Jaylen Brown

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.”

Latest On Anthony Davis

The Pelicans are in a difficult position after the trade request from Anthony Davis, but they still have the power to control when the deal will get done, writes Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated. There are three important dates to consider — the trade deadline on February 7, the draft lottery on May 14 and the start of free agency on July 1 — and New Orleans must determine the best time to move its star.

Woo states that trying to rush a deal by next week only works in favor of the Lakers, along with Davis and his agent, Rich Paul. L.A.’s best offer should still be on the table this summer, and waiting will give the Celtics a chance to become involved. Even if the Pelicans don’t plan to send Davis to Boston, they may be able to gain leverage by using that offer to get more from the Lakers.

The best options may come after the lottery, Woo writes. If the Mavericks, Wizards or another team with established talent lands the top pick, it could be motivated to offer that to New Orleans as part of a package for Davis.

It’s crucial to management, and especially GM Dell Demps, to get maximum value for Davis, Woo adds. Demps’ job was in jeopardy before last year’s playoff run, and the two-year extension he received may not prevent ownership from making a change this summer.
There’s more news to pass along regarding Davis:
  • The Pelicans’ best 0ffer will come from the Celtics, contends David Aldridge of The Athletic. He states that a deal would have to start with Jayson Tatum, who could become a cornerstone player in New Orleans. The Pelicans might also ask for Jaylen Brown, but Aldridge believes the Celtics would prefer to keep one of their young talents and could offer Marcus Smart instead. Boston also has a wealth of draft picks, including a Grizzlies first-rounder that is top-eight protected this year, top six next year and unprotected in 2021, along with the better pick from the Sixers or Kings this year and possibly another first-rounder from the Clippers.
  • The Pelicans may consider shutting Davis down for the season if he’s not traded before next Thursday, suggests Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Davis is sidelined with a volar plate avulsion fracture on his left index finger and is being re-evaluated every 48 to 72 hours. If surgery is necessary, it would be a way for the Pelicans to avoid any risk and be sure that they have a fully healthy asset for the trade market this summer.
  • A team source confirms to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link) that the Knicks plan to get involved in the bidding for Davis. Their best offer is expected to come after the lottery when they know where they’ll be drafting.
  • If the Lakers aren’t able to deal for Davis before the deadline, they will only have seven tradable contracts this summer outside of LeBron James, notes Bobby Marks of ESPN (insider account). L.A. would have to use some of its projected $36MM in cap space to make the deal work and could include some of its free agents in a sign-and-trade arrangement, but only if they agree to go to New Orleans. Marks examines what several teams can realistically offer, including the Nuggets, whom he calls a “dark horse” in the Davis sweepstakes. Denver has a slew of young players and controllable contracts, along with a connection in GM Tim Connelly, who formerly worked for Demps in New Orleans.
  • Writers from The Athletic break down the chances of acquiring Davis for every team in the league.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics Trades, Mudiay, Fultz, Noah

The Celtics are unlikely to make a big move prior to this year’s trade deadline, NBC Sports’ Tom Haberstroh reports in a story relayed by NBC Sports Boston’s Darren Hartwell. With Indiana losing Victor Oladipo for the season, the Celtics have less incentive to make a drastic change. They’re hoping Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown bounce back during the second half of the season, then will look to trade for Anthony Davis during the offseason.

We have more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks point guard Emmanuel Mudiay will be sidelined at least two weeks with a left shoulder strain, the team’s PR department tweets. Mudiay suffered the injury against Houston on Wednesday and the original prognosis was confirmed by an MRI. Mudiay is averaging 14.7 PPG and 3.9 APG.
  • Markelle Fultz traveled with the Sixers on their current road trip but the second-year guard has not been cleared for basketball activity, Derek Bodner of The Athletic tweets. It’s not anticipated that Fultz will be cleared during the trip and thus he’s limited to physical therapy as he works his way back from thoracic outlet syndrome.
  • Joakim Noah takes responsibility for flopping with the Knicks after signing a four-year, $72MM contract, as he told Frank Isola of The Athletic. Noah is playing for the Grizzlies after getting released by New York. “I think these are all life lessons. It was a tough time for me mentally,” he said. “Failing like that on a stage I really wanted to do well on. I take responsibility. It took me a while to digest that.”
  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic runs down a wide variety of trade scenarios for the Raptors, though they’re also unlikely to make a big move.

