Grant Williams

Celtics Notes: Smart, G. Williams, Strus, White

After missing Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals due to a right mid-foot sprain, Celtics guard Marcus Smart was determined to get back on the court for Game 2 on Thursday, he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Smart was especially motivated to return after having called out his teammates for letting a lead slip away in an ugly third quarter on Tuesday.

“I actually got into the guys. I really chewed into them,” Smart said. “They felt it and I felt bad for them because it’s one thing to be out there with your guys and then another thing to not be playing and hearing me come at them the way I did. So for me, when I inserted myself back in for Game 2, I wanted to come back and show the guys what I meant by my words and with my actions. I’m showing them I got y’all backs.”

Smart showed no signs of rust in his return on Thursday, recording a near triple-double with 24 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds, and three steals. As Haynes notes, Smart was the first Celtic to put up at least 20 points, 10 assists, and three steals in a playoff game since Rajon Rondo did it 10 years ago.

“I did not see that stat, but I’ll take it,” Smart told Haynes. “That’s an awesome, awesome accomplishment. I’m just trying to do what I can to help my team win. These games are important.”

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • After playing a huge role in the Celtics’ Game 7 win over Milwaukee last round, forward Grant Williams was once again a difference-maker on Thursday, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Williams, who is extension-eligible this offseason, can space the floor offensively and is a versatile defender. He had 19 points and was a plus-37 in 32 minutes in Game 2. “He just (has come) a long way from his first year,” teammate Jayson Tatum said of Williams. “He’s worked on his game, and he’s developed into somebody that we believe and trust in to catch it at half court.”
  • Heat guard Max Strus, who has started every game for Miami since the start of the postseason, began his professional career by signing a two-way contract with the Celtics in 2019, but was waived before that season began. Celtics head coach Ime Udoka acknowledged on Thursday that Boston “might have missed out on that one,” tweets Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Strus was also on Chicago’s roster before joining the Heat in November 2020.
  • Sam Hauser is the only Celtic listed on the injury report for Saturday’s Game 3, so the team should have its full rotation available for that pivotal contest, tweets Bontemps. That includes Derrick White, who missed Game 2 for family reasons.

Celtics Notes: G. Williams, Brown, Udoka, Tatum

Thrust into a starting role in Game 4 of the Celtics‘ series vs. Milwaukee after Robert Williams went down with another knee injury, Grant Williams scored just 11 total points on 3-of-15 shooting in his first three starts. However, the team’s faith in him was rewarded on Sunday when he remained in the starting lineup for a fourth straight game even with Robert Williams reactivated.

Grant Williams made the Bucks pay for focusing their defensive attention on other Celtics players, launching 18 attempts from beyond the arc and making seven of them. Those seven 3-pointers were a career high, as were his 27 points, while his 39:20 of game time was a personal playoff best. A plus-25 in the Celtics’ series-clinching victory, Williams said after the game that his teammates were encouraging him not to hesitate when he had open looks.

“(Jaylen Brown freaked out) on me for not shooting. ‘Shoot it, shoot the first one. We know that’s a shot you can make and we won’t get mad at you for shooting it,'” Williams told Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “So they were just like, ‘Shoot it, we’re sick of you passing it up.’ I was like, ‘All right, cool.’ They gave me permission, so I tried letting them fly.”

Williams has been a rotation player in Boston all season long, but his emergence as a starter and a key cog who can play defense and hit open shots is coming at exactly the right time — the 23-year-old will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason.

Here’s more on the Celtics, who are headed to the Eastern Conference Finals for the fourth time in the last six years:

  • Jaylen Brown earned another contract bonus on Sunday when the team reached the Eastern Conference Finals, pocketing an extra $321,429, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. According to Marks, that bonus would be voided if Boston makes the NBA Finals and would be replaced by a new bonus worth about three times as much ($964,286).
  • The Celtics, who were under .500 in January, have found their identity amid their run to the Eastern Finals, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston, who takes a closer look at the role each of the club’s primary rotation pieces has played in the second-half and postseason surge.
  • Ime Udoka finished outside of the top three in Coach of the Year voting, but the work the first-time head coach has done to lead the Celtics to the Eastern Finals can’t be overstated, as Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe details. For a first-year coach, it’s almost — I feel like it’s unheard of. His level of poise, his level of confidence never changed,” Brown said. “Even when we were down 2-1, or when we were down 3-2, you could tell, the look in his eyes that we were going to win this series. We just needed to handle our business and sometimes you can get in those moments and go away from everything, or start to make over-adjustments. And he didn’t.”
  • Jayson Tatum has “cracked the code for true NBA superstardom,” according to Chad Finn of The Boston Globe, who examines how the fifth-year forward’s poise and play-making is making his teammates better.

