Marcus Smart

Eastern Notes: Clifford, Pistons, Smart, Raptors, Sixers

Although the Hornets fired him as head coach following the 2017/18 season, Steve Clifford still had a good relationship with general manager Mitch Kupchak and owner Michael Jordan, writes Steve Reed of The Associated Press. Those ties resulted in Clifford getting his old job back after Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson pulled out of an agreement to coach the team.

“You want to evolve and get better at what you do,” Clifford said Tuesday at his introductory press conference. “I have coached a lot more games than I had when I was here the first time and worked with another team. You learn a lot from that.”

Clifford was brought in to fix a defense that ranked 22nd in the league this season, and he told reporters that will be an emphasis. Clifford doesn’t plan major changes to the offense, which will continue with a fast-paced philosophy led by LaMelo Ball.

“We are going to play offensively with a very similar emphasis that they have played with the last couple of years,” Clifford said. “Offense starts with playing through the strengths of your best players and Ball is a great talent with a passion for the game and a flair for playing in the open court and we want to take advantage of that.”

There’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Acquiring Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks from the Knicks will give the Pistons greater flexibility next offseason, observes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. Detroit will have team options on both players for 2023/24 and can create $19MM in cap room by letting them go. With Cory Joseph and Hamidou Diallo both on expiring contracts, Kelly Olynyk holding a $3MM partial guarantee and DeAndre Jordan‘s $7.9MM in dead money coming off the books, the Pistons should have north of $45MM in cap space for 2023, Edwards writes.
  • Celtics guard Marcus Smart barely notices anymore when he’s the subject of trade talks, tweets basketball writer Mark Murphy. “Every year my name is in talks, and I’m still here,” Smart said. “I’m still the longest tenured Celtic. So I take it as a compliment. It means you’re valued pretty high and if your name is talked about people want you. But I don’t pay much attention.”
  • The Raptors are expected to target centers in free agency with Isaiah Hartenstein and Thomas Bryant being players to watch, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca.
  • Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice examines the Sixers‘ options in free agency and looks at how James Harden‘s option decision will impact the team’s cap situation.

Celtics Notes: Game 6, Smart, Brown, Udoka, R. Williams

The Celtics are disappointed to be trailing 3-2 in the NBA Finals, but they were able to overcome the same situation in their second-round series with the Bucks, writes Zach Lowe of ESPN. Players faced that deficit with a surprising calmness after letting a 14-point lead slip away in the fourth quarter of a Game 5 loss at home, Lowe states, and they were able to retake control of the series.

“Everyone looked at each other and kind of gave each other a tap on the back and it was over,” Marcus Smart recalls. “Onto the next one. We all knew. Just stay together. Stay together. We had each other’s back. We knew Game 6 for us, there was gonna be hell to pay. And there was.”

Lowe notes the contrast with how the team handled losing early in the season, citing a November incident in which Smart called out Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum for not passing the ball enough. The comments created “real tension” in the locker room, especially between Smart and Brown, according to Lowe. And although the players have worked out their differences, Lowe says the incident affected the atmosphere surrounding the team for the next two months.

There’s more from Boston:

  • Brown called this year’s playoff run a “learning experience” that has helped the Celtics become more resilient in tough situations, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Brown believes playing three elimination games already will benefit the team heading into tonight’s Game 6. “We are not scared. We do not fear the Golden State Warriors,” he said. “We want to come out and play the best version of basketball that we can. We know it’s a good team over there. We know they’ve done it before. But we have all the belief in ourselves. We’re going to come out and leave it all out there. That’s the whole intent.”
  • The Celtics plan to spend less time tonight focused on the referees, Bontemps adds. Coach Ime Udoka thought his team got too distracted by the officiating in Game 5.
  • Robert Williams could potentially swing the series if the Celtics can find a way to get him more involved with the offense, suggests Brian Robb of MassLive. Williams is shooting 88% from the field against the Warriors’ smaller lineups, but he’s put up just 18 shots through five games.