Eastern Notes: Pistons, Morris, Wood, Sixers

The Pistons’ top brass is expected to meet in Los Angeles today to discuss ways to improve the team, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reports. Owner Tom Gores, coach Dwane Casey, senior adviser Ed Stefanski and vice chairman Arn Tellem will discuss how to revive the playoff hopes of the floundering team and provide star forward Blake Griffin with a better supporting cast. Detroit got off to a 13-7 start but has lost 16 of its last 20 games.  A point guard and a wing player capable of creating offense top the wish list but the team’s cap situation makes it difficult to swing a deal, Ellis continues. The roster is littered with bad contracts and injury-prone players and the team is just under the luxury tax line, Ellis adds.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Tempers flared between Celtics players Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown during a second-quarter timeout on Thursday but GM Danny Ainge is downplaying the incident. The duo exchanged words and Morris, who apparently told Brown to play harder, shoved the swingman before Marcus Smart separated them, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Ainge told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe the altercation was no big deal. “It’s two good kids that are competitive,” he said. “They both want the same thing. Emotions happen in games, and I’m not worried about it.”
  • Bucks big man Christian Wood is relieved that the team guaranteed his salary for the remainder of the season, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. His $1,512,601 salary became guaranteed on Thursday. He has a $1,645,357 non-guaranteed salary for next season. The 6’10” Wood has appeared in six games with Milwaukee while biding most of his time in the G League. “It’s real nice,” Wood said. “I talked to (GM) Jon (Horst) before the deadline passed and he said my time is going to come, I’ve just got to keep working, keep staying with the program and keep doing everything I’m supposed to do. He thinks I’m a good fit for this team.”
  • The 76ers named Annelie Schmittel as the team’s VP of player development, according to a team press release. She will be responsible for creating, managing and overseeing the holistic development and implementation of programs that support professional and personal growth of players, staff and families. She spent the last three seasons with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders.

Atlantic Notes: Carroll, Brown, Rozier, Hezonja

The Nets have been surging in recent weeks, and the team’s hot streak has coincided with strong play from DeMarre Carroll, who is finally gaining comfort after returning from ankle surgery on November 9. As Brian Lewis writes for The New York Post, Carroll has been providing stellar and consistent play off the bench, averaging nearly 17 points and 6 rebounds per game in his last five contests, while knocking down 50% of his 3-pointers.

Carroll’s turnaround couldn’t have come at a better time for the Nets, who are missing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Allen Crabbe and Caris LeVert due to injuries.

Coming into the season, Carroll was expected to play a key role for the Nets as a small-ball power forward. Due to his injury and early struggles this season, he lost that role and has had to work to regain it. Now he is a key cog on the Nets’ bench unit, which is one of the best in the league.

There’s more from the Atlantic division:

  • After getting off to a rough start this season, Jaylen Brown has stepped up his play in recent games for the CelticsAs Sherrod Blakely points out for NBC Sports Boston, Brown has finally started to hit shots in recent games and has resembled the player he was last season on a more consistent basis.
  • Speaking of struggling Celtics, Terry Rozier continues to navigate his smaller role now that the team is healthy. As Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald points out, Rozier is struggling with accepting the smaller role for the good of the team versus constricting his career to being a backup point guard.
  • In their recent win over the Lakers, the Knicks received strong contributions from Mario Hezonja. However, as Marc Berman writes for The New York Post, Hezonja and Enes Kanter are two parts of the Knicks’ rotation that have seen their roles decrease significantly in recent weeks as their future with the team is in question.