Jayson Tatum

Celtics Notes: Theis, Strus, Langford, Williams

Daniel Theis is making a strong case to start at center for the Celtics, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston reports.

Theis, who has only started five of the 129 regular season games he’s played with Boston over the past two seasons, has more experience in Brad Stevens’ system than any other big man on the roster. That could give him an edge over Enes Kanter and Robert Williams. He’s also adept at making defensive switches.

“If you watch closely, that’s a tied-together group on that end of the court,” Stevens said of playing Theis with the other starters. Theis is making $5MM this season but his $5MM salary for 2020/21 is not guaranteed.

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Max Strus is a serious candidate to get the 15th and final spot on the opening night roster, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald tweets.  The shooting guard just had his two-way contract converted to a standard two-year deal with a partial guarantee. The guarantee is worth $415K, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. However, he could still be waived, Murphy adds. The 23-year-old Strus went undrafted after playing his college ball at DePaul.
  • Stevens offers high praise for his first-year players, including Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, Tacko Fall, and Carsen Edwards, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe tweets“That’s as good of a group of rookie workers that I’ve ever been around …those guys grind,” he said.
  • The team has picked up the 2020/21 options on Jayson Tatum and Williams. Get all the details here.

Celtics Pick Up 2020/21 Options On Tatum, Williams

The Celtics have exercised their fourth-year option on former No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Boston has also picked up its third-year option on 2018 first-rounder Robert Williams, according to Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

Both options are for the 2020/21 season, with Tatum’s cap hit ($9,897,120) significantly outweighing Williams’ ($2,029,920). Tatum will now be eligible for a contract extension in 2020 and would be on track for restricted free agency in 2021 if he doesn’t sign a new deal next year. Williams has one more year on his rookie contract in 2021/22 — the C’s will have to make a decision on that option by October 31 next year.

Both Tatum and Williams could take on more responsibilities in 2019/20 after a handful of veterans left the Celtics over the summer. Tatum, in particular, figures to be leaned on more heavily as an offensive play-maker with Kyrie Irving no longer in the mix, as the Celtics hope the 21-year-old can take another leap after an up-and-down performance last season.

Williams, meanwhile, will play a more modest role, but Boston’s frontcourt situation is unsettled now that Al Horford, Aron Baynes, and Marcus Morris are playing for new teams. There could be regular minutes available for the former Texas A&M standout going forward.

With the October 31 deadline nearing, we’re tracking all of the 2020/21 rookie scale option decisions from around the NBA right here.

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Dinwiddie, Brown, Tatum

Sixers center Joel Embiid dropped 20 pounds this summer in order to take the pressure off his balky knee, Brian Windhorst of ESPN reports.

“Obviously my knee was bothering me the whole second half of the season and the playoffs,” the Sixers’ star said. “But all I was thinking was what can I do make sure I don’t let my teammates down again or my team. Or the whole city basically. That was to take better of my body.”

Embiid missed 12 games after last season’s All-Star break, mainly due to knee tendinitis. The Sixers will have a load management plan for him, but he expects to play more than the 64 games, Keith Pompey of the Philly Inquirer tweets.

Embiid added that he has more trust in Sixers GM Elton Brand than predecessor Bryan Colangelo, Derek Bodner of The Athletic tweets“With the past GM it wasn’t all that,” Embiid said.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie will meet with league officials this week to discuss his plan to turn his contract into an investment tool, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. The NBA nixed the idea last week but Dinwiddle hopes he can convince the league to reverse its ruling. Dinwiddie wanted to enable investors to essentially buy shares of his three-year, $34.4MM contract.
  • Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown is eligible for a rookie scale extension until opening night but he’s not fretting over negotiations, Nick Goss of NBC Sports Boston writes. “To be honest, I’m not putting too much thought into it,” Brown said. “I’m not losing any sleep over it. I think stuff like that ends up working itself out in the end, or however so. I’m just focused on this season and playing basketball. I think that’s my No. 1 emphasis. Let the chips fall where they may.” He’ll be a restricted free agent next summer if he doesn’t sign an extension.
  • Celtics swingman Jayson Tatum, who played for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup, is hopeful of being on the Olympic roster next summer, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe tweets. “I ain’t got nothing else to do,” Tatum said.

