Marcus Smart

Celtics Notes: Free Agents, Thomas, Green, George

Next season’s Celtics may have little resemblance to the group that earned the East’s top seed and reached the conference finals, writes Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. Free agents Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko are both very unlikely to be-resigned, according to Deveney. Johnson started 77 games this season, but his role was cut severely in the playoffs. Fellow free agents Gerald Green and James Young will also probably be let go. Kelly Olynyk may be a tougher call as a restricted free agent. The Celtics would like to keep him, Deveney notes, but they aren’t certain to match a large offer. The team would also like to trade center Tyler Zeller, who has one year left on his contract at $8MM, which won’t be guaranteed until July 2nd.

There’s more today out of Boston:

  • Isaiah Thomas is eligible for an extension this summer, but it’s unlikely to happen, Deveney states in the same story. Thomas has one year left on his deal at the extreme bargain price of about $6.26MM. The most likely scenario, according to Deveney, is that Thomas will play out his current contract, then pursue a max deal starting at more than $30MM per season in 2018, either from the Celtics or another organization. There has been speculation about a possible Thomas trade this summer, but Deveney says the Celtics haven’t talked to anyone about dealing him. Other offseason decisions include possible extensions for Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley, and Deveney notes that Boston can’t afford to invest big money in all three guards.
  • Executives around the league believe the Celtics will hold on to the No. 1 draft pick and select Markelle Fultz, Deveney adds in the same piece. They will take a year to see how he meshes with Thomas, Bradley and Smart before making any long-term decisions. Kansas forward Josh Jackson is probably the most likely choice if they pass on Fultz, according to Deveney.
  • At today’s exit interview, Green said he wants to return to the Celtics and help them win a title, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE. The 31-year-old played just 47 games during the season, but started seven times in the playoffs.
  • Al Horford, who signed with the Celtics last summer, believes Boston will be a popular destination for free agents, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. “I think it’s gonna be very attractive,” he said. “If you look at our team, the upside and everything, it’s a good time to be a Celtic.”
  • Boston has the assets to land Paul George in a trade if he refuses to sign a long-term deal with the Pacers, according to Bobby Marks of The Vertical. Marks and Chris Mannix discuss the Celtics’ offseason options in a video on the Vertical website, with Marks saying a trade with Indiana is feasible without including the Nets’ pick for this year or 2018. He suggests a package of Jae Crowder, Terry Rozier, Zeller and the Grizzlies’ 2019 first-rounder may be enough to get a deal done.

Smart To Start In Lieu Of Thomas

The Celtics will have a tough time replacing the injured Isaiah Thomas for the remainder of their Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Cavaliers but don’t expect interim starter Marcus Smart to shy away from the opportunity.

Everybody has to step up once again. This is an opportunity for everybody to make a bigger impact on the game,” Smart told A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England. “It’s devastating not to have Isaiah. Not just because of his scoring ability, but just because he’s a big part of our team. He’s one of our brothers and he’s down. We understand it. We respect everything that he’s done. But now is the time for everybody else to step up.

In 15 postseason games for the Celtics so far this season, Smart has averaged 7.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. More important than any statistical contribution, however, is his presence as a disruptive, physical force.

As we wrote yesterday, Thomas has been ruled out for the remainder of the postseason and Blakely shares that the guard will take the next few days to discuss his injury with hip specialists.

Blakely also notes that the absence of Thomas will allow rookie point guard Terry Rozier to see more time on the court, a bittersweet gift for the Ohio native.

Celtics Notes: Grousbeck, George, Butler, Ainge

The Celtics are getting plenty of advice after landing the top pick in this year’s draft, but managing partner Wyc Grousbeck sounds like his decision is already made. Speaking with Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti in a video on CSNNE, Grousbeck said Boston will hold onto the selection “unless someone blows us away with an offer.”

“I think these picks are very, very valuable,” he said. “If you’re going to trade these picks for an established star making max, you’ve got to send max money out the door as well, so you’ve got to send more guys along, so this guy coming back had better be the second coming. What’s more, he’s going to be halfway through his career, whoever he is, and he’s going to be paid a lot of money, which restricts you in other ways.

“So if you can get a really good guy with this pick, you’ve got him, you can build with him, you can coach him up. You get to max money eventually, five to six years down the road, but it’s a totally different thing.”

