Marcus Smart

And-Ones: Luxury Tax, Thomas, Scola, Top Defenders

The Trail Blazers have the highest luxury tax bill at $5.9MM, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Team salaries are now frozen after the one-week transactions period that closed late Tuesday. The Heat ($2.9MM), Thunder ($2.5MM) and Timberwolves ($582K) are also over the luxury tax line but the projected $11.9MM total is the lowest since the luxury tax was introduced in 2002/03, Marks notes.

We have more from around the basketball world:

Atlantic Notes: Walker, Smart, Embiid, Raptors

Kemba Walker‘s left knee is feeling better, but the Celtics guard won’t know how it’s going to respond to competition until he gets to test it against someone, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Walker has gotten plenty of time to rest since the league shut down three weeks ago.

“The knee is doing well,” he said. “It’s difficult because I don’t have anyone around to give me treatments or anything like that. I have to do my own stuff, which I’m trying to do as much as possible; try to stay on top of things.”

Walker developed swelling in the knee during the All-Star break. He had it drained, then received a shot of Synvisc to ease the soreness and minimize swelling. He’s waiting out the hiatus like everyone else and hoping for a chance to try out the knee under game conditions.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Now that Celtics guard Marcus Smart has recovered from the coronavirus, he will donate blood in hopes that it will help to find a treatment for COVID-19, according to ESPN. Three other players who tested positive for the virus also plan to make blood donations, but they haven’t been identified. The league office reached out to team doctors over the weekend to encourage players who tested positive to give blood samples to the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project.
  • Joel Embiid‘s response to a plan by Sixers majority owner Josh Harris to reduce some employees’ salaries while the league is shut down raises questions about his long-term future with the team, suggests Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Harris changed his mind about the pay cuts, but not before Embiid made a public offer to help everyone who would have been affected. Ford claims Embiid’s relationship with the organization has always been “fractious” and states that embarrassing the owner may lead to an eventual parting.
  • In a conference call with reporters, Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said potential extensions for himself and coach Nick Nurse won’t be discussed while the league is on hiatus (Twitter link from Eric Koreen of The Athletic). The team is currently paused with no talk of extensions or contracts for anyone, adds Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter link). “It’s not where our minds are at right now,” Ujiri said. “This is a crucial time for the world. Those things will come.”

Marcus Smart Cleared From Coronavirus

Celtics guard Marcus Smart has officially been cleared from COVID-19, he announced on social media (Twitter link).

The clearance came from the Massachusetts Department of Health, with Smart originally testing positive for the disease two weeks ago.

“Corona Free as of two days ago,” Smart wrote. “Cleared by Mass Dept of Health. Thanks for everyone’s thoughts and prayers and I’m doing the same for everyone that’s been effected by this. Stay safe and stay together- apart! Much love!”

Smart joins Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell and Christian Wood as known NBA players to be cleared from the coronavirus. Several other figures around the league, including Brooklyn star Kevin Durant, also contracted the virus this month.

Smart, who’s in his sixth season with the Celtics, is averaging a career-high 13.5 points, 4.8 assists and 1.6 steals per contest.

Atlantic Notes: Smart, Kurucs, Hayward, Dinwiddie

Celtics guard Marcus Smart is doing “great” after testing positive for the coronavirus, coach Brad Stevens told ESPN’s Tim Bontemps and other media members. “He’s great. Great spirits. Joking as always,” Stevens said Friday. Smart is one of 10 NBA players known to have tested positive for COVID-19. Smart revealed his diagnosis on March 19.

We have more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets’ Rodions Kurucs was due in Brooklyn court on Monday for his misdemeanor assault case but that proceeding was postponed, Brian Lewis of the New York Post reports. The case has been administratively adjourned due to the pandemic and a new date will eventually be set. Kurucs was arrested last summer on a domestic assault charge.
  • There’s a general sense that Celtics forward Gordon Hayward will opt in to his contract next season, according to Sean Deveney of Heavy.com. Hayward holds a $34MM option. “It’s too much money to pass up,” an unnamed NBA GM told Deveney. “He could get a longer deal if that is what he really wants. But I don’t think the Celtics want to give it to him. … He can opt in this year and then take a big contract next year.”
  • Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie will be in demand on the trade market this offseason, Lewis opines in a separate story. Dinwiddie, who can opt out after next season, has posted career highs in points (20.6 PPG) and assists (6.8 APG).

Coronavirus Update: Griffin, Smart, Greece, Olympics

Although the coronavirus continues to spread through the league, the NBA hasn’t given any thought to canceling its season, according to Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin (Twitter link from Will Guillory of The Athletic). Griffin made the comment tonight on the team’s Twitter feed during a rebroadcast of a game from earlier this season.

