Jaylen Brown

Celtics Notes: Griffin, Smart, Small Ball, Hauser

Blake Griffin, who officially signed with the Celtics on Monday, was pleasantly surprised by how the team greeted him upon his arrival, Darren Hartwell of Yahoo Sports relays.

“I’ve talked to pretty much everybody,” Griffin said. “I was talking to some guys (Sunday). … I’m actually very — not surprised, but the amount of maturity and welcomingness (that the Celtics’ players showed) … it’s a different atmosphere than I was sort of used to, in a good way. They were very welcoming: everybody, one through 15. Practice today was focused, very encouraging, helpful. I think you kind of take that for granted because it’s not always the case everywhere you go.”

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Marcus Smart, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, hopes Boston is the only team he plays for, according to Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. “That’d be special, especially playing for a franchise that’s known for greatness,” Smart said. “So it’s something I’ve been thinking about and it’ll continue to be something I think about. It’s a great thing to think about. You see those banners when you walk into the Garden. You feel the history and the past. You feel the blood, sweat, and tears that the people in front of you left, and you want to be part of that.”
  • Though they looked a little sloppy at times, the Celtics had an eye-opening start to the preseason, routing the Hornets by 41 points. One of the interesting twists from interim coach Joe Mazzulla, as Jared Weiss of The Athletic notes, was a small-ball lineup he used in the second quarter with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown at the power positions and guards Malcolm Brogdon, Smart and Derrick White rounding out the unit.
  • An informal poll conducted by Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston during Media Day revealed Sam Hauser as the player who could have the most surprising impact this season. Hauser, who re-signed with the club on a three-year deal, appeared in 26 games off the bench last season. “Sam, in open gym, didn’t seem like he ever misses,” White said. “He didn’t miss much last year. And so just getting that year under his belt, being more assertive, and more sure of himself.”

Celtics Notes: Mazzulla, Udoka, Smart, Tatum, Brown, Horford, Brogdon

Joe Mazzulla has suddenly been thrust into the spotlight as the Celtics’ interim coach after Ime Udoka was suspended this season for violating team policy. Guard Marcus Smart believes Mazzulla, who has been a Celtics assistant since 2019, can handle the job, Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com writes.

“It would’ve been different if we had somebody new that we didn’t know and were trying to build that connection with,” Smart said. “Joe has been here. He knows the scheme, he knows the players, so it makes it a little bit more easier to adjust to a guy that’s been here and knows you.”

We have more on the Celtics as they prepare for another run at the championship:

  • Smart admits the players were blindsided by Udoka’s suspension right before camp started, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated tweets. “Nobody really knows anything,” Smart said. “We’re just in the wind, like everybody else. The last couple of days have been confusing.” Jayson Tatum says he doesn’t know all the details that led to the suspension, Mannix adds in another tweet. “Apparently there are a lot of things they can’t speak about. I’m kind of in the same boat,” he said. “I don’t know. It’s hard for me to answer if things were handled in the right way or they weren’t.”
  • Jaylen Brown also expressed confusion over why Udoka was handed such a severe penalty by the organization, Weiss adds in a separate tweet. “I wish we had more details,” he said. “From what we know, it’s hard to make a decision based on whether it’s consensual or not in the workplace, which we know has happened before in the workplace. It looks like there is more to it than what meets the eye.”
  • Generally, the players are frustrated they don’t have more information on Udoka’s situation, though legally the team may have to withhold certain information, Mannix notes (Twitter link).
  • Brown tried to downplay questions regarding the Kevin Durant trade rumors over the summer, Jared Weiss of The Athletic tweets. Brown was the most prominent player mentioned among the discussions Boston had with Brooklyn. “I think it’s been the same since I’ve been here. It wasn’t surprising or not surprising, to make me feel some type of way,” he said. “It just is what it is. I talked to my teammates and the organization about it and now it’s just time to play basketball.”
  • Al Horford missed 13 regular season games last season as the Celtics chose to ease the workload on the now 36-year-old big man. Horford said he prepared this offseason to handle an increased workload and play back-to-backs this season, according to Weiss (Twitter link).
  • Malcolm Brogdon was presented with a few different trade options by the Pacers and told them he wanted to be dealt to Boston “because I want to win,” Bontemps tweets.