Celtics Notes: Tatum, R. Williams, Smart, White

Jayson Tatum hasn’t forgotten the feeling of being passed over by the Lakers in the 2017 draft — or that the Celtics almost didn’t take him either, according to Ramona Shelburne and Elizabeth Merrill of ESPN. Tatum, who has become the biggest star among that year’s draft class, grew up as a Lakers fan and still offers subtle tributes to Kobe Bryant. L.A. owned the No. 2 pick, but was focused on Lonzo Ball, ending Tatum’s hopes of wearing purple and gold.

“The Lakers were my favorite team, and Kobe was my favorite player,” Tatum said. “So it was crazy that the Lakers had the second pick and I was so close to a dream come true. But it was just like they didn’t want anything to do with me at the time.”

Tatum had a strong pre-draft workout for Boston, which owned the top pick. Danny Ainge, who ran the Celtics at the time, had planned to take Markelle Fultz, but Fultz shot poorly at his workout and didn’t seem fully healthy, so Ainge traded down and grabbed Tatum at No. 3.

“After my workout, I remember one of the [Boston] scouts came up to me and said, ‘That was a great workout. I’m excited for you. But we got the No. 1 pick, so we’re not going to pick you,'” Tatum recalled. “He still works for the Celtics now, so I f— with him all the time.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Robert Williams has earned a new level of respect by playing in pain throughout the postseason, per Jay King of The Athletic. Williams has come a long way since college, when there were questions surrounding his work ethic and maturity level. “Rob has made huge jumps,” teammate Jaylen Brown said. “Not just in his game, but just the mental game. Just being able to be consistent, being able to be solid, being able to be available. And a lot of that comes from confidence. A lot of that comes from self belief, inner belief.” Williams was listed as questionable for tonight’s Game 3, but he’ll be in the starting lineup, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.
  • Marcus Smart tells Steve Bulpett of Heavy that the Celtics are stronger because of the trials they experienced during their 18-21 start. “We definitely made it hard on ourselves,” Smart said. “But, you know, we always hear the saying: if you want something great, it’s never gonna be easy to achieve it. So, you know, we take that full head-on as a team, we accept it and we ride with it.”
  • After being traded to Boston by the Spurs, Derrick White found a lot of similarities in the system run by Ime Udoka, who was a former assistant in San Antonio, but he said the Celtics place more emphasis on physicality, Grant Afseth writes for Sports Illustrated“In San Antonio, we had a lot of emphasis on not fouling,” White said. “To keep them [opponents] off the line. Obviously, they don’t want dumb fouls here, but I’m just trying to be more physical. Just little things like that.”

Celtics Notes: Tatum, R. Williams, Smart, Theis

It takes more than one bad shooting night to shake Jayson Tatum‘s confidence, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Meeting with the media following today’s practice, the Celtics star said he won’t change anything about his approach after shooting just 3-of-17 in Game 1.

“Once you’ve done something before, you know how to respond,” Tatum said. “I’ve had some bad shooting nights in the NBA. So it’s like, ‘I’ve been here before.’ I know what to do next game. I think a lot of it is mental. You don’t let it creep into your mind. I can’t do nothing about what happened last game. I missed those shots and it is what it is. It’s all about how to prepare and get ready for the next one.”

Even though Tatum was misfiring, Boston still put 120 points on the board and he was able to contribute 13 assists. That may have worked on Thursday night, but Tatum understands that the Celtics will need consistent scoring from him to win the series.

“Obviously, I know I’ve got to play better,” he said. “I can’t shoot like that every game and hopefully we win. I expect to play better shooting-wise, but just impacting the game in different ways to do my part and let’s get a win. I will continue to do that. Just read the game, read each play. That’s how I kind of approach next game.”

