Al Horford

Celtics Notes: Horford, Brown, Porzingis, Mazzulla

Veteran big man Al Horford delivered his best performance of the postseason at an opportune time. He contributed 22 points, 15 rebounds and five assists as the Celtics eliminated the Cavaliers on Wednesday. He also held down Darius Garland on switches, Jared Weiss of The Athletic notes.

“There’s obviously things that you have to focus on, rebounding and stuff like that, but it made us answer the bell,” coach Joe Mazzulla said. “You’ve got to guard your yard. This is what it takes to win this game, this is what it takes to win this series.”

Horford felt his team looked flat in the first half and he needed to do something to change the momentum. “I just wanted to bring that energy to our group, and the group was able to feed off it,” he said.

Horford, 37, has one more year remaining on his contract with a $9.5MM salary.

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Jaylen Brown has taken note of the spirited battles between the Knicks and Pacers. He feels the key to the Eastern Conference Finals will be Boston matching the intensity level of the opponent, he told Jay King of The Athletic. “Definitely gotta get ready to just bring it,” Brown said. “Both of those teams play hard as s–t. That’s what you’ve gotta be ready for. It’s just, how bad do you want it? Those dudes are out there putting their lives on the line, it seems like. They’re diving for loose balls, pulling hamstrings, whatever. How much are we willing to do that? That’s going to be the key.”
  • Brown’s bank account got a boost thanks to Boston reaching the conference finals. He gained a $369,048 bonus under the terms of his contract, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets.
  • Ending the second round series in five games buys more time for Kristaps Porzingis‘ return to action from a calf injury, Brian Robb of notes. Boston’s regulars will be well rested for the conference finals, reducing the need to get Porzingis back into action right away. He’ll also get a couple extra days to recover if the Pacers-Knicks series, or the Nuggets-Wolves, goes the limit. In those instances, Boston would host Game 1 on Tuesday instead of Sunday. Porzingis has begun light workouts during his rehab.
  • Mazzulla showed his growth in the deciding game of the Cleveland series in terms of making in-game adjustments, Robb writes. The Celtics’ head coach was proactive with his timeouts and stuck with Horford instead of going with a smaller lineup in the second half. The offensive strategy also worked well in the fourth quarter with Brown and Jayson Tatum setting up their teammates.

Celtics Notes: Porzingis, Horford, White, Tatum

Holding a commanding 3-1 lead against an injury-riddled Heat team, the Celtics may not need any more contributions from Kristaps Porzingis to get through the first round of the playoffs. But Boston’s odds of winning a title this spring would take a serious hit without a healthy Porzingis available in future rounds.

After the Celtics announced on Tuesday that Porzingis would miss Game 5 on Wednesday due to a right soleus (calf) strain and Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the big man is expected to miss multiple games, Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe clarifies (via Twitter) that no one considers it to be a season-ending injury.

According to Himmelsbach, the Celtics have yet to provide a specific timeline for Porzingis’ recovery and potential return because they want to see how he responds to treatment first.

Appearing on FanDuel’s Run it Back show on Wednesday morning (Twitter video link), Shams Charania of The Athletic said he expects the club to treat the soleus strain like a “week-to-week” injury, suggesting that Porzingis might end up missing just a week or two, though there’s a chance he’ll be sidelined for longer than that.

Here’s more on the Celtics as they prepare for a possible close-out game at home vs. the Heat:

  • For as long as Porzingis is unavailable, Al Horford is expected to move into the starting lineup, with Luke Kornet and Xavier Tillman acting as his primary backups at the five, writes Jay King of The Athletic. As King observes, Horford played 21 of the final 24 minutes in Game 4 following Porzingis’ exit, but that level of workload likely won’t be sustainable for the 37-year-old on a regular basis going forward, so the team will need effective minutes from its reserves.
  • Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday, and Porzingis combined to shoot just 17-of-47 (36.2%) from the field in Game 4, but Derrick White‘s 38 points on 15-of-26 shooting helped propel the team to victory. In a separate story for The Athletic, King takes a look at White’s career night and details why his teammates want to see him continue to seek out his own offense. “When he’s being aggressive it just opens everything up,” Tatum said. “Whatever they’re trying to take away, maybe for myself, when your teammates are hitting shots and being aggressive and attacking closeouts and making plays, it really makes us very, very hard to guard. You want everybody to be assertive and be aggressive and try to make plays. It just makes us a better team.”
  • As we relayed on Tuesday, Tatum turned an ankle during the fourth quarter of Game 4 when he came down on Bam Adebayo‘s foot while attempting a jump shot after a whistle (Twitter video link). The star forward was ultimately fine, but Horford wasn’t happy about Adebayo contesting Tatum’s shot and getting into his landing area during a dead ball. “I know that we get to playing around and trying to contest shots after fouls and things like that, but there’s levels to contest,” Horford said, per Souichi Terada of “And if a guy shooting and the play is over with, just kind of let him be. I know he’s trying to compete over there, but I was just mad. I don’t want to see any of my guys get hurt or anything like that. Thankfully, JT is fine, but it could have been bad.”

