Jaylen Brown

Celtics Notes: Irving, Smart, Brown, Draft Picks

Basketball has become “fun” again for the Celtics, which Kyrie Irving sees as the main explanation for the team’s recent success, relays Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Boston, which entered the season as the Eastern Conference favorite, has now won seven in a row after a 10-10 start and Irving believes the team just needed to get through a transition period.

“New group. New environment. New things to figure out,” he explained. “Expectations you have for what you want to be and how you want to win. We expected things to come easy. That’s being part of a team environment. Even the best teams had to go through trials of figuring out what they look like every day.”

Big things were expected from the Celtics with both Irving and Gordon Hayward healthy to start the season. However, some of the younger players who helped the team reach the conference finals last season had to adjust to new roles. Coach Brad Stevens appears to have found a winning combination with Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford joining Irving in the starting lineup and Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier as the top reserves.

“Terry and Gordon and Jaylen are starters in this league,” Irving said. “That’s not a prototypical second unit.”

There’s more today from Boston:

  • Brown agrees with that assessment, even as he struggles through a difficult season, writes ESPN’s Jackie MacMullen. For now, he’s trying to adjust to his new bench role. “People are throwing out all these numbers, these stats, and they are saying this, saying that,” Brown said. “I have unwavering faith in my ability, and I believe our coaching staff does, too. If anyone can handle this, I can. I’ve been through a lot in my short life. I’ll be all right.”
  • Even though his shooting remains erratic, the Celtics don’t have any regrets about the four-year, $52MM deal they gave Smart over the summer, according to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. The versatile guard is hitting just .385 from the field and .301 from 3-point range, but his contributions in other areas overshadow his shooting woes. “You know, he’s a bulldog,” Morris said of his teammate. “He’s been doing that since he’s been in the NBA. Even when I was on a different team, he was doing the same thing. He continues to do it. He’s a guy that you love to have on your team.”
  • Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston examines the Celtics’ stockpile of potential first-rounders for next year and notes that surprising starts by the Kings, Grizzlies and Clippers may decrease the expected value of those picks.

Celtics Notes: Storylines, Hayward, Brown, Assets

In a recent article, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston wrote about four storylines to watch in anticipation of the Celtics next game against the Knicks tomorrow night: offensive improvement while Kyrie Irving is on the bench, reintegrating Jaylen Brown, the long-term starters, and minutes to go around when everybody is healthy.

The Celtics own a team-best offensive rating of 109.6 when Irving is on the court this season, a figure that would place Boston in the NBA’s top ten. But when Irving sits, that number drops to 95, which would rank far below the Hawks’ league worst rating of 100.5.

Brown has missed the last three games after suffering a back bruise against the Mavericks a couple weeks back. He could start tomorrow night, but the team has won three games in a row with Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris starting, and head coach Brad Stevens may elect to keep that group intact.

Stevens’ challenge in selecting who to start is figuring out how to balance the lineup with the most talent, and thus the most potential, with the lineup that is giving the team the most success right now. Eventually, Boston might work its way back to the Irving-Brown-Jayson TatumGordon HaywardAl Horford lineup, but keeping Smart and Morris on the bench is a risk.

In the Celtics’ last four wins, they’ve been shorthanded, which some may argue shows that some players play better with more minutes. Terry Rozier has reportedly conveyed his displeasure with his playing time already this season, and as mentioned above, Stevens will need to balance playing time between Smart, Morris, Hayward, and Brown as the season plays out.

There’s more from Boston:

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald writes that Hayward’s struggle to reintegrate himself after last season’s horrific injury is also a result of how much the Celtics have changed since he arrived in the summer of 2017.
  • In another piece for NBC Sports Boston, Forsberg relays that Brown is open to coming of the bench in his return from injury. Brown downplayed the significance of becoming a reserve, and said he will embrace any role Stevens has in mind for him.
  • As we relayed yesterday, the value of some of the Celtics trade assets have depreciated a little this season, with the Kings, Clippers, and Grizzlies outperforming expectations and Brown not as impressive as many anticipated.

Celtics Notes: Irving, Hayward, Brown

Kyrie Irving is enjoying another stellar offensive season as the Celtics find their footing. However, one distinct difference has been Irving’s improvement on defense, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston writes.

