Gordon Hayward

Celtics Notes: Irving, Lottery, Hayward, Shrewsberry

Although many Celtics fans have turned on Kyrie Irving following a disappointing playoff performance, losing him in free agency would be a worst-case scenario for the franchise, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Even though he damaged his reputation and alienated younger teammates this year, Irving remains among the league’s best players at a crucial position, Forsberg states, and would be very difficult to replace.

Even if they subtract Irving’s $21.3MM salary for next season, the Celtics won’t have much cap room to work with, assuming Al Horford opts for one more season at $30.1MM. Losing Irving would also leave Boston without a superstar presence who might attract other stars or inspire Anthony Davis to sign a long-term deal if the Celtics trade for him.

A sign-and-trade deal involving Irving probably isn’t realistic, Forsberg adds. The Celtics wouldn’t be able to offer a fifth season in that scenario and it would only benefit a team that doesn’t have the cap space to sign him. Teams where Irving might be headed, such as the Knicks, Nets, Clippers or Lakers, can already offer a max deal.

There’s more out of Boston:

  • Tuesday’s draft lottery will help define the Celtics’ plans for the offseason, notes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. With the Clippers’ pick at No. 20 and their own selection at 22 already in hand, Boston will wait to see what happens with the Kings’ and Grizzlies’ choices. The Celtics will receive Sacramento’s pick unless it lands at No. 1 and Memphis’ choice if it’s outside of the top eight. All those selections could be valuable in a potential trade for Davis.
  • Gordon Hayward is eager for another offseason to continue his comeback from a devastating ankle injury, Bulpett relays in a separate story. “I’m definitely looking forward to having a good summer, not dealing as much with rehab but still definitely working on the ankle and all that type of stuff,” he said. “But that’s going to be nowhere near as much as before. I’m a lot of time removed from the surgery, and that’s for sure exciting. Now I can do what I’ve always done every summer, and I’m for sure looking forward to that, getting back to that and really digging in and trying to have a really good summer.”
  • Micah Shrewsberry tells Dustin Dopirak of The Athletic that his decision to leave the Celtics’ staff for a job at Purdue was simply a matter of preferring the college game. “My personality is more geared toward the college side,” Shrewsberry said. “I’m a relationships guy. If you would ask anybody that’s run across me, I value relationships, continuing and maintaining and having those. That’s something you get in college.”

Southeast Notes: Riley, Heat Outlook, Bryant, Hornets

Heat president Pat Riley felt it was time to invest in his own roster after he failed to sign top-level free agents in recent years, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. “Once we didn’t land Kevin Durant or didn’t land Gordon Hayward, then it was time to sort of move on from searching for room and at the same time holding your other players hostage,” Riley said. “To move into a two- or three-year window with young players that we drafted and others who we thought were on-the-brink-to-make-it veterans that hadn’t made it somewhere else. What we came up with and what we found out is that we have a very, very competitive team.”

We have more from around the Southeast Division:

  • Riley made moves during the trade deadline to get rid of the glut of guards and wing players on the roster. He also waived Rodney McGruder right before the end of the regular season to dodge the luxury tax. He feels the roster is much more balanced now heading into the summer. “I think we have built a base. … We have our draft choices,” he said. “The possibilities of room are right around the road. Don’t be making any kind of conclusions about next year in that we’re stuck with certain contracts or whatever it is you think we can’t get out of. That would be foolish thinking on your part.”
  • Center Thomas Bryant will be a restricted free agent if the Wizards extend a qualifying offer of $3MM and he intends to re-sign, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “They gave me an opportunity to play,” said Bryant, who inherited the starting job with Dwight Howard playing only nine games. “Why would I want to leave?” Retaining Bryant is high on the current front office’s priority list but the GM who replaces fired Ernie Grunfeld might not feel the same way, Hughes points out. League provisions could also come into play if Bryant signs an offer sheet. The Wizards hold his Early Bird rights but salary-cap concerns would grow if Bryant signs a back-loaded contract.
  • If the Hornets move up in the lottery and snag a top-three pick, GM Mitch Kupchak would likely listen to trade offers, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer opines in his latest mailbag. However, that would only make sense if Kupchak was confident that bringing in an impact veteran would secure a commitment from Kemba Walker. Otherwise, the Hornets would be in a rebuild mode, and a rookie with star potential would be more valuable to them.