Latest On Ime Udoka

The affair with a staff member that led to coach Ime Udoka’s year-long suspension has been known about by some members of the Celtics organization since July, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Franchise leaders originally believed the affair was consensual, but sources tell Charania that the woman recently accused Udoka of making “unwanted comments” to her. That led to several internal interviews that resulted in Thursday’s announcement that Udoka won’t coach the team this season.

Team owners and president Brad Stevens met for several hours Thursday to determine what action to take against Udoka, Charania’s sources add. Stevens and some front office officials also talked to players about Udoka’s fate at the team facility.

The 45-year-old coach issued a brief statement Thursday night apologizing to players, fans, the team and his family. He said he accepts the decision and won’t comment any further on the situation.

There’s more on the potential effects of Udoka’s suspension:

  • Udoka may become a candidate for other head coaching jobs that open up, possibly as soon as this season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on a SportsCenter appearance (video link). Udoka wasn’t given any assurances that he will return to the Celtics’ sidelines once his suspension is over, and Woj indicates that the team is still figuring out its next step. Wojnarowski also said the decision to impose a one-year suspension rather than firing Udoka right away could be “legal protection” for the organization.
  • Joe Mazzulla, who will take over as interim coach, will be in a difficult position all season, Jared Weiss of The Athletic says in a discussion of how Udoka’s actions will affect the team. Mazzulla is getting his first head coaching opportunity at age 34, but not as the result of going through the normal hiring process. The Celtics have confidence in Mazzulla, but the pressure to succeed will be intense. The team expects to contend for a title after its run to the NBA Finals last season, and there could be calls for a change if Mazzulla doesn’t succeed right away.
  • Don’t be surprised if the Celtics consider bringing in Lakers head coach Frank Vogel as an assistant, tweets Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Vogel has a long relationship with Stevens and would bring some head coaching experience to the team’s bench.
  • The Udoka situation could have negative repercussions long past this season, suggests A. Sherrod Blakely of Full Court Press. Udoka was hired partially because of the bonds he formed with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on Team USA, and Blakely wonders if his potential departure might make those stars look elsewhere when they become free agents.

Eastern Notes: Sumner, Nets, Morris, Westbrook, Heat, Celtics

Four-year NBA veteran Edmond Sumner is planning to bring grit to the Nets this season, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Sumner signed with Brooklyn in free agency this offseason.

At 6’6″, the 26-year-old established himself as a valuable rotation player before tearing his Achilles’ last year. He averaged 7.5 points per game with the Pacers in 2020/21, shooting 40% from deep in 53 contests.

“He just doesn’t miss days, he doesn’t skip workouts,” Sumner’s trainer, Mike Robertson, said. “That’s a testament to who he is and the kind of guy that you’re getting there. He’s just a great human being. He’s going to punch the clock, he’s going to continue to not just work hard for himself but to lift the others up around him. And he’s just a world-class human being. [Nets fans] are going to love him.” 

Here are some other notes from the Eastern Conference:

  • Nets owner Joe Tsai made a personal recruiting pitch to Markieff Morris before Brooklyn signed him, Marc Stein writes for Substack. Morris is expected to provide the Nets with frontcourt depth and could play small-ball five at times. He dealt with a neck injury after an altercation with Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic last season, playing only 17 games with Miami.
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines whether the Heat could have interest in Russell Westbrook in the event that he’s eventually bought out by the Lakers or another team. While Westbrook’s future with Los Angeles is unclear, he may not be a stellar fit alongside Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. The 33-year-old is currently on track to reach free agency next summer.
  • Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com explores a number of Celtics-related topics in his latest mailbag, including Jaylen Brown‘s ball-handling. Brown struggled to take care of the ball at times last season, averaging 3.5 assists and 3.1 turnovers per game during the postseason. He still held respectable playoff averages of 23.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per contest, shooting 47% from the floor.