While the statistics are not eye-popping, there is a visual and discernible difference in Irving’s hustle and performance. As Forsberg notes, Irving entered Friday’s game ranked fifth in loose balls recovered (2.1), seventh in deflections per game (3.1), and eighth in steals (1.9). Irving is also ranked 18th in the NBA in charges drawn.

After Irving made comments earlier this year about him “coasting” on defense in his career, he has made it a point to not have that mentality anymore.

“I think it’s just a true challenge that I came into the season with of wanting to put an emphasis on that end of the floor,” Irving said. “That’s really what it comes down to. I think in my career I’ve really gotten away with just being an offensive talent, being a guy that has just been solid but never being a guy that I would say just consistently brings that effort every single time down the floor. “

Check out more Celtics notes below:

  • At a recent practice, Irving urged teammate Gordon Hayward to be more aggressive on the floor and he responded with a solid shooting performance in Friday’s win. As Harry West of Sporting News writes, Irving — who shares a birthday with Hayward — wants him to release the ‘a**’ in him. “I remember [Irving’s former Duke] coach [Mike Krzyzewski] telling me, you know, Gordon has a little bit of a** in him. And he needs that,” Irving said. “That toughness where he starts turning red and he starts getting into the basketball, getting out in transition and dunking the basketball and start doing those things.”
  • Jaylen Brown was asked how he felt about a possible change in the rotation upon his return from injury and he put the team winning ahead of his role, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston writes. “Possibly, especially if we are winning,” Brown said of the idea that his role could change. “Whatever it is that needs to be done to figure it out. Everybody has talent, everybody has ability, but, obviously, we have to make something work here. We don’t want to be looking down the line and trying to figure out, ‘What if?’ or ‘Woulda, coulda,’ whatever. 
  • As we relayed recently, the Celtics waived Walt Lemon Jr.,. He was on a two-way pact with Boston but did not see NBA action this season.

Atlantic Notes: Fizdale, Leonard, Celtics, Brown

Knicks coach David Fizdale plans to keep his emotions in check today as he returns to Memphis to face the team that fired him after 19 games last season, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Fizdale took the Grizzlies to the playoffs during his first season with the organization, but was discarded last year as the team got off to a rough start highlighted by an early-season injury to Mike Conley and Fizdale’s feud with Marc Gasol.

Fizdale became one of the hottest free agents on the coaching market, interviewing with several teams before accepting the job in New York. He insists he’s not bitter about the experience in Memphis, saying it taught him lessons that made him a better coach.

“Probably the emotional part will be me remembering the good part of it,” he said. “I got a standing ovation in that building from a great fan base, and that’s the moment I’m going to remember, in the playoffs when we fought our butts off against the Spurs, and those guys being able to give me that moment as a young coach, and to share that moment with them. I’ll never forget that.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Heat forward James Johnson, who spent three and a half seasons in Toronto, believes Kawhi Leonard will find a lot to like about the city, relays Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Leonard is averaging 24.4 points per game and has propelled the Raptors to a 16-4 start, the best record in the league. “I think guys are more focused on winning now and getting to a team that can get to those Eastern Conference finals or can get to the championship series,” Johnson said. “So I don’t think it’s about place anymore. It’s about building the right team.”
  • The slumping Celtics are having trouble finding the right roles for the younger players who helped them reach the Eastern Conference finals last season, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Terry Rozier has struggled in his return to a reserve role, Jaylen Brown‘s shot has been off all season and Jayson Tatum is settling too often for long two-point shots.
  • X-rays were negative after Brown landed hard on his back late in last night’s game, according to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald.
  • The Celtics were counting on a draft pick bonanza in June with picks possibly coming from the Kings, Grizzlies and Clippers, but based on the current standings all of those would be later than Boston’s selection, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

Celtics Pick Up Options On Tatum, Brown, Yabusele

The Celtics have picked up their 2019/20 team options on three players, according to an official announcement from the club (Twitter link). Jaylen Brown‘s fourth-year option has been exercised, as have the third-year options for Jayson Tatum and Guerschon Yabusele.