The number of NBA players testing positive for the virus grew from two to 10 over the past week. Three members of the Sixers organization and a member of the Nuggets organization have also tested positive.

Griffin’s comment meshes with a statement by NBA commissioner Adam Silver earlier this week that he remains optimistic that the season will be concluded in some form.

There’s more basketball-related coronavirus news:

  • Celtics guard Marcus Smart, one of the players who tested positive, appeared on CNN yesterday to urge people to take the virus seriously, writes Ryan Young of Yahoo Sports. Smart said he and his teammates were tested after returning from their last road trip and they have all remained quarantined. “Be alert to what’s going on and take the precautions to not only protect yourself,” he said. “By protecting yourself, you protect others.”
  • Panathinaikos is allowing American players to return home because of the virus outbreak in Greece, according to Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando. Jimmer Fredette, the most recognizable name on the roster, came back to the United States several days ago. Former NBA forward Wesley Johnson is also part of the team.
  • USA Track and Field is calling for the Summer Olympics to be postponed because of the pandemic, reports CNN. “Unfortunately, while our world class athletes are willing to push themselves to their athletic limits in pursuit of Olympic success, the likelihood that they will be able to properly train in a safe and adequate environment, and replicate the excellence we have all come to expect, does not appear likely in the midst of this global crisis,” USATF chief executive Max Siegel wrote. “As we have learned our athletes are under tremendous pressure, stress and anxiety, and their mental health and wellness is among our highest priorities.”

Celtics Notes: Walker, Tatum, Playoff Seeding

The Celtics may get a hidden benefit from the league-wide shutdown because it gives Kemba Walker more time to recover from his left knee issue, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Walker played in the last three games before the hiatus, but was limited to about 30-32 minutes per night. He had missed six of the previous seven games due to persistent knee soreness.

Bulpett talked to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge about the importance of having Walker fully healthy for the rest of the season.

“I think managing all of our players is important, but, yeah, managing Kemba is very important because Kemba has the ability, as we saw in November and December, to be very, very special,” Ainge said. “And he was doing a lot of the same things that we see Jayson (Tatum) doing now. It’s important that we have those guys playing their best to give us the best chance in the playoffs.”

Ainge admits the “wear and tear” of playing for Team USA during the World Cup last summer may be having an effect on Walker, but he doesn’t believe the organization should have handled the situation any differently.

Ainge addresses a few other topics in the interview:

  • Without mentioning Kyrie Irving by name, Ainge acknowledges that the switch from Irving to Walker has been good for team morale. The reports of locker room turmoil that surfaced frequently last season have virtually disappeared. “I think that all of the guys’ attitudes this year have been pleasant, great, and there’s been more on the same page,” he said. “Last year, we just had more mouths to feed, and it just didn’t work. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. And this year we have less mouths to feed, so to speak, and it’s been better. But it would be nice to have everybody healthy, because I think we’re going to need everybody in order to reach where we want to be.”
  • Ainge is optimistic about the young core the team has in place, led by Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. “I think (Tatum’s) getting a lot of opportunities, a lot of chances,” Ainge said of the third-year forward, who is coming off his first All-Star appearance. “He’s been playing really well. I don’t want to jinx any of that. I’m excited about his development and Jaylen’s development and Marcus’. I think that they’re all getting better right before our eyes.”
  • The second seed in the East may be out of reach if the NBA only plays a few games before the playoffs begin, but Ainge doesn’t believe seeding is the most important factor heading into the postseason. “It’s something that we would like, of course, but it’s not more important than being healthy,” he said. “And it never is. Listen, I think home court is important in the playoffs. I don’t think it’s an end all-be all, but I do think it’s important.”

Marcus Smart Tests Positive For Coronavirus

7:04pm: Smart said he was tested five days ago and received the result on Thursday night, he tweets. He currently has no symptoms, feels “great” and is thankful he has self-quarantined since the test.

6:52pm: A Celtics player has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a team press release (Twitter link). Guard Marcus Smart has announced he is the player who tested positive, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

According to the statement, “The Boston Celtics learned today that a player has tested positive for COVID-19. Testing was initiated because of exposure to a known positive case. The Celtics player, who is not exhibiting symptoms, has been in isolation for several days and will continue to do so while being monitored by team medical staff.

The team is awaiting further testing results and will communicate them as appropriate. Taking steps to maintain the health and safety of everyone in our organization and across the NBA remains our top priority, and we will continue to work closely with health officials and the league in addressing this situation.”

This bring the total of NBA players and personnel who have tested positive to 14. That group includes at least 10 players: The Jazz duo of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, Pistons big man Christian Wood, former MVP Kevin Durant and three other unidentified Nets players, two unnamed Lakers players and Smart. In addition, three members of the Sixers organization and a member of the Nuggets organization have tested positive.

