Jaylen Brown

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Sixers, Brown, Richardson, Walker

The ongoing Ben Simmons drama, including a suspension, has sucked some of the energy out of the Sixers’ opener, coach Doc Rivers admitted to Brian Windhorst of ESPN and other media members. Simmons was suspended for the opener after refusing to participate in a practice drill.

“It’s a predicament that we’re in and that part is no fun. It really isn’t,” Rivers said. “We get to play right now and Ben is not. I want Ben to be playing. That’s his job.”

Simmons will be fined $330K for missing Wednesday’s game, increasing his fines for missed games — including the preseason — to more than $1.7MM.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown, who had been sidelined due to a positive COVID-19 test, will be in the starting lineup against the Knicks tonight, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. Brown said he experienced “some mild symptoms for the most part” and used meditation to recover from the virus. He’ll have an inhaler at the ready if he has any breathing issues. Al Horford, who also recently contracted COVID-19, remains sidelined to start the season, though head coach Ime Udoka said the veteran center is doing well physically.
  • Celtics guard Josh Richardson will not play in the opener due to a migraine, the team’s PR department tweets. Richardson was acquired in a trade with Dallas in late July.
  • New York native Kemba Walker is thrilled to be playing for his hometown team at last, Bontemps writes in a separate story. He’s hoping to prove the knee issues that plagued him with Boston won’t be a major factor with the Knicks. “Perfect timing. [I’m] really motivated,” he said. “Super excited that these guys have belief in me. I just need somebody to believe in me.”

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Irving, Brown, Horford

The Sixers are preparing to use the same strategy whether Ben Simmons is part of the team or not, writes Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The situation is surrounded by uncertainty even after Simmons made a surprise appearance in Philadelphia Monday night, then met with management on Tuesday. He still wants to be traded and the Sixers have promised to oblige, but no traction has been reported on any potential deal.

Coach Doc Rivers is downplaying the level of distraction, telling reporters, there’s not a Plan A and Plan B depending on whether Simmons is involved. “It’s only a Plan A,” Rivers said. “What we run, you don’t change just because one guy comes on the floor.”

Simmons’ absence has left a void at point guard because he typically initiates the offense when he’s on the court. Injuries have delayed Rivers’ plans to name a starter as Tyrese Maxey, who has adductor tightness, and Shake Milton, who’s dealing with a sprained ankle, both missed Monday’s preseason game.

“Obviously, spacing is going to change with Ben out there,” Seth Curry said. “But we know how to adjust. Everybody knows how to play basketball. It’s not too different from the stuff we did last year. It’s just trying to execute stuff better.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets star James Harden confirms that he and Kevin Durant were both consulted before management reached the decision not to allow Kyrie Irving to be a part-time player, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Harden says he supports his teammate, but doesn’t want the situation to become a distraction. “Kyrie believes in his beliefs, and he stands firm and strong on that. And for us, we respect it,” Harden said. “We all love Ky. But as far as us, we have a job to do. Individually, myself, I am still wanting to set myself up for a championship. And I feel like the entire organization is on the same path and we are all in this as a collective unit.”
  • Celtics coach Ime Udoka expects Jaylen Brown to be ready for opening night following a bout with COVID-19, tweets Boston writer Mark Murphy. He added that it will be a “tight timeline” for Al Horford to play.
  • Rich Levine of Boston.com examines the long-term prospects for Celtics second-round pick Juhann Begarin, who will play this season in France.

Celtics Notes: Langford, Brown, Williams, Horford

Jaylen Brown‘s positive COVID-19 test is giving Celtics guard Romeo Langford more preseason playing time, and he hopes to turn that opportunity into a regular spot in the rotation, writes Brian Robb of MassLive. Langford was used as a starter in Friday night’s game and delivered 13 points in 19 minutes while hitting five of six shots from the field.

“I thought Romeo was great with the starting lineup, played well offensively and defensively,” coach Ime Udoka said. “Obviously shot it well going three-for-four from 3. But does a lot of little things as well—solid defender, ball mover, just a guy that knows how to play with that unit and you saw it last year. So he did a good job. All of those guys are gonna get an opportunity. It’s just a matter of maximizing that and trying to play the right way, and I think they’re all making a concerted effort to do that.”

