Jayson Tatum

Simons, Stanley, Toppin To Compete In Dunk Contest

Anfernee Simons of the Trail Blazers, Cassius Stanley of the Pacers, and Obi Toppin of the Knicks will compete for the annual Slam Dunk title at halftime of the All-Star game on Sunday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, the NBA announced in a press release.

Simons, a 6’3” guard, is averaging 8.2 PPG in his third NBA season. Stanley is a 6’5″ rookie guard on a two-way contract after being selected in the second round last fall. He recorded a maximum vertical leap of 44 inches in the 2020 draft combine. Toppin, a 6’9″ rookie forward and lottery pick, is averaging 4.6 PPG in 25 games off the bench.

The 3-Point Contest, which will be held prior to the game, has a lot more star power. Suns guard Devin Booker and Warriors guard Stephen Curry, former winners of the long-ball contest, head the list of participants. The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the Bulls’ Zach LaVine and the Jazz‘s Donovan Mitchell round out the six-man field.

The Skills Challenge, which will also be held prior to the game, also has plenty of All-Star firepower. Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and Suns guard Chris Paul head that six-man listKnicks forward Julius Randle, Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis, Magic center Nikola Vucevic and Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington round out the field.

Atlantic Notes: Noel, Sixers, Tatum, Raptors

Already missing Mitchell Robinson due to a broken hand, the Knicks may also have to get by for a little while without Taj Gibson, who sprained his ankle on Saturday and was inactive on Sunday. However, Nerlens Noel‘s play at the five has helped ease the team’s depth issues up front, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post.

“I definitely don’t want anyone hurt on this team,” said Noel, who has started the Knicks’ last eight games at center. “But I’ve taken that spot and made a focal point to man this team and be the anchor on the defensive end and do the small little things to help us win. I think I’ve been at a high level.”

Asked on Sunday about the possibility of adding another center to the roster, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau deferred to president of basketball operations Leon Rose, but said the club has “more than enough on the roster” to get by. As Berman notes, Julius Randle saw some action at center on Sunday, with rookie Obi Toppin playing alongside him at the four.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • While much of the recent Sixers-related trade speculation has centered on Kyle Lowry, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer wonders if Rockets guard Victor Oladipo might make sense as an alternative for Philadelphia. At $21MM, Oladipo’s salary would be easier to match than Lowry’s $30.5MM cap hit, and the slumping Rockets may be more inclined than Toronto to sell.
  • In addition to being promoted to the All-Star starting lineup as a result of Kevin Durant‘s injury, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum expects to participate in either the skills challenge or the 3-point contest prior to the All-Star Game next Sunday, but he won’t do both, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN.
  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at potential options for the Raptors if they pursue a center on the trade market, zeroing in on Kings big man Richaun Holmes as an ideal target for Toronto, given his modest salary and impressive impact.

Kevin Durant Will Still Serve As All-Star Captain

Kevin Durant won’t play in next Sunday’s All-Star Game and he may not even travel to Atlanta for the event, but he will remain one of the team captains, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN.

Durant hasn’t played since February 13 because of a strained left hamstring, and the decision to have him skip the All-Star Game was made this week after a follow-up MRI. The Nets‘ medical staff believes Durant needs additional time to return to full strength.

Durant will continue with rehab and will be re-evaluated after the break. Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis was selected as his replacement for the All-Star Game, while Celtics forward Jayson Tatum will replace KD as one of the game’s 10 starters.

As captain, Durant will participate in the All-Star draft along with LeBron James to choose which players will be on each team. The event will be televised March 4 on TNT.

2021 NBA All-Star Reserves Revealed

The 2021 NBA All-Star reserves have been revealed. Below is the full rundown of the 14 players scheduled to join the previously announced 10 starters for the March 7 contest in Atlanta. All-Star reserves are selected by the league’s head coaches.

Eastern Conference Reserves:

Notable omissions this season include recent Heat All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, two-time Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton, recent Hawks All-Star point guard Trae Young, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, recent Pacers All-Star big man Domantas Sabonis, and Sixers forward Tobias Harris.

Brown, LaVine, and Randle are making their All-Star debuts. Harden is the most decorated among the All-Star vets among the East reserves, as he will be appearing in his ninth All-Star contest.

Western Conference Reserves:

Lillard, who just barely missed out on a starting nod to Mavericks guard Luka Dončić, earns his sixth All-Star mention as he mounts a sleeper MVP campaign with the Trail Blazers. Paul will be playing in his 11th All-Star game, for a fourth different team (he did not earn an All-Star nod in either of his two Rockets seasons, but made it with the Clippers, New Orleans Hornets, and Thunder).

