Jayson Tatum

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Brown, Tatum, Walker, Reddish

Kevin Durant‘s knee injury, which is expected to keep him out four-to-six weeks, won’t change Kyrie Irving‘s mind about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, Adam Zagoria of Forbes.com writes.

“Kev’s gonna heal, Kev’s gonna be OK,” Irving said on Monday after the Nets lost in Cleveland. “And we’re going to have to deal with that as his teammates, but in terms of where I am with my life outside of this, I stay rooted in my decision and that’s just what it is.”

Irving will continue to be limited to road games unless he gets vaccinated. He suggests that will remain the case the rest of the way.

“I’ve made my decision and I’m standing by it…I stay rooted in what I believe in,” Irving said.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics will approach the trade deadline with the intent of building around their two best players, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (video link). He said Marcus Smart, Dennis Schröder and some young players are available and Boston would like to find another play-maker or wing player. “(The Celtics’ approach) is to build around Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, not to break those two up,” Wojnarowski said. “The hard part for Boston is what are the other tradeable assets they want to move on from? They don’t want to trade Robert Williams, their young center. That’s a player they see at the center of what they’re doing moving forward.”
  • Kemba Walker missed his ninth straight game Monday due to a sore knee. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t want him back until Walker is confident he can play on a regular basis. “The big thing regarding Kemba is I want him to feel as good as possible and a player like him in the situation he is in, I want him to trust where he is with his body,’ Thibodeau said. “When he’s ready, he’s ready. He’ll let us know. We trust him. What I don’t want [is] to get into a situation where it’s on-off, on-off.”
  • Cam Reddish has yet to make his Knicks debut due to a sprained ankle, but the newly-acquired forward believes he can blossom in New York, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. “I feel like I can be a star,” Reddish said. “I feel like I could be a legit star. That’s what I’m working to be. It’s pretty simple.”

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Brown, Nesmith, Hernangomez

Jaylen Brown said over the weekend that he wants to continue playing alongside Jayson Tatum with the Celtics, and now Tatum has echoed those sentiments, writes Souichi Terada of MassLive. Brown and Tatum are among the best young duos in the league, combining to score 49.7 PPG over the first half of the season. However, Boston’s record is around .500 for the second straight year and there’s been some outcry from fans and the media to trade one of them.

“We both want to be here and both want to figure it out,” Tatum said. “There’s not many players in the league like JB. The grass ain’t always greener and we’ve had some great stretches. And I think this year hasn’t been what we expected, but I think in the long run it will be good for us.”

Tatum said he talked with Brown about their fit together after the Celtics let a big lead get away in a loss to the Knicks last week. Losing big leads has been a recurring problem in Boston, and Tatum admitted that the players are still adjusting in their first season under coach Ime Udoka.

“We have to figure some things, but I think the most important thing is we both want it extremely bad,” Tatum said. “We want to try to figure it out together. So for us, it’s just being on the same page I think is extremely important, just knowing that we have each other’s back and we are going to give it all we got to try to figure this out.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • The Celtics should concentrate on building around their two stars, rather than trying to split them up, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated states in a mailbag column. Mannix doesn’t see any players currently on the trade market who would represent equal value for either Brown or Tatum.
  • Aaron Nesmith welcomed his trip to the G League after being out of action for so long, per Taylor Snow of NBA.com. The second-year small forward spent time in the health and safety protocols, and his only appearance since December 22 was six minutes in Saturday’s game. “It’s just fun to be able to play the game of basketball no matter where it is,” Nesmith said after returning from the G League assignment. “Just being able to go out there and play freely and just kind of get back into a rhythm a little bit, it’s always fun and always a good experience.”
  • Juancho Hernangomez will be an offseason target for Real Madrid, according to Antigoni Zachari of EuroHoops. His $6.6MM contract for next season is non-guaranteed until June 30, so he’s a candidate to be cut before then.

And-Ones: Exum, Thomas, Doncic, Tatum, Yabusele

Former NBA guard Dante Exum plans to return to the NBA when his three-month contract with Barcelona expires, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Exum is averaging just 4.4 PPG in the EuroLeague after signing with the Spanish team early last month.