Boston selected Langford with the 14th pick in 2019, but he saw limited playing time under former coach Brad Stevens, getting into a combined 50 games during his first two seasons. The coaching change provides a fresh opportunity, and Robb believes Langford will be in the mix for backcourt minutes off the bench once the season begins.

“I feel good,” Langford told reporters after the game. “Body feels good. Mind is good. Just happy that I finally got a chance to do a training camp, a healthy summer, and it just feels good to be in a little rhythm and being able to work out in a practice with the guys leading into the regular season, and just building off from here.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Brown remains in quarantine, but is expected to be ready for the October 20 season opener, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Brown is the only Celtics player who has been affected, according to Udoka.
  • Friday’s game marked the first time that big men Robert Williams and Al Horford were on the court together, notes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Udoka may use some bigger lineups this season, and Horford’s versatility can help make the combination with Williams successful, Weiss adds. “With him, I need to space the floor more,” Horford said. “That’s kind of what I have to do, and he’s the kind of big who can pass the ball a little bit. When he rolls to the basket, it puts a lot of pressure on the rim and it opens stuff up for the perimeter. That’s why I feel comfortable that if we need to go to that lineup, it will work.”
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic reviews the Celtics’ offseason moves and examines whether they were able to fix the frontcourt problems they had last season.

Jaylen Brown Tests Positive For COVID-19

In a team press release, the Celtics said All-Star Jaylen Brown tested positive for COVID-19 today. The club added that Brown is asymptomatic and is quarantining.

It’s unclear at this time whether Brown will be cleared to return to action before Boston’s regular season opener (October 20, at the Knicks), but he will almost certainly miss the team’s last three preseason games.

It’s a tough blow for Brown, who is also returning from wrist surgery. The 24-year-old had a stellar season in 2020-21, averaging 24.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per night in 58 games. He also had a career best shooting line of .484/.397/.764.

If Brown does end up missing regular season games, offseason acquisitions Dennis Schröder and Josh Richardson are likely to fill in for the bulk of his minutes.

Celtics Notes: Brown, Richardson, Schröder, Udoka

Jaylen Brown is ready for the challenge of a new season after finishing the last one on the sidelines, writes Taylor Snow of Celtics.com. Brown had to undergo surgery and miss the playoffs after tearing the scapholunate ligament in his left wrist in May.

“I never had surgery before, so this was a first for me,” he said. “Definitely the mental part of it was interesting. The wrist takes so long to heal, it was kind of frustrating at times. But my body got a chance to heal, my mind got a chance to be refreshed, and right now I feel great. I feel lighter than ever, faster than ever, stronger than ever.”

Brown was limited physically after the operation, so he concentrated on watching film to get a better understanding of his opponents. Much of the film focused on the league’s top playmakers, and Brown hopes to add that aspect to his game this season.

“There’s a few guys, especially in the playmaking department that I watched,” Brown said. “So I’m looking forward to going out and showing all the things that I watched.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Josh Richardson is hoping to re-establish himself with the Celtics after being traded for the third straight offseason, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic. He expects to benefit from a reunion with new head coach Ime Udoka, who was an assistant when Richardson was with the Sixers. “I think that the way we see things basketball-wise lines up and he’s always been a straight shooter,” Richardson said. “That’s how I know him and that’s how I am and that’s how I would like my coaches to be.”
  • Al Horford reached out to Dennis Schröder on Instagram as the first step toward getting his former Hawks teammate to sign with the Celtics, according to Jay King of The Athletic. Horford asked for a phone call and then sold Schröder on the benefits of playing in Boston, telling him that his aggressive style would be a good fit and that he would have much more freedom than he did with the Lakers last season. Schröder said Horford told him, “You’re going to have a big year here because we know your value and we know how to put you in place to be successful.’”
  • Udoka will tinker with the starting lineup during preseason, but he plans to have a regular group of five when the season begins, tweets Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. Udoka said he’s not a believer in “plug-in” starters.

Celtics Notes: Brown, Udoka, Schröder, Hernangomez

The Celtics dealt with lots of turmoil last season: injuries, a short turnaround from the Orlando bubble, and COVID-19 outbreaks affecting several players, including star Jayson Tatum. The team is hoping to turn the page entering training camp, and Jaylen Brown appears optimistic, particularly about new head coach Ime Udoka.