There’s more out of Boston as the city prepares for the Eastern Conference finals and the No. 1 pick:

  • Winning the lottery gives the Celtics more leverage if they decide to reopen trade talks with the Pacers or Bulls, writes Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders. When Boston inquired about Paul George before the trade deadline, the Pacers were asking for a package that included the pick, along with Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown. According to Greene, the Celtics refused to part with Crowder in any deal, which shut down the pursuit of George. Boston also had interest in Jimmy Butler, and there have been reports that those talks will resume this summer.
  • President of basketball operations Danny Ainge is enjoying the rewards of his patience, according to Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com. Ainge started the rebuilding process in 2013 by trading Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Nets for a package of draft picks that produced the No. 3 selection last year [Brown], the No. 1 this season and Brooklyn’s unprotected first-rounder in 2018. Ainge has resisted the temptation to part with those picks and is in the process of building a group of talented young players around his veteran core.
  • Ainge plans to keep his options open between now and the draft, but he understands that his assets increased significantly Tuesday night, relays Kurt Helin of NBC Sports“At the trade deadline we were trading away the possibility of the No. 1 pick, a 25 percent chance of the No. 1 pick, but that’s a 75 percent chance of not having that pick, and that’s how teams look at it, which is probably why we didn’t get a deal done,” Ainge said. “Now we have the No. 1 pick and we will explore the value of it.”

Northwest Notes: Hayward, Jazz, OKC, Gibson

Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward has earned a max contract, according to Randy Hollis of The Deseret News. Hollis admits that he had been wrong about Hayward and hopes that Hayward elects to return to the Jazz in free agency in a fascinating piece that touts the budding star’s basketball brilliance.

Let’s round up a few more notes from around the Northwest…

  • Alec Burks has had a difficult past few years as a result of injury, but he’s poised for a comeback, reports Mike Sorensen of The Deseret News. “It’s frustrating,” Burke said to Sorensen. “My (latest) injury was way more serious than I thought. But I’m a soldier and I learned a lot about my body and the game of basketball during the time out.”
  • While Trey Lyles suffered through a disappointing sophomore campaign, Jazz coach Quin Snyder is certainly not giving up on his forward, per Randy Hollis of The Deseret News. “I think, for Trey, like a lot of young players, it’s more about him taking stock and looking at the year, figuring out he can use it to improve,” Snyder said. “Sometimes you have to go through some things like that in order to get a good gauge on where you are. I expect Trey to have a terrific summer and look forward to him leveraging some of that adversity to make himself a better player.”
  • Taj Gibson would love to return to the Thunder, but he will have many suitors, writes Erik Horne of NewsOK.com. Horne’s piece discusses Gibson’s success in Oklahoma City after being traded from Chicago and names the power forward as likely the team’s best option in free agency.
  • Although the Thunder are locked into the 21st overall pick in the draft, Tuesday night’s lottery may very well have implications for the team, as the draft ordering could affect which players are available on the trade market, writes Brett Dawson of NewsOK.com.
  • Marcus Smart, who played his college ball at Oklahoma State, would fit in very well with the Thunder, writes Berry Tramel of NewsOK.com. Smart remains under contract with Boston for one more year.

David Fizdale, Marcus Smart Fined By NBA

The NBA handed out a pair of fines on Wednesday, docking Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale $30K for his post-game rant about the officiating following his team’s Game 2 loss in San Antonio. The league also fined Marcus Smart $25K for making an obscene gesture toward home fans during the Celtics’ Game 2 loss to the Bulls.

Fizdale was a lock to be fined even before his Monday night rant concluded with the “take that for data” line that instantly went viral. The Grizzlies head coach spent time after Monday’s loss pointing to the free throw discrepancy between the two teams, after Kawhi Leonard shot more free throws than the entire Grizzlies squad.

According to Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal and Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter links), Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley sent Fizdale a text early on Tuesday morning thanking him for his comments. Conley and his teammates intend to reimburse Fizdale for the $30K fine as a sign of appreciation for aggressively taking a stand on their behalf.

Meanwhile, Smart received his $25K fine after TNT cameras showed Smart appearing to exchange words with a fan in Boston before flipping him the bird. Head coach Brad Stevens called the incident, which came midway through the fourth quarter with the Celtics trailing the Bulls by a 14-point margin, “unacceptable.”

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Lowry, Hornacek

The Sixers are near the top of our Reverse Standings, owning a record of 28-52. The team is optimistic that it can climb the real NBA standings next season and Joel Embiid is a major reason why there’s hope, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes.

