Isaiah Thomas

Ex-Cavs GM Suggests Celtics On Irving’s List

In an appearance on ESPN’s “The Jump” on Monday (h/t to CSNNE.com), former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin suggested that the Celtics are on Kyrie Irving’s short list of preferred destinations.

Griffin mentioned Brad Stevens and Gregg Popovich as “really good coaching situations” that Irving covets, as well as Irving’s desire to play with “Gordon Hayward in Boston” or “Kawhi Leonard in San Antonio.”

The Spurs had previously been reported as a team on Irving’s list, but this is the first the public is hearing about the Celtics as a desired destination for the disgruntled point guard. Aside from the Spurs, the Knicks, Heat, and Timberwolves were reported by Chris Haynes as Irving’s top choices for landing spots.

While the Celtics certainly have the assets to land Irving, with a trove of draft picks and Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and other desirable players, Danny Ainge has been reluctant to part with these assets in trades for Paul George and Jimmy Butler, which led to the pair being traded elsewhere for far less than the Celtics could have offered.

Furthermore, if the Celtics were to strike a deal for Irving, he and Isaiah Thomas would make for an awkward fit starting in the backcourt, and a particularly troublesome pairing for Boston on defense, with neither point guard known for his defensive prowess. Irving also has reportedly wanted to be the lead guy on his next team, but Thomas is – and would likely continue to be – the Celtics’ franchise player. More likely, in the improbable event that the teams make a trade involving Irving, Thomas would have to head the other way.

Kyler’s Latest: Bradley, Celtics, Barton, Ariza

While Kyrie Irving and Carmelo Anthony have generated the most discussion as trade candidates in recent weeks, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders suggests in his latest piece that there are a number of players entering contract years who could become the subjects of trade rumors over the course of the 2017/18 season. Kyler took a closer look at a few of those players, so let’s dive in and round up the highlights…

  • Sources tell Kyler that the Pistons are aware Avery Bradley will be expensive in unrestricted free agency next summer, but will have no problem paying him if he fits in like they hope. As Kyler notes, the Pistons appear more comfortable at this point with a long-term commitment to Bradley than they were with a similar deal for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
  • While Isaiah Thomas wants to land a maximum salary contract from the Celtics in 2018, Kyler points to Jrue Holiday and Kyle Lowry as point guards who were believed to be max-salary candidates this summer and ultimately settled for a little less. As Kyler observes, with Thomas and Marcus Smart headed for free agency next offseason, and Terry Rozier not far behind, Boston could explore some backcourt trade options before 2018’s trade deadline.
  • There’s a belief that the Nuggets “can and would” pay Will Barton when he reaches unrestricted free agency next summer, but if Denver ends up making a big trade, Barton could be a prime candidate to be included, says Kyler.
  • The Rockets‘ stance this offseason has been that Trevor Ariza isn’t available in trades, including to the Knicks in a potential Carmelo Anthony deal, says Kyler.
  • The Jazz are taking a wait-and-see approach with Derrick Favors, who could become a trade candidate at this season’s deadline, with his free agency looming. Big men with a skill-set like Favors’ haven’t been valued particularly highly in recent years, which is a double-edged sword for Utah — he may not have much trade value, but he also may not be overly expensive if the club wants to re-sign him.

Eastern Notes: Stone, Oubre, Celtics, Bucks

Julyan Stone‘s agent is hopeful of freeing his client from a European contract so that the point guard can sign with the Hornets, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Charlotte has offered Stone a two-year deal to be its third point guard behind Kemba Walker and Michael Carter-Williams but he first must be released from the contract he signed with Reyer Venezia in the Italian pro league. Stone’s agent, Giovanni Funiciello, told Bonnell that he’s hopeful a compromise can be worked out this week so that Stone can remain in the U.S. and be close to his ailing father.

In other news around the Eastern Conference:

  • Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis hopes that small forward Kelly Oubre develops to the point where he has to pay the 2015 first-round pick “a lot of money,” Chase Hughes of CSNMidAtlantic.com writes. Leonsis indicated that Oubre was slowed by a knee injury last season and that coach Scott Brooks believes Oubre “can be a difference maker.” The Wizards are expected to pick up Oubre’s fourth-year option for 2018/19 prior to the start of the upcoming season, setting up Oubre for a potential big payday in the summer of 2019.
  • All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas is very pleased with the Celtics’ offseason, highlighted by the free agent signing of forward Gordon Hayward, Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com tweets“We added Gordon Hayward, which is an All-Star-caliber player that’s going to help us get to the next level — and that’s the championship,” Thomas told Forsberg.
  • Jordan Brady has been named the first head coach of the Bucks’ G League team, the Wisconsin Herd, the Herd announced in a press release. Brady, 34, served as an assistant coach last season for the Salt Lake City Stars, the Jazz’s affiliate. He has also been an assistant coach with three other G League organizations.

