Gordon Hayward

Atlantic Notes: Butler, Hayward, Fultz, VanVleet

While Jimmy Butler‘s three-team wish list of preferred trade destinations includes the Knicks, his interest in New York has been overstated, per USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt (Twitter link).

Zillgitt notes that Butler’s main goal is to compete sooner than later, and joining a Knicks team in rebuild mode does not accomplish that. Butler’s list also includes the Nets and Clippers, but more teams have since been reported as possible destinations. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Pistons, Rockets, Heat, Sixers and Trail Blazers also have interest. Also, the Cavaliers have entered the sweepstakes.

Knicks brass has been adamant that the organization will not deviate from its plan to not trade young players and draft picks. Acquiring Butler, a 29-year-old All-Star, would require both.

Check out more Atlantic Division notes:

  •  Celtics star Gordon Hayward is expected to sign a multi-year sneaker deal, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Hayward, who missed nearly all of last season after a freak ankle injury, Hayward has reportedly been pursued by several major companies, including Nike, New Balance and the Chinese company Anta.
  • Sixers guard Markelle Fultz has worked hard on improving his jump shot and is ready to make an impact this season, writes Rich Hofmann of The Athletic (subscription required). “This summer was really just me working to get my mechanics back, my confidence back, my swagger back,” Fultz said.
  • The Raptors signed Fred VanVleet quickly after free agency opened this summer, keeping a vital part of Toronto’s bench. Blake Murphy of The Athletic (subscription required) examines the process and VanVleet’s new contract.

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Hayward, Brand, Fultz

Kyrie Irving is calming any concerns the Celtics may have about his condition heading into training camp, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Irving sat out the postseason after an operation to relieve an infection in his left knee, but has looked fully healthy in pickup games with teammates this month.

“He’s worked really hard,” coach Brad Stevens said after watching Irving. “I think he’s excited … it’s good to see that.”

Boston has two All-Stars returning from injury, with Gordon Hayward trying to complete his comeback from ankle surgery. Stevens, who plans a light workload for both players in terms of preseason minutes, said Hayward’s progress has been encouraging to watch.

“He’s been really diligent all the way through his rehab and progressing to each step,” Stevens said. “I watched him go all the way through the steps of working out to 1-on-1, 2-on-2, 3-on-3 and now he can play some of the open gyms some of the guys are having.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Twenty-nine-year-old Celtics rookie Brad Wanamaker is trying to earn a spot on one of the deepest teams in the league, Blakely writes in a player profile. Wanamaker comes to Boston with a history of success, capturing all-league honors in the EuroLeague and Turkey and playing on championship teams in Germany, Turkey and the G League.
  • Elton Brand’s meteoric rise through the Sixers‘ front office may convince more franchises to take chances on former players in management roles, suggests Michael Walton of NBC Sports Chicago. After Brand’s 17-year playing career ended in 2016, he joined Philadelphia’s front office later that year as a player development consultant. He was named GM of the organization’s G League affiliate in Delaware in August of 2017, then was promoted to Sixers’ GM this week. Philadelphia will also continue its unique front office structure, with Brand and coach Brett Brown serving as partners on personnel decisions, which is an approach Walton believes may be adopted by other teams if it is successful.
  • Sixers guard Markelle Fultz talks about the mechanics of his jump shot and a frustrating rookie season in a Players Tribune video that was posted this morning. Fultz, who demonstrates his new shooting form, is joined on the video by Nuggets guard Isaiah Thomas, who is also coming off a difficult season.

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Williams, Ojeleye, Celtics

Kyrie Irving tops the Knicks’ wish list in free agency next summer because he’s their most realistic target, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston opines. Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard would elevate the franchise even more than Irving but both of those potential free agents would be much harder to land, Blakely continues. Securing Irving’s services won’t be easy, either, but the Knicks have a better chance with the Celtics point guard, who grew up in New Jersey. It’s not only his ability but potential availability that makes him attractive to the Knicks’ front office, Blakely adds. Blakely declared that Irving topped the Knicks’ wish list during a podcast this week.