There’s more 0n the Celtics:

  • Robert Williams is being listed as questionable for Sunday night’s Game 2 with soreness in his left knee, tweets Substack contributor Marc Stein. Williams, who has been hampered by injuries throughout the playoffs, started at center and played more than 24 minutes in Game 1 after being deemed questionable.
  • The Celtics’ relentlessness helped them overcome a 12-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter of the series opener, observes Souichi Terada of MassLive. Marcus Smart describes himself as a “lion out on the prowl hunting” in his approach to matching up with the Warriors. “Playing against a team that’s been here and knows what it takes, and they’re the hunted,” Smart said. “We’re the hunters right now. We’re trying to get to their level and get to where they’re at. So for me, I’m just out, I’m stealth, I’m waiting for my time to strike and my opportunity.”
  • Daniel Theis credits the Celtics’ midseason turnaround to having so many players who are comfortable with their contract situations, per Brian Robb of MassLive. After Theis and Derrick White were acquired at the trade deadline, Boston’s top 10 rotation players all had multiyear deals. “Everybody now, almost everybody on his team got a long-term contract and like is secured in a way that they can just focus on winning,” Theis said, “like, it’s not like, ‘Oh, I’m in my contract year, I got to put the numbers up.'”

Atlantic Notes: White, Smart, Sixers, Anunoby, Raptors

Like longtime Celtics Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart, former Spurs guard Derrick White was a member of the USA Basketball team that played in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. As Joe Vardon of The Athletic writes, the training camp for that World Cup represented the first time that Smart met White, who is now playing a key role for Boston as the team seeks a championship.

“We knew that Derrick understood the game, the way he plays,” Smart said on Thursday, revisiting their first meeting. “Watching him play before we got to USA reminded myself a little bit of me. So, just instantly off the bat, I loved the way he played.”

While Team USA had a disappointing run at the 2019 World Cup, finishing in seventh place, White and Smart are having more success as Celtics teammates. Boston is now just three wins away from a title after White, acquired in a deadline deal in February, played a key role in Thursday’s Game 1 win with 21 points and five three-pointers.

“Every day he’s done something new to make you go, ‘That’s why he’s here,'” Smart said of his fellow guard.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Smart was no longer listed on the Celtics‘ injury report for Game 1 on Thursday, but that doesn’t mean his right ankle sprain has fully healed. The ankle is a pretty serious injury,” Smart said on Wednesday when asked about it (Twitter link via Jared Weiss of The Athletic). “I’m thankful to let alone play and still be walking. It hurt, but my mama always told me if you’re gonna play, you can’t make no excuses.”
  • Now that they know they’ll have the No. 23 pick in this year’s draft rather than sending it to Brooklyn, the Sixers can focus on what to do with that selection. Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice identifies five draft prospects who would make sense as potential targets if Philadelphia hangs onto the pick.
  • In a Twitter thread, Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca explains why he believes the Raptors are extremely unlikely to trade OG Anunoby this summer, despite rumors that he could be available.
  • Gabe Brown (Michigan State), Marcus Bingham (Michigan State), Trent Frazier (Illinois), and JD Notae (Arkansas) are among the prospects who worked out for the Raptors earlier this week, according to reports from Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com and Brandon Simberg of Busting Brackets (Twitter links).

Celtics Notes: Brown, Horford, Smart, Williams

After starting off the 2021/22 NBA season with a middling 25-25 record, the Celtics were hardly looking like candidates for a deep postseason run. Now, after consecutive Game 7 wins over Milwaukee and Miami, Boston will face Golden State in the NBA Finals, which begin on Thursday at the Chase Center.

Celtics star swingman Jaylen Brown acknowledged this week that he heard plenty of trade speculation earlier in the year when Boston’s season was looking less promising, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. During the first half of the season, there was outside chatter about whether the Celtics needed to break up Brown and Jayson Tatum.

“That trade talk was loud, and most of it came from Boston fans,” Brown told Haynes. “It’s a city that doesn’t tolerate excuses. But in reality, early in the season we had a new coach, we had a new front office, I missed about 15 games early in the season and that caused us to not be clicking on all cylinders like we wanted to be. People were impatient, so I understand. But fast forward, we got healthy, we got everybody back and now the sky’s the limit.”

