Jaylen Brown

Lowe’s Latest: Walker, Brogdon, Mavs, Rubio, Butler

The Celtics might be the frontrunner for Kemba Walker‘s services but devoting most of their cap space to the All-Star point guard would leave them without any proven frontcourt players and limited ways to acquire them, ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes in an in-depth look at free agency. The addition of Walker would force coach Brad Stevens to use either Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum or Gordon Hayward at power forward, Lowe notes. Walker also ran more pick-and-rolls with the Hornets than Kyrie Irving did with the Celtics, yet Irving was sometimes accused of being a ball hog, Lowe adds.

Here are some other interesting tidbits from Lowe’s column:

  • Bucks restricted free agent Malcolm Brogdon will lose a suitor if the Celtics ink Walker. The Suns, Bulls, Mavericks and Pacers could potentially extend Brogdon an offer sheet but some teams are concerned about his foot issues.
  • The Mavericks are not looking to sign any high-level free agents.
  • The Pacers are looking to make a run at point guard Ricky Rubio. They are also likely to let power forward Thaddeus Young walk and go with a frontcourt of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner.
  • The Heat could get involved in the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes via a sign-and-trade.
  • The Nets have no interest in doing a sign-and-trade with the Timberwolves involving restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell if it means taking back Jeff Teague or Andrew Wiggins.

Eastern Notes: Pistons, J. Brown, Ujiri, Hawks, Heat

Pistons head of basketball operations Ed Stefanski said this week that he isn’t going into the offseason looking to move any of the team’s three highest-paid players – Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, and Reggie Jackson – as Rod Beard of The Detroit News details. However, he did admit that he doesn’t have a clear vision yet for what the rest of the Pistons’ offseason will look like.

“The philosophy right now is we have those three and we’re going with them,” Stefanski said. “But I have no idea what (else is) going to happen.”

The Pistons won’t have any cap room available this summer, but they have the No. 15 pick in the draft, the full mid-level exception (worth approximately $9.2MM) and the bi-annual exception ($3.6MM).

While Detroit is expected to try to add a backup center and a wing or two, a source tells Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press that the team’s No. 1 priority will be the point guard spot, with Ish Smith and Jose Calderon headed for free agency. For his part, Stefanski acknowledged that both positions will be of interest to the Pistons this offseason.

“I think free agency is where you look more for (immediate help) than the draft,” Stefanski said, per Ellis. “I think everyone hits it right on the head. We don’t know if we’ll be able to sign Ish, so we need a point guard. We don’t have really a starting wing right now.”

Here’s more from around the East:

  • Some teams near the top of the draft are wondering about Jaylen Brown‘s availability, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. There has been no indication that the Celtics would make Brown available, but one report indicated that Boston is among the teams that has considered trading for the No. 4 pick. A player like Brown would likely be needed to make that happen.
  • The Raptors would need “significant compensation” to allow president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri to leave the franchise, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (podcast link). The Wizards were rumored to have interest in Toronto’s top executive, but owner Ted Leonsis shot down those reports on Tuesday.
  • Holding three first-round picks and three second-rounders heading into Thursday’s draft, Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk recently said he’s more inclined to package and trade his second-round selections, per Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). It wouldn’t surprise me if Atlanta makes deals involving picks from both rounds.
  • The Heat officially hired a replacement for Juwan Howard on Erik Spoelstra‘s staff, announcing in a press release that Malik Allen is the club’s newest assistant coach.
  • With Anthony Davis – and Mike Conley – now off the trade market, it will be interesting to see whether the Wizards eventually reconsider their stance on keeping Bradley Beal, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. As Hughes points out, Beal might be the most sought-after prize on the trade block if Washington makes him available.

Chris Crouse contributed to this post.

Atlantic Notes: Grousbeck, Leonard, Durant, Workouts

The feeling that the Celtics were done in by selfishness goes all the way to the top of the organization, writes Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. Co-owner Wyc Grousbeck admits to being “frustrated and disappointed” with this season, which began with Boston as a heavy favorite to reach the NBA Finals and ended with a loss in the conference semifinals.

