Jayson Tatum

Celtics Rumors: Kemba, Fournier, Coaching Search, Ainge, Stevens, More

As he transitions from the sidelines to the front office, new Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens will have some immediate decisions to make on the roster this offseason as he considers how to improve a group that finished seventh in the East in 2020/21.

Trading Kemba Walker is one path the Celtics figure to consider this summer, but the point guard still has two years and nearly $74MM left on his contract and his value is down after an injury-plagued season. While Walker is viewed as a player capable of having a strong comeback season, he’s not considered a positive asset at this point, given his injury history and contract situation, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps and Jared Weiss of The Athletic.

“They’ve been trying to move Kemba Walker for a year now and no one is touching that,” one NBA executive told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. “Their best bet would be to move (Marcus) Smart, but I don’t know what his market is. They could trade (Jaylen) Brown to try to fill a different position, but that would be a bad move.”

Evan Fournier‘s unrestricted free agency is another issue looming over the Celtics. One league executive who spoke to Scotto estimated that the veteran wing will be seeking a deal worth $15-20MM annually, though another predicted a cool market for Fournier.

“The issue will be what teams with room are going to target him?” that exec asked. “San Antonio might, but if not, who else will give him north of $10 million? If Fournier can be kept at a price around the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, I think Boston would re-sign him.”

Here are several more Celtics rumors and updates on an eventful day in Boston:

  • The Celtics’ head coaching search will likely start with internal candidates before they move outside the organization, sources tell Chris Mannix of SI.com (Twitter link). Current assistant Jerome Allen is one in-house candidate likely to get an interview, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Mannix (via Twitter) adds Nets assistant Ime Udoka to the list of probable external candidates for the Celtics’ head coaching job, while Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) says Chauncey Billups will likely receive consideration as well.
  • Asked today whether he intends to retire or seek another job, Danny Ainge was noncommittal, telling reporters that he’s not sure what his future holds and he’s focused for now on getting his successor Stevens up to speed (Twitter link via Tim Bontemps of ESPN).
  • Jared Weiss of The Athletic hears that in-season comments by Ainge and team owner Wyc Grousbeck about the Celtics’ shortcomings may have contributed to the club’s chemistry issues. Ainge said in February that he didn’t view the roster as championship-caliber and echoed that point multiple times later in the season.
  • One prominent member of the Celtics organization wanted to fire Stevens as the team’s head coach during the 2020/21 season, but Ainge and others in the organization were against that idea, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv.
  • Speaking to reporters following the Celtics’ elimination from the postseason, Jayson Tatum said he doesn’t feel the need to get involved in the front office’s personnel decisions, per Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe (Twitter link).
  • Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston takes a look at five key roster-related questions facing the Celtics this offseason.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Rose, Simmons, Kyrie, Tatum

The Knicks evened their first-round series at one game apiece with a win over Atlanta on Wednesday night. And, as Ian Begley of SNY.tv writes, two midseason acquisitions whom head coach Tom Thibodeau pushed to add played key roles in that victory. Derrick Rose scored a team-high 26 points in 39 minutes off the bench, while Taj Gibson was a game-best plus-23 in his 30 minutes.

Rose, who was acquired via trade, and Gibson, a free agent signing, both played for Thibodeau in Chicago and Minnesota before reuniting with him in New York. As Begley observes, they’re the veterans Thibodeau trusts the most, and the Knicks’ head coach didn’t sound surprised that giving them big minutes helped turn the tide in Game 2.

“I just wanted to change it up,” Thibodeau said of putting Rose and Gibson in the Knicks’ lineup to start the third quarter. “I thought we had to do something different and that’s why you have a bench. Those guys came in and played great.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Although Elfrid Payton technically started Wednesday’s game, it’s clear that Rose will be the point guard the Knicks rely on in this series, writes Paul Schwartz of The New York Post. Rose said he felt good after logging 39 minutes, while Payton was a minus-7 in his five minutes and didn’t play after the first quarter.
  • After receiving some criticism in Philadelphia for putting up just six points (to go along with 15 rebounds and 15 assists) in the Sixers‘ Game 1 win, Ben Simmons scored 22 points on Wednesday and addressed that negative feedback after the game. “I’m not trying to stick to anybody in Philly,” Simmons said, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN. “I thought it was pretty hard to get 15 assists and 15 rebounds in the NBA in the playoffs. I thought that was pretty impressive. And we won. What y’all want? You want to win? For me, I’m here to win and I’m doing what I need to do to help my team win, whatever it is. I’m not trying to prove anybody wrong or anything like that. I’m trying to do my job to win.”
  • As the Celtics/Nets series shifts from Brooklyn to Boston, former Celtic Kyrie Irving said he expects to hear plenty of jeers from the crowd, but hopes that C’s fans “keep it strictly basketball,” per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “(Hopefully) there’s no belligerence or racism going on — subtle racism — people yelling s–t from the crowd, but even if it is, it’s part of the nature of the game and we’re just going to focus on what we can control,” Irving said.
  • During an appearance on Zolak & Bertrand on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston (audio link), Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said he thinks there’s a good chance Jayson Tatum will play in Game 3 after suffering an eye injury on Tuesday. “The last I heard was that he was doing better and that Friday looks probable,” Stevens said.

