Blake Griffin

Celtics Notes: Mazzulla, Brown, Brogdon, G. Williams

Joe Mazzulla‘s ascension to head coach after Ime Udoka’s suspension led to disagreements between the coaching staff and several of the Celtics‘ stars over the team’s style of play, according to Jay King and Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Boston was coming off an NBA Finals run under Udoka built around a suffocating defense, and many players wanted to continue that philosophy. Mazzulla placed more emphasis on the offense and frequently relied on smaller lineups, using Derrick White as a starter even when Robert Williams was healthy.

Although Mazzulla generally had the support of his players, who recognized that he was in a difficult situation, one source tells the authors that the team “just lost focus” after the All-Star Game, going 7-6 in its first 13 games following the break. Some veterans wondered why Mazzulla went away from Grant Williams, whose playing time was cut in March. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown met with Mazzulla to implore him to put Grant Williams back in the rotation, sources tell King and Weiss.

Complaints about Mazzulla’s emphasis on offense continued into the playoffs, the authors add. Some players said they left timeouts unsure of the defensive coverages, and that Blake Griffin, Marcus Smart, Grant Williams and others would work things out at the last minute.

Even amid the chaos, players publicly remained supportive of Mazzulla after the Game 7 loss to Miami.

“I don’t think people give (Mazzulla) or us enough credit that, two days before (the) season starts, we find out we’re going to have a new coach,” Tatum said. “We didn’t have Rob the first 25, 30 games of the season, we never got a chance to have (Danilo Gallinari), and we got a new coach one day before media day. You know, that was an adjustment. We all figured it out. Obviously, we wanted to win the championship. Didn’t happen. But I think Joe did a great job. We won 50-some-odd games. We got to (Game 7 of the) conference finals. Obviously, everybody can be better, learn from this. But I think Joe did a great job this year.”

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Among the reasons Mazzulla is likely to return as head coach next season is his contract, which still has $14MM remaining in guaranteed money, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic. Charania expects Mazzulla to be given the chance to build his coaching staff this summer.
  • Brown didn’t talk much about his future after Game 7, but Tatum said it’s “extremely important” that he remains on the team, per Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston. There has been speculation that the Celtics may explore trade options after Brown qualified for a super-max contract by earning All-NBA honors. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his Hoop Collective podcast that he would be “stunned” if Boston doesn’t reach a new agreement with Brown (hat tip to Joseph Zucker of Bleacher Report).
  • Either White, Smart or Malcolm Brogdon is likely to be moved this offseason to ease the financial crunch, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston, who believes Brogdon could be the top trade asset despite his large salary. That savings could be used to keep Grant Williams, a restricted free agent, Forsberg adds.

Celtics Notes: G. Williams, R. Williams, Smart, Griffin, Brown

While his Celtics teammates were celebrating their Game 3 victory Friday night, Grant Williams was in a dentist’s chair, writes Brian Robb of MassLive. Williams had to get treated by the Sixers’ team dentist after Joel Embiid accidentally stepped on the back of his head while chasing a loose ball in the fourth quarter (video link).

“A swollen nose,” Williams said. “That’s about it and stitches in the mouth. I think it was three or four.”

Williams added that he didn’t need to be checked for a concussion and he expects to be ready when the series resumes on Sunday. The only change is that he’ll have some extra protection.

“I thought it would be a smart decision to throw a mouthpiece in there,” he said at Saturday’s practice. “My parents have been getting on me for the past three years for not wearing a mouthpiece. Let’s just say last night didn’t help.”

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Robert Williams also had an injury scare on Friday night, hurting his right arm while saving a loose ball in the fourth quarter, per Souichi Terada of MassLive. Doctors examined the arm after he was taken out of the game, and he was diagnosed with a right forearm contusion. Williams wore a sleeve on the arm today, but said he was feeling fine. He expects his team to face an even tougher test in Game 4. “We know what we’re coming into,” he said. “The crowd was crazy, we could barely hear each other last night. But the same fight, man. We expect to leave out the game with more scars than yesterday.”
  • Marcus Smart has been listed as questionable for Game 4 with a sprained left ankle, Terada, adds in another MassLive story. Smart was questionable for Game 2 of the series with a chest contusion, but wasn’t on the injury report for Game 3. Blake Griffin, who was a late scratch for Friday’s game because of low back pain, is also considered questionable for Sunday. The veteran big man hasn’t played yet in the Sixers’ series and made just one brief appearance during the first round.
  • Jaylen Brown‘s defense on James Harden has played a huge role in turning the series around, observes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. After Harden’s 45-point outburst in the series opener, the Celtics began using Brown as the primary defender on him. Harden has been limited to 12 and 16 points the last two games and shot a combined 5-of-28 from the field.