Celtics Notes: Irving, Davis, Hayward, Smart

A difficult regular season hasn’t affected the Celtics‘ commitment to Kyrie Irving, writes Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Irving promised Boston fans in October that he would re-sign with the the team, but his resolve seemed to waiver as losses piled up during the season. He also made a series of public comments about how difficult it is to be a veteran leader on a young team.

Despite the ups and downs of the season, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said the organization hasn’t given any thought to letting Irving leave and turning the offense over to Terry Rozier. Ainge also believes the postseason will give Irving a fresh start.

“I don’t think free agency is wearing on him,” Ainge said. “I think that not being able to live up to expectations as a team is wearing on him more than that. But I feel like he’s in a good place. And ending the season and starting the playoffs I feel like his mind is in a fresher place than it was a few weeks ago, and I’m looking forward to great things with Kyrie.”

Beyond his talents, another motivation for the Celtics to keep Irving is his friendship with  the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis. Boston is hoping to trade for Davis this summer and would have a better chance of signing him to a long-term deal if Irving is still around.

There’s more Celtics news this morning:

  • Gordon Hayward finished strong after a trying season that saw him struggle to rebuild his game in the wake of last year’s severe ankle injury, notes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Over the last seven games, Hayward has averaged 16.9 PPG while shooting 62% from the field. Teammates and management have been impressed by the way he has handled the challenges. “From the first day of training camp, he’s played the right way,” Ainge said. “Through all of his adversity, he has, and I mean, that’s leadership. That’s great leadership showing, and people notice that. It doesn’t do that much good to talk about it, but Gordon, by his example, has shown great leadership.”
  • Celtics fans shouldn’t expect to see Marcus Smart for at least the first two rounds of the playoffs, tweets Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Smart is projected to miss 4 to 6 weeks with a torn left oblique, but coach Brad Stevens calls that timeline “aggressive,” based on what he has heard from team doctors.
  • With six players either headed toward free agency or having the ability to opt out of their contracts, the Celtics know this could be their last shot at a title with their current roster, observes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.

Pat Riley Speaks On State Of Heat

James Johnson and Dion Waiters would be entering free agency if things had gone differently for the Heat in the summer of 2017, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

At a press conference today, team president Pat Riley said he would have signed both players for two seasons instead of four if Miami had been able to land free agent targets Kevin Durant or Gordon Hayward. Once Durant picked the Warriors and Hayward signed with the Celtics, Riley agreed to longer contracts with both Johnson and Waiters.

“On July 1, I didn’t want to be left with nobody,” he said. “After five days of Gordon having to make a decision, I didn’t want to lose some players we had. I do know James had a deal [elsewhere if Miami didn’t sign him]. It was my decision. I didn’t want to lose all three of them.”

That decision left the Heat with two more expensive contracts that could help push the team $35MM above the cap next season, assuming Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic both opt in.

“We weren’t thinking of room after we lost Kevin Durant and Hayward,” Riley said. “We were thinking we had that 30-11 team come back [Miami’s record in the second half of the 2016/17 season]. We thought the contracts we gave were long-term contracts. That’s on me. You can put that all on me. We didn’t land Hayward and I didn’t want [to lose] the other two guys.”