Exum was waived by the Rockets during training camp. He signed a three-year deal with Houston in September but the contract was non-guaranteed and Houston had 15 other players with guaranteed deals.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Khyri Thomas has officially signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv, according to a team press release. A report surfaced over the weekend that Maccabi was interested in the former NBA guard. Thomas, a 2018 second-round pick, played in Spain last month before suffering an injury. He saw action in five games with Houston last season and came off the bench in 34 games for Detroit during the previous two seasons.
  • Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum remain the two players under 25 years old that NBA talent evaluators would want to build their teams around, according to an annual poll conducted by Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype. Ja Morant, LaMelo Ball and Trae Young round out the top five.
  • Guerschon Yabusele has agreed to a contract extension with Real Madrid, according to a team press release. The three-year extension runs through June 2025. Yabusele, a first-round pick by the Celtics in 2016, last appeared in the NBA during the 2018/19 season when he saw action in 41 games for Boston.

Charania’s Latest: Collins, Simmons, Celtics, Pacers, Wall, Cavs

Hawks big man John Collins has grown increasingly frustrated with his role in Atlanta, multiple sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic. Although Collins signed a five-year, $125MM contract with the team in the offseason, his usage rate and scoring average (17.5 PPG) are the lowest they’ve been since he was a rookie in 2017/18.

According to Charania, Collins has challenged his Hawks teammates in the locker room multiple times this season, encouraging them to play team basketball. He has “felt his voice go unheard,” Charania adds.

Although Charania doesn’t explicitly state that Collins is a candidate to be traded before this year’s deadline, he notes that the Hawks are a team to watch in the Ben Simmons sweepstakes, echoing a Friday report from Marc Stein. If Atlanta is willing to make Collins available, it would certainly increase the number of trade possibilities open to the team.

Here’s more from Charania:

  • Besides Atlanta, the Kings, Trail Blazers, Timberwolves, and Pacers are among the clubs still in the mix for Simmons, according to Charania, who says the Sixers don’t appear any closer to moving the Defensive Player of the Year runner-up than they were prior to the season. Philadelphia hasn’t been fining Simmons, since he has been participating in training sessions and team meetings and continues to meet with mental health specialists, per Charania.
  • The Celtics have continued to convey to rival teams that they want to build around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown rather than trading one of them, sources tell Charania.
  • The Pacers are having trade discussions about Myles Turner and Caris LeVert, with Turner drawing interest from the Mavericks, Knicks, Lakers, and Hornets, while the Cavaliers remain interested in LeVert, according to Charania. Rival executives tell The Athletic that Indiana values Domantas Sabonis very highly and seems less likely to move him.
  • Teams would be interested in Rockets guard John Wall if he reaches the open market, but a trade remains very unlikely and Houston still doesn’t appear to have interest in a buyout, Charania writes.
  • As the Cavaliers consider possible backcourt upgrades, building a deal around Ricky Rubio‘s expiring contract and draft assets is a possibility, says Charania.

Atlantic Notes: Brown, Udoka, Simmons Trade, Nets

There has been speculation that the Celtics may need to break up the duo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, but Brown believes they can be successful together, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. After posting his first career triple-double in Saturday’s win over the Knicks, Brown addressed the sentiment that Boston should trade one of its stars.

“I think we can play together,” he said. “We have played together well for the majority of our career and things like that. The last year or so hasn’t gone as expected, but I think a lot of the adversity that we’re kind of going through now is going to help us grow and get better in the future.”

The Celtics have been successful when their top two scorers are on the court together, Bontemps notes, outscoring opponents by 4.6 points per 100 possessions. However, the team is in the midst of a second consecutive subpar season, tied for 10th in the East at 19-21.

“I know that people are tired of hearing that, but a lot of learning and growth is still taking place,” Brown said. “I’m getting better as a basketball player. Jayson’s getting better as a basketball player and trying to put our guys in position to make them look good. It’s tougher than it looks. So we just gotta continue to get better, make the right plays, trust ourselves, trust our teammates, trust our coaching staff, and let the chips fall where they may.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • First-year coach Ime Udoka questioned the Celtics‘ “mental toughness” after they squandered a 25-point lead in a loss to the Knicks on Thursday, Bontemps states in a separate story. It was the fourth time this season that Boston has lost after holding a lead of 19 points or more. “It’s a turnover here, a bad shot here, a missed defensive assignment here, and several missed rebounds tonight,” Udoka said. “So it’s a lot of different things. And then, like I said, a calming presence to slow it down and get us what we want is really what you need at that point. And sometimes we all get caught up in it.”
  • The Kings may be willing to give up De’Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton to get Ben Simmons, but the Sixers‘ interest in either player is limited, according to Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice. Tyrese Maxey has solved Philadelphia’s need for a point guard, so any deal involving Fox would have to be a three-team trade, Neubeck states, and the Sixers don’t view Haliburton as a strong enough return for Simmons.
  • The Nets are searching for answers after dropping four of their last five games to fall out of first place in the East, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post“There’s a few common threads,” coach Steve Nash said. “We’re not into the ball. We’re not combative enough to start games. We’re not clean enough with our communication at the level of the ball. There’s not enough of a presence. We can do better in transition as well getting organized. It’s fundamental stuff that’s taken a dip since we all got back together. We can see it clearly. We have to work at it now. We have to take it to heart and we have to rebuild.”