There’s more out of Boston:

  • Veteran Celtics big man Al Horford is expected to have his salary for the 2022/23 NBA season fully guaranteed, regardless of the NBA Finals outcome, sources tell Brian Robb of MassLive. Boston’s Eastern Finals win increased Horford’s partial guarantee from $14.5MM to $19.5MM, while a championship would officially increase it to a full guarantee of $26.5MM. However, given the way he has performed this season – and in the playoffs – it sounds like Horford won’t have to worry about being waived in the offseason, no matter how the forthcoming series plays out.
  • Celtics head coach Ime Udoka has indicated that there is “no concern” about the health of starting point guard and Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart heading into the team’s NBA Finals matchup against the Warriors this week, per Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link). Smart sat out Games 1 and 4 of Boston’s seven-game Eastern Conference Finals series win against the Heat with a right ankle sprain.
  • The Celtics are savoring their four-day breather in between the Eastern Conference Finals and the NBA Finals on Thursday, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Starting center Robert Williams, who was unavailable for three contests against the Heat due to a left knee bone bruise and played limited minutes in Game 7, looks to be a big beneficiary of break. “Rob’s all right,” Udoka said. “Getting looked at today and will continue to get his treatment and rehab and in order to get swelling down and some of the pain and mobility back. And so it’s going to be an ongoing thing, like I mentioned. He’s day-to-day pretty much throughout the playoffs… [He] should feel better with time in between, especially with these two days off in between games, as opposed to playing every other day.”

Celtics Notes: Game 7, G. Williams, Smart, R. Williams

The Celtics missed a chance to close out the Eastern Conference Finals at home, but they remain confident that they can win the series in Miami, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Road teams historically don’t fare well in Game 7, but after beating the Bucks in seven games in the last round, Boston players like their chances Sunday night.

“Scale of 1 to 10?” Jayson Tatum asked. “Ten. I mean, it shouldn’t be any less than that, right? You know, it’s the last game. That’s what it’s all about. It’s a 10 out of 10 in my confidence level and the group.”

Familiar mistakes prevented the Celtics from ending the series on Friday, Bontemps adds, as they turned the ball over frequently in the early part of the game. They also struggled to get production from their main scorers in the second half as Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for just 18 points after halftime.

“We won the close-out game, obviously, [against Milwaukee], and for us we’ve won two in Miami, so that’s the positive of it,” coach Ime Udoka said. “We know we can go there and win. But just have to make it harder than it is, and at times it feels like we’re doing that, not taking advantage of what’s in front of us, and just overall sloppy basketball on both ends. We can’t have that on the road.”

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Rick Barnes, who coached Grant Williams and P.J. Tucker in college, tells Jay King of the Athletic that there are a lot of similarities between them. “Incredible basketball IQ,” Barnes said. “If you mic’d them both up during the game, they’re never going to stop talking. Never. Because they know their job. They know everybody else’s job. Both of those guys would be terrific coaches if they wanted to be, because they really see the game from every spot on the floor, they know how everything is supposed to work. And both of them want to win. That’s all they did.”
  • This is the fourth conference finals in six years for Boston, but the current core hasn’t been able to reach the next level, notes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. One of those losses was to Miami two years ago, and the players want to make sure they don’t come up short again. “You don’t want any feelings of regret,” Brown said. “We’ve got an opportunity to do something with this group that’s special. So let’s not take that for granted.”
  • Marcus Smart and Robert Williams, who have both seen their availability in the series affected by injuries, are listed as questionable for Game 7, according to Souichi Terada of MassLive. Terada notes that both players were active for Games 5 and 6 after being game-time decisions.

Herro To Miss Game 6; Smart, R. Williams Active

6:36pm: Smart and Williams will both be active for Boston, reports Tim Bontemps of ESPN (via Twitter).


6:06pm: Heat guard Tyler Herro is expected to be sidelined for Friday’s Game 6 against Boston, league sources told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Herro suffered a left groin strain in Game 3 and will now miss Games 4, 5 and 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals with the injury. He was a limited participant in the team’s shootaround this morning, but “experienced discomfort while sliding defensively,” Haynes reports.

Head coach Erik Spoelstra confirmed that Herro will be out, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic.

He’s definitely made progress, but he’s not quite ready to step into this kind of intensity of a game,” Spoelstra said.

It makes sense to be cautious with a muscle strain, as they can be notoriously tricky to deal with and easily re-injured, like what happened with teammate Kyle Lowry‘s hamstring strain in the previous series. Lowry hasn’t looked like himself since he originally sustained the injury more than a month ago.

