Marcus Smart

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.

Atlantic Notes: Smart, Sixers, Ainge

The Celtics have been a mainstay in speculative trade discussions all season but one player whose value is constantly underestimated on a national scale is Marcus Smart. According to Chris Forsberg of ESPN, Smart’s flaws on the offensive end tend to be what people focus on, rather than all of the intangible impacts he has on the game.

Forsberg cites multiple hustle stats as indicators of Smart’s ability to influence the outcome on the game without consistently standing out on traditional box scores. He’s improved as a reserve point guard for the Celtics and is a jack of all trades on the defensive side of the ball. Recently, Forsberg claims, the 6’4″ guard even took turns matching up against the 7’2″ Kristaps Porzingis.

Properly gauging the value of players like Smart is one of the toughest things for general managers to do, especially as teams come calling ahead of the February 23 trade deadline. Currently second in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics will be pressured to make a dramatic move to position themselves better for an arguably inevitable showdown with the Cavaliers, but just as important will be that they don’t underestimate their current assets and set themselves backward.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Nearly every player on the Sixers has at least some trade value, says Bobby Marks of The Vertical. The analyst reviewed the rebuilding franchise in his recurring series leading up to the trade deadline. Still, Marks writes, even though the team has performed better than most expected, the front office would be wise to let their assets develop organically and not rush out to make a trade in haste.
  • The Celtics are interested in making a deadline ahead of the trade deadline but nothing is imminent. “This time of year, nobody really has given their real price or what they will give you for the assets we have,” general manager Danny Ainge tells A. Sherrod Blakeley of CSN New England. “So we will wait and see.
  • Following a Friday night loss in which they gave up 131 points to Denver, Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek was critical of his starting lineup. “Look at the difference between the first group and the second. They play with effort,” Hornacek told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “They get after guys. A guy who got the ball, they get up on him. They help each other out. First group didn’t do that.”
  • After yet another dramatic week in New York, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post suggests that Knicks fans revolt. The scribe cites baseball fans who vowed to stay away from the game after the 1994 lockout as inspiration but notes that following through on such ultimatums are often difficult.

Atlantic Notes: Sixers, Bradley, LeVert

After starting the season with a 7-24 record, the Sixers have reeled off eight wins in their past 11. The emergence of Joel Embiid has reinvigorated the franchise and the rookie big man has helped to anchor a rapidly improving defensive presence.

Now that the Sixers have shown an ability to win games, they’ve clawed their way out of the basement and up the standings. Such momentum has general manager Bryan Colangelo reconsidering the team’s willingness to make a short-term splash.

[Winning] does lead you to want to explore other opportunities that might accelerate where we are in this. It gives us some opportunity to explore some big deals,” Colangelo told Brian Seltzer of Sixers.com. “We may be one of the only teams in the league that’s prepared with the resources and the assets to acquire a star level player.”

The Sixers have long been in rebuilding mode, but the strides that the team has taken this season under the guidance of Brett Brown suggest that this team may be ready to compete sooner than initially expected.

My responsibility is to make sure I do the right thing for the organization,” Colangelo added. “I’ve had a lot of dialogue with a lot of teams. I know what’s out there in the marketplace.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics have been exposed on defense without shooting guard Avery Bradley, writes Josue Pavon of WEEI 93.7 FM. While Isaiah Thomas‘ defensive shortcomings are not new, the team has seen just how much of a drop off there is between Bradley and fill-in Marcus Smart.
  • The Nets have seen seen a noticeable improvement in their third-quarter performance of late and credit the decision to bump Sean Kilpatrick from the lineup in favor of the more defensively inclined Joe Harris as part of the reason why, says Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “Listen, we’re demanding that those guys — anybody that steps on the floor — we’re demanding them to defend,” says head coach Kenny Atkinson. Harris sprained his ankle Friday and his absence will give Kilpatrick one more opportunity to improve on that side of the ball.
  • Not much has gone well for the Nets this season, injuries to Jeremy Lin a major factor in their first-half struggles, but the promising play of Caris LeVert has been one of the few bright spots. Nets Daily discusses the first half of Brooklyn’s season.