“The thing I get most excited about with Joel is he has such a long ways to go,” coach Brett Brown said. “He is just scratching the surface of what ultimately he’s going to be.”

Embiid remains out as he recovers from knee surgery, but the organization expects him to resume basketball activities this summer.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Raptors are still working to incorporate all their new players, Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun details. The scribe notes that Kyle Lowry, who recently returned to the lineup following a wrist injury, hasn’t yet found a comfort level with new addition Serge Ibaka.
  • Coach Jeff Hornacek admits that the all-in switch to the triangle mid-season may not have been the best move for the Knicks, Al Iannazzone of Newsday relays. “It shouldn’t have been that big of a deal,” Hornacek said. “But from the players’ side they probably thought it was too big a change. We’ll figure what’s best for us, what everybody wants to do and try to go from day one and leave it like that.”
  • If the Celtics are going to make a deep postseason run, they must rediscover their 3-point shot, A. Sherrod Blakely of Comcast Sportsnet argues. Marcus Smart, who will be eligible for a rookie extension this offseason, is among the team’s bench players who have struggled from behind the arc since the All-Star break.

Atlantic Notes: Brown, Smart, Noel, Jackson

After a break down in communication in their Wednesday night matchup, Celtics veteran Marcus Smart was seen arguing with rookie Jaylen Brown. CSN New England’s Gary Tanguay discussed the altercation, adding his own case in defense of the 20-year-old swingman.

Per Tanguay, the heated discussion started when Brown attacked the basket prior to letting a set play develop but the rookie guard was wise, he says, to be aggressive. Tanguay added that Brown is the future of the Celtics franchise, not Smart.

In 65 games this season, Brown has averaged 6.5 points and 2.9 rebounds per game but those numbers have jumped over the course of the past two months as the first-year guard has grown into a bigger role with the Celtics.

Smart, on the other hand, averages 10.8 points per game for the Celtics and is generally heralded for his leadership abilities.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Though his Mavericks were emphatically defeated, Nerlens Noel‘s return to Philadelphia was an otherwise positive experience. “[I have] no beef at all,” Noel told Jessica Camerato of CSN Philadelphia of how his time with the Sixers came to an end. The third-year big man held a meet and greet with local fans upon his return.
  • There may be light at the end of the tunnel for the rebuilding Nets. General manager Sean Marks recently shed some on what could be next for the franchise. “Let’s build a rock-solid foundation, develop these young guys, get Isaiah Whitehead, Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson growing up and see where they are at 25, 26,” he said, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post.
  • It’s been three years since Phil Jackson took the reins of the Knicks and Marc Berman of the New York Post says the executive left his basketball brains in Los Angeles. Berman writes that Jackson nailed the only lottery pick he’s been given (Kristaps Porzingis) but has failed to manage personalities, as was a reported strength.
  • The New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro suggests that, if a smooth operating triangle scheme is truly the goal, Phil Jackson may have been better off either handling coaching duties himself or being more assertive in having his Knicks coaches employ the triangle offense.

Celtics Rumors: Deadline Talks, Jones, Yabusele

Although the Celtics were frequently linked to Jimmy Butler and Paul George in the days and hours leading up to Thursday’s trade deadline, ESPN’s Zach Lowe hears that talks never got really “serious” with the Bulls, who didn’t seem overly motivated to trigger a rebuild by moving Butler. Meanwhile, appearing on CSNNE, Chris Mannix of The Vertical suggests that the Celtics probably weren’t close to getting George either, having drawn “a line in the sand that they weren’t going to cross.”

There were conflicting reports on whether the Celtics made one or both of their Nets picks available, but Mannix suggests that Danny Ainge was willing to discuss both the 2017 and 2018 selections, while sources tell Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald that the C’s made those picks available “separately” in trade offers. However, according to Bulpett, in their discussions with the Bulls, the Celtics wanted protections on that 2017 pick.

Mannix adds that Boston was also reluctant to package multiple players like Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown with its picks. As Lowe explains, Ainge and the Celtics weren’t able to find a package that left them feeling comfortable about both their present and its future, so they decided to hang onto their assets for now and revisit trade scenarios down the road.