Atlantic Notes: Thomas, Tatum, Simmons, Dinwiddie

According to Ian Begley of SNY.tv, discussions between the Nets and veteran forward Lance Thomas have centered around Thomas having a regular season roster spot.

The Nets have 15 players on guaranteed deals and can add an extra player to their roster during the last 20 games of Wilson Chandler‘s 25-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. When that suspension is over, however, the Nets would have to waive Thomas or someone else to get back to 15 players.

Begley adds that Thomas has a good relationship with Kevin Durant from their days together in Oklahoma City, so that will only help Thomas’ chances of staying on with the Nets should he be signed.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Celtics head coach Brad Stevens says that Jayson Tatum is ready to go for the opening of camp next Tuesday, telling Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald that Tatum is “fine” after suffering an ankle sprain while playing for the U.S. national team. “He’s ready to go from what I’ve been told… I don’t know if he will do anything 5-on-5 this week, but we anticipate no issues when camp starts next week. At least, that’s the latest that I got.”
  • The Sixers have officially announced several new hires and promotions for the 2019/20 season, including the addition of former NBA big man Roy Hibbert as the team’s new player development specialist, which was reported back in August.
  • Sixers All-Star Ben Simmons tells Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press that he found his love of the game again this summer. “I kind of got back to who I was and having fun with the game. I felt like the past season I lost that enjoyment side of it but I feel like this summer has been huge for me. Just the work I’ve been putting in, I kinda fell in love with putting that work in again and I’ve been in the gym every day working and the results have been paying off so I’m excited for the season to start.”
  • Shams Charania of The Athletic sat down with Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie to get some more details on how the 26-year-old is turning his contract into a digital investment vehicle.

Team USA, Others Secure Spots In 2020 Olympics

The second round of the 2019 FIBA World Cup has come to an end, with several more countries – including the USA – clinching spots in the 2020 Olympics as a result of their records in this year’s event.

Entering World Cup play, only host nation Japan was assured of a spot in the 12-team field for next year’s Olympics in Tokyo. Seven more teams will ultimately qualify via the World Cup — two from the Americas, two from Europe, one from Africa, one from Asia, and one from Oceania.

While the European spots are still up for grabs, the other five have been claimed. USA and Argentina (Americas) will play in the 2020 Olympics, along with Australia (Oceania), Iran (Asia), and Nigeria (Africa).

Once two more spots have been secured by the last two European teams still standing in the World Cup, there will be four final berths available for Tokyo. Those four teams will be determined in a series of pre-Olympic qualifying tournaments next summer.

Here’s more on the 2019 World Cup:

  • The matchups for the World Cup quarterfinals have been set. As Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets, Tuesday’s games are Argentina vs. Serbia and Spain vs. Poland, with USA vs. France and Australia vs. the Czech Republic to follow on Wednesday. As the single-elimination portion of the tournament gets underway, Team USA’s probable path to gold could feature showdowns against Serbia in the semifinals and Australia or Spain in the final (Twitter link).
  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic has created a chart that helpfully breaks down the Olympic qualifying outlook. Lithuania, Italy, Greece, Brazil, Germany, Canada, and Turkey are among the many countries that have earned spots in the qualifying tournaments and will vie for one of the final four Olympic berths next summer.
  • Despite a win today, reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Greeks have been eliminated from World Cup medal contention. Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press has the details on a frustrating tournament for Giannis, who declined to speak to reporters for a second consecutive game.
  • Injured Celtics forward Jayson Tatum returned to practice but was held out of Monday’s game against Brazil. As Brian Windhorst of ESPN details, Tatum – who is recovering from an ankle sprain – hinted that he might be back on the court for Wednesday’s game vs. France.

Jayson Tatum To Be Re-Evaluated On September 9

Team USA officially issued an update on injured Celtics forward Jayson Tatum this morning, confirming in a press release that Tatum suffered a left ankle sprain during the club’s tense win over Turkey on Tuesday, as Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press tweets.