Snubs in the West include recent Suns All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker, Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan, and 33-year-old Jazz point guard Mike Conley, the latter of whom may go down in history as the best NBA player never to make an All-Star team. Williamson, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, is a first-time All-Star. Last year, his teammate Brandon Ingram made his own All-Star debut.

Conley may still have his day in the sun, however. Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register notes that Lakers All-Star big man Davis, recovering from a right calf strain, will likely not be healthy in time to partake in the currently-planned All-Star game, and thus another Western Conference All-Star should eventually be named by NBA commissioner Adam Silver to replace the eight-time All-Star.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Celtics Notes: Ainge, Tatum, Smart, Hayward

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge doesn’t think head coach Brad Stevens is to blame for the team’s underwhelming play so far this season, telling Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe that he’d assign more responsibility to Boston’s players and to himself.

“We’re not playing with the passion that we need,” Ainge said. “I think that’s on the players. And the players on the team are on me.

“… This is a team that was put together by me,” he continued. “And we’re not playing with enough consistency and urgency, and it’s my job to look to see what we can do to improve the team, but that’s always much harder than improving from within.”

While Ainge stressed that “just changing faces” isn’t necessarily a way to upgrade a roster and improve a team’s outlook, he acknowledged that some roster changes may be necessary. The Celtics will look to avoid falling below .500 when they take a 13-13 record into a home game vs. Denver on Tuesday.

Here’s more out of Boston:

  • More than a month after he first tested positive for COVID-19, Jayson Tatum is still feeling the aftereffects of the virus, telling reporters on Tuesday that it “messes with your breathing a little bit,” according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “Just running up and down the court a few times, it’s easier to get out of breath or tired a lot faster,” Tatum said. “I’ve noticed that since I’ve had COVID. It’s just something I’m working on. It’s gotten better since the first game I played, but I still deal with it from time to time.”
  • When Marcus Smart was diagnosed with a calf strain at the end of January, the Celtics announced a projected two- or three-week recovery timeline. However, as Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe writes, it seems likely that Smart, who said on Friday that he’s still walking with a slight limp, will miss more time than that.
  • Having lost 10 of their last 15 games, the Celtics appear to be missing Gordon Hayward and could really use someone to fill the role he played last season, says Jared Weiss of The Athletic.

Atlantic Notes: Knox, Pelle, Shumpert, Raptors G League, Walker, Smart

Kevin Knox‘s playing time has continued to diminish and his future with the Knicks organization is murkier than ever, Marc Berman of the New York Post notes. The 2018 lottery pick never left the bench for the first time this season on Sunday. New York might look to deal Knox or even send him to Orlando to get some floor time with the G League’s Westchester Knicks. Knox’s rookie contract is guaranteed through next season.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets signed Norvel Pelle and Iman Shumpert to non-guaranteed contracts to get up to the league minimum for roster spots but they may not last long, John Hollinger of The Athletic speculates. With luxury tax issues, the Nets might open up those spots again as soon as February 10, then make the necessary additions when 10-day contracts are allowed on February 23. They could continue similar roster maneuvers right up to the March trade deadline, Hollinger adds.
  • Raptors 905 GM Chad Sanders is awaiting to hear the quarantine protocols regarding the shuttling of players between NBA teams and the G League bubble in Orlando, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets. Two-way player Jalen Harris is already there but any additional assignments will hinge on those protocols, Murphy adds.
  • If the Celtics are truly going to contend for Eastern Conference supremacy this season, they’ll need more out of Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart, Mark Medina of USA Today opines. At least one of those guards has to develop into a more consistent threat to help out the duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Medina adds. Smart is currently sidelined by a calf strain.

Jayson Tatum Returns For Celtics

Jayson Tatum, who reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month, doesn’t appear on the latest injury report and will return to the Celtics‘ lineup on Monday night in Chicago, as Chris Mannix of SI.com tweets.

Tatum last played on January 8, when he scored 32 points vs. Washington. A day later, word broke that the 22-year-old had entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, with a subsequent report indicating he had tested positive for COVID-19.

Tatum ultimately only missed five games for Boston, since three other contests on the schedule during his absence were postponed. The team went 2-3 without its All-NBA forward in the lineup.

In his first 10 games of 2020/21, Tatum appeared poised to enjoy a career year. His 26.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 3.8 APG, and .438 3PT% so far this season would all be career bests.

Although the Celtics will have Tatum back tonight, they’ll be without Kemba Walker, who will sit out the second half of a back-to-back set for injury management purposes.

Atlantic Notes: Nets Big Three, Tatum, Curry, TD Garden

Nets general manager Sean Marks is hopeful that the team will be able to extend Brooklyn’s new Big Three of forward Kevin Durant and guards James Harden and Kyrie Irving, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post. The three stars, all of whom can become free agents in 2022, will not be eligible to ink contract extensions until the new league year commences in August.