Brad Stevens Met With Jaylen Brown, Likes Roster

While the news of Kevin Durant withdrawing his demand to be traded broke on Tuesday, Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens already had a candid discussion with Jaylen Brown regarding trade chatter, as Christopher Price of the Boston Globe relays.

Speaking on radio station WEEI, Stevens said that he met with Brown — the most prominent player that any Durant suitor was reportedly willing to part with — in Los Angeles last week.

“Jaylen’s been through this from the standpoint of listening and the noise has been around him for a long time,” Stevens said. “I think one of the things you have to be able to do is ignore the noise and know what’s important. Also, [to] be able to reach out and have candid and transparent communications with the people involved. We’ve had those, and been very open from the get-go as all of this has been going on for any of our guys.”

Stevens indicated that the Celtics front office hasn’t been engaged in trade discussions for awhile, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston tweets.

Stevens believes that the acquisition of point guard Malcolm Brogdon from Indiana has already upgraded the team’s chances for another deep playoff run.

Since the Brogdon trade, we’ve felt really good about our team,” he said. “We felt really good about building around these guys that we’ve been building around, trying to accentuate our best players. We’re excited to move forward with our team, and that’s really been our focus for a while.”

Extension talks with Brown are also on the agenda. Stevens says he’d like to lock up Brown beyond his current contract, which runs through the 2023/24 season, Forsberg adds in another tweet.

“He is a huge core piece of what we’re doing and has been for six years now,” Stevens said. “We’re excited to hopefully put our best foot forward to have him here for a long time.”

The Celtics wing is eligible for a three-year extension this offseason. However, it’s probably in his best interests to wait until next offseason or until free agency to maximize his earnings and to try to qualify for a designated veteran extension.

Pelicans Reportedly Unwilling To Offer Ingram In Package For Durant

The Pelicans are unwilling to include Brandon Ingram in a trade offer for Nets star Kevin Durant, league sources tell Christian Clark of NOLA.com.

New Orleans has been mentioned as a possible landing spot for Durant, who is pushing for a trade out of Brooklyn. Building an offer around Ingram would mean offering up a young forward with an All-Star nod on his résumé — the Pelicans would also be able to dip into their draft pick surplus from the Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday blockbusters to give the Nets the kind of future assets they’re believed to be seeking.

However, according to Clark, the Pelicans want to see how Ingram and Zion Williamson play together in 2022/23, with Williamson on track to return from a foot injury that sidelined him for the entire ’21/22 season. Michael Scotto of HoopsHype previously reported in late July that the Pelicans had yet to put Ingram on the table in trade talks for Durant.

While it’s possible New Orleans will make some minor roster changes before opening night, Clark says not to expect any “earth-shattering” moves, adding that it’s unlikely the club will get seriously involved in the Durant sweepstakes.

In his latest look at the Durant situation, Sam Amick of The Athletic writes that executives around the league view the Celtics as the “unofficial” frontrunners to land the 33-year-old due to their reported willingness to include Jaylen Brown in their offer. However, league sources tell Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe the C’s aren’t close to making a deal for Durant and haven’t even really engaged in any “discussions of substance” with the Nets.

Brooklyn could accelerate the process by lowering the asking price for the former MVP, but there’s no indication that will happen anytime soon, if at all.

“(Nets general manager Sean) Marks is still asking for the world; that won’t change,” one front executive told Amick late last week.