Atlantic Notes: Dinwiddie, LeVert, Millsap, Smart

The Nets have liked their early returns on Spencer Dinwiddie enough to guarantee his contract for the rest of the season, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Brooklyn signed the third-year guard last month to a three-year deal with a partial guarantee. He has responded by averaging 5.5 points and 1.8 assists through 12 games and earning a spot in the rotation. He made his first start with the team, and just the second of his NBA career, on Friday. After being traded by the Pistons in June and waived twice by the Bulls during the offseason, Dinwiddie likes the prospect of having a shot at stability. “They say bet on yourself,” Dinwiddie posted Saturday on his Instagram account. “Sometimes in the face of adversity you have to double down. Thank you to the Nets organization. Happy to have a home.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Rookie guard Caris LeVert appears to be another gamble that’s paying off, Lewis states in a separate piece. In just his 15th NBA game, LeVert scored 19 points and was a team-best plus-10 against the champion Cavaliers on Friday. The Nets have been happy with the progress of LeVert, who slipped to 20th in the draft after his college career was cut short by a foot injury. “We saw a glimpse of who he can be, who we project him to be,” said coach Kenny Atkinson. “The defensive part of it is obviously the most important, especially on that wing position. We can throw him out there against the Paul Georges and the LeBrons [James], and he did a pretty decent job. The offensive part was a bonus.”
  • The Celtics might be interested in Hawks forward Paul Millsap, but only if he guarantees not to opt out of the final year of his contract, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Atlanta is reportedly listening to offers for the 31-year-old power forward and wants a “quality” draft pick in return. Millsap can opt out of his nearly $21.5MM salary for next season and become a free agent this summer. Washburn speculates that any deal would involve one of the Nets‘ picks that Boston owns plus Amir Johnson and another starter to match salaries. A trade would reunite Millsap with Al Horford, but it would push Horford to center, where he would prefer not to play.
  • Celtics guard Marcus Smart is emerging as more than just a defensive force, writes ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. Boston has already exercised its 2017/18 option on the 22-year-old.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Porzingis, Powell, Sixers

The Celtics will include one of their main backcourt pieces if they make a major trade, Chris Mannix of The Vertical anticipates. Boston will have trouble affording the quartet of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier in the long run and can’t add an impact player without shedding one or more of them, Mannix continues. Smart is eligible for an extension next summer and will command a starting salary of at least $10MM, while Thomas and Bradley can become free agents in the summer of 2018. It will take a good chunk of the salary cap to retain both, in Mannix’s view. The starting backcourt can also have their contracts renegotiated this summer but Mannix is skeptical that GM Danny Ainge would eat into future cap space to make that happen.

In other developments around the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis and other players with rookie contracts will get a significant boost in pay once the new CBA is ratified, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Porzingis will receive a 15% increase next season and a 30% bump in the final year of his four-year rookie-scale deal, Berman continues. Sources informed Berman that Porzingis’ revised salary will increase from $4.5MM to $5.1MM next season and from $5.6MM to $7.3MM in 2018/19.
  • The Raptors need another elite player to become true title contenders but they should try to hold onto shooting guard Norm Powell, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun opines. Powell has the ability to play three positions and could play some minutes at point guard if Toronto includes current backup Cory Joseph in a blockbuster deal, Wolstat continues. In any case, coach Dwane Casey should try to give Powell, 23, more consistent minutes, Wolstat adds.
  • Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor will continue to start together in the Sixers’ frontcourt during their upcoming West Coast swing, Brian Seltzer of Sixers.com reports. According to Seltzer’s research, that duo has 52 shared minutes over the Sixers’ last four contests, producing an offensive rating of 95.0 points per 100 possessions, and a defensive rating of 113.3 points per 100 possessions.

Wojnarowski On Raptors, Warriors, Noel, Heat

In his latest podcast for The Vertical with longtime NBA executive Bobby Marks, Adrian Wojnarowski mentioned that the Pacers have been strongly rebuffing trade inquiries on Paul George, telling teams that they won’t even listen to offers. We had a full story on that earlier today, but it wasn’t the only notable tidbit from the conversation between Wojnarowski and Marks. Here are several more highlights from the podcast:

  • The Raptors appear to be willing to give up a draft pick and at least one of their young prospects to improve their current roster, but there aren’t many options out there right now for Toronto. According to Wojnarowski, the club can afford to be patient and opportunistic since it has so many young players who are still improving. The Vertical scribe points to Denver’s 2012 acquisition of Andre Iguodala (the Nuggets gave up Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, a future first-round pick, and a second-rounder) as the type of deal Masai Ujiri might be open to making again.
  • The Warriors would like to add a rim protector, but they know teams won’t be giving that type of player away, and they don’t want to do any trade that makes them “even 1% less likely to win a title,” says Wojnarowski.
  • The research that rival teams have done on Nerlens Noel is “not good,” per Wojnarowski, who adds that those clubs haven’t gotten good reports about the way the Sixers big man carries himself, and his habits. Teams are still interested in acquiring Noel, but they don’t want to give up a whole lot for him, so it’ll be interesting to see if Philadelphia eventually takes what it can get. The Sixers would probably love to see Noel put in a couple healthy and productive months before the deadline to improve his stock.
  • The Heat will likely test the trade market for Goran Dragic, but after giving up two first-round picks to acquire him, getting a single pick back in return would essentially be admitting they made a mistake, says Wojnarowski.
  • Wojnarowski wonders if the Celtics are overvaluing some of their own players, including perhaps Marcus Smart, in trade talks. Boston also continues to keep an eye on Gordon Hayward in case there’s any chance the Jazz make him available in a contract year.
  • Marks believes that if the Nets decide to move Brook Lopez, they can wait until the last year of his contract to do so. Marks, who previously worked for the franchise, calls Lopez a “creature a habit,” suggesting the veteran center is more likely than most players to re-up with his current team instead of actively exploring the free agent market. Lopez’s deal expires in 2018, but Wojnarowski notes that Brooklyn values him and won’t move him just to move him.

And-Ones: Crawford, Gay, Jackson

Jordan Crawford is hoping to use the D-League, which he believes will provide the quickest return path to the NBA, as a means to jumpstart his career, Chris Reichert of Upside & Motor writes. The guard is also looking at his time in the D-League as an opportunity to give back some of his hard-earned knowledge to the younger players, Reichert adds. “I really want to help these young guys, show ’em the ropes a little bit,” Crawford told the scribe. “It’s easy to lose confidence when things aren’t going your way and I think I can really help them out.

Crawford is also trying to shake the perception that he is a selfish player who only cares about scoring, Reichert adds. “When I first got to the league I wanted to be the greatest player…ever,” Crawford said. “More than anything that’s what I wanted. But once you learn there’s more to life than basketball, it’s easier to simply play and enjoy what you’re capable of doing on the court. My journey has been humbling and this is just part of the change I’ve had.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Thunder have shown interest in Kings forward Rudy Gay, who has indicated that he will opt out of his deal and head elsewhere after the season, but Sacramento isn’t ready to trade the player yet, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link).
  • Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson, who has been sidelined for over a month because of tendinitis in his left knee and right thumb, has been cleared for limited contact drills, Keith Langlois of NBA.com reports (via Twitter).
  • Marcus Smart‘s agent, Josh Ketroser, has left the Wasserman Media Group, Liz Mullen of The Sports Business Journal reports (on Twitter). It is unclear how or if this will affect Smart’s relationship with Ketroser and Wasserman.

Celtics Exercise Marcus Smart’s 2017/18 Option

The Celtics have exercised their 2017/18 team options on Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. The team’s decision on Rozier had been previously reported, while there was never a question that Smart’s option would be picked up.

Smart, 22, continues to battle a sprained ankle and has yet to make his 2016/17 regular-season debut. In his first two seasons with the Celtics, he averaged 8.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.1 APG, and 1.5 SPG, shooting just 35.7% from the field but providing solid perimeter defense.

Smart will earn about $3.579MM this season, and his $4.538MM salary for 2017/18 will now be fully guaranteed, since the Celtics have picked up his fourth-year option. Assuming Smart remains in Boston, the C’s will have the opportunity to sign him to a rookie-scale extension next offseason. If he doesn’t sign an extension, the former OSU guard will be eligible for restricted free agency in 2018.

With the options for Smart and Rozier exercised, the Celtics still have one decision to make on James Young. The former first-rounder beat out R.J. Hunter to earn the Celtics’ final roster spot, but according to Blakely (via Twitter), he has yet to be informed one way or the other if the club is picking up his fourth-year option. If the C’s decide not to exercise Young’s option, he’ll hit unrestricted free agency in July.

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