We have more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • Bringing in Alan Williams is a low-risk flier for the Nets, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. The team has been stockpiling big men and rebounders and the 6’8” Williams fits both those categories, Lewis continues. It’s rare to land a fourth-year pro on a two-way contract who has averaged 15 rebounds per 36 minutes over his career, Lewis points out. Williams reached an agreement with Brooklyn on Friday.
  • Semi Ojeleye was probably the biggest beneficiary of Gordon Hayward’s injury last season but he hasn’t established a steady spot in the Celtics rotation, Blakely examines in a player profile. While Ojeleye has shown the ability to defend multiple frontcourt positions and switch out on guards, he’ll simply have to be ready to contribute any way he can with the return of Hayward, Blakely adds. Ojeleye appeared in 73 regular -season games last season.
  • With the return of Hayward and Irving from injuries, it’s tough to find any reason why the Celtics won’t roll to the Eastern Conference title, Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports opines. The team’s closest competitors – Toronto, Milwaukee and Philadelphia – can’t match the Celtics’ depth and overall talent, Mannix continues. Even the team’s projected second unit of Terry RozierMarcus SmartJaylen BrownMarcus Morris and Daniel Theis could compete for a playoff spot, Mannix notes.

Gordon Hayward Expects To Be Ready For Opener

Celtics forward Gordon Hayward declared himself almost fully recovered in a meeting with the media today and said he believes he’ll be ready to play on opening night, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Hayward says he feels almost 100 percent, and explosion and cutting are the only remaining physical challenges, relays Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald (Twitter link).

Hayward was Boston’s prize free agent addition last summer, but he suffered a severe ankle injury on opening night. He still has two seasons left on his contract at nearly $64MM, plus a player option worth nearly $34.2MM for 2020/21.

“With each step I get some joy,” Hayward told reporters. “Now we’re at the final step.”

Hayward hopes to regain the form he had in Utah, where he made his first All-Star appearance in his final season with the Jazz. He averaged a career-best 21.1 PPG that year, along with 5.4 RPG and 3.5 APG.

Atlantic Notes: Korkmaz, Irving, Hayward, Nets

Furkan Korkmaz is hoping to have a bigger role with the Sixers this season, he said in an interview with Bein Sports Turkey (hat tip to Orazaio Cauchi of Sportando). The 21-year-old only got into 14 NBA games last season, averaging 5.7 minutes per night. During the first two months of the year, he spent most of his time in the G League.

“I want to be in the rotation this season, I want to play more minutes,” Korkmaz said. “Of course, I don’t know how many minutes specifically I’ll play, but I’d like to have a more stable role. I think I have something to say in this league and I hope this season will be different than the last one.”

Korkmaz was the 26th selection in the 2016 draft and spent a season in Turkey before coming to Philadelphia. He showed off his scoring prowess in this year’s Las Vegas Summer League with a 40-point performance against Boston.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward have made significant progress in their return from injures, according to Ashith Mathur of AmicoHoops. A source who watched them play pickup games at the Celtics‘ practice facility said both players “look impressive” with a little more than two weeks to go until training camp. Irving had knee surgery in April that forced him to miss the playoffs, while Hayward suffered a season-ending ankle injury on opening night. Both have been training at full speed for about a month, Mathur adds, and Hayward should be cleared for five-on-five action next week.
  • With the Celtics poised to add another top prospect to their collection of young talent, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston takes a look ahead to next year’s draft. Boston could have as many as three first-rounders in June and will get the better pick from the Kings or Sixers [No. 1 protected], which is almost certain to be Sacramento’s. Blakely tabs Duke’s R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson, North Carolina’s Nassir Little, Arkansas’ Daniel Gafford and Sekou Doumbouya of France as potential future Celtics.
  • The Nets may have maximized their resources better than anyone this summer, writes Jesse Blancarte in Basketball Insiders’ season preview for Brooklyn. Highlights include unloading Timofey Mozgov‘s hefty contract, re-signing Joe Harris and landing free agents Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier on affordable contracts. The consensus among the writers in the preview is that Brooklyn may be ready to challenge for a playoff spot.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens Talks Rotation, Injuries, Smart

The Celtics will enter the 2018/19 season widely viewed as the odds-on favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference. However, during an appearance at the ABCD Hoop Dreams fundraiser on Tuesday, head coach Brad Stevens said he doesn’t want his players entering the season even taking for granted that they’ll be a playoff team, let alone a title contender.

“Nobody’s played a game yet; nobody’s lost a game yet,” Stevens said, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. “We have to go back and earn all that.”

Besides addressing expectations for the Celtics in 2018/19, Stevens touched on a number of other topics of note, including the perception that Boston’s depth could work against the team by limiting playing time for veterans who believe they’ve earned more minutes. Here, via Blakely, are a few of the highlights from Stevens:

On concerns over whether there are enough minutes to go around:

“We have a really good locker room. It’s no secret to anybody that there’s 240 minutes in a game. (It’s) human nature of being disappointed if you’re taken out — that’s OK. But if we struggle with that, we won’t be pretty good. If we don’t (struggle with that), we have a chance to be pretty good.”

