Jaylen Brown

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.

Atlantic Notes: Smart, Knicks, Rose, Simmons

Celtics guard Marcus Smart will be listed as probable for Saturday’s Game 3 and is expected to play barring any last-minute complications, writes Souichi Terada of MassLive. Smart missed Game 2 with a right thigh contusion, but he’s made significant progress, coach Ime Udoka said after this morning’s practice. Smart explained that the injury was actually closer to his knee, causing a build-up of fluid.

“Just take it, like I said, day-by-day,” Smart said. “The staff is doing a great job with treatment and exercises to help strengthen the quad and get the blood flowing and things like that.”

Udoka also said Jaylen Brown should be ready to play despite experiencing some hamstring tightness. He seemed to be grabbing his hamstring a few times in Game 2, but the Celtics don’t believe it’s a cause for concern.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks won’t have many attractive free agency options at point guard other than top choice Jalen Brunson, per Fred Katz of The Athletic. Katz warns that Brunson could get expensive, as other teams are expected to have interest in him as well. He adds that the team could easily clear about $20MM in cap space to make a bid for Brunson by waiving Taj Gibson, whose salary for next season is non-guaranteed, using second-round picks as sweeteners to get teams to trade for Alec Burks or Nerlens Noel, and waiving and stretching the final year of Kemba Walker‘s deal. Katz also reviews some alternatives if New York can’t land Brunson.
  • Marc Berman of The New York Post talks to an orthopedic surgeon for insight into why Knicks guard Derrick Rose never returned from his two ankle surgeries. Dr. Anish Kadakia of Northwestern University said Rose and the team were being careful not to aggravate the ankle after the second procedure, which was necessary after an infection was discovered. Kadakia doesn’t believe there are any degenerative issues with the ankle, and he expects Rose to return next season. Rose still has two years left on his contract at a total of $30MM, but the final season is a team option.
  • Ben Simmons‘ decision to have back surgery on Thursday is further evidence that the Nets got “damaged goods” in their trade with the Sixers, Berman states in a separate story. Even though Simmons is expected to be ready for training camp, Berman says it’s not a good sign that he’s about to go through another summer of limited activity.

Eastern Notes: Butler, Herro, Wizards, Brown

Heat star Jimmy Butler (knee inflammation) plans to play in Game 1 against the Sixers on Monday, as Nick Friedell of ESPN relays (Twitter link). Butler missed Miami’s final game against the Hawks last Tuesday and expressed confidence his knee will hold up.

Philadelphia will be without superstar center Joel Embiid (orbital fracture and mild concussion), however, which Butler says he and the rest of the Heat are disappointed about. Butler also said Embiid deserves to win the Most Valuable Player award this season.

“I think I speak for everybody that’s a part of this team, we want Jo to play,” he said. “We want to go up against them at full strength and prove that we can hang with anybody and we can beat anybody.”

As we wrote on Friday, Embiid doesn’t have a timetable for his return. The Sixers and Heat will play Game 2 on Wednesday, then travel to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Friday.

Here are some other notes from the East:

  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel explores whether Tyler Herro‘s illness absence should raise concerns for the Heat. Herro didn’t practice on Saturday because of a cold, but he’s still expected to play in Game 1. The 22-year-old struggled during Miami’s first-round series against Atlanta, averaging 12.8 points on 39% shooting from the floor and 18% from deep.
  • The Wizards could greatly benefit from the Jazz blowing their roster up this offseason, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington examines. Utah lost its first-round series against Dallas 4-2 and could explore trading key pieces in the summer. Hughes believes Washington may express interest in a number of Jazz players, including Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley. The Wizards naturally want to build a competitive roster around Bradley Beal and keep him in town.
  • Celtics star Jaylen Brown told reporters that he should be “ready to roll” for the team’s Game 1 against the Bucks, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald tweets. Brown, who has been dealing with hamstring tightness, said he’s feeling good. Boston will open up the series at home on Sunday afternoon.

Injury Notes: Heat, Brown, Hill, Z. Williams, Reid

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was noncommittal on Friday when asked for a status update on Jimmy Butler (sore right knee) and Kyle Lowry (left hamstring), according to Anthony Chiang and Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Butler missed Game 5 of Miami’s first-round series against Atlanta, while Lowry missed Games 4 and 5 after leaving Game 3 early.

I don’t want to jump the gun on anything. I just like the progress that everybody’s made. We’ll see if they can make more progress tomorrow. It will just be a daily update,” Spoelstra said.

