Jayson Tatum

Atlantic Notes: Johnson, Tatum, Brown, Pritchard, Harris

New Nets forward Cameron Johnson is convinced Brooklyn has enough quality players to make some noise in the postseason, per Jared Schwartz of The New York Post.

“Obviously, combining a couple players, there’s some things we have to iron out,” Johnson said on Wednesday. “But I think the core of what we have, and what we’re trying to do, I think it’s pretty special. We’ve got guys that compete, guys that play hard and you’re gonna start seeing us build this thing together.”

Across his 18 games with his new team, Johnson is averaging 16.2 PPG on .438/.358/.824 shooting. He’s also chipping in 4.7 RPG, 1.9 APG and 1.4 SPG.

The Nets have gone 8-12 since trading All-Star forward Kevin Durant, and have slid to the East’s sixth seed with a 40-34 record.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Asked this week about the conversation he had last summer with teammate Jaylen Brown while rumors circulated that Brown could be involved in a trade for Durant, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum explained what he said during that phone call. “Just re-sharing the obvious that we need him and he’s a big part of this team and this franchise,” Tatum said, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link). “Without him, we can’t reach our goal.”
  • Celtics reserve point guard Payton Pritchard had his status upgraded to questionable to play ahead of today’s contest with the Spurs, Weiss tweets. A heel injury has kept Pritchard unavailable for the past three weeks’ worth of games.
  • Sixers power forward Tobias Harris has accepted that he is generally the fourth scoring option for a talented Philadelphia team, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s just staying patient in the flow of everything,” Harris said. “There’s going to be nights where the ball finds me more than others. There’s going to be nights where [it doesn’t]… Really, I just have to be OK with that, and just really do other things on the floor and do things that’s going to help the team win, and stay ready and stay patient.”

Celtics Notes: Griffin, Tatum, Smart, Stoudamire

Celtics players have been impressed by the way former All-Star Blake Griffin has made the transition to role player. Griffin’s work ethic hasn’t waned, even though he’s no longer the high-flying, high-scoring big man who starred for the Clippers and Pistons, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe writes.

“You just don’t see that with guys that were at his level,” forward Jayson Tatum said. “It’s been really unique to see. I appreciate that a lot. The guys do as well. He never makes it about himself, and it’s contagious. His energy, his enthusiasm, his personality. We’re all very fortunate to have him as a teammate, because everybody respects him and respects what he’s accomplished, and his voice carries.”

Griffin is on a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract and will be a free agent again this summer.

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Tatum may be a candidate for the Most Valuable Player award and All-NBA First Team accolades but he’s only got one goal in mind, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. “The only thing that matters to me is winning a championship,” Tatum said. “Not MVP, not first-team All-NBA, none of that. I want to get back to the Finals and get over the hump.”
  • Marcus Smart has been fined $25K for initiating an on-court altercation and pulling Hawks guard Trae Young to the floor, the NBA PR department tweets. Both players were assessed a technical foul and Smart was ejected during the altercation, which occurred with 1:25 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Celtics’ 134-125 win over the Hawks on Saturday.
  • The team has no plans to immediately replace Damon Stoudamire on Joe Muzzalla‘s staff, Himmelsbach tweets. Stoudamire left his assistant coaching job to become Georgia Tech’s head coach.

Injury Notes: Sexton, Bucks, Pokusevski, Celtics

Jazz guard Collin Sexton, who strained his left hamstring in the team’s final game before the All-Star break, still hasn’t played since participating in the Skills Challenge on All-Star Saturday in Salt Lake City.

According to Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter link), Sexton will be reevaluated next Monday, as Utah continues to rule him out one week at a time. He has missed the Jazz’s last five games and will be sidelined for at least three more, with the team playing in Dallas (on Tuesday), Orlando (Thursday), and Charlotte (Saturday) this week.

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

  • The Bucks will be without All-Stars Giannis Antetokounmpo (non-COVID illness) and Jrue Holiday (neck soreness) when they visit Orlando on Tuesday, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. However, there has been no indication that either ailment should be a long-term issue.
  • Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski was briefly assigned to the Oklahoma City Blue to practice with the G League team as he recovers from the left leg fracture that has kept him on the shelf since late December, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (Twitter links). Pokusevski will probably assigned and recalled for practice purposes a few more times, Mussatto adds, noting that the 21-year-old’s return isn’t imminent quite yet.
  • Jayson Tatum (left knee contusion) and Al Horford (low back stiffness) both missed the Celtics‘ double overtime loss to Cleveland on Monday. As Tim Bontemps of ESPN observes (via Twitter), Horford played 45 minutes on Sunday and still hasn’t played both ends of a back-to-back set this season, so his absence came as no surprise. Tatum sustained his injury in a collision on Sunday.