Isaiah Thomas Expects To Be Ready For Camp

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas is confident that he will be fully healed from a hip injury in time for training camp, writes Stephen Hewitt of The Boston Herald.

Thomas aggravated a hip strain in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals and was forced to sit out the rest of the playoffs. He chose to let the injury heal without surgery and recently began workouts again after more than two months of rest.

“The hip is great,” Thomas said Saturday as he conducted a youth basketball clinic in Boston. “It’s a real slow rehab process, but it’s getting better and that’s what it’s all about.”

Thomas’ health is important not only to the Celtics’ title chances, but also to his financial future. He is headed toward free agency next summer and will be looking to cash in after making less than $6.3MM for the upcoming season. He has been open in the media about his desire for a maximum contract.

“I deserve it,” he said. “I put the work in, and you can put me down against any guard in the NBA. … My numbers are up there with the best players in the world, and my team is winning. So, I mean, you have to reward that. I’m just going to keep working though. My time is gonna come. I have a lot of faith in God, and I just have to keep working to get better.”

 Thomas believes the Celtics have taken a major step forward by adding free agent Gordon Hayward and rookie Jayson Tatum to a team that finished with the best record in the East a year ago. He’s also aware of the turmoil surrounding their main competitor, the Cavaliers, including Kyrie Irving‘s request to be traded.

“I don’t really want to comment on that, I don’t know what’s going on over there,” Thomas said. “I know just as much as everybody else knows. If [Irving] leaves, he leaves. If he doesn’t, then we know how good of a team they are, and we know how good of a player he is.”

Atlantic Notes: Thomas, Celtics, Knicks, Carroll

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas won’t need surgery to fix the right hip injury that forced him out of the playoffs, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Several hip specialists evaluated Thomas, but no course of action could be determined until the swelling lessened. The injury first struck Thomas in mid-March, then was aggravated in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Wizards. “Isaiah is making good progress,” said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. “He’s out on the court, he’s shooting. He’s full speed ahead on the stationary bike and working in the swimming pool. He’s progressing nicely.” As long as there are no setbacks, Thomas is expected to be ready for training camp.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • For the second straight season, the Celtics appear headed to camp with more than 15 guaranteed contracts, Himmelsbach writes in a separate story. Shane Larkin reached an agreement with Boston last week on a fully guaranteed deal, which brings the total to 16. The roster will have to be trimmed to 15 by the start of the season, not counting a pair of two-way contracts, so the Celtics will either have to make a trade or waive a player with guaranteed money. In the same situation last fall, Boston waived R.J. Hunter and his $1.2MM deal.
  • The Knicks are still hoping to find a veteran point guard to team with Ron Baker and rookie Frank Ntilikina, relays ESPN’s Ian Begley. The team believes its best chance to get one is in a potential Carmelo Anthony trade.
  • The Nets didn’t require DeMarre Carroll to undergo a physical before completing their trade with the Raptors because they received so much compensation, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. Brooklyn picked up Carroll, Toronto’s 2018 first-rounder and an additional 2018 second-rounder, while the Raptors got Justin Hamilton, who has since been waived, and an $11.8MM trade exception. Carroll played 72 games last season after having knee surgery in his first year in Toronto and being limited to 26 games.
  • Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov intends to sell up to 49% of the team while keeping ownership of the Barclays Center, writes Mike Ozanian of Forbes. The NBA’s advisory finance committee has approved Prokhorov’s lease terms, but a final OK must come from the league once a seller is found.

Celtics Notes: Pagliuca, Hayward, Bird, Ojeleye

Celtics managing partner Steve Pagliuca promises the team is ready to become a taxpayer again if that’s what it takes to win a title, relays Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. Pagliuca says it’s not a guarantee that the franchise will cross the tax threshold next summer when Isaiah Thomas enters free agency, but vows that potential tax penalties won’t affect the decision on Thomas.