“We had free agents who wanted minutes, and players who wanted to be All-Stars,” Grousbeck said. “I don’t know. There was a lot of ‘I want this, I want that,’ I guess. I’m not in the huddles or the locker room on a daily basis, but it’s frustrating.”

The most prominent name among those free agents is Kyrie Irving, who is rumored to be headed to Brooklyn when free agency kicks off at the end of the month. Grousbeck said management has discussed some “exotic scenarios” if the Celtics lose Irving and can’t trade for Anthony Davis. He adds that he hasn’t directly asked Irving to remain in Boston.

“I haven’t talked to Kyrie in those terms,” Grousbeck said. “Our two free agent negotiators are (coach) Brad (Stevens) and president of basketball operations Danny (Ainge). But Kyrie knows how we feel about him, that we feel very positive about him, and the discussions will go on over the next few weeks.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • No one should regret not making a strong play for Kawhi Leonard last summer more than the Celtics, argues Zach Lowe of ESPN. Boston had plenty of assets to offer when the Spurs put Leonard on the market, but wasn’t willing to part with Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown unless there were more assurances about Leonard’s health and willingness to re-sign with the organization. Lowe notes that the Celtics thought they already had a championship team in place and that adding another maximum-salary player to go with Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford wouldn’t have been sustainable for long.
  • A max deal for Kevin Durant would be too risky unless another star is joining him on the Knicks, contends Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. The concerns lie beyond just missing all of next season, Bondy adds. With load management likely in effect, it’s hard to see how Durant plays more than 65 games in 2020/21 or beyond. He will be 32 when he returns and could plunge New York into a repeat of Kristaps Porzingis situation.
  • Miami center Dewan Hernandez is working out for the Knicks today, tweets Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Shaw guard Amir Hinton had a session for New York.
  • The Sixers are hosting six players for a workout today, tweets Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. On the schedule are Kyle Alexander (Tennessee), Daulton Holmes (Point Loma Nazarene), Mahir Johnson (Goldey-Beacom), Nick Mayo (Eastern Kentucky), Jordan Poole (Michigan) and Isaiah Roby (Nebraska).

Atlantic Notes: Horford, Brown, Nets, Lowry

The Celtics can’t really start planning their offseason until they know if Al Horford is picking up his $30.1MM option for next season, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Horford’s decision is due by June 18 and it will affect a lot of other areas in what could be a summer of change in Boston.

Horford’s choices are to either take the money, which is a hefty salary for a player about to turn 33, try his luck on the open market, or attempt to work out a longer deal with the Celtics that includes a smaller payment for next season. Forsberg notes that by opting in, Horford could make himself an attractive trade piece to help Boston match salaries in a deal for Anthony Davis or another star.

Even if the Celtics don’t get Davis and lose Kyrie Irving in free agency, Horford could be valuable to keep, Forsberg notes. He formed an effective combination with the team’s younger players during last year’s run to the conference finals.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • This will also be an important summer for Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown, who will be eligible for a rookie scale extension. Brown doesn’t have an agent, but he hopes the team will be open to talking about a long future together. “I’m 22 years old. I know I have a lot to learn,” he said. “I know the older guys on our team, I think they feel the same thing. They got a lot to learn, too. So, that’s a part of it; everybody growing.”
  • With rumors swirling of Irving possibly teaming up with D’Angelo Russell in the Nets‘ backcourt, the man who coached them both in high school believes they can be successful together. Marc Berman of The New York Post talked to Kevin Boyle, who knows both players as well as anyone. “I 1,000 percent think that could work,” Boyle said. “D’Angelo knows Kyrie, likes him, respects him. That could work with both sides. Kyrie could help D’Angelo to that top-10, top-15 level. I could see that blending together nicely. Not everybody fits with everybody. I don’t know why in Boston the things didn’t fit [for Irving], but it could fit there.”
  • Raptors guard Kyle Lowry is one win away from cashing in on a $500K bonus for reaching the NBA Finals, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. If he collects, it would add $1.25MM to the team’s luxury tax payment. Lowry would earn another $500K if the Raptors win the NBA title.

Atlantic Notes: Gasol, Brown, Knox, Fizdale

The Raptors‘ big deadline acquisition was veteran Marc Gasol, bolstering Toronto’s frontcourt entering the final stretch of the regular season. Thus far, Gasol has seen nearly equal time as a starter (six games) and as a reserve (seven games).