Celtics Notes: Griffin, Tatum, Smart, Stoudamire

Celtics players have been impressed by the way former All-Star Blake Griffin has made the transition to role player. Griffin’s work ethic hasn’t waned, even though he’s no longer the high-flying, high-scoring big man who starred for the Clippers and Pistons, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe writes.

“You just don’t see that with guys that were at his level,” forward Jayson Tatum said. “It’s been really unique to see. I appreciate that a lot. The guys do as well. He never makes it about himself, and it’s contagious. His energy, his enthusiasm, his personality. We’re all very fortunate to have him as a teammate, because everybody respects him and respects what he’s accomplished, and his voice carries.”

Griffin is on a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract and will be a free agent again this summer.

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Tatum may be a candidate for the Most Valuable Player award and All-NBA First Team accolades but he’s only got one goal in mind, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. “The only thing that matters to me is winning a championship,” Tatum said. “Not MVP, not first-team All-NBA, none of that. I want to get back to the Finals and get over the hump.”
  • Marcus Smart has been fined $25K for initiating an on-court altercation and pulling Hawks guard Trae Young to the floor, the NBA PR department tweets. Both players were assessed a technical foul and Smart was ejected during the altercation, which occurred with 1:25 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Celtics’ 134-125 win over the Hawks on Saturday.
  • The team has no plans to immediately replace Damon Stoudamire on Joe Muzzalla‘s staff, Himmelsbach tweets. Stoudamire left his assistant coaching job to become Georgia Tech’s head coach.

Celtics Notes: R. Williams, Mazzulla, White, Horford

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla announced that center Robert Williams will be sidelined for seven-to-10 days with a strained left hamstring, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. However, given Williams’ history of injuries, Washburn believes he could be out longer and it might be best to shut him down until the playoffs.

Williams didn’t play Sunday after hurting his hamstring in Friday’s loss to the Nets. Washburn notes that even though Sunday’s game went to two overtimes, Mazzulla didn’t bring big men Luke Kornet or Blake Griffin off his bench. Grant Williams was used at center for long stretches of the game, and the Knicks repeatedly attacked him on the pick-and-roll.

According to Washburn, the Celtics believe they can survive the loss of their starting center with their current rotation of big men. However, he notes that the team has an open roster spot and there are numerous veteran free agents for president of basketball operations Brad Stevens to consider.

There’s more from Boston:

  • After holding the NBA’s best record for most of the season, the Celtics have now dropped three of their last four games, Washburn adds. Mazzulla said he has “zero concerns” about the recent rough patch, framing it as an opportunity for the team to grow. “You obviously want to be playing your best basketball later in the season as you get closer to the playoffs, but this is a tough stretch,” Mazzulla said. “And whatever this stretch has you have to learn from it and use it later in the year.”
  • With Robert Williams unavailable, Mazzulla went back to his early-season lineup by inserting Derrick White into the starting five, per Brian Robb of MassLive. White had 12 points, six rebounds and four assists in 32 minutes, and Robb suggests he could be considered the team’s third-most valuable player behind Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
  • Al Horford believes a lack of focus is causing the Celtics to let big leads slip away, according to Souichi Terada of MassLive. Brooklyn overcame a 28-point deficit Friday night, and New York trailed by as many as 14 points on Sunday. “We’re not locking in as much as we need to,” Horford said. “This is the second time that we kind of have a lead, we feel good about it, a team makes a run and we just kind of let them back in the game. And throughout the season, you’re gonna have adversity. We’ve played pretty good basketball most of the year, and this is a time where you tighten up, you fix some of these things, some of these issues, or it goes the other way.”