Atlantic Notes: Brunson, Grimes, Brown, Williams, Maxey

Who’s the best backcourt partner for Jalen Brunson on the current Knicks roster? According to analytics expert Joseph Gill in an interview with SNY TV’s Ian Begley, Quentin Grimes is the best fit alongside the high-priced free agent acquisition. Grimes is a legitimate threat to space the floor and he doesn’t turn the ball over very often. That makes him a better pairing with Brunson’s skill set than Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett or Immanuel Quickley, in Gill’s estimation.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • What would a Jaylen Brown extension look like? Keith Smith takes a deep dive into that subject in a Spotrac article. With two years left on his current contract, the Celtics wing is eligible to sign a three-year deal this offseason. He could wait until after next season and sign a Designated Veteran Extension or after the 2023/24 season and ink a Designated Veteran contract if he meets certain criteria. He could also sign with Boston or another team as a free agent in 2024.
  • Grant Williams has communicated with Brown regarding the trade rumors involving the Nets and Kevin Durant and says Brown is handling it well, Matt John of Heavy.com relays. “I feel like JB is mature in his mindset, and he knows that. I talk to him, texted him, reach out of as often as I can,” Williams said. “It’s one of those things. It’s the league. It’s a business. It’s one of those things that you can’t be discouraged by because we love JB. It also shows how valuable he is.”
  • Developing even greater offensive chemistry with Joel Embiid and getting selected to the All-Star team would be aspects of a best-case scenario for Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey in 2022/23, Kyle Neubeck of Phillyvoice.com writes. Not living up to increased expectations would be part of a worst-case scenario for Maxey next season.

Kevin Durant Rumors: Ultimatum, Harrington, Nash, Sixers, Celtics

The ultimatum that Kevin Durant presented to Nets owner Joe Tsai – trade me or fire Sean Marks and Steve Nash – hasn’t had its intended effect so far, Brian Windhorst said during an appearance on ESPN’s Get Up on Wednesday (video link).

Windhorst suggests that by presenting Tsai with such a “preposterous” alternative to trading him, Durant was hoping to “speed up the process,” since trade talks between the Nets and potential suitors had stagnated in recent weeks. However, the Nets appear to be digging in their heels, while Durant is running out of options.

“He has asked for a trade and it hasn’t been granted. He has asked for the coach and general manager to be fired and that hasn’t been granted,” Windhorst said. “And so now, how do you go forward and report to training camp when you’ve been told no? That’s now the coming drama with this situation.”

Given that multiple reports have indicated no team is willing to meet the Nets’ sky-high asking price for Durant, the 33-year-old’s goal may have been trying to force the team to lower that asking price to a point where a potential trade partner would meet it. But Windhorst points to Tsai’s statement supporting Marks and Nash as a sign the team isn’t willing to reduce its trade demands, at least for now.

“Obviously, the first sentence – where he’s saying he’s not firing his coach and GM – is important,” Windhorst said. “The second sentence was a message to Durant and the whole league, which is, ‘We’re going to do what’s best for the Brooklyn Nets.’

“That is code for, “We’re not going to make a trade just to satisfy this player, no matter how good he is and no matter how much pressure he’s going to put on us. We have all the cards, we have a four-year contract.’ And so I suspect that that will be their position come the start of training camp, and that could lead to Durant not showing up.”

Here’s more on Durant:

  • A source tells Brian Lewis and Josh Kosman of The New York Post that the Nets’ decision to fire director of player development Adam Harrington this spring without consulting Durant is one source of tension between the player and the team. “There are simple things that erode a relationship,” the source told The Post. “You fired someone he was close to and didn’t have a conversation about it.” The same source suggested that Durant wants Marks to be fired because the star forward feels as if the GM “traded away too many pieces.”
  • Both The New York Post and Ian Begley of SNY.tv pushed back against the idea that Durant was the one who urged the Nets to hire Nash as its head coach in 2020. Sources told Lewis and Kosman that Marks was the driving force behind that hiring, and Begley has heard the same thing.
  • According to Begley, there are some “high-ranking” members of the Sixers who have been interested in engaging the Nets in discussions about a Durant trade. A Philadelphia offer would likely have to include Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, and draft assets. However, the 76ers’ ability to trade additional first-round picks is limited (they already owe two to Brooklyn), and Harris’ pricey multiyear contract limits his trade value, so it’s unlikely such a package would appeal to the Nets.
  • Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe hears from a source that the Nets “initially tried to pry” both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum from the Celtics for Durant, which Boston obviously had no interest in. The C’s also rebuffed Brooklyn’s attempt to acquire Brown, Marcus Smart, and several first-round picks in exchange for Durant, Himmelsbach adds.
  • According to Begley, Durant would have interest in playing in Boston, but he’d like to play with Smart if he’s traded to the Celtics. Begley also cites people familiar with the situation who say Durant would view Philadelphia as a “desirable landing spot.”
  • Celtics president Brad Stevens and head coach Ime Udoka have kept Brown in the loop about the Durant trade conversations, and Brown seems to understand the situation, a league source tells Himmelsbach.