Atlantic Notes: Walker, Johnson, Tatum, VanVleet

Though Knicks point guard Kemba Walker just missed his third consecutive game (a 104-94 win over the Pacers) due to left knee soreness, team doctors have determined that there is no structural damage to the ligament that would require surgery, per Steve Popper of Newsday.

“He warmed up in OKC, tweaked something,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s got some soreness so we’ll let it clear up and then we’ll go from there.”

Thibodeau removed Walker, who had begun the 2021/22 season as a starter, from New York’s lineup entirely in late November. COVID-19 and injury absences necessitated a pivot, and Walker played well in his return. During his six games back, Walker averaged 19.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 6.0 APG for the Knicks.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Celtics All-Star wing Jayson Tatum discussed his experience with 40-year-old veteran swingman Joe Johnson, a former seven-time All-Star signed by Boston to a 10-day hardship exception. The team opted to not sign Johnson to a second 10-day deal after his first expired. “We all enjoyed the time that he was here,” Tatum said, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link). “The ultimate professional and somebody a lot of us look up to and obviously, we would have loved to [have] kept him around.” Johnson played in just one game during his 10 days with the team, scoring on his only field goal attempt. Tatum said that Johnson continues to watch Celtics games and that he and Johnson still text each other.
  • Tatum also noted that his body is in better shape returning from COVID-19 protocols this season, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald tweets. The Celtics forward was hit hard by the novel coronavirus during the 2020/21 NBA season. “I feel a lot better with everything,” Tatum said, per Murphy. “My quarantine was shorter, my body feels a lot better, comparing my first couple of days back practicing than last year when I first came back.”
  • Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet is letting his play do the talking, emerging as a legitimate candidate to be named to his first All-Star team this season, writes Nekias Duncan of Basketball News. Duncan observes that VanVleet is one of just three Eastern Conference guards, along with James Harden and Trae Young, averaging at least 20 PPG and 6 APG, while boasting a True Shooting percentage of 58% or higher. VanVleet is averaging 21.3 PPG, 6.7 APG, and 4.9 RPG, with a 58.5% true shooting percentage, across 31 games. The 27-year-old, who won a title with Toronto in 2019, boasts an overall shooting line of .441/.405/.880.

COVID-19 Updates: Sixers, Celtics, Rondo, Blazers, More

Sixers wing Danny Green cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Sunday, tweets Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. However, Jaden Springer and Matisse Thybulle are both in the protocols now, joining two-way player Myles Powell.

In the latest injury report for the Sixers’ Monday game vs. Houston, Powell and Springer are both listed as out, while Thybulle is considered questionable. That suggests that the team is likely waiting for the results of Thybulle’s latest COVID-19 test before determining whether or not he’ll be available.

Here are more protocol-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Dennis Schröder and Bruno Fernando returned to action for the Celtics on Sunday after a stint in the health and safety protocols. Jayson Tatum has exited the protocols, but remained sidelined for Sunday’s game — he’s expected to return on Wednesday, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.
  • On the LakersSunday injury report, Rajon Rondo was listed as out due to return to competition reconditioning. Rondo had been in the COVID-19 protocols since December 26, which presumably delayed the official completion of the trade sending him to Cleveland. Now that he has cleared the protocols, the Cavaliers and Lakers should soon officially announce that deal.
  • Robert Covington, Trendon Watford, and Keljin Blevins are no longer in the health and safety protocols for the Trail Blazers, per the injury report.
  • Knicks center Jericho Sims remained out of action on Sunday, but he was listed on the injury report as taking part in return to competition conditioning, so he has exited the protocols.
  • McKinley Wright (Timberwolves), Jarrett Culver (Grizzlies), and Jay Scrubb (Clippers) are among the other players who have recently cleared the COVID-19 protocols, according to the league’s injury report.
  • Our full health and safety protocols tracker can be found right here.