Riley covered a wealth of topics during today’s session with the media. Here are a few, courtesy of Jackson and Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald:

  • Even if the Lakers were to make an offer, Riley won’t consider going to L.A. to take over for Magic Johnson. “There’s no doubt that I have a history with that team,” he said. “I have a lot of friends inside the organization. … But I’m not going to be a part of that.”
  • Riley wants coach Erik Spoelstra to find ways to get Whiteside and Bam Adebayo on the court at the same time. Despite being Miami’s highest-paid player, Whiteside averaged just 17 minutes per night over the final 19 games.
  • Riley said Waiters was slowed all season after ankle surgery and was “playing this year on 1 1/2 ankles.” He added that conditioning will be vital for Waiters next season. “I talked to him yesterday,” Riley said. “He knows. He has five months. If he gets his conditioning to world class condition, he can get back [to where he was for 25 excellent games two years ago]. I’m confident he will do it. His career is on the line.”
  • No matter what happens, tanking won’t be part of the Heat’s plans, Riley insists, noting how hard it is to fall into the bottom five in the league.
  • Riley encourages Udonis Haslem to take some time to decide whether he wants to return next season. Haslem has barely played over the past three years, but the Heat are willing to give him a roster spot for the veteran leadership he provides.
  • Duncan Robinson and Yante Maten, who were both signed through 2020/21 in the closing days of the season, may have a future with the team. “I give Duncan and Yante As,” Riley said. “They dominated the [G-League] the way you want them to dominate. That was the best team in the league for a while. We think both of them can develop and you don’t know how far they can go.”
  • Unless they get lucky in the lottery, the Heat will have the 13th pick in the draft, but Riley is optimistic they can find a contributor there. “I am not going to name names, but I’ve seen 30 players that are very good players,” he said. “At 13, I do think we would get something equivalent to who we have on our team right now, Bam, Justise [Winslow], Josh [Richardson] and Derrick Jones Jr.
  • Riley called Dwyane Wade‘s final season “pure love” as the Heat said goodbye to their all-time leading scorer.

Atlantic Notes: Hayward, Baynes, Scott, Ibaka

Making a radio appearance today on Toucher & Rich in Boston, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge offered a pair of encouraging injury updates, as Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston details (via Twitter).

According to Ainge, Gordon Hayward is expected to suit up for the Celtics this weekend, either against Charlotte on Saturday or vs. San Antonio on Sunday. Hayward has missed the club’s last two games – both losses – due to a concussion.

Meanwhile, Aron Baynesankle injury may not be as serious as initially feared. According to the Celtics’ president, that ankle sprain is likely more of a day-to-day issue than an injury that will guarantee a multi-week absence. Still, the team will tread carefully, since it wants to have Baynes available for the postseason.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Sixers‘ ability to make a deep playoff run this spring figures to hinge on their starting five, given their lack of reliable depth. However, Mike Scott – acquired along with Tobias Harris from the Clippers last month – has been the club’s “most consistent and most versatile” reserve since arriving in Philadelphia, contends Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Scott, a free agent at season’s end, has averaged a career-high 23.2 minutes per contest, posting a .386 3PT% and handling a variety of defensive assignments for the 76ers.
  • Before making his return from a three-game suspension on Wednesday night for the Raptors, Serge Ibaka expressed regret over last week’s altercation with Cleveland’s Marquese Chriss. As Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca relays (via Twitter), Ibaka especially lamented the fine, which cost him about $448K. “I was thinking, man, you know how many people need that money?” Ibaka said. “Instead [of going after Chriss], I could have just said, you know, I’m not going to fight, and take that money and go do something for people that need it.”
  • With March Madness right around the corner, AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today makes the case for why the Knicks are the lottery team most in need of Zion Williamson this summer.
  • In case you missed it on Wednesday evening, we passed along a few more notes on the Knicks and the Celtics.

Celtics Notes: Irving, Horford, Hayward, Rozier

No matter how it affects the Celtics‘ playoff seeding, Kyrie Irving plans to take at least a game or two off before the regular season ends, writes Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. Irving said at today’s shootaround that he is focused on being fully healthy for the postseason, which begins three weeks from Saturday.

“I’m definitely taking some games off before the playoffs,” he told reporters. “Makes no sense, the emphasis on these regular games, when you’re gearing up for some battles coming in the playoffs.”

Coach Brad Stevens has talked about resting Al Horford, who has pain in his left knee, and agrees that health heading into the postseason should be the team’s priority.

“I think this is the bottom line: If we choose to rest Al in a game, or Kyrie in a game, then we have other guys who should be able to step up and play well, and they’re approaching that as a great opportunity for those other guys, too,” Stevens said.

