Marcus Smart

Celtics’ Brad Stevens Talks Rotation, Injuries, Smart

The Celtics will enter the 2018/19 season widely viewed as the odds-on favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference. However, during an appearance at the ABCD Hoop Dreams fundraiser on Tuesday, head coach Brad Stevens said he doesn’t want his players entering the season even taking for granted that they’ll be a playoff team, let alone a title contender.

“Nobody’s played a game yet; nobody’s lost a game yet,” Stevens said, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. “We have to go back and earn all that.”

Besides addressing expectations for the Celtics in 2018/19, Stevens touched on a number of other topics of note, including the perception that Boston’s depth could work against the team by limiting playing time for veterans who believe they’ve earned more minutes. Here, via Blakely, are a few of the highlights from Stevens:

On concerns over whether there are enough minutes to go around:

“We have a really good locker room. It’s no secret to anybody that there’s 240 minutes in a game. (It’s) human nature of being disappointed if you’re taken out — that’s OK. But if we struggle with that, we won’t be pretty good. If we don’t (struggle with that), we have a chance to be pretty good.”

On whether he has a plan in mind for the Celtics’ rotation:

“I’m more focused on how we want to play and not necessarily how we’re going to rotate. Things can change, your rotation can change in a heartbeat. Bottom line is, we have an idea of who will play together and who best fits together. But we’ll see how it all shakes itself out.”

On Daniel Theis and the other injured Celtics:

“I’ve been told that everybody is gonna be ready to go. Daniel was in the gym this morning. He looks great. He has not been cleared for 5-on-5 play yet, but the anticipation is he will by the start of training camp, September 25.

“(Gordon Hayward) looks good. I saw him a couple weeks ago in San Diego. I went out there and watched him work out. He looked really good. … He’ll be cleared to (play) some 5-on-5 like very, very soon, anytime soon.”

On bringing back Marcus Smart after an extended restricted free agency:

“Marcus knows how we all feel. Restricted free agency is restricted free agency; there’s pluses and minuses to that. Obviously, we’re thrilled to have him back for a long time. … We went into free agency hoping that would be the case. And we all know what Marcus brings to the table. I keep going back and one of the moments where you have chills when you reflect back on a season was when he entered the game against Milwaukee and the first thing he did was dive on the floor. Everybody says they want it and want to do that type of stuff. He’s a guy that does it every day. We appreciate the way he competes. We love having him around. I’m glad he’s here for the long term.”

Contract Details: Bolden, Carter, Harrell, Smart

Sixers forward Jonah Bolden has received the largest contract of any rookie second-round pick this summer, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. The 36th player taken in the 2017 draft, Bolden spent a season with Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel before coming to the NBA. Philadelphia gave him a four-year, $7MM deal with a starting salary of $1.69MM, although the third and fourth seasons are non-guaranteed.

The Nets signed Rodions Kurucs to a similar arrangement, Pincus adds (Twitter link). The 40th pick in this year’s draft, Kurucs will make $1.62MM in his first year and has incentives that could bring the value of his four-year contract up to $6.96MM. The first three seasons are fully guaranteed.

Pincus passes on a few more details about deals signed this summer:

  • Although Jevon Carter was taken 32nd overall, he signed for just the minimum salary over two seasons, less than others in his draft range (Twitter link). However, he received a full guarantee from the Grizzlies on both years. Jalen Brunson, taken at No. 33 by the Mavericks, makes more per season but is locked into a four-year deal (Twitter link). He will receive $1.23MM in his rookie year, with minimum salaries for the next three seasons. The first three years are fully guaranteed. Elie Okobo, the 31st pick, signed a four-year agreement with the Suns that will pay him $1.24MM in his first year, with three seasons at the minimum to follow. Only his first two years are guaranteed, and Phoenix has a team option on the final season (Twitter link).
  • Among the two-way contracts handed out this summer, only four players signed multi-year deals. Kostas Antetokounmpo of the Mavericks, Billy Preston of the Cavaliers, Yuta Watanabe of the Grizzlies and Thomas Welsh of the Nuggets all have two-year agreements (Twitter link).
  • The Clippers will pay Montrezl Harrell $6MM in each season of his two-year, $12MM deal (Twitter link).
  • Celtics guard Marcus Smart has a base salary of $11.16MM in the first year of his new deal, but $500K of likely incentives place the cap hit at $11.66MM. The incentives remain in effect for each season of his four-year contract.