Atlantic Notes: Tatum, J. Green, Simmons, Hill, Raptors

The Celtics and Nets each had a player leave Tuesday’s game early due to an injury, as Tim Bontemps of ESPN details.

The Celtics’ loss was more significant, as star forward Jayson Tatum exited in the third quarter after being inadvertently poked in the eye by Nets forward Kevin Durant. Tatum, who headed to the locker room following the injury, eventually returned to the bench, but he was unable to play any more and his status going forward is uncertain.

“He went back out on the court (and) tried to readjust to the light out there, and he was really struggling,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said, per Bontemps. “He got scratched pretty good. It looks pretty red, it looks pretty swollen to me. I don’t know what that means. I don’t know what the exact diagnosis is. But he’s uncomfortable right now.”

Meanwhile, Nets forward Jeff Green left in the second quarter due to a bruised left foot. The veteran has been a reliable role player for Brooklyn this season, averaging 27 minutes per game in 68 regular season contests and matching that minute total in Game 1. However, the Nets – already up 2-0 in the series – are far better positioned to handle any missed time for Green than the Celtics are for Tatum.

Here are a few more items from around the Atlantic:

  • After Ben Simmons scored just six points on 3-of-9 shooting in Game 1, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said he doesn’t understand criticism of the standout guard, who contributed 15 assists and 15 rebounds in the team’s victory. “Only in Philadelphia,” Rivers said, per Rob Maaddi of The Associated Press. “If you guys don’t know the treasure you have by now, then shame on everyone because he’s been fantastic for us. … I’m amazed that people don’t see what he does. We’re so caught up in the amount of points he scored. … Does it matter if Ben had all 125? Would we be mad that Joel (Embiid) didn’t score? Who cares who scores as long as we’re scoring. … When Ben plays, we score more points.”
  • It took a while for George Hill to get healthy and make his Sixers debut after he was acquired at the trade deadline, but the veteran guard will be relied upon more heavily now that the postseason is underway, writes Tom Moore of The Bucks County Courier Times.
  • The Raptors‘ own first-round pick is in the lottery for the first time since 2012, prompting Blake Murphy of The Athletic to explore whether the team should consider trading its first-rounder. Murphy also looks at trade possibilities for Toronto’s two second-round selections.

Crowded All-NBA Field Will Impact Several Contract Situations

When Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer shared his early All-NBA picks this week, he rightly pointed out that limiting the field to 15 players will leave a number of worthy candidates on the outside looking in. O’Connor had to exclude worthy contenders such as Devin Booker, Zion Williamson, Jaylen Brown, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Russell Westbrook, Trae Young, Jrue Holiday, and Kyrie Irving from his three All-NBA teams.

Among the other players left off the top 15 by O’Connor were Donovan Mitchell, Zach LaVine, Bam Adebayo, and De’Aaron Fox. Those players are especially notable because an All-NBA spot this season would either substantially increase the value of the contract extensions they signed last offseason or would put them in line for a significantly more lucrative extension this summer.

Jayson Tatum, who earned a spot on O’Connor’s All-NBA Third Team, is in the same boat. Like Mitchell, Adebayo, and Fox, he signed a rookie scale extension that includes Rose Rule language, which could bump his starting salary from 25% of the cap to 30% of the cap.

Here are how those players, who signed five-year, maximum-salary contract extensions last offseason, will be affected by whether or not they earn All-NBA honors. These are projected values based on a 3% salary cap increase.

Player No All-NBA All-NBA
Donovan Mitchell $163,000,590 $195,600,710
Jayson Tatum $163,000,590 $195,600,710
Bam Adebayo $163,000,590 $185,820,675 (First Team only)
De’Aaron Fox $163,000,590 $169,522,180 (Third Team) *

* Fox’s deal would be worth $182,560,660 if he makes the All-NBA Second Team and $195,600,710 if he makes the First Team.