The decisions on Tatum and Brown come as no surprise. Tatum has looked like a rising star since being selected third overall in the 2017 draft, and the decision to lock in his $7,830,000 cap hit for 2019/20 was a no-brainer. Brown hasn’t flashed the same sort of star potential as his fellow No. 3 overall pick, but the starting shooting guard continues to improve on both ends of the court, and guaranteeing his $6,534,829 cap charge for next season was also an easy call for the Celtics.

Boston’s decision on Yabusele is a little more surprising. The former 16th overall pick has played in just 38 games for the Celtics since joining the team last season, and hasn’t made an impact, with 2.2 PPG and 1.5 RPG in 6.7 minutes per contest.

Al Horford, Aron Baynes, Robert Williams, Daniel Theis, and Semi Ojeleye are all in Boston’s frontcourt mix, and the team sometimes plays Tatum or Gordon Hayward at the four, leaving few opportunities for Yabusele. Nonetheless, the Celtics apparently still value him highly enough to lock in his $3,117,240 cap hit for 2019/20. The C’s will end up paying a higher price to retain Yabusele if they’re well over the tax line next season, as is expected.

All of the rookie scale option decisions for 2019/20 can be tracked right here.

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Brown, Nets, Sixers

When Danny Ainge decided to pursue Kyrie Irving last summer, he didn’t have a tough sell to the rest of the organization, relays Chris Forsberg of ESPN. The Celtics‘ president of basketball operations said there was complete agreement in the front office on the deal that sent Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s unprotected first-rounder to Cleveland.

“I feel like there’s opportunities that you have to look at and explore, and Kyrie was one of those opportunities that, unanimously, internally it was something that we all felt like we should do,” Ainge said. “Everybody, unanimously, wanted to do it.”

Forsberg recounts the details of last summer’s blockbuster, including the eight-day wait as the teams tried to work out compensation after the Cavaliers claimed Thomas’ hip was in worse shape than they were led to believe. Irving was shooting his “Uncle Drew” movie at the time, and fellow cast members recall his excitement once the deal was completed. Ainge, meanwhile, was concerned that it might get rescinded.

“It’s like you’re a real estate agent and someone has agreed to buy your house, but until the papers are signed and the bank is on board, the sale doesn’t go through,” he said. “And that’s sort of how it is after you make any deal in our league. It’s never done until it’s done.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Gordon Hayward‘s return may cut into Jaylen Brown‘s playing time, but Brown will still serve an important role for the Celtics this season, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Brown is an elite defender, Blakely notes, and he provides lineup flexibility if coach Brad Stevens wants to change his starting five depending on matchups.
  • The Nets are among three NBA teams that haven’t filled either two-way slot and that’s not likely to change before training camp, according to Net Income of NetsDaily. The team plans to have players compete for the spots in camp. Brooklyn signed Jake Wiley and Yakuba Outtara to two-way deals last summer and wound up replacing them with Milton Doyle and James Webb.
  • The Sixers are expected to begin interviews for their GM opening on Tuesday, tweets Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. They have received permission to talk with Larry Harris (Warriors), Gersson Rosas (Rockets), and Justin Zanik (Jazz), and all three are set to interview the week. Mike Sielski of the Inquirer is criticizing the team for keeping the position open for so long after Bryan Colangelo’s departure in June.

Lowe’s Latest: Kawhi, Sixers, Celtics, Scott, More

The Sixers have not made Markelle Fultz available in Kawhi Leonard trade talks with the Spurs, and the Celtics haven’t been willing to include Jaylen Brown in their discussions with San Antonio, ESPN’s Zach Lowe confirms in his latest article.

We’ve heard variations on Lowe’s report for the last week or two, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (video link) recently suggesting that the Sixers don’t want to discuss Fultz, Joel Embiid, or Ben Simmons in Leonard talks, and adding that the Celtics’ top five players have been “off-limits” in negotiations with the Spurs — presumably, Woj was referring to Brown, Jayson Tatum, Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford.