Celtics Notes: Open Roster Spot, Brown, Griffin, Mazzulla

Most of the best options on the buyout market have gone to other teams, but the Celtics plan to find someone to fill their open roster spot, writes Souichi Terada of MassLive. Whoever gets signed probably won’t play much, but owner Wyc Grousbeck confirms that Boston will have a full roster before the postseason begins.

“We’re looking at buyout candidates and free agents,” he said. “I’d be very surprised if we went into the playoffs with an open roster spot, don’t think that’s going to happen. … All those things are in process, but no, we’re not saving roster spots for a rainy day. We just gotta find the right fit.”

One potential candidate, according to Terada, is veteran swingman Will Barton, who reached a buyout agreement with the Wizards this week. The Celtics may be Barton’s best option to win a ring, although he could seek out a larger role with another team. Terada points to Stanley Johnson and John Wall as other possibilities, along with Juan Toscano-Anderson if he agrees to a buyout with the Jazz.

There’s more from Boston:

  • The Celtics have been dealing with injuries to their rotation players all season, but they’re fully healthy coming out of the All-Star break, Terada adds in another MassLive story. Jaylen Brown missed the previous four games with a facial fracture, but he’s not on the injury report after playing 25 minutes in the All-Star Game.
  • Blake Griffin‘s NBA experiences over 12 years enable him to relate to both the stars and role players on the Celtics’ roster, observes Jay King of The Athletic. Griffin is only playing sporadically in his first season in Boston, but he has become a popular leader in the locker room. “As you get older, you have to be somewhat self-aware,” Griffin said. “I don’t even know if self-aware is the right word. Just in touch with reality. Some guys just want to go make as much money as they possibly can. And I don’t fault anybody for any decision that they make, guys have to take care of what they want to take care of. I’ve been fortunate enough to be on some good teams and be in the position I am to be able to make these decisions based on trying to win a championship. So you have to let go of your ego and just be self-aware about your game. But the biggest driving point to me is just winning.”
  • Having the word “interim” removed from his job title isn’t a big deal for head coach Joe Mazzulla, who tells Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press, “The interim tag was never a thing because we’re all interims.”

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Griffin, Brown, Mazzulla

Early-season MVP talk hasn’t been a distraction, Celtics star Jayson Tatum told reporters, including Dana Scott of The Arizona Republic, in a media session before tonight’s game in Phoenix. Boston has the best record in the league at 20-5 and Tatum ranks fourth in scoring at 30.8 PPG, so he’s a natural candidate for the award but he’s not focused on it.

“It’s something that I’m aware of, but I think a lot of it has to do with our team’s success,” Tatum said. “I think I keep playing the way I am and everybody individually, and we keep complementing each other the way we are, and continue to win, then everybody’s going to get individually what they deserve. So I guess the main focus is to keep trying to be one of the best teams and keep trying to win and just get closer to our ultimate goal of getting back to the finals.”

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Blake Griffin isn’t playing regularly, but he has been effective whenever Boston has needed him, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. With Robert Williams injured, Griffin has been sharing center duties with Luke Kornet as backups to Al Horford. Griffin is only averaging 14.7 minutes in nine games, but his teammates rave about what he provides whenever he’s on the court. “To be able to see him come out and give the energy he’s been giving us, that’s all you can ask for,” Marcus Smart said. “It’s no wonder why everyone loves Blake. It’s no wonder why he’s on this team and he’s still here in this league. He understands what it takes to be a vet.”
  • Jaylen Brown, who was left out of the All-Star Game last season, questioned the league’s system for choosing reserves in an interview with Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson of Bally Sports. “I think it should be more exclusive in regards to the decision-making that goes into the process because, to be honest, we have no idea how we make it,” Brown said. “We make it and then they say that there’s this large process, but the (players) union isn’t involved at all. So, as players and representatives of the organizations, I think that definitely we should have some say so.”
  • Joe Mazzulla talked to Marc J. Spears of Andscape about the challenges of being thrown unexpectedly into a head coaching role with one of the league’s best teams, offering an interesting perspective when asked about the possibility of having his interim label removed. “Whether you’re the interim or not, you’re always the interim,” Mazzulla said. “It goes back to what is the truth. The truth of the matter is it’s just a name. And whether I have a five-year deal or a one-year deal, I can be gone at any time.”