Butler’s injury is considered relatively minor, with no MRI or other imaging planned. Muscle strains are notoriously tricky to deal with, so Lowry might be out longer, but his hamstring strain is also not considered to be serious, per Chiang and Jackson.

I’m expecting them to get healthy day by day, honestly,” Bam Adebayo said when asked if he expects Butler and Lowry to be available for the start of the second round. “If they can go, they can go. If they’re not, we got to go out there regardless. You can’t push back Game 1.”

Here are some more postseason injury notes from around the NBA:

  • Head coach Ime Udoka told reporters, including Jay King of The Athletic (Twitter links), that Celtics star Jaylen Brown is dealing with hamstring tightness and had it evaluated recently. Despite the injury, Brown is expected to play in Game 1 against Milwaukee on Sunday.
  • George Hill (abdominal strain) was unable to practice on Friday, per Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer. He’s out for Game 1 but the team is hopeful he might return during the second-round series against Boston, tweets Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The veteran guard missed the entire first-round series against Chicago with the injury and hasn’t played since April 8.
  • Grizzlies rookie wing Ziaire Williams (right knee soreness) was unavailable for Friday’s Game 6 contest against the Timberwolves, the team announced (via Twitter). He’d previously been listed as doubtful. Wolves big man Naz Reid also missed Game 6 due to personal reasons (Twitter link via Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic).

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Harden, J. Brown, T. Young, Knicks

After winning the first three games of their series vs. the Raptors, the Sixers have now dropped two consecutive close-out opportunities and will head back to Toronto clinging to a 3-2 lead. Star center Joel Embiid, who tore a ligament in his right thumb in Game 3, said after Monday’s loss that he wants to make an effort going forward not to favor that injury quite so much.

I’m in a situation where I try to protect it,” Embiid said (Twitter link via Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer). “Before I even attack or if I get the ball, it’s almost like I’m not playing freely where I’m like, ‘Well, if I do this, I might get hit or I might get hurt.'”

Embiid also told reporters on Monday night that his All-Star teammate James Harden, who attempted just 11 shots from the field and had 15 points in Game 5, needs to be more aggressive on the offensive end, as Tim Bontemps of ESPN relays.

“I’ve been saying all season since he got here, he needs to be aggressive and he needs to be himself,” Embiid said. “That’s not really my job. That’s probably on Coach (Doc Rivers) to talk to him and tell him to take more shots, especially if they’re going to guard me the way they’ve been guarding. But that’s really not my job.”

No team in NBA history has blown a 3-0 series lead. If they can get a home victory on Thursday, the Raptors would be just the fourth team (of 145) to force a Game 7 after falling behind 3-0, which would put a ton of pressure on the 76ers to close out the series on Saturday at home.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Celtics wing Jaylen Brown earned another one of his contract bonuses on Monday due to the team’s first-round series victory. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter), advancing to the second round assured Brown of an extra $482,143 this season.
  • The Raptors‘ decision to give up a first-round pick for Thaddeus Young at February’s trade deadline may look short-sighted if he leaves in free agency this summer, but he has provided intangible value to the team through his veteran leadership and understanding of the game, says Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Additionally, since the Raptors acquired a second-rounder from San Antonio in the Young deal, they only ended up moving down 13 spots in the draft, from No. 20 to No. 33.
  • In his latest mailbag, Fred Katz of The Athletic addresses a series of offseason questions facing the Knicks, weighing in on Mitchell Robinson‘s upcoming free agency, whether Tyus Jones or Malcolm Brogdon make sense as offseason targets, and more.

Blazers Rumors: Draft Picks, Grant, Cronin, Ownership

The Pelicans’ play-in victories last week were bad news for the Trail Blazers, who would’ve received New Orleans’ 2022 first-round pick if it had fallen between No. 5 and No. 14. Having missed out on that pick, which ended up at No. 15, Portland will instead receive Milwaukee’s 2025 first-rounder (top-four protected). That future pick won’t be as valuable in trade talks for a team looking to accelerate its rebuild this offseason.

According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, it’s clear based on conversation with league personnel that the Blazers were operating under the assumption they’d have two lottery picks available, and there was a sense they’d try to use one of them to acquire an impact veteran like Pistons forward Jerami Grant.

“That was a big deal to them,” a Western Conference official told Fischer. “The expectation was certainly, ‘Once we get this pick, we’ll turn it into someone. We’ll overpay to get someone.'”