Wolves’ Mike Conley Named 2023/24 Teammate Of The Year

Timberwolves point guard Mike Conley has been named the NBA’s Teammate of the Year for the 2023/24 season, the league announced today (via Twitter).

The Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award “recognizes the player deemed the best teammate based on selfless play, on- and off-court leadership as a mentor and a role model to other players, and commitment and dedication to team,” per the NBA.

The award isn’t voted on by media members. A panel of league executives select the 12 finalists (six from each conference) for the award, while current players vote on the winner. Players receive 10 points for a first place vote, seven for second, five for third, three for fourth, and one point for fifth place.

Here are this season’s full voting results, according to the NBA, with the player’s point total noted in parentheses:

It’s the second Teammate of the Year award for Conley, won also won it in 2018/19 when he was a member of the Grizzlies.

The award, which was introduced in ’12/13, had gone to Jrue Holiday in each of the past two seasons (and three of the past four), with Damian Lillard taking it home in 2021.

Celtics’ Porzingis To Miss Game 5 With Strained Calf

4:30pm: Porzingis is expected to miss multiple games, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

4:03pm: Porzingis has been ruled out for Game 5 due to what the Celtics are calling a right soleus strain (Twitter link via Brian Robb of

The soleus is the same calf muscle that has sidelined Giannis Antetokounmpo since the final week of the regular season, though it’s unclear whether Porzingis’ strain is as severe as Antetokounmpo’s.

7:40am: The Celtics took full control of their first-round series vs. Miami on Monday by picking up their second consecutive road victory and extending their series lead to 3-1. However, as Chris Herring of ESPN writes, the Game 4 win might have come at a cost, as big man Kristaps Porzingis exited in the second quarter due to a right calf injury and didn’t return.

The Celtics’ starting center is expected to undergo an MRI on Tuesday to assess the severity of the ailment, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who hears from sources that early indications are that Porzingis didn’t suffer an Achilles injury.

Porzingis initially appeared to start limping with about 3:15 left in the second quarter when he stepped on Tyler Herro‘s ankle (video link). However, he turned his left ankle on that play, and the injury was said to affect his right calf, so it may have been unrelated. Less than a minute later, as he caught a pass from Jaylen Brown, Porzingis began limping again and gestured toward the bench that he needed to be subbed out of the game (Twitter video link).

Porzingis has been relatively healthy for the past two seasons, appearing in 57 regular season games in 2023/24 and 65 a year ago. But he has missed significant time due to health problems in the past, having made just 151 total appearances in the four seasons prior to 2022/23. As such, any injury is a concern, though there have been some signals that this isn’t a significant one.

Abby Chin of NBC Sports Boston reported at the start of the second half that Celtics assistant Charles Lee was “cautiously optimistic” that Porzingis would be OK (story via Brian Robb of MassLive). And Porzingis himself tweeted after the win that he “will be good.”

If Porzingis is unable to play in Game 5 on Wednesday, it would mean an increased role for Al Horford, with reserve bigs Luke Kornet, Xavier Tillman, and Neemias Queta moving up on the depth chart. As Jared Weiss of The Athletic notes, Boston gave up a pair of second-round picks at February’s trade deadline for Tillman precisely so the team didn’t find itself shorthanded in the frontcourt in a situation like this.

“Luke, Xavier, Neemie, have to kind of be ready to step up and answer the call,” Horford said after the game, per Weiss. “They’ve been doing a good job of that all year. Obviously, it’s the playoffs now, it’s different, but I have confidence in those guys if they need to come in and bring energy and impact the game.”

The Celtics had another injury scare in the fourth quarter of Game 4, as Jayson Tatum turned an ankle when he came down on Bam Adebayo‘s foot while attempting a jump shot after a whistle (Twitter video link). However, Tatum was able to walk it off and finish the game — he’ll presumably be good to go for Game 5.