In those 13 games, Gasol has averaged 9.4 PPG and 6.2 RPG for the Raptors, well below his career rates. After spending his first 10-and-a-half seasons in Memphis, the big man is still getting used to his new team and teammates, as Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet.ca writes.

“It’s an adjustment. I think it’s an adjustment for me, an adjustment for my teammates, for the coaches,” Gasol said. “You know, you play a certain way and it’s hard to change certain things on the fly. But you can’t try to force the issue. You have to organically improve and I’m here to work and do my best with a very positive mindset every day. It’s about what’s best for the team and how we can take another step at both ends of the floor.”

While the three-time All-Star figures out his role, the Raptors are focused on the postseason, clinching a spot in the Eastern Conference last week. Heading into that stretch, Gasol’s experience will be a factor but he does not want the attention to be solely on him.

“I don’t want to make a big deal out of it,” Gasol said. “Whatever role you’re given, it’s about having a good mindset. It’s not so much about starting — it’s about finishing games. It’s about the team playing well, and contributing to that. I know now that I’m going to have to start for the next few games, probably. And that contributes to a routine and a habit and a little bit of consistency. That helps you get that out of your mind. But I definitely don’t want to make a big deal out of it.”

Check out more Atlantic Division notes below:

  • Jaylen Brown has embraced his role off the bench to the Celtics‘ benefit despite being a starter and the team’s second-leading scorer a season ago, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston writes. “He’s done a good job of embracing that,” Boston head coach Brad Stevens said. “He’s done a good job of not letting that affect his aggressiveness or his game.”
  • It has been an up and down season for Knicks rookie Kevin Knox who had been in a slump since December. Knox is appreciative of the rebuilding Knicks’ patience with his development but head coach David Fizdale has a strategy to help him improve, Marc Berman of New York Post writes.“His strength is going to be a big, big thing, fine-tuning his shooting, solidifying his post game,” Fizdale said. “Obviously, defensively I’m going to be all over him about taking another step forward, about being a playmaker, a shotblocker, a guy who can take a challenge one on one and really slide his feet against the best attackers.”
  • Speaking of Fizdale, earlier we relayed the head coach’s confidence in the Knicks doing well with free agents this summer.

Atlantic Notes: Russell, Raptors, Tatum, Brown, Knicks

Nets guard D’Angelo Russell claims he’s moved on from his exit with the Lakers, now focused on leading his team to the playoffs this spring, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. The Lakers made a surprising move by trading Russell and center Timofey Mozgov to Brooklyn in 2017, bringing in Brook Lopez and the rights to Kyle Kuzma.

“I don’t think there’s anything else to be said from my part,” Russell said, according to Bondy. “Whatever y’all decide to cook up. Whatever quote y’all take, expand on it, good luck with it. But I don’t have any extra emotion.”

Russell was named to his first ever NBA All-Star team this season, rapidly improving as a point guard with per-game averages of 20.2 points and 6.8 assists. His 43% shooting mark from the floor and 36% mark from 3-point range are also career-highs.

Russell has guided the Nets to a 36-34 record through 70 games, good for the sixth best record in the Eastern Conference. The Lakers, of course, wound up drafting Lonzo Ball to fill in for Russell as starting point guard. Los Angeles will host Brooklyn next Friday at Staples Center.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • The Raptors‘ success this year largely depends on what the bench can accomplish, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. Jeremy [Lin], Norm [Powell], OG [Anunoby], Patrick McCaw. What can they give us defensively, first and foremost, and then what can they limit mistake-wise offensively?” coach Nick Nurse said. “That’s what OG has done. He’s been pretty out of the way, mistake-free, made a few shots, made a few cuts gotten on the glass. Patrick McCaw, the same. I kind of like the decisions that Jeremy has made. He just hasn’t made enough of his shots. And Norman, we’ve got to limit the turnovers with that unit.”
  • The Celtics‘ young stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are settling into their respective roles just in time, Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com writes. “We know what we’re capable of, and we were close to getting to the championship [last year],” Tatum said. “Now we’re trying to get over that hump and get there.” Boston badly needs the production from Tatum and Brown if they want to compete for a championship, with the team currently holding the fifth seed in the East one month before the playoffs.
  • Sam Vecenie of The Athletic examines where the Knicks stand entering the offseason, which includes June’s NBA Draft and the start of free agency in July. In addition to having a solid young core, the team will own a high-level draft pick and significant cap space to pursue star free agents on the open market.