As Fischer and others reported at the trade deadline in February, the Pistons were seeking either two first-round picks or a first-round pick and a promising young player (such as Bulls forward Patrick Williams) in exchange for Grant. Detroit’s asking price will likely be similar this offseason, though there’s some skepticism it will be met, Fischer writes.

The Blazers’ willingness to overpay for a player like Grant will be diminished by the fact that they missed out on New Orleans’ lottery pick, according to Fischer, who says Portland hasn’t shown any desire to trade its own lottery pick, which will almost certainly land in the top eight.

Here’s more from Fischer on the Blazers:

  • Damian Lillard has indicated to the Blazers’ front office that he’d like to play alongside a “two-way, rangy” wing, sources tell Bleacher Report. In addition to Grant, Fischer names Aaron Gordon, Ben Simmons, and Jaylen Brown as players who would appeal to Lillard, though it’s unclear whether any of them will be available this offseason — Brown, certainly, appears to be off the table.
  • According to Fischer, interim general manager Joe Cronin appears likely to keep the Blazers’ GM job on a full-time basis. However, it’s possible the team will ultimately hire someone above him in the basketball operations hierarchy, like Philadelphia did by bringing in Daryl Morey to run a front office previously led by GM Elton Brand. Fischer’s sources are split on whether such a move is likely.
  • Since the regular season ended, multiple sources have suggested to Fischer that the Blazers could begin exploring the market for new ownership as early as this summer. Some league insiders believe a sale of the franchise could be completed before the end of 2023, Fischer adds. Jody Allen – the sister of longtime Blazers owner Paul Allen, who passed away in 2018 – currently controls the team.

Celtics Notes: Smart, Irving, Team Chemistry, Brown

Celtics point guard Marcus Smart reflected on Monday on his new 2022 Defensive Player of the Year hardware, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic.

Weiss notes that Smart is the first guard to win the award since SuperSonics guard Gary Payton earned it in 1996. Payton, who also played for the Celtics during the 2004/05 season, was present to celebrate Smart’s victory at a Monday practice.

“To be able to win this award, I’m ecstatic, it means a lot,” Smart said. “It shows that the hard work I’ve been putting in has finally paid off and the recognition has finally come.”

This season, with a defense led by Smart and center Robert Williams, the Celtics ranked first in opponent points allowed per game, with 104.5, and second in defensive rating, at 106.9 points permitted per 100 possessions.

Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston makes the case for why Smart was the right choice for the award, citing not just his defensive metrics but also his savvy actions that can’t quite be quantified, such as his impressive switching and layup contesting.

There’s more out of Boston:

  • Marcus Smart broke down his defensive matchup Sunday against former Celtics teammate Kyrie Irving with Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. “All I was thinking about was, ‘OK, it’s just me and you Kyrie,” Smart said. “‘Here we go.’” Boston beat Irving’s Nets, 115-114, to take a 1-0 lead in the series. Though Irving had a stellar night in scoring 39 points on 12-of-20 shooting from the floor, Smart and his fellow Boston defenders pressured Irving to get rid of the ball and blanketed him in the paint during a decisive fourth quarter.
  • The Celtics appear to have taken significant leaps in team chemistry since their 4-1 first-round 2021 playoff loss to the Nets last season, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Last year, star shooting guard Jaylen Brown was sidelined with a wrist fracture, while Robert Williams was playing through turf toe. “I think that’s one of the bigger progressions of our team, just when something breaks down,” All-Star forward Jayson Tatum said of the difference between that 2020/21 Boston club and this year’s model. “They go on a run, we have a couple slip-ups on defense. We care. It’s an emotional game. So it’s not going to be a quiet huddle, we got to talk it out. But the main thing is we figure it out right then and there. And we all on the same page and we come out of the huddle and move on to the next play.”
  • Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown dealt with nose bleeds after Game 1 on Sunday, telling reporters that it kept bleeding about every 45 minutes that night, per Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). “But that’s playoff basketball,” Brown said. “It’s survival of the fittest.” Brown took contact to the face multiple times throughout the game Sunday, but played through to finish with 23 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the floor.