Lowe’s full piece on the Leonard situation features several more tidbits of note, including some items only tangentially related to a possible Leonard trade. Let’s round up the highlights…

  • LeBron James isn’t pressuring the Lakers to add a second star for now, according to Lowe, who says that James “has faith in the combined powers of his supernova talent and the Lakers brand.” LeBron also recognizes that Brandon Ingram has considerable upside and is aware that many star free agents could be on the market in 2019, Lowe notes.
  • Lowe classifies rumors that Jimmy Butler and Kyrie Irving want to play together as “credible chatter.” However, the Celtics remain confident that they’ll be able to re-sign Irving next year, per Lowe.
  • Details of Mike Scott‘s contract agreement with the Clippers have yet to surface, but Lowe indicates the deal will use part of the team’s mid-level exception rather than being a minimum-salary signing.
  • Lowe’s piece is worth checking out in full, particularly for a section in which he brainstorms hypothetical wild-card suitors for Leonard, exploring whether the Raptors, Trail Blazers, Wizards, Timberwolves, Thunder, Heat, Rockets, Bucks, Nuggets, Warriors, Pistons, or Kings might be fits — many are quick “no”s, but some generate some intriguing hypothetical deals.

Poll: Where Will Kawhi Leonard End Up?

There have been plenty of huge NBA headlines during the first few days of July, with LeBron James agreeing to become a Laker, Paul George deciding not to become a Laker, and DeMarcus Cousins lining up a deal with the defending-champion Warriors, among others.

However, for the most part, all has been quiet on the Kawhi Leonard front.

After Leonard’s camp made a public trade request earlier in mid-June, the Spurs forward seemed likely to dominate the offseason rumor mill, but for now, the primary suitors for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year may be playing it safe.

As Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports tweets, the Celtics and Sixers appear to be “playing the long game” on the Leonard front, not wanting to do anything rash with their rosters in great shape and LeBron finally out of their conference.

As for James’ new team in Los Angeles, the Lakers‘ other deals this offseason have suggested the club is retaining flexibility for the 2019 offseason, leaving the door open for Leonard to sign as a free agent and for the Lakers to keep all their young players and picks.

While the Lakers – wary of being too patient after what happened with George – may increase their efforts to land Leonard in a trade at some point, they “aren’t keen” on giving up Brandon Ingram, tweets Schultz. Meanwhile, the Celtics won’t give up Jayson Tatum and aren’t enthusiastic about moving Jaylen Brown, and the Sixers prefer to keep Markelle Fultz, Schultz adds.

While Schultz believes Leonard – who is unhappy in San Antonio and reportedly wants to play in Los Angeles – will be dealt eventually, he’s not sure where the star forward will end up. So we’re opening up that question to you.

What team to do you expect Leonard to be with to start the 2018/19 season? Will he get his wish to join the Lakers? Can the Spurs convince him to stick around a little longer? Will a budding Eastern powerhouse like the Celtics or Sixers go all-in for him? Could L.A.’s other team, the Clippers make a surprise play to land him? Or will a wild-card suitor enter the fray and steal him away?

Vote below in our poll and jump into the comment section to share your thoughts!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Spurs Ready To Move On From Kawhi Leonard?

7:58pm: The Lakers haven’t offered Ingram in any deals, Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times tweets. She subsequently clarified that this doesn’t preclude them from being willing to include him if push came to shove.

12:58pm: The Celtics are taking a “conservative” approach in talks with the Spurs and have yet to discuss Jaylen Brown, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.

12:12pm: The Lakers are willing to include Brandon Ingram and a future first-round pick in a package for Leonard, according to Wojnarowski, who hears from league sources that the Spurs want a “far more complete haul” of young players and picks.

Meanwhile, Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe (Twitter link) continues to hear that a Celtics trade for Leonard remains unlikely, given all the question marks related to his health and contract situation. Boston hasn’t received any assurances from Kawhi that he’d want to be a Celtic, tweets Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald.

11:15am: According to Sam Amick of USA Today (via Twitter), “rumblings of a Godfather Lakers offer” for Leonard have other teams wondering if they have any realistic chance to land the two-time Defensive Player of the Year.

10:39am: As recently as last week, Spurs general manager R.C. Buford was telling reporters that the club still hoped to smooth things over with Kawhi Leonard and keep the star forward on the roster. However, San Antonio’s stance appears to be evolving.