On whether he has a plan in mind for the Celtics’ rotation:

“I’m more focused on how we want to play and not necessarily how we’re going to rotate. Things can change, your rotation can change in a heartbeat. Bottom line is, we have an idea of who will play together and who best fits together. But we’ll see how it all shakes itself out.”

On Daniel Theis and the other injured Celtics:

“I’ve been told that everybody is gonna be ready to go. Daniel was in the gym this morning. He looks great. He has not been cleared for 5-on-5 play yet, but the anticipation is he will by the start of training camp, September 25.

“(Gordon Hayward) looks good. I saw him a couple weeks ago in San Diego. I went out there and watched him work out. He looked really good. … He’ll be cleared to (play) some 5-on-5 like very, very soon, anytime soon.”

On bringing back Marcus Smart after an extended restricted free agency:

“Marcus knows how we all feel. Restricted free agency is restricted free agency; there’s pluses and minuses to that. Obviously, we’re thrilled to have him back for a long time. … We went into free agency hoping that would be the case. And we all know what Marcus brings to the table. I keep going back and one of the moments where you have chills when you reflect back on a season was when he entered the game against Milwaukee and the first thing he did was dive on the floor. Everybody says they want it and want to do that type of stuff. He’s a guy that does it every day. We appreciate the way he competes. We love having him around. I’m glad he’s here for the long term.”

Celtics Notes: Irving, Hayward, Stevens

The Celtics have the ability to offer Kyrie Irving the most money next summer when he hits free agency. They can also offer him a familiar situation and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski believes Irving will ultimately look at the situation in Boston and stay put.

“I still would take Boston against the rest of the field,” Wojnarowski said on  The Woj Pod (h/t NBC Sports Boston). “I still think in the end there comes a moment of truth when you look around, and you have to make a decision about somewhere else. And when you really start inspecting the questions that are in almost any other circumstance he would go to, you would say: ‘Boy, it’s pretty good here.’ … I still think it is going to be really hard to walk away from this [Boston].”

The Knicks loom as a possible destination for Irving, so would any team with enough cap space to fit him and Jimmy Butler on a pair of max deals, as the duo has been rumored to have interest in teaming up.

Here’s more from Boston:

  • Both Gordon Hayward and Irving will enter camp ready to play at full speed, Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com relays. “I don’t want to hype it up too much, but I’m saying that if our training camp were starting today that they would be here today going full speed,” GM Danny Ainge said. “It’s not like they need an extra month. I think that they know they have an extra month, so they are sort of pacing themselves. They’re playing as if to build up to that opening day of training camp [Sept. 26].”
  • Brad Stevens will face more pressure this season than any of his previous five in Boston, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports writes. The scribe believes the Celtics have the talent and depth to live up to the expectations.
  • Hayward’s health will be a key storyline for the Celtics this season, Blakely writes in a separate piece. The team will need his versatility on the court if they are going to compete with top teams like the Rockets and Warriors.

Ainge: Irving, Hayward Should Be At ‘Full Speed’ For Camp

Celtics stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are returning from major leg injuries, but team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is confident that both players will be ready to go when training camp gets underway next month. Ainge told ESPN’s Chris Forsberg that Irving and Hayward already appear close to 100% after finishing last season on the shelf.

“I don’t want to hype it up too much, but I’m saying that if our training camp were starting today that they would be here today going full speed,” Ainge said of the two veterans. “It’s not like they need an extra month. I think that they know they have an extra month, so they are sort of pacing themselves. They’re playing as if to build up to that opening day of training camp (September 26).”

Hayward only played five minutes in his first season as a Celtic, with his year coming to an abrupt end when he landed awkwardly and suffered a bad break of his left ankle on opening night. As for Irving, he was nagged by knee issues and eventually underwent season-ending surgery in April on his troublesome left knee.

The Celtics won two playoff series and pushed the Cavaliers to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals without Hayward and Irving, and now have their sights set on bigger goals with both players on the road to recovery. Ainge, who says he’s “really excited” about seeing the duo back on the court, told Forsberg that the team will ramp up activity for Hayward and Irving during camp. Boston will have the luxury of easing its stars back into key roles since the team has a ton of depth it can lean on in the early going.