Tatum has been ruled out for Team USA’s next two games. He’ll miss Thursday’s matchup against Japan and Saturday’s contest against a to-be-determined opponent before being re-evaluated on Monday. If the 21-year-old is deemed ready to return at that point, he could play in Monday’s game, but it’s possible he’ll be sidelined a little longer.

Tatum’s injury occurred when he rolled his left ankle during the final seconds of overtime in USA’s 93-92 victory on Tuesday, but it looked worse than it was — after the game, he was walking under his own power and telling reporters that he already felt better, which is good news for the Celtics.

Team USA’s game against Japan on Thursday will have no impact on their standing in the tournament, since the squad has already qualified for second-round play. However, the club would certainly like to have Tatum back in its lineup for the last two games in the round-of-16, if possible.

USA will be part of a second-round group that also includes Brazil. The winners of tomorrow’s Czech Republic/Turkey and Greece/New Zealand showdowns will fill out the group. The game that Tatum misses on Saturday will be against one of those five teams.

Atlantic Notes: Tatum, LeVert, Harris, Bolden

Jayson Tatum rolled his left ankle in the final seconds of Team USA’s nail-biter of a win over Turkey today, but the injury – diagnosed as an ankle sprain – doesn’t appear to be serious. The Celtics forward texted head coach Brad Stevens and told him as much about 20 minutes after suffering the injury, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.

Tatum later addressed reporters in China, including Joe Vardon of The Athletic and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (Twitter links), and said he was already feeling better. The 21-year-old was walking under his own power and didn’t have much of a limp, according to reports, which is great news for the Celtics.

It remains to be seen whether Tatum’s World Cup run is over. We should know more by Wednesday, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if USA Basketball plays it safe with the young forward, sending him back stateside to focus on getting healthy for his upcoming season with the Celtics.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights (Twitter link) passes along the official numbers for Caris LeVert‘s new rookie scale extension, which starts at about $16.2MM in 2020/21. As initially reported, the three-year deal with the Nets is worth exactly $52.5MM and is fully guaranteed, with no options.
  • Nets sharpshooter Joe Harris, who put up 11 points and five rebounds today for Team USA, is relishing an opportunity to represent his country at the 2019 World Cup, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post details. ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (via Twitter) that Harris should be one of the very best UFA shooting guards on what figures to be a weak NBA free agent market in 2020.
  • Within his latest mailbag for The Athletic, Derek Bodner writes that while the Sixers don’t appear ready to trust Jonah Bolden as their primary backup center, he also doesn’t believe the club views Bolden as trade bait.

Team USA Advances In World Cup; Tatum Sprains Ankle

Team USA survived a scare on Tuesday in Shanghai, narrowly pulling out a 93-92 win vs. Turkey in overtime and securing a spot in the second round of the 2019 World Cup. The Turkish team missed four free throws in the final minute of the game, opening the door for the USA Basketball squad to seal the victory.

Having defeated the Czech Republic and Turkey, Team USA will take a 2-0 record into its final first-round matchup against 0-2 Japan. The top two teams in each group move on to the round of 16, so even if Japan pulls off an extremely unlikely upset in Thursday’s game, Team USA would advance. The winner of Thursday’s Czech Republic/Turkey contest will also secure a spot in the second round.

Although they held off a strong push from Turkey, it wasn’t all good news for Team USA today. Jayson Tatum was forced out of action in the game’s final minute after rolling his left ankle, as a video from Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston shows.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst tweets that the official word on Tatum is a left ankle sprain. The Celtics forward will be re-evaluated on Wednesday, at which point we should have a better idea of whether or not we’ll see him suit up again in China.

Meanwhile, Team Canada was eliminated from medal contention on Tuesday after falling to Lithuania by a 92-69 margin. Canada, which lost to Australia on Sunday, is one of the only countries that theoretically features enough NBA players to fill out an entire 12-man squad. However, only two NBA players – Cory Joseph and Khem Birch – participated in the World Cup and Nick Nurse‘s squad couldn’t keep up with Australia and Lithuania in Group H.