Celtics’ Robert Williams Cleared For Game 7

Celtics center Robert Williams will be available for the deciding Game 7 in the team’s second-round series against the Bucks today, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Left knee soreness kept Williams sidelined for the past three games. He incurred a bone bruise after colliding with Bucks All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 3.

Grant Williams, who has replaced Robert Williams in the Boston starting lineup since Game 4, will continue to start at center for the Celtics, according to Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com (via Twitter).

Boston head coach Ime Udoka indicates that Robert Williams’ knee has no current structural limitations, Bulpett adds. Further comments by Udoka seem to suggest that Williams may not see the floor much.

“We’re not relying on him to come in and save the day,” Udoka said of Williams, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Weiss notes that Udoka has suggested the Celtics will bring in the recuperated Williams if the game dictates a need for his services.

Along with 2022 Defensive Player of the Year award winner Marcus Smart, Williams proved to be one of the key anchors for one of the NBA’s top defenses during his best professional season to date. The 2021/22 campaign was Williams’s first year as a full-time starter. The 24-year-old out of Texas A&M averaged 10.0 PPG on 73.6% field goal shooting, plus 9.6 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 2.0 APG and 0.9 SPG, across 61 contests, all starts.

Robert Williams Will Miss Game 5

Celtics center Robert Williams will miss Wednesday’s game against the Bucks because of soreness in his left knee, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic.

Williams, who underwent meniscus surgery on the knee March 27, returned midway through the first-round series with the Nets and was able to play in the first three games against Milwaukee. Coach Ime Udoka said the swelling that kept him out of Monday’s Game 4 has subsided, but the pain is persisting.

“Still has some soreness and is going to be overly cautious coming off of surgery until it’s pain free,” Udoka said, adding that the soreness affects Williams’ mobility (Twitter link).

Grant Williams will once again take his place in the starting lineup. The series is tied at 2-2.

Robert Williams Won’t Play Monday

Celtics center Robert Williams will not play in Game 4 against the Bucks on Monday due to left knee soreness, the team’s PR department tweets.

Williams’ knee soreness was expected, coach Ime Udoka told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe (Twitter link) and other media members. The team’s starting big man tried to work out prior to game and couldn’t move like the team wanted, according to Udoka. Udoka believes that by resting Williams tonight, he’ll be able to play in Game 5, Jared Weiss of The Athletic tweets.

It’s a tough blow for a team facing a 2-1 series deficit on the road.

Williams missed the latter portion of the regular season due to meniscus surgery. He has appeared in five postseason games, including three starts, and has averaged 6.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG and 1.8 BPG in 2o.2 MPG.

Boston will go with a smaller starting lineup with Grant Williams starting in Robert Williams’ place.

Celtics Notes: Game 3, Smart, Tatum, G. Williams

The Celtics are angry over what they believe was a miscalled foul involving Marcus Smart in the final seconds of Game 3, writes Andrew Lopez of ESPN. With Boston trailing by three points, Bucks guard Jrue Holiday hit Smart on the arm. Smart contended he was already in his shooting motion, but the officials ruled he was “sweeping his arms” and gave him two free throws instead of three.

“He caught the ball, he’s turning into a shot,” said Celtics coach Ime Udoka, who added that he looked at the replay before talking to the media. “Both feet set. You can’t say that’s a sweep. You’re going into a shot. That’s a poor call. Poor no-call.”

Smart also lobbied for three shots on the play, saying it made no sense for him to try a rip-through move considering the score and the time remaining.

“You need three [points] with 4.6 seconds, they know we need three,” Smart said. “We know they are gonna foul. It’s not like he got me when it was down low. I was already in my shooting motion. I thought it was gonna be three free throws; they said it wasn’t.”