“They’ll both be here within the next week or so; by the time Labor Day is over, they will all be playing 5-on-5,” Ainge said of Hayward and Irving. “I think it’s just a matter of, if they’re not playing 5-on-5 now, then it’s only because they want it more of a controlled environment, I guess. They’re doing everything — dunking the basketball off both legs and playing one-on-one live and jumping and cutting and defending. I’m excited for them.”

Celtics Notes: Irving Trade, Hayward, Morris, Brown

One year has past since the Cavaliers traded Kyrie Irving to the Celtics, and the aftershocks are continuing throughout the league, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Irving demanded a deal last summer because he was tired of being in LeBron James‘ shadow in Cleveland. He wound up going to Boston in a move that may have launched a rebuilding project for the Cavs and set the Celtics up to be an elite team for several years.

The final deal sent Irving to Boston in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s unprotected first-rounder that became Collin Sexton. The Cavaliers received a 2020 second-round pick as added compensation when they claimed Thomas’ hip was in worse shape than they were led to believe.

The addition of Irving changed the Celtics’ prospects, Blakely notes. It gave them more size in the backcourt and ended the need to compensate for Thomas on defense. It upgraded the talent level and gave Boston a chance to compete with the Warriors if they should meet in the Finals. And it validated Danny Ainge’s decision not to go all in with trade offers for Paul George or Jimmy Butler earlier in the summer.

There’s more tonight from Boston:

  • Gordon Hayward has made significant progress in recovering from a severe ankle injury, but his greatest challenges still lie ahead, Blakely notes in a separate story. Blakely talks to Chauncey Billups and Reggie Jackson, who have both been through long rehab processes, about the difficulty involved. “You’re a shell of yourself when you first come back,” Jackson said. “That’s the toughest part … every player that makes it here, has some type of greatness. So, you can’t be that until you’re full-go again.”
  • Marcus Morris is the latest NBA player to speak out about mental health issues, sharing his story with Jackie MacMullan of ESPN in her five-part series running this week. Morris discusses the trauma of growing up in a violent North Philadelphia neighborhood and said he never sought help until Ainge and coach Brad Stevens urged him to see a psychologist. “I know lots of guys who are dealing with some kind of anxiety and depression — not knowing if they have a job next season, not knowing if they’re going to get traded,” Morris said. “It’s so stressful. Everyone is pulling at you. They want your time, your money, a piece of your fame. … If you have depression, you should be trying to get rid of it instead of bottling it up and letting it weigh on you and weigh on you and weigh on you.”
  • Jayson Tatum looks ahead to training camp and talks about his offseason work with Kobe Bryant in a question-and-answer session with Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

Atlantic Notes: Hayward, Celtics, Nets, Knicks

When Gordon Hayward reports to training camp next month, he will find a very different Celtics team than the one he signed with last summer, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. While Hayward sat out last season with a severe ankle fracture he suffered on opening night, some of Boston’s young players developed into stars, with Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier all raising their games on the way to the Eastern Conference finals.

That gives Hayward time to ease his way back into the lineup rather than trying to regain his All-Star form right away, Blakely notes. Hayward, who said last month that he was just about back to “full speed,” admits the mental aspects of overcoming a serious injury can be just as hard as the physical challenges.

“I’m going to be focused on training camp, getting through that first practice,” he said. “It’s been so long for me to even be out on the court. I’m very excited about where we can go next year.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics‘ success last season has helped turn them into a booming business, relays Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. The team will have 27 nationally televised games for 2018/19, all its season ticket packages are already sold out and the newly opened Auerbach Center practice facility is seen as a future recruiting tool in free agency. “There’s a higher than ever demand for pretty much all things Celtics this offseason,” said team president Rich Gotham. “The television ratings reflected that during the regular season and during the playoffs.”
  • The Nets‘ 15-man roster for the upcoming season is just about set, according to Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily, who projects the team’s depth chart at each position. Puccio expects D’Angelo Russell to establish himself as Brooklyn’s best player this year, with Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Jarrett Allen joining him in the starting lineup. New additions Kenneth Faried, Jared Dudley and Ed Davis should all see plenty of playing time off the bench.
  • Even if the Knicks get off to another strong start, they face a schedule that gets much tougher after Christmas, notes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. ESPN will be hoping Kristaps Porzingis returns from his ACL injury in time for a holiday matchup with the Bucks, but that kicks off a stretch of 10 out of 12 games against playoff teams.