Fox probably has no chance at making an All-NBA team, given the competition at guard and the Kings’ spot in the standings. The other three players here have better cases, but Adebayo is likely a long shot, making Mitchell and Tatum the most realistic candidates. They’d only need to sneak onto the Third Team to increase the projected value of their new five-year deals by more than $32MM.

As O’Connor writes, Tatum has a clearer path to an All-NBA spot than Mitchell based on his position. The guard spot is absolutely stacked this season — Mitchell would have to beat out at least one of Luka Doncic, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Bradley Beal, and James Harden, as well as all the guards mentioned at the top of this story. As good as he’s been, he may be left out.


While Tatum, Mitchell, Adebayo, and Fox have already negotiated “super-max” language into their contracts and are now trying to guarantee a salary increase by earning All-NBA honors, a handful of players will become eligible for a higher maximum salary on a new extension if they make an All-NBA team this year. An All-NBA spot would either make them eligible for a Rose Rule extension or a Designated Veteran Extension.

Here are those players, along with the projected contract extension they’d become eligible for with an All-NBA nod. These projections are on the conservative side, since they’re based on annual salary cap increases of just 3%.

Player Max extension with All-NBA spot
Year it would begin
Nikola Jokic
Five years, $242,098,25 2023/24 *
Joel Embiid
Four years, $187,000,032 2023/24
Zach LaVine
Five years, $235,046,855 2022/23
Luka Doncic Five years, $201,468,730 2022/23

* Jokic would have to wait until the 2022 offseason to sign a super-max extension. The others could sign extensions during the 2021 offseason.

Embiid is still under contract for two more years beyond 2020/21, which is why he’d only be able to tack on four new years to his current deal instead of five. Jokic is in a similar spot, but because he’ll only have six years of NBA service at the end of this season, he’d have to wait until 2022 to officially sign an extension, at which point he’d be eligible for five new years instead of just four.

Doncic’s potential extension has the lowest average value of any of these hypothetical deals because he’d only be eligible for a starting salary worth 30% of the cap, instead of 35%, due to his limited years of NBA service.

MVP candidates Jokic, Embiid, and Doncic all look like pretty safe bets to make an All-NBA team this spring, and I imagine the Nuggets, Sixers, and Mavericks will be ready to put super-max extension offers on the table for their respective stars as soon as they’re eligible to sign them.

As for LaVine, he likely won’t make an All-NBA team, which may be a relief for the Bulls — deciding whether or not to offer LaVine a standard maximum contract could be a difficult decision in its own right. If he were eligible for a super-max, that would make negotiations even more challenging.

Assuming LaVine doesn’t earn All-NBA honors, he’d only be eligible for a four-year, $104.83MM extension this offseason. However, the Bulls could go higher than that if they renegotiate his 2021/22 salary using their cap room, or if they wait until the 2022 offseason — as a free agent, LaVine would be eligible for a five-year contract worth up to $201.47MM (projection based on 3% annual cap increases) if he re-signs with Chicago, even without All-NBA honors.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Atlantic Notes: Noel, Brown, Tatum, Fournier, Trent

The Knicks moved closer to securing a guaranteed playoff spot in the East with their win over Houston on Sunday, but it may have come at a cost. Veteran big man Nerlens Noel left the game after suffering an ankle injury in the third quarter and didn’t return.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), who notes that Noel was diagnosed with a left ankle sprain, X-rays on that ankle were negative. While that’s good news for the Knicks and their starting center, he’ll undergo further evaluation on Monday to determine the severity of the injury and a potential timeline for his return.

If Noel is forced to miss time, the Knicks – already missing Mitchell Robinson – will have to lean more heavily on Taj Gibson and Norvel Pelle at the center spot.

Here are a few more notes from around the Atlantic:

  • Celtics guard Jaylen Brown limped off the court favoring his right leg after colliding with teammate Jayson Tatum late in Sunday’s loss to Portland, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Both players headed to the locker room after the collision, though Tatum said after the game that he felt OK. Brown’s status isn’t yet known.
  • Celtics wing Evan Fournier has been back for six games after dealing with COVID-19 and scored 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting on Sunday. However, he told reporters he’s still feeling the aftereffects of the virus. “I feel like I have a concussion,” Fournier said, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link). “Right now, it’s actually doing a little bit better. But at first, the bright lights were bothering my eyes, my vision was blurry, and everything was going too fast for me. … My depth perception is really bad right now, but I saw a specialist and she gave me some exercises, and hopefully I can get better.”
  • As Blake Murphy of The Athletic notes, Raptors swingman Gary Trent Jr., who has missed the last five games with a leg injury, is just one start (or 57 minutes played) away from meeting the starter criteria, which would increase the value of his qualifying offer and cap hold. While it may just be a coincidence based on which Raptors were available, it’s worth noting that Trent came off the bench in his last two healthy games after starting his first eight with the team. Toronto would gain a little extra cap flexibility this offseason if Trent falls short of meeting the starter criteria.