NBA Announces Finalists For Sportsmanship, Teammate Of The Year Awards

The NBA announced the 2023/24 finalists for a pair of awards on Tuesday, naming the six players who are eligible to win the Sportsmanship Award for this season, as well as the 12 players who are in the running for Teammate of the Year honors.

The Sportsmanship Award honors the player who “best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court,” per the NBA. Each of the league’s 30 teams nominated one of its players for the award, then a panel of league executives narrows that group to six finalists (one from each division) and current players voted for the winner.

The trophy for the Sportsmanship Award is named after Joe Dumars, the Hall-of-Fame guard who won the inaugural award back in ’95/96. This season’s finalists are as follows (via Twitter):

None of this year’s finalists for the Sportsmanship Award have earned the honor in the past, so the 2023/24 winner will be a first-timer. Mike Conley won the award last year for a record fourth time.

Meanwhile, the NBA also announced its finalists for the Teammate of the Year award for 2023/24. According to the league, the player selected for the honor is “deemed the best teammate based on selfless play, on- and off-court leadership as a mentor and role model to other NBA players, and commitment and dedication to team.”

The voting process is similar to the Sportsmanship Award — a panel of league executives selects 12 finalists (six from each conference) for the award, then current players vote on the winner.

Like Conley with the Sportsmanship Award, last season’s Teammate of the Year – Jrue Holiday – has the record for most times winning the award (three), but isn’t among the finalists for 2023/24. Of this season’s 12 finalists, the only one to take home the award in the past is Conley, who claimed it in 2019.

The Teammate of the Year finalists finalists are as follows (via Twitter):

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Jeffries, Diakite, Walker, Dinwiddie

The Celtics’ bench has turned into a strength during their current hot streak, Jay King of The Athletic writes.

Over the last nine games, Payton Pritchard has averaged 13.9 points and 5.8 assists per game while shooting 47.0% from the field. Meanwhile, Sam Hauser has made 21 three-pointers over his past three games entering Monday’s action. Al Horford, Luke Kornet, Xavier Tillman and Oshae Brissett have also delivered impactful performances.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • DaQuan Jeffries’ contract with the Knicks, which he signed on Monday, runs through the end of this season with a team option for 2024/25, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets. Mamadi Diakite’s contract with the Knicks, also signed on Monday, runs through next season too, but the 2024/25 salary is non-guaranteed rather than a team option, Katz adds (Twitter link).
  • Lonnie Walker‘s minutes have dropped since Kevin Ollie was named the Nets’ interim coach but he’s trying to keep a positive attitude, according to “I don’t think it negatively affects me. You might have your ups and downs, your days where you might not feel as much,” Walker said. “But for the most part, I got a great family around me that really supports me and I understand that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.” Walker will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie was given very little leeway by former Nets coach Jacque Vaughn before he was dealt and later joined the Lakers, according to Shams Charania. Speaking on the Run It Back program (video link), Charania said Dinwiddie “was essentially told in Brooklyn: No pick and rolls, no isolations.”

Stein’s Latest: Kuzma, Mavs, Sexton, B. Brown, Celtics

Following up on a report from The Athletic which cited Wizards sources who suggested that the team’s asking price for Kyle Kuzma may be “somewhat overblown,” Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack story that the Washington forward is a trade candidate worth keeping a close eye on in the final week leading up to the February 8 trade deadline.

According to Stein, while the Kings and Mavericks are the suitors most frequently linked to Kuzma, there will likely be other suitors due to his “offensive versatility and favorable contract.” Kuzma is owed more than $64MM for the three seasons beyond this one, but his cap hits decline over the life of the deal, so he’ll count for just $19.4MM toward team salary by 2026/27.

Stein confirms that the Mavericks have consistently conveyed interest in Kuzma and notes that he’s not the only Wizards player Dallas has had its eye on. The team has also made previous runs at center Daniel Gafford and forward Deni Avdija, per Stein.