According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (via Twitter), league sources are saying that the Spurs are “ready” to move on from Leonard. Stein cautions that the team’s apparent willingness to deal doesn’t mean that San Antonio will send Leonard to the Lakers or any other team within the next day or two. However, it appears to be a major shift if the Spurs’ thinking.

The Spurs are currently “fully engaged” in Leonard trade talks with a number of teams, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Wojnarowski identifies the Lakers and Celtics as two clubs very much involved in those discussions, adding that Boston has the assets that the Spurs covet most in a potential swap.

Even if the Celtics refuse to include Jayson Tatum in an offer for Leonard, they have multiple young players that could appeal to San Antonio, including Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier. Adding Marcus Smart via a sign-and-trade could also be a possibility, and the C’s are loaded with future first-round picks, including the Kings’ 2019 first-rounder (top-1 protected).

Still, when Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald addressed the Leonard situation on Wednesday evening, he suggested that the Celtics and Spurs hadn’t gotten anywhere in their discussions so far. Per Bulpett, the Celtics would want assurances that Leonard’s quad injury is healed and that he’d be willing to stay in Boston for more than one year. Without those assurances, it’s hard to imagine the C’s offering the kind of significant package the Spurs will be seeking.

Multiple reports from ESPN on Wednesday indicated that the Lakers are feeling some pressure to finalize a Leonard trade as soon as possible, since landing Kawhi could give the team the strong upper hand in the LeBron James sweepstakes. While the Spurs are under no obligation to adhere to the Lakers’ preferred timeline, rival suitors could feel compelled to increase their offers for the star forward if they sense that the Lakers are going all in.

The Sixers, Clippers, and Cavaliers are among the other teams known to have inquired on Leonard’s availability, though the Clips and Cavs may lack the young players necessary to put together a tempting offer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Updates: Mavericks, Kings, Celtics, Warriors

There’s a “growing sense” that the Mavericks will scoop up Michael Porter Jr. if he’s still available at No. 5, tweets Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. He cautions that Dallas hasn’t reached a final decision, but the team likes Porter enough to take him even if he has to sit out all of next season because of back issues.

A report earlier today has the Sixers interested in moving into the top five to grab Porter, so it appears they’ll need a top four pick to trump the Mavericks. Porter also remains in contention for the Kings at No. 2.

There are more draft day rumors to pass along:

  • The Kings have narrowed their choices down to Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley III, according to Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). The team’s ownership may break the deadlock later today. Mannix adds that the Hawks will get a “stampede” of offers from teams interested in Doncic if Sacramento opts for Bagley.
  • A conflicting report from Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated states that the Kings have already reached a decision and believe they are adding a “franchise altering prospect.” (Twitter link).
  • Former NBA coach Larry Brown believes Doncic will need to land in the right situation to be successful, relays Sportando (Twitter link). “At 16 he was as good as he’s now,” said Brown, who recently accepted a job with Fiat Torino in the Italian League. “He’s smart but I don’t know in which role he can play. Maybe forward/big man. If he’d play for [Rockets coach Mike] D’Antoni or a coach with European mentality he’d be phenomenal.”
  • The Celtics are working to trade into the top five, but their chances are small unless they part with Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum, tweets Sam Amick of USA Today. The Clippers, who own the 12th and 13th selections, also want to move up and the Bucks would like to add more picks.
  • The Warriors are still hoping to buy a pick somewhere in the 30s, according to Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). They worked out a group of players yesterday who might be available in that range, including Jacob Evans, Devon Hall, Gary Trent Jr. and Hamidou Diallo. Golden State already owns the 28th pick and can spend up to the maximum $5.1MM to acquire another.
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander confirmed that he held a workout for the Clippers, relays Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). Gilgeous-Alexander admitted that he turned down a few workout requests, but didn’t specify the teams. In addition to the Clippers, the Knicks and Hornets have also watched him work out, according to Woo, who adds that Gilgeous-Alexander isn’t believed to have a promise but could be taken in the top 10 by teams that need backcourt help (Twitter link).
  • The Sixers attempted to see Donte DiVincenzo in person, but weren’t able to work out a time because of scheduling conflicts, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link).
  • Mitchell Robinson was limited by a sprained left ankle in his recent workouts, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The 7-footer expects to be fully recovered soon.