Atlantic Notes: Barton, Simmons, Dinwiddie, Tatum

What was the deciding factor for Will Barton as he considered his next NBA home? After getting bought out by the Wizards, Barton chose the Raptors for the opportunity to play and re-establish his value, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. Concurrently, the Raptors had been searching for another rotation-caliber guard to help them in their playoff push. Barton officially signed on Tuesday afternoon.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Ben Simmons hasn’t played since Feb. 15 due to a sore knee but there has been “zero” discussion about shutting him down for the season, Nets coach Jacque Vaughn told Brian Lewis of the New York Post (Twitter link) and other media members. However, Vaughn wouldn’t elaborate on how Simmons is doing or what his next step is.
  • One of the offshoots of trading Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving is that the Nets no longer get “superstar calls” from the officials, Spencer Dinwiddie claims. “I have a lot of last-second shots or game-winners, but it’s the lead up that’s the tough part without superstars. That’s what people miss,” Dinwiddie said, according to Lewis. “If [someone] tries to climb KD’s back, they’re going to call it. If KD says and-one, they’re not giving him a tech. All these things change the flow of the game. [Stars] can cuss them out, they can do whatever, and they’ll let all that (stuff) slide.”
  • Celtics star forward Jayson Tatum got his first career ejection in a loss to the Knicks on Monday but he playfully put a positive spin on it, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps writes. “All the great players get thrown out a few times in their career,” he said. “So, it’s good for my rep.”

All-Star Notes: Malone, Tatum, New Draft Format, Irving

There were several memorable moments from All-Star Weekend, but not many occurred during Sunday night’s game. Defense has rarely been a priority in the All-Star Game, but there was minimal effort from most players on that end of the court as Team Giannis posted a 184-175 win over Team LeBron.

Among the critics was the Nuggets’ Michael Malone, who guided Team LeBron in his second All-Star coaching appearance (video link from Vic Lombardi of Altitude TV).

“It’s an honor to be here; it’s an honor to be part of a great weekend, great players, but that was the worst basketball game ever played,” Malone said at the postgame press conference. “… I give Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving, those guys were, like, competing. Joel was imploring some of the guys to play harder, to try to get some defense in. No one got hurt, they put on a show for the fans, but that is a tough game to sit through, I’m not gonna lie.”

Celtics star Jaylen Brown was also critical of the contest, calling it a glorified “layup line” and saying, “that’s not basketball,” tweets Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times.

There’s more from All-Star Weekend:

  • Jayson Tatum realized midway through the fourth quarter Sunday night that he had a chance to break the All-Star Game scoring record, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Tatum, who finished with 55 points to top Anthony Davis‘ old mark of 52, credits Damian Lillard for pointing out that the record was within reach. Tatum added that he has been hoping to win All-Star MVP honors since the trophy was named in honor of Kobe Bryant. “It’s extremely special to me,” Tatum said. “My first All-Star Game was in Chicago in 2020 when they renamed the MVP after him, and I remember telling myself that someday I got to get one of those.”
  • The new format of having captains select their teams shortly before game time mostly went smoothly, although Giannis Antetokounmpo mistakenly picked starter Ja Morant while drafting the reserves. Also, Nikola Jokic walked over to Team LeBron before the final pick among starters was made, but he didn’t realize that Lauri Markkanen still hadn’t been selected, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN.
  • Among the most notable picks in the draft was LeBron James choosing Irving, his former teammate in Cleveland. The Lakers were rumored to be among the top contenders to land Irving after he made his trade request to the Nets. “It’s always good to see him. I’m very proud of him,” James told reporters (video link from Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register). “Very proud of the man that he has become in his life right now.”

Atlantic Notes: Tatum, Udoka, Mazzulla, Brunson, Hart, Dinwiddie, Bridges

Head coach Joe Mazzulla had the interim tag removed by the Celtics, but star forward Jayson Tatum hopes Ime Udoka lands on his feet and revives his coaching career. He even called the suspended Udoka his favorite coach he’s played under, he told Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated.

“It’s been a tough situation for everyone involved,” Tatum said. “Whatever happened, happened. That didn’t have anything to do with me. I can’t take away the relationship that me and him had. And the impact that he had on us last season. I love Coach K, I love Brad (Stevens), I love (Mazzulla), I love all those guys. It’s just a different kind of relationship I had with Ime. He’s probably the most favorite coach I’ve had.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Stevens, now the Celtics‘ top exec, wanted to remove the cloud of uncertainty surrounding Mazzulla, leading to his promotion, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter links). Stevens has also been impressed how Mazzulla has navigated a difficult situation. “He’s an outstanding leader,” Stevens said. “I think he’s done a great job right from the get-go of galvanizing our locker room around a mission.” Mazzulla’s promotion was announced on Thursday.
  • Villanova’s largest fan base is situated in New York City, according to former coach Jay Wright, and that’s why there’s plenty of excitement that the Knicks have former Wildcats Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart, he told Zach Braziller of the New York Post. “Villanova people are just going crazy over it because they’re all Knicks fans,” he said. “It’s really thrilling for all of us. To see the joy it’s bringing all the Villanova people, and I should say the people who aren’t Knicks fans, they are now, Villanovans. You’re like a proud father, you’re watching your kids out there. It’s like they’re starting a business or something.”
  • Mikal Bridges and Spencer Dinwiddie have already emerged as the Nets’ new leaders after being acquired at the trade deadline, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post (subscription required). “Right now, I think it’s been Spencer and Mikal, just naturally their IQ and want and feel for the game,” coach Jacque Vaughn said.