“I’m completely bought in,” Brown said of Udoka. “I’m looking forward to this season and being an extension of him on the court.” (Twitter link via Keith Smith of Spotrac).

President of basketball operations Brad Stevens, the former head coach, says that Brown has been cleared by the team’s doctors after recovering from wrist surgery, and will be a full participant in practice, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Udoka participated in media day virtually through Zoom, instead of in person, because the first-year head coach is in the last day of quarantine after contracting a breakthrough case of COVID-19, per ESPN News Services. Udoka is fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, according to team spokesperson Christian Megliola. He’s expected to join the team tomorrow for the start of training camp.

There’s more from Boston:

  • Dennis Schröder mentioned yesterday that Tatum and Brown both called to recruit him to the Celtics, but they weren’t the only ones. He told reporters today that Stevens, Udoka, and former Hawks teammate Al Horford called him as well, adding, “I know Al Horford will have the locker room under control.” (Twitter link via Keith Smith of Spotrac).
  • Schröder also consulted with Thunder general manager Sam Presti prior to signing with Boston, and Presti endorsed the Celtics organization, per Smith (Twitter link).
  • Juan Hernangomez, who dislocated his left shoulder over the summer in an exhibition game prior to the Olympics, says the shoulder is 100 percent now, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Duke, Cacok, Brown, Raptors

Kyrie Irving has not yet been vaccinated for COVID-19, Yaron Weitzman of FOX Sports reports. Under current New York City restrictions, players are prohibited from practicing or playing in their home arena “without providing proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination unless they have an approved medical or religious exemption.” Thus, the Nets star point guard could technically miss all 41 of his team’s home games unless he receives one of these approved exemptions. GM Sean Marks said this week that he doesn’t expect vaccine-related issues to prevent any of his players from suiting up during the regular season.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Undrafted rookie David Duke Jr. and third-year forward Devontae Cacok are among the players who will be competing for the Nets’ remaining two-way contract, according to Tom Dowd of the team’s website. “Regarding the two-way, I think it’s nice to go in and have healthy competition,” GM Sean Marks said. “That’s the way we’re going to look at that. There’s going to be nothing set in stone. There’s nobody with a leg up, per se.”
  • Celtics forward Jaylen Brown admits he’s still dealing with soreness in his wrist, he told Marc Spears of The Undefeated. Brown is recovering from a torn ligament in his left wrist, which required surgery in May and sidelined him for the postseason. “My wrist has been healing. Some days it’s better than others,” he said. “I got to continue to push and work, but I’m excited to be there for camp.”
  • The Raptors must find ways to maximize a “formless” style of basketball due to the configuration of the roster, Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes. Lacking an efficient, high-usage star, they must rely on versatility, flexibility and unpredictability to keep defenses off-balance about where the ball is designed to go.

CJ McCollum Elected New NBPA President

CJ McCollum is the new president of the National Basketball Players Association, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The Trail Blazers guard replaces Chris Paul, who served two consecutive terms totaling eight years.

McCollum, 29, has served as a vice president on the union’s executive committee for the past three years and has been a strong voice in NBPA decisions as well as negotiations with the NBA, Woj adds.

Grant Williams was elected as vice president, the league announced (via Twitter). Other members of the executive committee will be Andre Iguodala (first vice president), Harrison Barnes (secretary-treasurer) and vice presidents Bismack Biyombo, Malcolm Brogdon, Jaylen Brown, Kyrie Irving and Garrett Temple (Twitter link).

“Since entering the league, I have wanted to be involved in the and contribute to the important decisions that impact our lives as players both on and off the court,” Williams tweeted. “I am honored to be selected by my peers for this position and excited to join the NBPA Executive Committee.”

One of the union’s first priorities under McCollum will be to find a replacement for Michele Roberts, who has served as executive director since 2014. She has announced her intentions to step down and is expected to leave her post sometime around the end of the year.

McCollum will also have to take the lead in negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Wojnarowski points out. The current CBA runs through the end of the 2023/24 season, but either the league or the players could decide to opt out after the 2022/23 season ends.