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • In Bulpett’s piece (linked above), The Herald reporter notes multiple times that the ability to be a major player for a max free agent this summer seemed to be a high priority for Ainge and the Celtics as they considered potential trades.
  • If Boston had the chance to acquire an impact player in a favorable deal at the deadline, the team certainly would have been willing to give up that chance at max space, but Bulpett says the team has projected a “seemingly odd confidence” about its opportunities this summer, given the inherent uncertainty in free agency and the draft. “The fact (Ainge) was so comfortable waiting for the draft and summer scares the (expletive) out of me,” one rival league executive told Bulpett.
  • In a piece for The Vertical, Chris Mannix makes a case for why it was perfectly fine for the Celtics to stand pat at the deadline, while A. Sherrod Blakely lays out a similar argument in an article for CSNNE.com.
  • Terrence Jones, who will be an unrestricted free agent if he clears waivers, has some interest in the Celtics, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link).
  • According to Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com (Twitter link), Ainge hinted during a radio appearance today that draft-and-stash prospect Guerschon Yabusele may join Boston’s D-League affiliate in Maine after the Chinese Basketball Association’s season ends.

Celtics, Clippers Discussed Blake Griffin Trade

The Celtics have had discussions with the Clippers regarding Blake Griffin, though a deal remains extremely unlikely, sources tell Zach Lowe of ESPN.com. If Los Angeles were to send Griffin to Boston, it would require the Celtics to give up Jae Crowder and either Avery Bradley or Marcus Smart in addition to future picks, sources tell Lowe.

Griffin will be a free agent after the season and Boston would likely need official permission to speak with the power forward before making an official offer to Los Angeles. The team would want to gauge Griffin’s interest in re-signing in Boston and Lowe notes that Minnesota allowed Cleveland to have similar conversations with Kevin Love before he was acquired by the Cavs.

Griffin isn’t the only star that the Celtics have interest in bringing aboard. Lowe adds that the team has “zeroed in” on Jimmy Butler and Paul George, though both appear unlikely to be traded. Lowe hears that the Pacers are turning away trade inquiries on George and it was reported earlier today that the Bulls are leaning toward keeping the 3-time All-Star. Lowe writes that the Celtics would need to include Brooklyn’s 2017 pick in an offer to entice the Bulls and Chicago could even demand both of the Nets’ picks in exchange for Butler.

Celtics Rumors: Ainge, Smart, Bradley, Ibaka

Celtics GM Danny Ainge is not interested in a quick-fix deal and is driving a hard bargain when it comes to his best trade assets, he said during a radio interview posted by CSNNE.com. Ainge doesn’t want any “band aids” for the final 25 regular-season games. “We’re trying to build something that’s a little more sustainable than we are to rent a player,” he said. The Celtics have the ability to dangle some tantalizing draft picks, as well as young players, to acquire the “long-term” impact player that he’s seeking. Boston has the right to swap first-rounders with the Nets this season and also owns Brooklyn’s 2018 first-rounder. Ainge says “there’s a lot of interest in” the Nets pick, though he didn’t clarify whether he was referring to one or both. “Everybody knows the assets we have and the young players we have, so that’s the challenge,” he said. “In any conversation we have, the price is a lot because of what we have in the bank.”

In other notable developments regarding the Celtics:

  • Combo guard Marcus Smart‘s strong play has made Avery Bradley expendable, Mike Petraglia of WEEI.com argues. Smart has averaged 12.3 PPG, 5.4 APG, 4.0 RPG and 2.3 SPG over the past 12 games and the team has gone 11-1 during that stretch, Petraglia notes. Bradley, sidelined the last 15 games with a sore right Achilles, has one more year left on his very affordable four-year, $32MM deal and could be packaged with draft picks to land an All-Star caliber player like Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins, Carmelo Anthony or Andre Drummond, Petraglia adds.
  • Bradley believes he’ll be ready to go right after the All-Star break, as he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com and other reporters. “I’m feeling really good. I wish I could be back now, but I just have to do whatever is smartest at the moment,” Bradley said. “The medical staff thinks it’s smarter for me to just wait until after the All-Star break.”
  • The team did not make a push for power forward Serge Ibaka last summer because they had no interest in signing him to a long-term deal, a source told Kyle Draper of CSNNE.com. Boston did not want to get into a bidding war for Ibaka, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Ibaka was shipped by the Thunder to the Magic in a draft-night blockbuster, and then moved by the struggling Magic this week to another Eastern Conference contender, the Raptors.
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