Contract Details: Smart, Gay, Grant, Ilyasova

Marcus Smart‘s new deal with the Celtics will increase in value each season, beginning with an approximate salary of $11.7MM in 2018/19 and ending with a salary of nearly $14.4MM in 2021/22, per Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders.

The total value of the contract is $51,999,900, $100 shy of the reported value of $52MM, and it is fully guaranteed with no options.

Here are a few more details on contracts signed this summer, courtesy of Pincus:

  • The Spurs agreement with Rudy Gay is worth $10,087,200, the highest allowable salary San Antonio was permitted to pay him via his non-Bird rights (Twitter link).
  • Ersan Ilyasova‘s new deal with the Bucks will pay him an even $7MM over three seasons, with a yet-to-be determined guarantee amount and date on year three.
  • The agreement between Jerami Grant and the Thunder is worth just shy of $27.4MM, with a player option valued at approximately $9.3MM for the 2020/21 season.

Atlantic Notes: Smart, Raptors’ Tax, Trier, Scariolo

Guard Marcus Smart seriously considered signing his $6.1MM qualifying offer from the Celtics and becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald tweets“I went back and forth internally, but it’s a problem a lot of people would like to have.” Smart said. “I definitely thought about taking the qualifying offer, but all my options were open.”

Smart wound up staying in Boston on a four-year, $52MM deal. “To be honest, I didn’t know where I was gonna end up. I was just enjoying this whole process,” he told The Associated Press. “It is a business, so things aren’t perfect. That’s why it’s called negotiations. You guys come together and you finally agree on something. We both agreed. Boston loves me and I love Boston.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Raptors continue to explore moves to shed salary and get under the luxury-tax line, Ian Begley of ESPN tweets. The Raptors still have over $137MM in salary commitments following the Kawhi Leonard deal and are nearly $14MM over the tax threshold.
  • Allonzo Trier has an outside chance to gain a spot on the 15-man Knicks roster after a solid showing in summer-league action, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports. Trier, an undrafted guard out of Arizona, has a two-way contract but if he makes a strong impression in training camp, it could be converted to a standard contract. The Knicks waived forward Troy Williams this week, trimming their 15-man roster to the league limit, and could open up another spot if they waive Joakim Noah and utilize the stretch provision for the remaining money on his bloated deal.
  • Italian head coach Sergio Scariolo is close to joining Nick Nurse‘s Raptors staff, according to a Sportando report. Scariolo, who is also the Spanish national team coach, has been offered a position but needs to work out a settlement with the Spanish federation, since he has a contract with it until 2020. The situation is expected to be resolved, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun relays. The Hornets were also interested in hiring Scariolo, Wolstat adds.

Celtics Notes: Smart, Luxury Tax, Irving, Hayward

Marcus Smart essentially ended up with the same contract as the one the Celtics offered him via an extension last fall, sources tell Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. The combo guard inked a four-year deal worth $52MM on Thursday.

That contract technically has a base value of $50MM, but annual $500K bonuses will bring the total value to $52MM, notes Fred Katz of MassLive.com (Twitter link). Those incentives aren’t linked to playoff success or individual accolades, but rather to body-fat and weigh-in requirements, according to Katz. They’re considered likely to be earned, which means they’ll count toward Smart’s annual cap hits.

With Smart under contract, the Celtics are now about $3.9MM over the luxury-tax line, tweets cap expert Albert Nahmad. Boston could cut costs slightly by waiving Abdel Nader‘s partially guaranteed contract, which could also open up a roster spot for two-way free agent Jabari Bird, as Nahmad observes. Trading Marcus Morris‘ $5.38MM salary at some point could allow the C’s to avoid the tax, but there’s no indication the team is considering that for now.

Here’s more from Boston:

  • The Celtics may have first reached a four-year, $52MM agreement with Smart on Tuesday — a source tells Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) that GM Danny Ainge changed his mind after initially making an offer at that price. In the ensuing 48 hours, Ainge changed his mind again and the deal was finalized, says Schultz.
  • Three player agents tell Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald that they expect Kyrie Irving to opt out and leave the Celtics next summer. However, sources close to Irving tell Bulpett that the point guard is happy with Boston and has been talking about his future with the franchise beyond the 2018/19 season.
  • In an Insider-only piece, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton explores what Smart’s new deal means for Irving and Terry Rozier, speculating that the Celtics may eventually have to decide between Smart and Rozier.
  • Re-signing Smart was worth the cost for the Celtics, according to Jeremy Woo of SI.com, who gives the club a B grade for the move.
  • During a media appearance on Thursday, Gordon Hayward expressed confidence that he’ll be back at full speed by August, suggesting he’ll “see how [his] ankle reacts to that,” per Jacob Wolf of ESPN.com. Hayward also said he likes the Celtics’ chances to make a run at a title in 2018/19.