After averaging 20.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists on .447/.399/.868 shooting in 66 regular season games (32.6 minutes), Herro saw his numbers drop off in the postseason, averaging 13.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists on .413/.232/.926 shooting in 14 games. Still, his absence will certainly be felt by the Heat, as they’ve struggled mightily to score without the Sixth Man of the Year winner, posting just 82 points in Game 4 and 80 in Game 5, both losses.

On Boston’s side, Celtics head coach Ime Udoka told reporters, including Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link), that both Marcus Smart and Robert Williams are game-time decisions for the potential close-out contest. Boston currently leads Miami 3-2.

Smart and Williams had previously been listed as questionable, and it seems we won’t know their status until later this evening. Game 6 tips off at 7:30pm CT on ESPN.

Atlantic Notes: Smart, Williams, Diop, Nets, White

Celtics starters Marcus Smart and Robert Williams are listed as questionable for Game 6 on Friday, the team tweets. It’s the same injury designation they had for Game 5.

Smart wound up playing 24 minutes on Wednesday despite his right ankle sprain and Williams made it through 27 minutes on his sore left knee.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • DeSagana Diop is the new head coach of the G League’s Westchester Knicks, Marc Stein tweets. Diop was represented by Knicks president Leon Rose when Rose was a player agent. Diop has assistant coaching experience with the Jazz and, most recently, the Rockets.
  • It has been reported that the Nets will likely defer the first-rounder owed by the Sixers from this year to next summer. However, that doesn’t mean the Nets will hold onto it and draft a rookie next summer, according to Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney. They might instead use it to facilitate an in-season trade next season to address injuries or roster shortcomings.
  • The deadline deal that sent Derrick White from San Antonio to Boston has proven to be crucial to the Celtics in their postseason run, Brian Windhorst of ESPN notes. They have registered blowout wins in two of the three games Smart has missed during the playoffs and having White at their disposal was a key to those successes. The Spurs acquired Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, the Celtics’ 2022 first-round pick, and the conditional right to swap first-round picks with Boston in 2028 in exchange for White.

Herro Out For Game 5; Smart, R. Williams Active

Heat guard Tyler Herro (left groin strain) will miss Wednesday’s Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Boston, tweets Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra said Herro was itching to return to action after missing Game 4’s 102-82 blowout loss, but the team’s training staff thought it would be irresponsible to let him play, so he was held out (Twitter link via Jackson). The groin injury isn’t considered to be a long-term concern, but obviously the Heat are being cautious with their Sixth Man of the Year winner after seeing Kyle Lowry re-injure his hamstring against Philadelphia.

The Celtics will have their full starting lineup intact for the first time this series, as both Marcus Smart (sprained right ankle) and Robert Williams (knee soreness) will be active tonight, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link). Smart missed Game 4 with the injury, while Williams missed Game 3.

Boston head coach Ime Udoka said the Defensive Player of the Year isn’t 100 percent healthy, but his mobility is “good enough” to play through the pain.

He (Smart) has enough movement where he’s not restricted in certain areas like a few days ago,” Udoka said.

As for Williams, Udoka said he won’t have any type of minutes restriction, but added that the team is hopeful to reduce his minutes if possible (Twitter links via Weiss).

All three players had previously been listed as questionable for Wednesday’s crucial Game 5. The series is currently tied at two games apiece.

Miami holds home-court advantage and would host a potential Game 7 if it gets that far, but Boston has looked like the slightly better team through four games, posting a +7.7 net rating. In our poll earlier today, a bit more than 72 percent of our readers predicted the Celtics to advance to the NBA Finals.

With Herro sidelined, Victor Oladipo, who has emerged as a regular part of the Heat’s rotation since midway through the first-round series vs. Atlanta, figures to once again play significant minutes. Oladipo contributed 23 points, four rebounds and six assists in Game 4, but unfortunately for Miami, he outscored the entire starting lineup (23 to 18). The Heat will need a much more balanced effort to take Game 5 and the lead in the series.