Here are a few more items of interest from Stein’s latest round-up of trade rumors:

  • While Jordan Clarkson, Kelly Olynyk, and Talen Horton-Tucker continue to be described as potential trade candidates, Collin Sexton may not belong in that group, according to Stein, who hears from league sources that the Jazz guard is a longer shot to be dealt. Sexton is playing some of the best basketball of his career in the 27 games since he entered Utah’s starting lineup in mid-December, averaging 21.6 points and 5.5 assists in 27.4 minutes per night, with a shooting line of .506/.420/.879.
  • The Raptors haven’t lowered their asking price for Bruce Brown and continue to seek a first-round pick for the veteran guard, Stein says. It’s typically difficult to extract a first-rounder for a role player on an expiring contract, but Brown does have a $23MM team option for 2024/25, so if a potential suitor views him as a two-season investment, it’s possible Toronto gets the draft pick it’s seeking.
  • The Celtics continue to peruse the trade market for a frontcourt addition, but they’re only willing to move players on “the most nominal contracts,” Stein writes. Outside of Boston’s usual starting five, Al Horford and Payton Pritchard are the only players earning more than the veteran’s minimum, so it sounds like those seven players will likely be off-limits.
  • In case you missed it, we passed along some Nets-related tidbits from Stein on Thursday evening.

Celtics Notes: Porzingis, Brown, Pritchard, Horford, G. Williams

With the Rockets focused on shutting down Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics relied on Kristaps Porzingis in Sunday’s win at Houston, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Providing an option that Boston has lacked in recent seasons, the 7’3″ Porzingis was able to easily shoot over Houston’s smaller defenders on a 32-point night.

“Each night it could be a different guy that has a good game,” Porzingis said. “And we have the trust in each other that we’re willing to sacrifice, ‘let’s get this guy the ball, he’s having a good night.’ And tonight it was my night. Got a couple passes from (Brown) late and took advantage of the mismatch.”

Porzingis also sank a season-high six three-pointers as he tormented the Rockets from both inside and outside. With Porzingis dominating the scoring, Brown became a distributor, registering a triple double and reaching 10 assists for the first time in almost two years.

“He’s becoming a better play-maker, he’s becoming a better guy at understanding the flow of the game,” coach Joe Mazzulla said. “There were a couple of plays that were a direct learning experience from the (Denver) game with the reads and them trying to change matchups. I thought Jaylen did a good job of playing with poise, using his speed to generate a cross-match, finding it and making the right play. He continues to get better and better.”

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Rockets coach Ime Udoka noted the development of Payton Pritchard, whose playing time was limited during the season Udoka coached in Boston, Washburn states in a separate story. Udoka gave more minutes to veteran guard Dennis Schröder before he was traded at midseason. “The year I was there [Pritchard] wasn’t happy, and was visibly unhappy at times,” Udoka recalled. “You understand what we had with the guys that were playing in front of him. Obviously Dennis was playing at a high level, but once the trade happened what I told him was to stay patient and be ready at all times, which I knew he was going to be. He came and talked to me about it two or three times to convey that message. But he was ready when it counted.”
  • Al Horford sat out Sunday’s game and will be active for tonight’s contest at Dallas, Washburn adds. The Celtics continue to be careful with the 37-year-old big man, who hasn’t played in a back-to-back since returning to Boston in 2021. “Mostly it’s just what’s best for the team,” Mazzulla explained about the decision process on when to play Horford. “He’s very open. Whatever he has to do for the team, he’ll do. Just an ongoing discussion about what the matchups are, what we think is best for him and the team.”
  • Brown joked that he expects former teammate Grant Williams to have “an annoying game” when the Mavericks host the Celtics tonight, per Souichi Terada of MassLive. Williams was a vocal presence during his four seasons in Boston before being shipped to Dallas in a sign-and-trade deal last summer.

Celtics Notes: White, ’18/19 Team, Holiday, Horford

Fans in San Antonio, where Derrick White spent the first four-and-a-half seasons of his NBA career, are on board with the campaign to get the Celtics guard to his first All-Star Game this season. As Brian Robb of MassLive details, Sunday’s broadcast of Boston’s blowout victory over the Spurs picked up multiple “White’s an All-Star!’ chants from the San Antonio crowd.

“I’m just thankful and grateful,” White told reporters after the victory. “I just try to go out there and help us win. If I were to make the All-Star game, it’s because of how much we are winning and the type of team we have. I’m just thankful to be a part of this team and the culture we’re building here. Me making it or not making it doesn’t change the fact that I’m just thankful to be here.”

White’s former head coach Gregg Popovich said on Sunday that he “couldn’t be more proud of a player” than he is of White, who was a starter in the Spurs’ backcourt before being shipped to Boston at the 2022 trade deadline.