During the month of March, Boston faced Brooklyn, Cleveland, Utah, Oklahoma City and Indiana.

USA Basketball Announces 44 Finalists For 2020 Olympic Roster

USA Basketball has formally announced a preliminary group of 44 players who are candidates to be part of the program’s roster for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The final roster will only consist of 12 players, so most of these finalists won’t actually play for Team USA at the Olympics. Some will likely withdraw from consideration, while others simply won’t make the final cut. However, these players have all expressed interest in being involved in the process.

“This is the first step in USA Basketball identifying the 12 players who will represent the United States as members of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team in Tokyo,” said USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo.

“… Over the course of the remainder of the NBA season we’ll continue to monitor all of the athletes. Selecting the 12-man USA roster will obviously be an extremely challenging and difficult process, and we will again attempt to select the very best team possible to represent our country and who we hope will be successful in our difficult mission of repeating as Olympic champions for a fourth consecutive Olympics.”

Although the U.S. men’s team has won three consecutive Olympic gold medals, the program had a disappointing showing at last year’s World Cup, finishing in seventh place. Team USA will be looking for a bounce-back performance in Tokyo this summer, with many players from that World Cup squad among the 44 finalists announced today.

Here’s the full list of players who are candidates to play for Team USA at the 2020 Olympics:

  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 (Rockets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Celtics)
  22. Dwight Howard (Lakers)
  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 (Lakers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Pacers)
  36. Chris Paul (Thunder)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Nuggets)
  38. Marcus Smart (Celtics)
  39. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  40. Klay Thompson (Warriors)
  41. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  42. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  43. Russell Westbrook (Rockets)
  44. Derrick White (Spurs)

Injury Updates: Russell, Bagley, Bledsoe, Smart

The Warriors got a scare tonight involving D’Angelo Russell, who remained on the ground for about five minutes after colliding with the MavericksLuka Doncic while chasing a loose ball, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic (video link).

A stretcher was brought out, but Russell was eventually able to walk off under his own power. After being checked in the locker room, he was diagnosed with a right shoulder contusion, according to Kerith Burke of NBC Sports (Twitter link), and eventually re-entered the game.

There’s more injury news to pass along:

  • Kings forward Marvin Bagley III has a mid-foot sprain and will miss the “next few games,” according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Bagley left Thursday’s game in the third quarter after suffering the injury. He had an MRI on Friday and met with a foot specialist today before details of his condition were announced.
  • Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe continues to recover from a fibula avulsion fracture and is nearing a return to the court, coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters before tonight’s game (video link from the team). Bledsoe may go through contact drills tomorrow in hopes of playing next week. “He’s making progress and getting close,” Budenholzer said.
  • The Celtics got Marcus Smart back tonight after an eight-game absence caused by an infection in both of his eyes, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.
  • Celtics center Robert Williams will undergo another MRI in about a week to monitor the healing of a bone edema in his left hip, Blakely adds (Twitter link). He hasn’t been able to do any basketball-related activities since the injury was discovered nearly two weeks ago.

Celtics Notes: Smart, Brown, Tatum, Kanter

Celtics guard Marcus Smart is on the upswing after a brutal case of viral conjunctivitis caused an infection in both of his eyes, sidelining him for much of December, writes ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. Smart isn’t playing today in Toronto, but thinks he’s at “about 80 percent” and is focused on getting his conditioning back to its usual level. Mostly, he’s relieved that the worst of his eye issues appear to be behind him.

“I thought I was going to go blind for a while. I think it was the worst case of viral conjunctivitis that they’ve seen,” Smart said. “… I couldn’t see. I had outdoor sunglasses everywhere. Even in the dark I was wearing sunglasses. It was that bad. Just every morning I would wake up just having sticky discharge coming out of my eyes, sealing my eyes shut. It was really just gross.”

With Gordon Hayward back in their lineup today, the Celtics appear to be getting close to getting fully healthy. In the meantime, let’s round up a few more notes out of Boston:

  • Although the Celtics look capable of vying for a spot in the NBA Finals, finding the one last piece to cement their place as a contender will be difficult, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, who outlines why the club may not be able to make a significant trade this winter. We touched on a similar topic last week.
  • Terry Rozier is impressed with how his former teammates Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum has looked this season, suggesting that the two young wings are “superstars in the making,” as Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald details. “I’m not just saying it. Them guys put the work in,” Rozier said. “They really care. They want to learn the game, and them boys can really play.”
  • Celtics big man Enes Kanter isn’t taking today’s game in Toronto for granted. Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston explains why Kanter’s safety may be at risk when he travels outside the United States.