Jaylen Brown: Celtics Must Fix “Toxic” Environment

While Jaylen Brown has been fairly productive off the bench for the Celtics in recent weeks, logging some of his better performances of the season, he said this week that he’s “not feeling good at all” about the team’s overall play, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. According to Brown, the environment around the team needs to change.

“Right now it’s not good. It’s toxic,” Brown said. “I can’t really point out one thing. I don’t have all the answers. I’m just going to try to be part of the change. I’m going to try to do my best. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

Brown is just the latest in a string of Celtics players to express frustration with the situation in Boston. Kyrie Irving has done so multiple times this season, Marcus Morris spoke last month about the club not having any “fun,” and Marcus Smart said last week that the team is “just not together.” Like those other players, Brown doesn’t know exactly what the solution is, but still believes the C’s are capable of turning things around.

“I still believe,” he said, per Washburn. “I think we’ve got time to get it together. I’m very optimistic and very positive and think that we will . . . We keep talking about it. I’m just going to try to do it with my play, come out and play hard and try to change the atmosphere and this environment.”

Let’s round up a few more Celtics-related items…

  • Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston revisits several of the defining moments of the Celtics’ 2018/19 season, tracing the evolution of the club from Eastern Conference frontrunner to vulnerable, middle-of-the-pack playoff team.
  • In an illuminating story for ESPN.com, Jackie MacMullan talks to Gordon Hayward and some people around him about the veteran forward’s long, challenging quest to regain his All-Star form. Hayward has been assisted by a mental health counselor during the process, as MacMullan details.
  • According to data compiled by Eric Pincus at Basketball Insiders, the Celtics sent $2,055,910 to the Hawks in last month’s Jabari Bird salary dump. That amount was more than enough to cover the remaining portion of Bird’s $1,349,383 salary for 2019/20, so Atlanta easily came out ahead. So did Boston though — Bird’s cap hit would have cost the team about $2.27MM in projected tax penalties.

Celtics Notes: Grousbeck, Brown, Ainge, Baynes

The Celtics will be vulnerable in the first round of the playoffs, co-owner Wyc Grousbeck admitted yesterday, according to Nicole Yang of The Boston Globe. Speaking at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Grousbeck said the team is coming off the “worst February” in memory since he assumed control of the team in 2002.

Boston posted a 5-6 record and ended the month with four straight losses. There have also been comments from players that the team lacked unity, along with rumors that Kyrie Irving may be reconsidering the verbal commitment he made to re-sign with the Celtics this summer.

“We also have the capability of losing in the first round,” Grousbeck said. “We have a very, very good set of opponents in the East, all of whom have beaten us in the last month.”

There’s more this morning out of Boston:

  • At the end of Friday’s shootaround, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge could be seen talking to Jaylen Brown, relays A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Brown, who has struggled to adjust to a reserve role after being the team’s second-leading scorer last season, described Ainge’s comments as encouraging. “Some GMs might not say anything to you,” Brown said. “So I appreciate him. I try to listen to everybody, hear from everybody and their perspective… So, Danny’s definitely one of the people in my ear that I’m tuned in to, just because of his position and what he’s been through.”
  • Hall of Famer Kevin McHale warned back in November that the Celtics’ depth might turn out to be a problem because too many players would be expecting significant roles, notes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. The return of Irving and Gordon Hayward, who both missed last year’s playoffs with injuries, meant that Brown, Terry Rozier and others who helped the team reach the Eastern Conference finals were asked to make adjustments. “I think they’re in a spot where they’re trying to keep a lot of players involved and a lot of players happy and catching a rhythm for a lot of players,” McHale said. “That’s always really hard. I’ve always believed that you need to make sure, as a coach, that your three or four top guys are in a great rhythm, and then after that you’re going to have to have guys that fill in and play. You can’t make everybody happy all the time.”
  • The Celtics may get a boost with the return of center Aron Baynes, who is listed as questionable for today’s game. A left foot contusion has kept him off the court since February 1.