Pagliuca adds that cap management is becoming important again after last summer’s spending spree, which factored into the decision to trade Avery Bradley to the Pistons to make room for Gordon Hayward. “There was a time when teams had lots of cap space with the increase in revenues,” Pagliuca said. “Now we’re entering a period where cap management becomes imperative. Now we’re going back to the future, where people had to work hard for cap space.”

There’s more news out of Boston:

  • Hayward is denying reports that the controversial delay regarding his choice of the Celtics was related to his article for The Players’ Tribune, writes D.J. Bean of CSNNE. Hayward explained that he was on the phone with his agent, Mark Bartelstein, when the story broke that he was coming to Boston. “At that point in time we decided, look, we have to step away from this,” Hayward said. “I was pretty upset that that had happened. I didn’t feel like I was ready to say, ‘Yes, I want to be a Boston Celtic,’ so I had to take a step back and regroup and I think we talked about it more and more, then finally we put out the article, but I know there was a lot of reports with people saying we were finishing up the article for the Tribune, which is just completely false.”
  • Jabari Bird‘s play during summer league has made him a candidate to receive one of Boston’s two-way contracts, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. A 6’6″ shooting guard out of California, Bird was the 56th selection in this year’s draft. He has been given a larger role with some of the Celtics’ top players sidelined and has responded by averaging 13.7 points and shooting 19-of-27 in his last three games.
  • The versatility shown by second-rounder Semi Ojeleye could give him a role in Boston this season, Himmelsbach adds in the same piece. A 6’7″ forward out of SMU, Ojeleye shot 40% from 3-point range in Las Vegas and earned praise for his defense from coach Brad Stevens.

Celtics Notes: Crowder, Morris, Thomas

The Celtics landed Gordon Hayward and Marcus Morris this week but the reigning Eastern Conference No. 1 seed isn’t comfortable yet.

Per a CSN New England report, president Danny Ainge is searching for further moves that can improve their roster this offseason. It’s just a matter of figuring out what those moves might look like.

Initially the report speculated that Ainge could be targeting rebounding, something the Celtics lacked in 2016/17, but the executive noted that he feels young forwards Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum could help in that regard.

Another area that Boston could address is their backup point guard position. That said, the team president also mentioned that he was currently impressed with backup point guard Terry Rozier.

There’s more from Beantown:

  • The Celtics have no intention of trading Jae Crowder, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe tweets. The forward had been floated as a possible component of a sign-and-trade deal to bring Gordon Hayward to Boston prior to the Avery Bradley deal.
  • Veteran point guard Isaiah Thomas told CSN New England’s A. Sherrod Blakely that he believes he’s a max contract guy and that the Celtics are aware that they’ll need to bring the Brinks trucks out to retain his services when he becomes a free agent next summer.
  • Newly added Celtics forward Marcus Morris comes with legal baggage and a CSN New England report breaks down the pending trial that will begin on August 21.
  • The Celtics wouldn’t have had enough Brinks trucks to retain both Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas, Chris Forsberg of ESPN writes, a harsh reality that led to the trade that sent Bradley to the Pistons.

Celtics Notes: Ainge, Fultz, Tatum, Theis

Danny Ainge, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations, has risked his legacy by trading the top pick in this year’s draft, writes Chris Mannix of The Vertical. Mannix points out that Ainge gave up Markelle Fultz, a player who scouts seem unanimously sold on, for a chance at Josh Jackson or Jayson Tatum, who play the same position as Boston’s first pick from last year, Jaylen Brown. Ainge may be preparing for a larger deal, but the Pelicans seem to have no desire to move Anthony Davis, and the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler or the Pacers’ Paul George would probably be just a brief rental. Mannix believes Philadelphia now has a team that can contend for the playoffs next season and possibly grow into the East’s next power. If that happens, Ainge’s reputation will take a major hit.