There’s more news out of Boston:

  • Gordon Hayward is making progress in the concussion protocol and could be ready to play by this weekend, Murphy adds in the same piece. Hayward, who was injured Saturday, worked on the treadmill yesterday and will be evaluated tomorrow. “Every indication is that he felt OK today,” Stevens said. “But he will go to the doctor in Boston (Thursday). If he’s cleared to go, he’ll go through the next steps and keep on going.”
  • During a recent radio interview, Terry Rozier discussed the problem of having too many players who feel like they can take over games, relays John Karalis of MassLive. Rozier admits that getting players to accept their roles has been an ongoing problem. “When you’re playing on a team you’re dealing with different types of personalities,” he said, “but now you’re dealing with so many different guys that feel like they the man, and now it’s like, how do you handle that?”
  • President of basketball operations Danny Ainge is looking on the bright side of a season that most observers consider disappointing, relays Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Heavy favorites to win the East before the season began, the Celtics entered tonight in fifth place at 43-28. “There’s been a few games here and there when we’ve played really well,” Ainge said. “It’s like you take one step forward and take a step backward, and then you take two steps forward and take another step back. But I feel like there’s a lot of good things I see on our team.”

Eastern Notes: Magic, Howard, Hayward

Nikola Vucevic is in his seventh season with the Magic and he has yet to see the postseason with the club.

“In past years, this time of year we’d already be planning our vacations, unfortunately,’’ said Vucevic, who will be a free agent at the end of the year (via John Denton of NBA.com). “It’s much different now and much more fun. As a basketball player and a competitor, you want to be in this situation, fight for something, play for something and be in the big moments. So, it’s up to us to respond.’’

Orlando entered the day just one game behind the Heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Vucevic, who made his first All-Star game this season has been a major reason why the playoffs are in reach. The big man prides himself on his consistency.

“Being able to sustain a certain level of play is important for individuals and teams,” Vucevic said. “For us, that’s been the biggest issue. When play well, we’re very good and when we don’t, we struggle. But for me personally, [consistency] is something I take a lot of pride in, and throughout my career I feel like I’ve been able to show that when I’m out on the court, you know what you’re going to get from me.’’

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic coach Steve Clifford believes Vucevic’s stability and smarts are two things that set him apart from other centers, as Denton adds in the same piece. “It’s invaluable to have anybody else on the floor who can do that other than your point guard, particularly a center who can play like that,” Clifford said. “In many ways, when he’s out there, it’s like playing with two point guards.’’
  • The Wizards have yet to rule out Dwight Howard out for the season, though head coach Scott Brooks says the big man isn’t over his injury woes yet, as Candace Buckner of the Washington Post passes along on Twitter. “He’s still getting his work in — the hamstring problem has not turned the corner,” Brooks said.
  • Gordon Hayward remains in the early stages of the league’s concussion protocol, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated tweets. Coach Brad Stevens called Hayward doubtful for the Celtics‘ game on Wednesday but left the door open for him to play on Saturday against Charlotte.

Gordon Hayward Enters Concussion Protocol

Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has entered the NBA’s concussion protocol, the team announced Sunday in its injury report. He’s currently being listed as doubtful to play in Monday’s home game against the Nuggets.

Hayward suffered the injury while colliding into a screen against the Hawks on Saturday, leaving early and missing the rest of the contest. The team sent him home at halftime and labeled the injury as a strained neck shortly afterward.

Hayward, 28, has held per-game averages of 10.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 25.4 minutes this season, playing mostly off the bench in his new role with the team. He’s shown signs of improvement in recent weeks, participating in his first full season since fracturing his ankle in 2017.

Al Horford (left knee soreness) is probable to return against Denver, while rookie forward Robert Williams (illness) is being listed as questionable. Maintaining good health is imperative for the Celtics, who continue to fight for playoff positioning with a 43-27 record and 12 games left on the season. They currently trail the No. 4 Pacers by just one game.