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

Jayson Tatum spent much of his career hearing from critics who said he and Jaylen Brown could never be an effective combination, but he tells NBC Sports Boston that he and Brown never had any doubts (video link). Responding to a question about how their legacy might look if they both spend their entire careers with the Celtics, Tatum said his focus is more immediate.

“We just try to stay in the moment,” he replied. “It’s not necessarily about our legacy will look like if we did this or that. Just trying to be the best versions of ourselves, the best players that we can be and compete at the highest level. I think we really took those next steps last season. We’ll be the first to tell you that we got more to do, more to accomplish. We’re eager to do so.”

There were frequent calls for Boston to break up its star duo last season before the team began rising up the Eastern Conference standings in January. More recently, Brown was reportedly included in the Celtics’ trade offer to Brooklyn for Kevin Durant, but Tatum would like to see their partnership continue.

“Despite all the people that said we couldn’t play together,” Tatum said, “we always believed that we could.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • In an interview with Justin Quinn of Celtics Wire, Tatum confirmed the shoulder injury he suffered in the Eastern Conference Finals has healed. “Yeah, it feels a lot better, it got a lot of time to rest that it needed,” Tatum said. “So, it definitely felt a lot better.”
  • Grant Williams tells Mike Thomas of Sportscasting.com that he prefers to stay in Boston, but there would be a certain honor in being part of a Durant trade. Williams recalls a story from former Celtics executive Danny Ainge about breaking the news to Al Jefferson that he had been sent to the Timberwolves in the Kevin Garnett deal. “If I get involved in the KD trade — I don’t want to leave Boston, I love Boston, it’s one of the places I want to be — but he’s a top-10 player ever,” Williams said. “You can say, ‘Dang, I got traded for Kevin Durant. I was a value add in that trade.’ It’d be cool to say that, but at the same time, I don’t want to go anywhere. I’d rather stay where I’m at.”
  • The Celtics remain the betting favorite to land Durant, per Jeremy Cluff of The Arizona Republic. OddsChecker lists Boston as -175 to be Durant’s next team in updated odds released on Thursday.

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Brown, Ryan, Roster Spots

The Celtics are among the teams that have made a trade offer for Kevin Durant, but their pursuit of a talent upgrade may put team chemistry at risk. In a brief interview posted by NBC Sports Boston, Jayson Tatum talked about how long it took for the team to come together last season and how fragile chemistry can be.

“Chemistry is half the battle,” he said (video link). “You can have a great team with great talent, and not necessarily jell well together. You guys saw, we figured it out in January and never looked back.”

The Celtics struggled through the first part of last season, but were dominant over the second half on their way to the NBA Finals. They have been able to upgrade their roster so far this offseason by adding Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari without giving up significant rotation players.

There’s more from Boston:

  • The Celtics need to “tread very carefully” with the idea that they’re willing to trade Jaylen Brown, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon says on Brian Windhorst’s Hoop Collective (video link). Brown was the most valuable asset in Boston’s reported trade offer, which was turned down by the Nets. MacMahon notes that Brown is underpaid for his production, and the size of his contract doesn’t make an extension worthwhile. MacMahon also warns that Brown will have “several attractive options” when he hits free agency in 2024.
  • Matt Ryan is coming off a strong Summer League performance, but his options for making the roster are limited now that the Celtics have filled both two-way slots, Brian Robb of MassLive writes in his latest mailbag column. Ryan, who ended last season on a two-way deal, can hope for an Exhibit 10 contract, but Robb notes that he’ll be competing for roster spots with Brodric Thomas, Justin Jackson and whatever free agents the team adds before the start of training camp.
  • Like many teams, the Celtics are moving slowly in filling out their roster, Robb adds. Boston still has three spots open, and most of the free agents remaining on the market will likely sign veteran’s minimum contracts. Robb suggests Boston might keep a roster spot open past the cutdown date in hopes of landing someone who gets waived by another team.