There’s more news out of Boston:

  • The Celtics get an A-minus for the deal and the Sixers get an A-plus from Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated. He writes that Fultz’s skills don’t fit with Boston’s immediate needs and his presence would have complicated Isaiah Thomas‘ free agency in 2018. Ainge, who owns Brooklyn’s unprotected first-rounder next season, may have two lottery picks to work with if the Lakers’ choice falls between No. 2 and 5. If not, he will have the Kings’ first-rounder in 2019.
  • Despite reports that they are pursuing another deal, the Celtics are telling agents they plan to use the No. 3 pick, tweets Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.
  • Tatum is a strong possibility for the Celtics if the Lakers opt for Jackson at No. 2, according to Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald (Twitter link). Boston ranks Fultz, Jackson, Tatum and Lonzo Ball as its top four prospects.
  • The trade slightly raises Boston’s cap space to $19.8MM, tweets Keith Smith of Real GM, who adds that it can still be increased with other moves. The Sixers now have $40.2MM available, second only to the Kings.
  • Tom Ziller of SB Nation examines the Celtics’ possible motives for the deal, including a desire to take Jackson, to avoid conflict with Thomas, to set up a bigger deal involving Butler or George or to build a team capable of taking over the East when LeBron James retires.
  • The Celtics have “serious interest” in German forward Daniel Theis, relays Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. The 25-year-old is a free agent after his contract with Brose Bamberg expired.

Draft Notes: J. Jackson, Ball, Fultz, Strategies To Avoid

Is Josh Jackson a better prospect than Lonzo Ball? In a fascinating detail-rich piece, Rob Dauster of NBC Sports tackles this question. The column focuses on Jackson, outlining his strengths and weaknesses. The Kansas product’s most prominent strengths include his length, superior athleticism, competitiveness, and versatility. Dauster considers the forward’s main weaknesses to be his jump shot and his tendency to make defensive lapses.

After a careful and extensive consideration of Jackson’s game, Dauster concludes that he is a better prospect than Ball and the second-best prospect in the draft. In fact, the writer contends that the gap between Markelle Fultz and Jackson is smaller than the gap between Jackson and Ball.

Here are a couple more draft-related items:

  • Speaking of Fultz, the point guard said Tuesday that he has had multiple conversations with Danny Ainge since the draft combine, reports Jeff Goodman of ESPN.  Fultz told ESPN: “I want to be the No. 1 pick really bad. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little kid, and I feel like I would fit well in Boston.” The Washington freshman elaborated on his fit with the Celtics and star Isaiah Thomas: “We can both play on or off the ball. We can both score and also pass. I think we’d be great together. When we’ve talked since the lottery, we haven’t really talked about basketball much. He’s been through a lot lately.”
  • What are the most dangerous mistakes that NBA teams make during the draft? Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders describes the seven most common flawed strategies that can lead to “egregious error” in the draft. We strongly encourage you to read the full piece on the topic, as it includes juicy details, such as which players from this year’s draft class are potential busts based on each blunder from the list. Check out the piece to see Brigham’s full list.

Celtics Notes: Brown, Thomas, Offseason Plans

Jaylen Brown was the third overall pick in the NBA Draft last year and was expected to be a strong reserve option, growing into the rigors of the NBA lifestyle. However, injuries allowed Brown to get crucial experience as a starter with the Celtics. As of CSN New England writes, Brown is not worried about his label as a “future” contributor and instead focused on the now.

“I’m excited about the now. I’m excited about this summer,” Brown said. “I try not to look too far ahead. Everybody talks about the future and how much potential we have; I’m worried about the now. I want to be part of the now. That’s all I’m focused on.”

Brown averaged 6.6 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 78 games (20 starts) for Boston, and by the end of year, he was guarding LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals. By his own admission, Brown says coming to the NBA was a daunting experience as he did not know what to expect. However, now he’s focused on improving himself in the offfseason.

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, coming into the NBA,” Brown said. “Throughout the year, I don’t think people expected me to contribute as much as I did. Now just getting to the Eastern Conference finals and losing, it builds a hunger you know;  I have a bad taste in my mouth. Gotta put in work during the offseason and come back stronger.”

  • A lot of news and speculation has circulated throughout the NBA in regard to point guard Isaiah Thomas. Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post examines the dilemma of Thomas’ contract situation; he’s a free agent after next season and his last two dominant seasons line him up for a hefty payday. However, 5’9″ guards do not have a great history of sustained success in the NBA, which could make the Celtics apprehensive of a long-term commitment. For his part, Thomas has stated he’s willing to hold off extension talks until next year so the Celtics can lure top tier free agents.
  • Speaking of free agency, Chase Hughes of CSN New England examines the Celtics ahead of the offseason. The team owns the No.1 overall pick and has several impending free agents, soon-to-be free agents, and players of interests in the trade and free agent markets, including Blake Griffin, Paul George, Gordon Hayward and more. Regardless of their targets, the Celtics are expected to be one of, if not the, busiest organizations in the NBA.
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