Hayward must pass a series of in-depth tests to exit the concussion protocol, which could cause him to miss an extended period of time. The Celtics originally signed him to a four-year, $128MM contract in the summer of 2017.

Jaylen Brown: Celtics Must Fix “Toxic” Environment

While Jaylen Brown has been fairly productive off the bench for the Celtics in recent weeks, logging some of his better performances of the season, he said this week that he’s “not feeling good at all” about the team’s overall play, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. According to Brown, the environment around the team needs to change.

“Right now it’s not good. It’s toxic,” Brown said. “I can’t really point out one thing. I don’t have all the answers. I’m just going to try to be part of the change. I’m going to try to do my best. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

Brown is just the latest in a string of Celtics players to express frustration with the situation in Boston. Kyrie Irving has done so multiple times this season, Marcus Morris spoke last month about the club not having any “fun,” and Marcus Smart said last week that the team is “just not together.” Like those other players, Brown doesn’t know exactly what the solution is, but still believes the C’s are capable of turning things around.

“I still believe,” he said, per Washburn. “I think we’ve got time to get it together. I’m very optimistic and very positive and think that we will . . . We keep talking about it. I’m just going to try to do it with my play, come out and play hard and try to change the atmosphere and this environment.”

Let’s round up a few more Celtics-related items…

  • Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston revisits several of the defining moments of the Celtics’ 2018/19 season, tracing the evolution of the club from Eastern Conference frontrunner to vulnerable, middle-of-the-pack playoff team.
  • In an illuminating story for ESPN.com, Jackie MacMullan talks to Gordon Hayward and some people around him about the veteran forward’s long, challenging quest to regain his All-Star form. Hayward has been assisted by a mental health counselor during the process, as MacMullan details.
  • According to data compiled by Eric Pincus at Basketball Insiders, the Celtics sent $2,055,910 to the Hawks in last month’s Jabari Bird salary dump. That amount was more than enough to cover the remaining portion of Bird’s $1,349,383 salary for 2019/20, so Atlanta easily came out ahead. So did Boston though — Bird’s cap hit would have cost the team about $2.27MM in projected tax penalties.

Atlantic Notes: Durant, Hayward, Harris, Leonard

The Celtics have been slumping but Kevin Durant believes they’ll be dangerous when the playoffs arrive, as the Warriors star told a group of reporters, including ESPN’s Nick Friedell. Durant, whose team faces Boston on Tuesday, believes the Celtics are “still getting used to each other” but they’ll be a tough out in the postseason. “They’re right up there at the top,” Durant said. “They’ve been losing a couple games, but they’ve got the top talent, some of the top talent on that team, so they’ll be fine once the playoffs start.”

We have more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • Gordon Hayward‘s agent promises that his client will return to All-Star form next season. Mark Bartelstein made the comments in a WEEI interview that were relayed by NBC Sports Boston’s Nick Goss. “My guess is he doesn’t get his game all the way back where we’re accustomed to seeing it until next year,” Bartelstein said of the Celtics forward. “He’s going to need a summer to get back in the gym and get back in the laboratory and the weight room and build on everything he did last year. But there’s not a doubt in my mind. He’ll be an All-Star in this league many, many times over.”
  • Sixers coach Brett Brown is a big Tobias Harris fan and hopes the team re-signs him, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Brown praises Harris not only for his play on the court but his off-court persona. “I hope he’s a Philadelphia 76er for a long time,” Brown said. Harris, who will enter unrestricted free agency this summer, has enjoyed the ride with his new team since being dealt by the Clippers. “I like it here,” he said. “It’s been a good start that we’ve been able to have, a good group of guys, and the team has a lot of potential.”
  • The Raptors’ load management strategy with star Kawhi Leonard shows disrespect to the team’s fans, Damien Cox of the Toronto Star argues. Leonard has sat out 18 games this season, including an overtime loss in Detroit on Sunday in which many Raptors fans crossed the border to see the game. While the ultimate goal is to have a healthy Leonard for the playoffs, he’s making a huge salary and fans buy full-price tickets to watch him play. To simply shrug off his participation in regular-season basketball is a snub to fans, Cox contends.