Doncic, Irving To Start For Team LeBron

Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving are not only Mavericks teammates, they’re also starting together for Team LeBron at the All-Star Game Sunday in Salt Lake City.

LeBron James selected his former Cleveland teammate Irving and Doncic, the league’s leading scorer, during the first captain’s draft conducted on the same night as the All-Star Game. Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid will start up front for Team LeBron. The reserves for LeBron’s team include Anthony Edwards, Jaylen Brown, Paul George, Tyrese Haliburton, Julius Randle, De’Aaron Fox and Jaren Jackson Jr.

Donovan Mitchell and one of the players he was traded for, Lauri Markkanen, will start for Team Giannis. Ja Morant and Jayson Tatum round out the starting lineup. Damian Lillard, Jrue Holiday, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, DeMar DeRozan, Pascal Siakam, Bam Adebayo and Domantas Sabonis will be the reserves for Team Giannis.

Marcus Smart To Return Wednesday For Celtics

Celtics guard Marcus Smart will return to action on Wednesday in the team’s final game before the All-Star break, as Jared Weiss of The Athletic relays (via Twitter).

Smart sprained his right ankle last month in a January 21 win over Toronto. Shortly after suffering the injury, he said he hoped to be back within a week or two, but he ended up being sidelined for about three-and-a-half weeks, missing 11 Celtics games during that time.

Boston’s roster has been a little banged up as of late, with Jaylen Brown out due to a facial fracture while Jayson Tatum (non-COVID illness) and Al Horford (right knee swelling) missed the first game of a back-to-back set on Tuesday in Milwaukee.

Brown will remain on the shelf until sometime after the All-Star break, but according to Weiss, Tatum and Horford will be available on Wednesday vs. Detroit.

Smart, the reigning defensive Player of the Year, is averaging 11.1 PPG, a career-high 7.2 APG, and 3.4 RPG on .422/.333/.767 shooting in 41 games (32.4 MPG) for the Celtics this season. He hasn’t come off the bench for the club in nearly two years, so he’s a safe bet to be reinserted into the starting lineup in his first game back.

Jayson Tatum, Damian Lillard Headline 3-Point Contest Field

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, and Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton will participate in this weekend’s 3-point contest in addition to the All-Star Game, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The eight-man field will be filled out by four non-All-Stars, according to Charania: Lillard’s Blazers teammate Anfernee Simons, Haliburton’s Pacers teammate Buddy Hield, Heat guard Tyler Herro, and Kings wing Kevin Huerter.

Some of those names had been previously reported, but Charania is the first to reveal all eight participants.

The eight-man field includes just one player who has previously won the event. Hield was the 3-point champion back in 2020 when he was still a member of the Kings. He also has the highest 3PT% of any of this season’s participants at 42.3% — that ranks 11th in the NBA among qualified players in 2022/23, so none of the league’s top 10 shooters are participating.

Last year’s winner, Karl-Anthony Towns, remains sidelined for the Timberwolves due to a calf strain, so he won’t get the chance to defend his title.

Markkanen will be the hometown favorite, with the event scheduled to take place this coming Saturday in Salt Lake City.

Antetokounmpo, James Head All-Star Starters; Embiid Falls Short

Lakers forward LeBron James tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Thursday with his 19th NBA All-Star selection. James, who currently shares the record with Abdul-Jabbar for most All-Star Games played with 18, was chosen as a starter, according to a league press release.

All of the starters were revealed on Thursday night.

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic were the other starters chosen out of the Western Conference. James will serve as a team captain for the sixth straight year, since he received the most votes.

Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, named a team captain for the third time, heads the list of starters out of the Eastern Conference. Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, Nets forward Kevin Durant, Nets guard Kyrie Irving, and Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell will join him, but the league’s second-leading scorer, Sixers center Joel Embiid (33.4 PPG), didn’t garner enough votes.

The starters are selected by a weighted voting process with the fan vote accounting for half of the final outcome. The player and media portions of the vote each counted for 25 percent. Three frontcourt players and two guards were selected from each conference.

Embiid finished third in the player and media voting among Eastern Conference frontcourt players but fourth in the fan voting. All voting results can be found here.

The game will be played Feb. 19 in Salt Lake City. James and Antetokounmpo will choose their teams shortly before the game begins. James will set the league record for most All-Star appearances if he plays, since Abdul-Jabbar did not play in the 1973 game after being chosen.

The reserves, which are chosen by the league’s coaches, will be announced Feb. 2.