And-Ones: Iguodala, Gupta, Vesely, Williamson

Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala was elected First Vice President of the National Basketball Players Association, according to an NBPA press release. Iguodala has been on the Executive Committee since February 2013. He replaces LeBron James, whose four-year term has expired.

The BucksMalcolm Brogdon, the CelticsJaylen Brown and the HornetsBismack Biyombo were elected to serve as VPs on the Executive Committee. They replace Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry and Iguodala.

Chris Paul remains President of the committee with Anthony Tolliver, Pau Gasol, C.J. McCollum and Garrett Temple also serving on it.

We have more news from around the basketball world:

  • Pistons assistant GM Sachin Gupta never knew ESPN’s Trade Machine would become so popular when he created it in 2006, Rod Beard of the Detroit News reports. Gupta called it a “fun project” and took about a month to write the code for the Trade Machine when he worked for the network, Beard adds. “It’s not meant to replace common sense. It’s not meant to replace any GM’s job,” Gupta said. “It’s simply based on the rules and whether it works or not.”
  • Former NBA player Jan Vesely has signed an extension with Fenerbahce that keep him under contract until 2022, the Turkish team tweets. The 7-foot power forward was drafted by the Wizards with the sixth overall pick of the 2011 draft but only lasted three NBA seasons.
  • Stephen Curry is a fan of Duke’s Zion Williamson, considered the top prospect in this year’s draft, he said in an interview with The Undefeated and relayed by E. Jay Zarett of the Sporting News. “He’s unreal. We were talking about him the other day in our team room,” Curry said, via Justin Tinsley of the Undefeated. “He has a lot of hype around him and he’s unbelievably talented, but you can’t teach his passion and the way that … he plays. He plays hard every possession, and that’s an underrated skill that kids can kind of emulate.”

Celtics Notes: Irving, Davis, Morris, Tatum, Brown

Making his usual weekly radio appearance on 98.5’s Toucher and Rich this morning, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge spoke publicly for the first time since Anthony Davis‘ trade request went public. As Keith Smith of CelticsBlog relays, Ainge didn’t address Davis specifically, but answered a few questions that were indirectly related to the Pelicans star.

Ainge said there was no way to circumvent the Rose Rule restriction that prevents the C’s from trading for another designated rookie while Kyrie Irving remains under contract and admitted he has spoken to his own players – including Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown – about how to deal with trade rumors. Most interestingly, he said that he’d be willing to acquire a star player without assurances that he’d re-sign in Boston.

Of course, as Smith observes, that stance could come with some caveats — if the Celtics pursue Davis, perhaps they’d be reluctant to make their absolute best offer unless AD provides them with assurances that he’d stick around for more than one year.

Ainge was also asked about the speculation that Irving might reconsider his own informal commitment to re-sign with the Celtics.

“I talk to him all the time,” Ainge said of Kyrie, according to Smith. “I think he likes it in Boston. I can’t talk about specifics. That’s taboo. But I’m optimistic.”

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • A source “very close to the situation” laughed off the rumors suggesting that Irving is strongly weighing his options and considering leaving Boston, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. According to Bulpett’s source, those whispers may be coming from outside voices who have a vested interest in sowing doubt about Irving’s plans.
  • Veteran forward Marcus Morris suggested this week that he’d be fine with the Celtics standing pat at the deadline, since he believes it’s a “special squad” (video link via NBC Sports Boston).
  • ESPN’s Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks (Insider link) share hypothetical Anthony Davis trade scenarios involving seven different trade partners, including the Celtics. Pelton’s suggestion for Boston’s offseason Davis trade package features both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, along with Aron Baynes, Guerschon Yabusele, and Semi Ojeleye, but doesn’t include any of the team’s first-round picks.
  • For his part, Tatum isn’t concerned about his name popping up in trade rumors involving Davis, as A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston details. “It’s good to be wanted,” Tatum said. “I guess you can say that. But that’s it; I’m not a free agent. I can control what I can control.”