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Jayson Tatum wasn’t involved on the final play and didn’t make much of an impact in Game 3, observes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. To have a chance in the series, Boston will need more production from its leading scorer, who was 4-of-19 Saturday and missed all 10 shots he took with Wesley Matthews as his primary defender. “Today was just a one-off where I was thinking a little too much,” Tatum said. “Knowing they were going to give me a lot of attention, I passed up some open looks that I should’ve shot.”
  • Tatum is still dealing with soreness in his left wrist that started when he fell on it two months ago, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic. He appeared to aggravate it Saturday on a dunk in the second quarter. “That’s something I’ve been dealing with for probably like two months now,” Tatum said. “It wasn’t anything abnormal. When I fell on it, it bothered me. but nothing I haven’t been dealing with the last two months.” (Twitter link)
  • Grant Williams is increasing his chances for a rookie-scale extension with his performance in the playoffs, per Brian Robb of MassLive. The third-year power forward will become eligible this summer, and Robb believes he might get offered at least the $54MM over four years that the Celtics gave Robert Williams.

Atlantic Notes: Rivers, Achiuwa, Nurse, G. Williams

With the Sixers in danger of becoming the first team ever to lose a series after taking a 3-0 lead, coach Doc Rivers is defending his playoff record, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Rivers, the only coach in NBA history to lose more than one 3-1 advantage, asked reporters to “tell the whole story” about his playoff history.

He pointed out that the Magic team he coached in 2003 was an eighth seed that overachieved by taking the series lead in the first place. He added that Chris Paul was playing with an injury when the 2015 Clippers squandered a 3-1 lead, and L.A.’s 2020 loss took place in the Orlando bubble without the benefit of home court advantage.

“But, it just happens,” Rivers added. “So I would say with me, some of them is … I gotta do better always. I always take my own responsibility. And then some of it is, circumstances happen. This one, let’s win it, and we don’t have to talk about it.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Second-year center Precious Achiuwa has played an important role in helping the Raptors turn the series around, observes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. In his first significant postseason experience, Achiuwa has matched up well with MVP candidate Joel Embiid and has improved steadily throughout the series, according to Smith. “He feels like a more confident, different player to me,” coach Nick Nurse said. “We used to say that a little bit about Serge (Ibaka) back in the old days. All of a sudden Serge became a factor later on in the series when he kind of got used to what was going on out there and stuff.”
  • Overcoming a 3-0 deficit may be unprecedented, but Nurse doesn’t see it as impossible, per Lori Ewing of The Toronto Star. The Raptors have survived two elimination games already, and they seem to be embracing the optimism that Nurse has been trying to convey. “Listen, everybody was disappointed about the 3-0 start and it felt a little heavy for a while,” he said. “But when we got back to the film room the next day, I liked the body language, I liked what I was hearing communication-wise and I felt that we were ready to go.”
  • Grant Williams had an under-the-radar role in helping the Celtics sweep the Nets, according to Nekias Duncan of Basketball News. Williams took advantage of Brooklyn’s focus on Boston’s stars to average 11.3 points per game while shooting 50% from beyond the arc. He was also part of the group of defenders who held Kevin Durant in check.

And-Ones: Jerebko, Canaan, China, Teammate Award, Future Rankings

While some former NBA players have left Russian teams following the invasion into Ukraine, Jonas Jerebko is resuming his career there. The ex-NBA big man signed with CSKA Moscow, the team tweets. That didn’t sit well with the Swedish National Team, who suspended him, according to Johnny Askounis of EuroHoops.net“Unfortunately, we are forced to state that there are no conditions for Jonas Jerebko to play for the Sweden basketball national team,” a Swedish Basketball Federation press release stated in part. Jerebko played for four NBA teams.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Another Russian team, Unics Kazan, has mutually parted ways with guard Isaiah Canaan, according to a EuroHoops.net story. Canaan is joining Turkey’s Galatasaray, EuroHoops tweets. Canaan appeared in 235 NBA games, most recently during the 2018/19 campaign.
  • Chinese TV has resumed broadcasts of NBA games, Sopan Deb of the New York Times reports. China had boycotted NBA broadcasts since 2019, when former Houston executive Daryl Morey tweeted support for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. China Central Television, its state-run TV network, broadcasted Tuesday night’s matchup between the Clippers and Jazz, which kicked off a full return of the league to China’s airwaves.
  • The 12 finalists for the league’s Teammate of the Year award have been announced, the NBA announced (via Twitter). DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Jeff Green , Udonis Haslem, Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Jaren Jackson Jr., Kevin Love, Boban Marjanovic, Chris Paul, Fred VanVleet and Grant Williams are the contenders. The annual honor recognizes the player deemed the best teammate based on selfless play, on- and off-court leadership as a mentor and role model to other NBA players, and commitment and dedication to team.
  • The Grizzlies top the list on ESPN’s Future Power Rankings, according to Kevin Pelton, Bobby Marks, Andre’ Snellings, and Tim Bontemps (Insider link). They’re followed by the Heat and Suns. The Kings sit at the bottom of the pile.