Atlantic Notes: Williams, Siakam, Brown, Sims

It would be a big surprise if Celtics center Robert Williams returned during the first round of the playoffs, but the door isn’t entirely closed on that possibility, Jay King of The Athletic tweets. Williams, who underwent left knee surgery on March 30, hasn’t technically been ruled out because players react differently to surgeries, according to coach Ime Udoka. However, the expectation is that Williams won’t be available, Udoka added.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors forward Pascal Siakam had another huge game on Thursday, piling up 37 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists against Philadelphia. Siakam has become an all-around force who deserves a spot on one of the All-NBA teams, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports writes. “I think I’m continuing to get better,” Siakam said. “It’s been a good long road for me and I just always believed all the work I have put in is going to pay off.”
  • Jaylen Brown had a triple-double against Milwaukee on Thursday. Just being on the court was enough to add to Brown’s bank account. The Celtics forward gained a $482,143 bonus for playing in his 65th game this season, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets. The bonus was deemed likely heading into the season and does not impact Brown’s cap hit, Marks adds.
  • Knicks two-way player Jericho Sims notched 10 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks in 35 minutes against Brooklyn on Wednesday. Sims has a similar skill set to Mitchell Robinson, who is headed to free agency this summer, and could replace him in the rotation next season, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. “Great feet, the athleticism is terrific,” coach Tom Thibodeau said of Sims. “We haven’t seen the playmaking in the paint he has. As time goes on, we’ll see that he’s a very good playmaker in the paint. You’ll see him kick out and find the open guy.’’

Atlantic Notes: Rivers, Embiid, Toppin, Durant, Brown

Speaking to reporters this weekend, Sixers coach Doc Rivers made a case for Joel Embiid to win the Most Valuable Player award, as Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer relays. Embiid is currently in the midst of his best season, averaging 30.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.

“Listen, I don’t get on this, but I really believe he should be the MVP,” Rivers said.

In addition to his impressive averages, Embiid has led Philadelphia to a 47-30 record. He’ll face stiff competition for the award this year, which will include Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Memphis’ Ja Morant, Phoenix’s Devin Booker and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Here are some other notes from the Atlantic:

  • The Knicks have been eliminated from playoff contention, but second-year forward Obi Toppin is showing he still cares about the games, Neil Best of Newsday writes. Toppin most recently finished with 20 points, four rebounds and four assists in a loss to the Cavaliers on Saturday, showing potential at 24 years old.
  • The Nets dropped a 122-115 game to the Hawks on Saturday despite receiving a superstar performance from Kevin Durant, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Durant finished with a career-high 55 points on 19-of-28 shooting from the floor (68%), but it clearly wasn’t enough. Brooklyn forced just six Atlanta turnovers and allowed over 115 points for a fourth straight game.
  • Now that the Celtics have won 49 games, forward Jaylen Brown is halfway to meeting the criteria for a $482K bonus, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). Brown will receive the bonus if Boston makes the second round of the playoffs. The incentive was deemed unlikely at the start of the season, Marks notes.

Jaylen Brown Refuses To Comment On Vaccination Status

In the wake of a report last week from ESPN’s Tim Bontemps indicating that the Celtics and Sixers might have unvaccinated players, Bontemps asked Jaylen Brown about his COVID-19 vaccination status and Brown refused to comment, saying he wouldn’t speak about his or anyone else’s status when it came to the vaccine (Twitter link via Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe).

Keith Smith of Spotrac and Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald have the full quote from Brown (Twitter links):

Last year I missed the playoffs. This year, from a competitive standpoint, I’m excited and ready to play against anybody. As a vice president of the players association, it’s a part of my job description to protect our players’ rights and our medical privacy. So you won’t hear me commenting on my status or anybody else’s.”

This is notable because on January 15, Canada implemented a rule barring unvaccinated players from entering the country. If the Celtics face the Raptors in the playoffs, any Boston players who haven’t been vaccinated would be ineligible to cross the border to play in Toronto.

Last Monday, Boston kept four players out of action in its first game at Toronto since the new rule was implemented. It was the second night of a back-to-back, so their absences could have been unrelated to the border restrictions. The four were Robert Williams, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Brown.

Sources told Bontemps that Williams has received the vaccine, Horford later stated that he’d be “ready to play wherever,” and Tatum said on media day that he was vaccinated, but he defended people who chose not to be. Brown made a similar statement, saying the vaccine is a matter of choice.

The Celtics blew out the Wizards on Sunday afternoon by a score of 144-102, with Brown putting up 32 points (on 12-of-17 shooting), seven rebounds, five assists and two steals in 29 minutes. With Boston’s victory and Milwaukee falling to Dallas, the Celtics moved into second place in the East with a 49-30 record.

Boston closes its schedule with three road games against Chicago, Milwaukee and Memphis, so they won’t play in Toronto again unless the two teams meet in the playoffs. The Raptors are currently the fifth seed in the East with a 45-32 record.