Atlantic Notes: Tatum, Knicks, Tolliver, VanVleet, Raptors

It’s been about three months since Jayson Tatum tested positive for COVID-19, but the Celtics forward is still dealing with the aftereffects of the virus, he acknowledged on Tuesday, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“It’s a process. It takes a long time,” Tatum said. “I take an inhaler before the game since I’ve tested positive. This has kind of helped with that and opened up my lungs, and, you know, I never took an inhaler before. So that’s something different.”

Tatum said he “for sure” feels better now than he did a month ago, though he admitted he’s not sure when he’ll be able to stop using an inhaler before games.

“There’s no exact timetable,” Tatum said. “(It’s) just when I feel comfortable enough and I think I don’t need it.”

  • The Knicks had internal discussions last week about the possibility of adding Anthony Tolliver, per Marc Berman of The New York Post. As Berman explains, New York was looking for a player who could play the center position, and Tolliver – who ended up signing with Philadelphia – is more of a forward.
  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said on Tuesday that there was no timeline for Fred VanVleet‘s return from a hip injury, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca tweets. However, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic (Twitter link), VanVleet will serve his one-game suspension on Wednesday. Because VanVleet was suspended while injured, he wasn’t able to serve the one-game ban until he was cleared to play, so it sounds like his return may be imminent.
  • Besides missing VanVleet tonight, the Raptors will also be without Kyle Lowry (rest/toe) and Gary Trent Jr. (ankle), Murphy notes (via Twitter). Despite a brutal 4-17 slump, Toronto is still just two games out of the 10th seed in the East, but injuries have prevented the team from making a push for a play-in spot.

USA Basketball Expands Finalist List for Olympic Roster

Fifteen players have been added to the list of finalists for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team, USA Basketball announced today in a press release. The group will eventually be pared down to 12 players who will participate in the Olympic Games, which are set for July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will serve as coach for the U.S. team, with Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Villanova coach Jay Wright and former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce as his assistants.

No tryouts will be held this year. Instead, USA Basketball will choose the final roster by early summer. Training camp is scheduled to being in early July before the conclusion of the NBA playoffs.

“With the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics from 2020 to 2021, it’s important that we continue to remain flexible and consider all players who can contribute to our efforts to field the best USA team possible,” USA Basketball men’s national team managing director Jerry Colangelo said. “These additions we are announcing today will help ensure that we are doing that. Having a larger player pool than what we normally have is critical because of all of the uncertainties we face about availability. But for USA Basketball to receive the commitment of so many outstanding players remains an indicator of the great honor of representing your country means to these men.”

The new names under consideration are:

  1. Jarrett Allen (Cavaliers)
  2. Eric Gordon (Rockets)
  3. Jerami Grant (Pistons)
  4. Blake Griffin (Nets)
  5. Jrue Holiday (Bucks)
  6. DeAndre Jordan (Nets)
  7. Zach LaVine (Bulls)
  8. Julius Randle (Knicks)
  9. Duncan Robinson (Heat)
  10. Mitchell Robinson (Knicks)
  11. Fred VanVleet (Raptors)
  12. John Wall (Rockets)
  13. Zion Williamson (Pelicans)
  14. Christian Wood (Rockets)
  15. Trae Young (Hawks)

Forty-two players remain from the original list, which was announced in February 2020:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
  3. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  4. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  5. Devin Booker (Suns)
  6. Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers)
  7. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  8. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  9. Mike Conley (Jazz)
  10. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  11. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  12. DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)
  13. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Nets)
  15. Paul George (Clippers)
  16. Draymond Green (Warriors)
  17. James Harden (Nets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Lakers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Hornets)
  22. Dwight Howard (Sixers)
  23. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  24. Kyrie Irving (Nets)
  25. LeBron James (Lakers)
  26. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  27. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  28. Damian Lillard (Blazers)
  29. Brook Lopez (Bucks)
  30. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  31. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  32. JaVale McGee (Cavaliers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Rockets)
  36. Chris Paul (Suns)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Pistons)
  38. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  39. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  40. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  41. Russell Westbrook (Wizards)
  42. Derrick White (Spurs)

Two players removed from that list are Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, and Celtics guard Marcus Smart. Sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic that Smart turned down an invitation because of injury concerns due to having a short offseason and playing late into consecutive seasons (Twitter link).

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.