Bucks, Celtics Have Discussed DiVincenzo, Schröder

The Bucks and Celtics have discussed the idea of a trade involving Boston guard Dennis Schröder, according to reports from Brian Windhorst of ESPN and Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

Windhorst hears from sources that the Celtics have some interest in Bucks wing Donte DiVincenzo, and Fischer confirms that DiVincenzo has been discussed in the talks between the two teams. According to Fischer, Milwaukee has also expressed interest in acquiring Celtics forward Grant Williams in a deal involving Schröder and DiVincenzo.

Jared Weiss of The Athletic provides some additional context, reporting that the Celtics initially offered Schröder for DiVincenzo, with the Bucks countering by asking for Williams. The two teams continue to explore possible frameworks, says Weiss.

According to Windhorst, the Bucks have recently been gauging the value of DiVincenzo, who was a key part of Milwaukee’s starting lineup in 2020/21 but sustained an ankle injury in the first round of the postseason and wasn’t part of rest of the Bucks’ title run. He has played in just 16 games since returning from ankle surgery and hasn’t looked like his old self, shooting just 32.4% from the floor (28.6% on threes). He’s also a free agent at season’s end.

Still, DiVincenzo will be eligible for restricted free agency, so he’ll be relatively controllable going forward. And he had a strong season in ’20/21, averaging 10.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and 3.1 APG with a .379 3PT%. Acquiring a player like that in exchange for Schröder, whose days in Boston appear numbered, would likely appeal to the Celtics.

The Bucks, meanwhile, could be in the market for a backup point guard, with George Hill having a down year, and they could afford to part with a wing, given how well Grayson Allen and Pat Connaughton have played. However, they probably have a greater need in the frontcourt, where Semi Ojeleye has been ineffective and Brook Lopez has been sidelined since opening night, which explains why they’re after Williams.

While DiVincenzo ($4.7MM) could be traded straight-up for Schröder ($5.9MM) from a salary-matching perspective, adding Williams to any deal would complicate matters. Trading a minimum-salary player along with DiVincenzo wouldn’t be quite enough for Milwaukee to take back both Schröder and Williams ($2.6MM), and the Celtics will likely be uninterested in making any deal that adds salary to their books rather than taking them below the luxury tax line.

Celtics Explore Trading Al Horford

The Celtics are exploring the idea of moving Al Horford, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic, who says the team is in the market for another center at this year’s trade deadline.

Horford’s trade value will likely be limited. The 35-year-old has been Boston’s starting center this season and is averaging 10.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 3.6 APG in 36 games (29.0 MPG), but his .442 FG% is a career low and his 3PT% (.285) has dropped significantly. He’s also earning $27MM, a cap figure that won’t be palatable for some clubs.

As Weiss observes, Horford’s $26.5MM salary for 2022/23 is only partially guaranteed (for $14.5MM), which could appeal to teams looking to move a longer-term contract. Still, it’s hard to imagine Boston getting positive value for the veteran big man.

According to Weiss, the Celtics have been “surprisingly open” to discussing both Horford and Josh Richardson, both of whom were acquired during the 2021 offseason. Dennis Schröder, another offseason addition, has also been repeatedly mentioned as a trade candidate, and Weiss confirms that league sources consider the point guard to be available.

The Celtics are believed to be seeking another impact play-maker to complement Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, says Weiss. However, it may be a challenge to put together a package for such a player without relying heavily on draft assets. Due to their uneven development, former lottery picks like Romeo Langford and Aaron Nesmith don’t have as much trade value as they would have earlier in their careers.

At 23-22, the Celtics are currently the No. 10 seed in the East, hanging onto a play-in spot. Although they’ll likely approach the trade deadline as buyers, it remains to be seen whether the C’s are capable of making any noise in the playoffs. Weiss says multiple people in the locker room have suggested there’s a “lack of desperation” present, with attempts at vocal leadership from players like Brown, Marcus Smart, and Grant Williams sometimes being tuned out.