“When he first came, I don’t think he believed he belonged in the NBA,” Popovich said. “To watch him develop through the years, started here with the G League. Playing with us and then starting for us and then taking more steps in Boston has just been a thrill to watch.

“He’s one of the greatest guys ever. His confidence has just exploded. It’s been a process. He’s been in the league now, six, seven years. I’m not sure anymore. But he’s a great story. And starting out at the bottom and believing in himself and doing the work necessary to get where he is now. Just thrilled for him.”

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • Appearing on the latest episode of Podcast P with Paul George, former Celtics forward Gordon Hayward revisited the 2018/19 team that lost to Milwaukee in the second round of the playoffs and posited that “too many agendas” in the locker room led to that club’s downfall (hat tip to Andrew Peters of Bleacher Report). “In my eyes it was just, we all had too many agendas, and the agenda to win the whole thing was not the main one,” Hayward said. “Not to blame anyone either, because I think it was all human nature.” That Celtics team featured Hayward in his first healthy season in Boston and Kyrie Irving in his final year with the organization.
  • Addressing Hayward’s comments, Jayson Tatum clarified that there were no locker room issues on that Celtics club, but agreed with his former teammate that the on-court chemistry was a problem, referring to it as a learning experience. “What Gordon said was kind of right,” Tatum said, per Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. “Guys would come back from injury, guys were trying to prove themselves, like myself. I was trying to be better than I was last year, and it was just kind of a tough year. … Everybody wanted to do more, and we didn’t quite understand how we all could coexist with each other.”
  • Celtics guard Jrue Holiday missed Sunday’s game due to a sprained right elbow, but head coach Joe Mazzulla said he had no long-term concerns about that injury, tweets Jay King of The Athletic. Holiday was back in action on Tuesday vs. Oklahoma City.
  • Prior to the Thunder‘s win over Boston on Tuesday, OKC head coach Mark Daigneault raved about the impact that Celtics big man Al Horford had during Daigneault’s first year as a head coach in 2020/21, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. “Every first-year NBA head coach should be as lucky as I was to have Al Horford on their team. Stud professional and person,” Daigneault said. “And for a guy that has as much experience as he has, not cynical, very solution-oriented, not a know-it-all — he knows it all, but he always channels that toward solutions and toward the team.”

Atlantic Notes: Finney-Smith, Nets, Embiid, Celtics

The Nets made a change to their starting lineup on Friday night against Washington, with Dorian Finney-Smith replacing Cam Thomas, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Head coach Jacques Vaughn suggested earlier this week that Finney-Smith was likely to return to the starting five.

Thomas is Brooklyn’s leading scorer, averaging 22.8 points per game. However, he also takes 18.8 shots per game, and doesn’t provide much in terms of rebounding (2.8 RPG) or play-making for others (2.3 APG). He has improved defensively in his third season, but it’s still not a strong point.

As Lewis wrote earlier this week, it was seemingly inevitable that Vaughn would make the change, because the Nets have struggled mightily with Thomas starting and have thrived with Finney-Smith playing alongside the other four starters — Spencer Dinwiddie, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and Nic Claxton.

Finney-Smith can’t create his own shot like Thomas, but he’s bigger, a far superior defender, plays within the flow of the offense, and has been scorching hot from deep in 2023/24, averaging 44.8% from three on 5.5 attempts per night.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Joel Embiid — the reigning MVP and current Eastern Conference Player of the Week — will miss the Sixers’ back-to-back set on Friday and Saturday, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter links). Saturday will mark Embiid’s fourth straight absence. He’s been dealing with a right ankle sprain, which he sustained last Friday vs. Toronto. Nicolas Batum (right hamstring strain) is also out Friday, but he’ll be back tomorrow against Chicago, Pompey tweets.
  • The Celtics are shorthanded for Friday’s game against Toronto, with Al Horford (rest), Kristaps Porzingis (left calf — injury management) and Jayson Tatum (left ankle sprain — injury management) all out, relays Jared Weiss of The Athletic (via Twitter). It’s the second end of back-to-back for Boston, which defeated Detroit in overtime on Thursday.
  • Jay King of The Athletic considers what moves the Celtics might make ahead of the trade deadline, noting that Boston has a $6.2MM trade exception acquired in the Grant Williams sign-and-trade. Considering how well the team has performed to this point, King doesn’t think the Celtics will make a major deal, but suggests a smaller move around the edges could make sense if it doesn’t negatively impact the locker room.