven games and made seven more turnovers than 3-pointers during that stretch. Harris is too established to stay in this funk for very long. He will still receive offers well above his current salary of $7.67MM but stretches like this might temper some of the enthusiasm for his services when he heads into unrestricted free agency this summer.

Wayne Ellington, Knicks, 32, SG (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $16MM deal in 2019
Ellington had a couple of good years in Miami and gave Detroit a lift during the second half of last season but he’s been a non-factor with the Knicks. Ellington has only appeared in 23 games, averaging 4.0 PPG in 14.3 MPG while making just 30.9% of his 3-point attempts. If the veteran guard isn’t knocking down his threes, there’s no reason to play him — he hasn’t seen any court time since January 14. Only $1MM of Ellington’s $8MM contract for next season is guaranteed. It’s safe to say he will not have to other $7MM forwarded to his bank account. In fact, he may struggle to find anything more than the veteran’s minimum on the market this summer.

Fred VanVleet, Raptors, 25, SG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $18MM deal in 2018
The arrow continues to point upward for the fourth-year guard, whose production has steadily climbed as his playing time has expanded. VanVleet has missed some games this season due to injuries, most recently a hamstring strain. In the 34 games he’s started, he’s averaging 18.5 PPG, 6.8 APG and 2.0 SPG while shooting 40.2% on 3-point attempts. In the first three games since returning to action, VanVleet averaged 23.7 PPG and made 14 of 19 3-point attempts. He could be looking at offers in the $20-25MM per year range as an unrestricted free agent.

Enes Kanter, Celtics, 27, C (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $9.77MM deal in 2019
Kanter was the third overall pick in the draft back in 2011, so it’s easy to overlook the fact he’s still just 27 years old. Kanter has always been a double-double machine when given extended minutes. He’s averaging 18.5 MPG, his lowest amount of court time since the 2012/13 season with Utah. Yet he’s posted six doubles-doubles since New Year’s Eve, including a game-changing 18-point, 11-rebound outing against the Lakers this week. Kanter holds a $5MM player option on his contract for next season. He might test the market again and see if he can get a better deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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.