Canada will enter the classification round along with the other 15 teams eliminated from the World Cup in round one. Those games will still be important, since Canada will have to finish between 17th and 23rd to clinch a spot in next summer’s Olympics qualifying tournament. A finish below 23rd would ensure the program doesn’t participate in the 2020 Olympics.

World Cup Notes: Walker, Team USA, Star Power, Celtics

While fans have certainly (and understandably) reacted harshly to Team USA losing its exhibition game 98-94 to Australia, players and staffers alike haven’t been overreacting to the upset.

They say Team USA doesn’t lose, I get it, they haven’t lost in a very long time, which I understand, but it happens,” Kemba Walker said, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic. “Teams lose. We are just going to take this loss and build from it, that’s all we can do is continue to try our best to get better.

“The real thing doesn’t start until China, so we’ve got one more game. We’re going to head to Sydney and focus on Canada and from that point out the real thing starts. That’s all we are worried about, just continuing to get better, continuing to learn each other.”

Australia stunned Team USA behind Patty Mills 30 points, Joe Ingles 15 points and Andrew Bogut‘s 16 points off the bench. The team sported a starting five of Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Ingles, Jock Landale and Aron Baynes.

Walker led the way for the United States, finishing with 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting in the losing effort. The Australians broke a 78-game winning streak for Team USA, their first ever victory against the Americans.

Here are some other notes from the FIBA World Cup today:

  • This year’s World Cup will have dominance in an international sense, Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press writes. The depleted Team USA could be tasked with playing the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), Nikola Jokic (Serbia) and other NBA stars throughout the tournament.
  • Competing in the World Cup is a preseason bonus for Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, with each player set to enter the fall together on the Celtics, as published in an article by the Associated Press. “It’s pretty cool,” Brown said. “It’s a blessing, of course. I take it very seriously to be able to represent not only your family and Boston but the country. We take it serious, and we come to play basketball.”
  • Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated examines why members of Team USA have chips on their shoulders, embracing the disrespectful message from fans around the world. The absences of several players who withdrew from the team has led many to believe the Americans could be upset by another team in the tournament. “We are embracing it as much as we can,” Walker said. “It’s adding fuel to the fire. A lot of us, it’s where we come from. We come from being underdogs, most of us. We’re hungry.”

World Cup Notes: Exhibition, Australia, Free Agency, Clarkson

Team USA got the test it was hoping for in today’s exhibition matchup with Australia, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Playing before more than 51,000 fans in Melbourne, the Americans trailed briefly in the second and third quarters before pulling away for a 102-86 victory.

“One of our big mantras has been ‘composure and poise,’” coach Gregg Popovich said. “Things are going to go the other way in some games. And the way you respond to that is really the measure of how you’re going to do.”

Popovich put together a challenging exhibition schedule to test his team before World Cup play officially starts at the end of the month. After facing second-ranked Spain last week, Team USA is playing a pair of games against Australia, then taking on Canada.

There’s more World Cup news to pass along:

  • Before the game, Popovich told reporters he sees Australia as a legitimate threat for the gold medal, per an Associated Press story. The Boomers feature several NBA players and have a core that has been together for a long time. “They are one of the teams that can win the whole thing, without a doubt,” Popovich said. “I’m not saying that because I’m here. It’s just a fact. They’ve been close for several years, and they are hungry. They are talented. They have the toughness and physicality to go with it. I think they are one of the top contenders.”
  • International play has frequently set up future free agent moves, notes Douglas Farmer of Basketball Insiders. He singles out Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell as two players who could work well together, although both are expected to sign rookie scale extensions with their current teams, so that partnership may not be formed until 2027. Among 2020 free agents, Mason Plumlee and Joe Harris are both role players who could be valuable in the right situation. Farmer expects the four Celtics on the World Cup team to talk to Plumlee about coming to Boston, while Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez may sell Harris on the Bucks.
  • Cavaliers guard Jordan Clarkson won’t be part of the Philippines team, relays Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. The nation included Clarkson’s name on the 19-man pool it submitted to FIBA just in case he was declared eligible, but head coach Yeng Guiao announced Wednesday that the team is moving on without him.