Atlantic Notes: Brown, Irving, Griffin, Warren

Jaylen Brown and Kyrie Irving were often at odds when they were teammates with the Celtics, but their relationship has improved since Irving left for the Nets, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Brown was among Irving’s most vocal defenders during his eight-game suspension last month for promoting an antisemitic film on social media.

“He’s a brother of mine,” Irving said. “I’m grateful to have a relationship off the court. True warriors when we go against each other. When I was in Boston, we didn’t really get a chance to get to know each other on a deeper level. So again, I’m just grateful that we’ve been able to build on top of a great foundation of relying on how we live our lives and how we treat people, so he’s a brother of mine.”

Brown stopped short of calling their relationship brotherly, Washburn adds, noting that they didn’t talk with each other before their teams met Sunday. Brown admitted they had problems when they were together, but said things are better now.

“Being a teammate of Kyrie, we got into it a lot,” he said. “We didn’t see eye to eye a majority of the time he was here. And since then it seems like our relationship (has improved). We’ve been able to have conversations. We’ve been able to talk to each other. We’ve been able to understand where he’s coming from.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Brown has a shot to earn All-NBA honors this season, which would qualify him for a super-max extension, notes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Brown’s current contract runs through 2024, and that extension would pay him an estimated $290MM over five years based on current cap estimates, according to Forsberg. We took a closer look during the summer at Brown and other potential super-max candidates to watch in 2022/23.
  • A Nike spokesperson tells Shams Charania of The Athletic that the company has parted ways with Irving (Twitter link). Charania points out that Irving has one of the NBA’s most popular signature shoes.
  • Celtics forward Blake Griffin was surprised to receive a tribute video in his return to Brooklyn, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Griffin spent a year and a half with the Nets before signing with Boston during the preseason. “True professional. I think he’s added to their group, to their locker room,” Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Having guys like that (being) a part of your team that have been in playoff games and in meaningful games, there’s something to it. … That’s the kind of guy you want in your locker room.”
  • Nets forward T.J. Warren played 17:53 Sunday in his second game after returning from foot injuries that sidelined him for nearly two years, and Vaughn expects him to remain on that minutes limit for a while, Lewis adds. “I don’t have a lockstep number, but seems like that 17 around there felt pretty good for him,” Vaughn said. “Maybe we start inching that up a little bit, hopefully. We want him to feel good for a little bit of a stretch before we do.”

Celtics Notes: Griffin, J. Jackson, Hauser, Kabengele

Blake Griffin had to shake off some rust in his debut with the Celtics Friday night, but he showed several ways that he can help the team, writes Brian Robb of MassLive. After some early turnovers and missed shots, Griffin sparked a comeback that erased a 15-point deficit in a win over the Hornets. He finished with seven points and nine rebounds in 16 minutes and displayed an unselfishness that could make him an important part of Boston’s offense.

Griffin, 33, saw his role with the Nets diminish as last season wore on, and he spent nearly the entire offseason as a free agent before signing with the Celtics on Monday. He appeared to take a subtle swipe at his former team after the game while talking about coming to Boston, Robb adds.

“I think the intensity and maturity level of this group is off the charts,” Griffin said. “Every day when we get to work it’s intense. It’s not that we’re going forever but these guys are locked in and no one has to tell us to be locked in. It’s refreshing.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Justin Jackson‘s bid to earn a roster spot got off to a rocky start, but a second-half scoring explosion Friday improved his chances, Robb adds in a separate story. Jackson poured in 16 points in 23 minutes and hit four of eight shots from three-point range. Robb expects the Celtics to start the season with a full 15-man roster because of injuries to Robert Williams and Danilo Gallinari, and he sees Jake Layman and Brodric Thomas as Jackson’s main competition for the final spot.
  • Sam Hauser has been a pleasant surprise since the start of training camp, Robb states in a mailbag column. The second-year forward has emerged as a reliable long-distance shooter who can contribute on defense as well. Robb believes Hauser might be able to provide what the Celtics were hoping for when they signed Gallinari.
  • Mfiondu Kabengele has been getting a lot of personalized instruction from Jaylen Brown since joining the Celtics on a two-way contract, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Kabengele played briefly for the Clippers and Cavaliers after being selected in the first round of the 2019 draft, and he’s determined to learn as much as possible to help him stay in the league. “I’m not the same person I was in my rookie year, or even last year when I was in the G League,” he said. “A lot of times, I would come into games and practices and think, ‘All right, I have a skill set.’ It was a little bit of arrogance I had. It wasn’t laziness, but I had a good sense of what I needed, then every time I fail and go through these things, I’m like, ‘Why are things not working?’ Then I did some self-reflection.”