Celtics Notes: Smart, Udoka, Stevens, Tatum

New Celtics coach Ime Udoka considers Marcus Smart to be a “foundational piece” for the future, tweets Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Udoka made the comments during a radio interview today, indicating that the team will rely heavily on Smart, who’s expected to take over as point guard following the trade of Kemba Walker to Oklahoma City.

“What Marcus brings is invaluable, it’s the heart and soul of the team at times,” Udoka said. “… He has that edge and toughness about him … He’s another foundational piece … What he does for Jaylen (Brown) and Jayson (Tatum) is invaluable, in my eyes” (Twitter link).

Smart will make $14.3MM next season on the final year of his contract. The Celtics may try to work out an extension to keep him from reaching free agency next summer.

There’s more from Boston:

  • In his introductory press conference Monday, Udoka said he’s looking forward to helping the Celtics’ young stars improve, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Udoka revealed that he has met with Smart, Brown and Tatum, and they all expressed a desire to be pushed. “I’m not worried about our group worrying about hard coaching,” Udoka said. “They are asking for that, and it’s something I’m going to bring to the table.”
  • President of basketball operations Brad Stevens started his coaching search with a long list of names, but conversations with his players pushed him toward Udoka, Forsberg writes in a full story. Boston’s three stars had experience with Udoka as part of Team USA in the 2019 FIBA World Cup and they all recommended him. “I’m quick to put my arm around guys but also quick to hold them accountable,” Udoka told reporters. “And so there’s a fine balance there. But that’s all based on relationships and respect and what I do demand from those guys.”
  • Tatum was disappointed to be left off the All-NBA team and not just because of the money it cost him, relays Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston. Tatum discussed the decision, which could have added $32.6MM to his contract extension, in an appearance on the Kicks’ “Beyond the Press” podcast. “I wasn’t necessarily upset about losing the money,” he said. “I think I just felt like the way I was playing, everything I did, I thought it should have been a no-brainer. I think I was just more frustrated with that.”

Atlantic Notes: Udoka, Smart, Raptors, De Colo, Simmons

New Celtics head coach Ime Udoka was intrigued by the chance to work under Brad Stevens, a president of basketball operations uniquely positioned to understand Udoka’s role as well as anyone, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

The Celtics, in turn, were drawn to Udoka due to his work ethic, his pedigree – including his experience working under Gregg Popovich – and his ability to connect with a young team. According to Himmelsbach, during Udoka’s previous stints as an assistant, he’d often go out for dinner with players to learn more about them.

Udoka’s final interview with the Celtics took place on Sunday, with Stevens, team owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca, and VP of player development Allison Feaster all present. While that group ultimately made the decision to hire Udoka, the C’s also sought input from former president of basketball ops Danny Ainge and multiple players, including Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Himmelsbach notes.

As Udoka takes the reins in Boston, he’ll be tasked with rebuilding the Celtics’ defensive identity and developing the club’s young talent, Kevin Pelton of ESPN writes in an Insider-only story. Pelton suggests that Udoka may also prioritize increasing the team’s ball movement and putting players in positions to create shots for teammates — Boston’s rate of assisted field goals ranked 27th in the NBA in 2020/21.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Marcus Smart isn’t a traditional point guard, but he’s a “criminally underrated” passer, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston, who outlines why Smart could be the Celtics‘ starter at the point in 2021/22 with Kemba Walker gone.
  • The Raptors secured the fourth overall pick in a draft that is viewed as having at least four top-tier prospects, but that doesn’t mean they’re content with simply staying put and taking whichever player drops to them, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. General manager Bobby Webster suggested the club will be open to a variety of scenarios with that selection. “All of our options are open,” Webster said. “As much as we would love the pick, we’re going to see what it yields outside of the draft.”
  • Veteran guard Nando De Colo, who technically remains a Raptors restricted free agent despite not having played in the NBA since 2014, will return to Fenerbahce in Turkey for at least one more season, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. Toronto has issued De Colo a qualifying offer for seven straight years to retain his RFA rights and will likely do so again this summer.
  • While there’s no guarantee that the Ben Simmons era in Philadelphia will come to an end this offseason, Chris Mannix of SI.com believes that it should, arguing that Simmons and the Sixers would both benefit from a fresh start.