Jayson Tatum Enters Health And Safety Protocols

Star forward Jayson Tatum has joined a long list of Celtics players in the health and safety protocols, the team announced today (via Twitter).

There are now nine Celtics players in the protocols, as our tracker shows. Of those players, eight have been ruled out for Boston’s Monday game vs. Minnesota. The ninth, Grant Williams, is listed as questionable, which suggests he has either exited the protocols or is on the verge of doing so.

Only two other teams – Atlanta and Toronto – currently have more players in the protocols than the Celtics, whose situation actually seemed to be improving in recent days. Juan Hernangomez, Jabari Parker, Sam Hauser, and Brodric Thomas all recently cleared the protocols.

However, now Boston’s top scorer will be out for 10 days or until he can return consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart. Tatum is averaging 25.6 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 3.8 APG this season in 33 games (36.7 MPG), though his shooting numbers are down (.417 FG%, .329 3PT%).

Tatum contracted COVID-19 last season and had breathing problems well after his return, using an inhaler before games.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Jayson Tatum Named Players Of The Week

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns and Celtics forward Jayson Tatum have been named the NBA’s Players of the Week for the Western Conference and Eastern Conference, respectively, the league announced today (via Twitter).

Towns’ Timberwolves went 3-0 during the week of December 13-19, with victories over the Nuggets, Lakers, and Mavericks. The former No. 1 overall pick averaged 28.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.7 SPG, and 1.3 BPG on .547/.375/.870 shooting in those three games (33.9 MPG).

The Celtics’ quest for a perfect week was denied by the Warriors on Friday, but Boston went 2-1 and Tatum had a big three-game stretch. He put up 31.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and 4.0 APG with a .500/.361/.867 shooting line in 38.8 minutes per contest.

Towns beat out fellow finalists Deandre Ayton, Dillon Brooks, Nikola Jokic, and Damian Lillard in the West, while the other Eastern finalists were Kevin Durant, Darius Garland, and Fred VanVleet (Twitter link).

Trade Rumors: Sabonis, Kemba, Celtics, Pelicans, Magic

On an episode of The Ringer’s podcast The Mismatch last week, Kevin O’Connor mentioned that Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis wants out of Indiana. The comment was made in passing and wasn’t expanded upon by O’Connor in any subsequent article or tweet, so it wasn’t clear whether it was something he was reporting or something he’d heard but hadn’t fully confirmed.

Following up on that rumor, Matt Moore of Action Network says he has also heard from multiple sources that Sabonis wants out of Indiana, adding that the big man’s desire for a change of scenery dates back to last season. However, all of Sabonis’ public comments have indicated that he’s happy to stick with the Pacers, and Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files, who is plugged in with the team, called O’Connor’s initial report “false” (Twitter link).

The Pacers are reportedly open to the idea of moving Sabonis, so whether or not he wants to be dealt may ultimately be a moot point — Indiana could trade him either way.

Here are a few more trade rumors from around the league:

  • Knicks guard Kemba Walker hasn’t generated much – if any – trade interest from rival teams, since his knees are viewed as too much of a risk, Moore reports.
  • Two sources who spoke to Moore suggested the Celtics are more likely to pursue a third impact player to add to their core of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, rather than breaking up the duo.
  • The Bulls are in the market for a wing defender who could come off the bench, says Moore.
  • Some executives were surprised by Jake Fischer’s report that the Pelicans could be buyers this season, since they’d gotten the impression New Orleans is more interested in long-term assets, Moore writes. Josh Hart is viewed as possibly the most likely trade candidate on the Pels’ roster, Moore adds.
  • Despite Mohamed Bamba‘s strong season, the Magic are considered unlikely to discuss center Wendell Carter Jr. in trades, per Moore, who notes that the team also hasn’t yet indicated that Bamba is available.
  • According to Moore, the Thunder are a good candidate to be a third team in a Ben Simmons trade, since Sam Presti and Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey have had multiple past dealings and Oklahoma City is well positioned to take on unwanted contracts.