Celtics Notes: Griffin, Smart, Small Ball, Hauser

Blake Griffin, who officially signed with the Celtics on Monday, was pleasantly surprised by how the team greeted him upon his arrival, Darren Hartwell of Yahoo Sports relays.

“I’ve talked to pretty much everybody,” Griffin said. “I was talking to some guys (Sunday). … I’m actually very — not surprised, but the amount of maturity and welcomingness (that the Celtics’ players showed) … it’s a different atmosphere than I was sort of used to, in a good way. They were very welcoming: everybody, one through 15. Practice today was focused, very encouraging, helpful. I think you kind of take that for granted because it’s not always the case everywhere you go.”

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Marcus Smart, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, hopes Boston is the only team he plays for, according to Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. “That’d be special, especially playing for a franchise that’s known for greatness,” Smart said. “So it’s something I’ve been thinking about and it’ll continue to be something I think about. It’s a great thing to think about. You see those banners when you walk into the Garden. You feel the history and the past. You feel the blood, sweat, and tears that the people in front of you left, and you want to be part of that.”
  • Though they looked a little sloppy at times, the Celtics had an eye-opening start to the preseason, routing the Hornets by 41 points. One of the interesting twists from interim coach Joe Mazzulla, as Jared Weiss of The Athletic notes, was a small-ball lineup he used in the second quarter with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown at the power positions and guards Malcolm Brogdon, Smart and Derrick White rounding out the unit.
  • An informal poll conducted by Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston during Media Day revealed Sam Hauser as the player who could have the most surprising impact this season. Hauser, who re-signed with the club on a three-year deal, appeared in 26 games off the bench last season. “Sam, in open gym, didn’t seem like he ever misses,” White said. “He didn’t miss much last year. And so just getting that year under his belt, being more assertive, and more sure of himself.”

Celtics Sign Blake Griffin

OCTOBER 3: The signing is official, the Celtics announced in a press release.

SEPTEMBER 30: The Celtics have agreed to a deal with free agent big man Blake Griffin, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). According to Wojnarowski, Griffin will sign a fully guaranteed one-year contract with Boston.

The deal will be worth the veteran’s minimum, Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe confirms (via Twitter). Griffin will earn $2,905,851, while the Celtics will take on a cap hit of $1,836,090.

Griffin, 33, spent last season in Brooklyn, averaging 6.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game for the Nets in 56 appearances (17.1 MPG). His shooting line was just .425/.262/.724.

The six-time All-Star’s role and production have declined significantly since his prime years with the Clippers and Pistons. Last season was the first time he came off the bench more often than he started, the first time he averaged fewer than 25 minutes per game, and the first time he averaged fewer than 11 points per game.

Still, the Celtics won’t be expecting Griffin to recapture his All-Star form. Boston simply needs more reliable depth in a frontcourt that has already been hit hard by injuries. Danilo Gallinari is expected to miss most or all of the 2022/23 season while recovering from a torn ACL, while Robert Williams will be out until at least November or December following knee surgery.

Multiple reports leading up to training camp indicated that the Celtics wanted to take a look at their in-house options before deciding whether to sign a veteran free agent. Several days into camp, it seems the team had seen enough to recognize that another veteran was necessary.

The Cetlics had no shortage of options in free agency — LaMarcus Aldridge, Carmelo Anthony, Hassan Whiteside, DeMarcus Cousins, Tristan Thompson, and Dwight Howard are among the unsigned veterans still on the market. But the team attended Griffin’s recent workouts in Los Angeles and liked what it saw there, per Himmelsbach.

Boston has a full 20-man training camp roster, so the club will need to waive a player in order to make room for Griffin. I’d expect one of the six players on a non-guaranteed contract – Noah Vonleh, Jake Layman, Justin Jackson, Brodric Thomas, Luka Samanic, or Denzel Valentine – to be cut to open up a spot.