Chris Crouse contributed to this post.

Marcus Smart Signs Four-Year Deal With Celtics

2:36pm: Smart has officially signed his new contract with the Celtics, according to agent Happy Walters, who tweeted a photo of the signing. The team has also issued a press release confirming the deal.

9:25am: Marcus Smart has agreed to a four-year, $52MM deal to remain with the Celtics, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports first reported that the Celtics and Smart were finalizing a deal in that neighborhood after ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said the two sides were engaged in serious discussions.

The final terms are a little higher than the $46-$50MM range that was reported yesterday, and the deal takes one of the last high-profile free agents off the market. Smart has been with the Celtics since being selected with the sixth pick in the 2014 draft and has developed into one of the league’s top perimeter defenders.

Smart’s contract will push the Celtics into luxury tax territory, at least for now, notes ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Twitter link). It will also become Boston’s only contract between $7-20MM, which could make it a valuable trade chip down the line, adds Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer (Twitter link).

A restricted free agent, Smart had expressed frustrations with the slowness of the process while waiting for an offer. He met with several teams, including the Nets and Grizzlies, last week during the Las Vegas Summer League, according to Charania, but also had a private meeting with Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. Significant progress was made in the past few days, allowing the team to quickly finalize a deal in a meeting this morning with Smart and his agent, Happy Walters.

The Celtics were happy to get a long-term deal done with Smart a year before backcourt mates Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier both become free agents, Charania adds. The team will now have at least one of its point guards locked up before entering into negotiations with Irving and/or Rozier.

Smart appeared in 54 games last season, with his playing time limited by a right hand injury caused by punching a glass frame and a torn UCL he suffered in his right thumb while diving for a loose ball in March that caused him to miss the start of the playoffs. He posted 10.2 PPG, 4.8 APG, and 3.5 RPG during the regular season, along with 1.3 steals per night.

“It’s been a tough summer with free agency and his mom’s (cancer),” Smart’s high school coach, Kenny Boren, tells Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. “It’s been tough emotionally for him.” (Twitter link).

Smart ranked 14th on our list of the Top 50 Free Agents of 2018. His signing leaves Clint Capela of the Rockets and Rodney Hood of the Cavaliers as the best unsigned players left on the market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Marcus Smart May Finalize Deal With Celtics Today

Marcus Smart hopes to finalize a new contract with the Celtics when he and agent Happy Walters meet with the team later today, tweets Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. The agreement is expected to be in the range of $46-$50MM over four seasons, with reports yesterday that talks are “going in the right direction.”

Smart is one of top names remaining on the market after nearly three weeks of free agency. His restricted status has scared teams away from making an offer sheet because of the likelihood that the Celtics will match.

Smart has expressed frustration over the slowness of contract talks and a perceived lack of interest from Boston. There have been rumors that he was thinking about taking the Celtics’ $6.1MM qualifying offer and testing the market again as a free agent next summer.

The 24-year-old guard is among the NBA’s top perimeter defenders. He averaged 10.2 points per game last season and shot a career best .367 from the field.

Celtics, Marcus Smart Engaged In Serious Talks

12:05pm: Smart and the Celtics are “going in the right direction” and “getting close” to working something out, a source tells Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe (Twitter link). According to Himmelsbach, there’s a hope that a deal could be in place within the next week.

11:00am: Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and agent Happy Walters are engaged in serious talks about a new contract for restricted free agent Marcus Smart, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Wojnarowski, the two sides are discussing a potential four-year deal in the $46-50MM range.

Smart, 24, entered free agency for the first time this summer after spending the first four seasons of his NBA career in Boston. Because he received a qualifying offer from the Celtics, Smart can’t sign outright with any other team, and has watched as most clubs with cap room around the league have used that space to sign or acquire other players.

Various reports during the last couple weeks have indicated that Smart has been frustrated with how his restricted free agency has played out. The Celtics had seemingly been reluctant to engage in direct negotiations, preferring to let the market set the price with an offer sheet. However, the veteran guard was unable to find a team willing to put a lucrative offer sheet on the table.

With Smart’s market drying up, the Celtics have apparently re-engaged with his camp on a long-term deal in the range of $12MM annually. That always seemed like about the right price for Smart, who reportedly received a four-year extension offer in the $44-48MM range from the Celtics last fall. However, the former sixth overall pick said at season’s end that he believed he was worth more than $12-14MM per year.