“We’re definitely committed to these guys,” Marks said in a local radio interview on WFAN. “We’ll continue to build with this group, and we’ll just see where it goes. But hopefully it’s a lot longer than a year-and-a-half.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Though Celtics All-Star small forward Jayson Tatum remains closer to an on-court return for Boston, he will remain unavailable for at least Friday’s tilt with the Sixers, Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets. Tatum has not played for Boston since the team’s 116-107 win over the Wizards on January 8.
  • Sixers starting shooting guard Seth Curry has seen his health status upgraded to probable ahead of Philadelphia’s Friday game against the Celtics, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Curry has not played since injuring his right ankle in a 122-109 January 6 defeat to the Nets. Since then, he tested positive for COVID-19, but has since cleared league protocols and now is working on his conditioning ahead of a return.
  • The Celtics have inked a 15-year extension on their current lease with their home arena, TD Garden, per Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. The contract will keep Boston home games located at TD Garden through the 2035/36 season.

Health Updates: Satoransky, Hutchison, Tatum, Fournier, More

A handful of NBA players who reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this season are close to returning to action, including Bulls veterans Tomas Satoransky and Chandler Hutchison. Head coach Billy Donovan said today that both players practiced and are on track to being available for Friday’s game vs. Charlotte (Twitter link).

Meanwhile, Celtics star Jayson Tatum will remain sidelined for Wednesday’s game vs. Philadelphia, but has a chance to get back on the court for Friday’s rematch vs. the 76ers after clearing the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Head coach Brad Stevens said during an appearance on Zolak & Bertand in Boston today that Tatum has about a 50/50 chance of playing on Friday, per Brian Robb of Boston Sports Journal (Twitter link).

Finally, Sixers guard Seth Curry is out of the league’s COVID-19 protocols, but isn’t quite ready to suit up for Wednesday’s game. Although he wasn’t listed on the club’s initial injury report, he’ll sit out tonight due to “post health and safety protocols reconditioning,” says Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link).

Here are a few more health updates from around the NBA:

  • Magic guard Evan Fournier, who has been on the shelf for the team’s last nine games due to back spasms, will be available for Wednesday’s game vs. Minnesota, the team announced (via Twitter). Orlando was 4-0 with Fournier healthy to start the season, but lost the game in which he was injured and has slumped badly since then. Fournier’s return will be a welcome sight for the 6-8 club.
  • Hornets center Cody Zeller, who suffered a broken hand on opening night, returned to practice today, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, who notes (via Twitter) that the big man’s recovery timeline has him on track for an early-February return.
  • In case you missed it, the Trail Blazers announced this week that CJ McCollum (foot) and Jusuf Nurkic (wrist) will be out for at least four weeks and six weeks, respectively.

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Celtics, Nets, McCaw, Knicks

The Celtics and Sixers have, at times this season, found themselves shorthanded due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, which have required a number of players on both teams to quarantine for positive COVID-19 tests or contact tracing. Heading into their games on Wednesday and Friday of this week, both teams should be a little closer to whole.

As Tim Bontemps of ESPN details, Sixers center Joel Embiid, who missed Saturday’s game due to a sore right knee, is expected to be good to go on Wednesday, per head coach Doc Rivers. And while Seth Curry didn’t practice today, he’s in the final stages of the health and safety protocols and hasn’t yet been ruled out for Wednesday’s game, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link).

Meanwhile, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said today that Kemba Walker‘s knee responded “great” after his season debut on Monday, and he practiced in full today (Twitter link via Bontemps). Robert Williams, who has been cleared following a positive COVID-19 test earlier this month, also practiced today, per Stevens, and will be available on Wednesday.

Still, the Celtics aren’t at full strength yet. Jayson Tatum and Carsen Edwards both remain in the health and safety protocols and won’t play on Wednesday, though Stevens left the door open for Tatum to return as soon as Friday (Twitter link via Bontemps).

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • John Hollinger of The Athletic expects the Nets to take their time filling their open roster spots so as not to unnecessarily increase their projected luxury tax bill, which is already substantial. Hollinger also suggests that promoting Reggie Perry from his two-way contract would be a good way to fill one of those slots, since Perry – a 2020 second-round pick – would only count for the prorated rookie minimum for cap and tax purposes.
  • Raptors guard Patrick McCaw hasn’t played at all this season as he continues to recover from knee surgery, and it doesn’t sound like he’s close to returning. Head coach Nick Nurse said on Monday that he hoped McCaw would be much further along by this point, but the recovery progress has been slow (Twitter link via Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca).
  • The Westchester Knicks – New York’s G League affiliate – issued a press release confirming the previously-reported hiring of Jaren Jackson Sr. as an assistant coach and announcing that Ryan Borges has been promoted to assistant general manager.