Smart, a career .360/.293/.756 shooter, has never been an overly productive or efficient offensive player, though he did post a career-high 4.8 APG in 2017/18. However, he’s considered one of the top perimeter defenders in the NBA and is viewed as an excellent teammate.

Smart is one of the last NBA restricted free agents still on the market. Clint Capela (Rockets), Rodney Hood (Cavaliers), Patrick McCaw (Warriors), and Montrezl Harrell (Clippers) remain unsigned too, along with a few two-way RFAs.

And-Ones: Billups, LeBron, Free Agency, Budinger

ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups wants to run an NBA team in the near future, according to an Associated Press report. Billups turned down the Cavaliers’ GM job last summer, saying then it would tough to rebuild the team if LeBron James bolted. Rumors flew this summer that he’d be a candidate for a Pistons’ front-office post but he wasn’t seriously considered. “My desire is to one day run a team, be in a front office and try to build a champion,” Billups said. “I know that I will and I know I’m going to do a good job. When that opportunity presents itself, and it’s a good opportunity, I’ll be ready to go.”

In other news from around the league and overseas:

  • LeBron James will skip next week’s USA Basketball minicamp, Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes. It will be the first official session for USA Basketball with the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich as the head coach.
  • Dwyane Wade could be a bargain for the Heat or another team still shopping for a free agent guard, according to another AP story. Wade could probably be signed in the $5MM range. Vince Carter, Michael Beasley and restricted free agent Marcus Smart are three other veteran free agents who could offer value at a bargain rate, the story adds.
  • Former NBA forward Chase Budinger is pursuing a career in volleyball, Drew Ruiz of HoopsHype reports. Budinger is chasing an Olympic dream and has become a partner with two-time Olympian Sean Rosenthal on the AVP Beach Volleyball circuit. “That’s been a goal of mine since I was in high school, to be on an Olympic team and playing for the USA,” Budinger told Ruiz. Budinger’s NBA career ended after he played 17 games for the Suns in the second half of the 20015/16 season.
  • Former NBA guard Mike James has signed a lucrative offer sheet with Italy’s Olimpia Milano through the 2021 season, international expert David Pick tweets. James started 10 games for the Suns last season and appeared in 32 games overall, averaging 10.4 PPG and. 3.8 APG. After getting waived, he played four games with the Pelicans before getting waived again. He then had a second stint with Greece’s Panathinaikos Athens and won a championship.

Atlantic Rumors: Gaines, Nurse, Celtics, Knox

Clarence Gaines Jr. is no longer with the Knicks’ organization, Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic reports. Gaines was the team’s VP of player personnel under former team president Phil Jackson, who credited Gaines for lobbying to select Kristaps Porzingis in the 2015 lottery. Gaines did scouting for the current regime last season. Several newcomers have been hired by the front office and Gaines did not have strong ties to GM Scott Perry, Ian Begley of ESPN notes. Gaines’ contract expired after last season.

In other developments around the Atlantic Division:

  • Challenging DeMar DeRozan to become a better defender is just one of the things new Raptors coach Nick Nurse has in mind for next season, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun writes. Nurse is trying to devise ways to play two smaller guards, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, together and still minimize the issues that it presents defending pick-and-rolls, Wolstat continues. Playing Serge Ibaka more often at center is another wrinkle Nurse plans to employ, Wolstat adds.
  • The Celtics are planning to hold onto their $8.641MM mid-level exception for the balance of the offseason, Keith Smith of RealGM tweets. Their priority is to re-sign restricted free agents Marcus Smart and Jabari Bird and see what develops during the season, Smith adds.
  • Strong summer-league showings by first-round pick Kevin Knox and second-rounder Mitchell Robinson have made the Knicks look wise in their selections, ESPN’s Andre Snellings writes. Knox should jump right into the Knicks’ starting lineup at small forward, while Robinson could eventually work his way into the rotation. While neither player shows superstar potential, they both have skill sets that should translate to the league, Snellings adds.
  • The Nets have positioned themselves to make a big splash next summer, Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype notes. They can create enough salary-cap room to sign two first-tier free agents to go along with two first-round picks, provided that the protections on the pick the Nuggets sent them don’t kick in.
  • Knicks coach David Fizdale will head off to Latvia on July 22nd to visit with Porzingis and check on his progress from knee surgery, Marc Berman of the New York Post reports.