Brad Stevens

Celtics Notes: Horford, Tatum, Holiday, Offseason, Ainge

No player in NBA history had appeared in more playoff games before winning a championship than Al Horford, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, who notes that the veteran center finally claimed his first title with a win in his 186th career postseason contest. Horford earned praise after Monday’s victory from his teammates, including Derrick White, who referred to the big man’s career as “so underrated,” and Finals MVP Jaylen Brown, who said the Celtics “leaned on (Horford) so much” during their championship season.

“Nobody deserved it more than Al,” Brown said. “He’s been a great not just leader on the court but off the court as well. … It’s been an honor to be by his side. And Al Horford is a real-life legend and hero. It’s been great to be his teammate.”

Horford turned 38 earlier this month, but he remains under contract with Boston for at least the 2024/25 season and it doesn’t sound like he has any plans to call it a career this summer.

“For me, I never really put a timeframe on it,” Horford told ESPN when asked on Sunday how long he’ll continue playing. “I want to make sure that I feel healthy, that I’m enjoying what I’m doing and for me, thankfully, I have my wife’s support and my family’s. That’s a big deal to me. … I feel like I’ve been asked this for a few years now and I feel good, I want to keep playing. Why not keep going? I don’t want to limit myself.”

Here’s more on the new NBA champions:

  • Not that there was any doubt, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (YouTube link) said on NBA Countdown on Sunday that the Celtics will put a five-year, super-max offer on the table for Jayson Tatum at some point in the coming days or weeks. The deal, which would begin in 2025/26, would be worth a projected $315MM, assuming the cap comes in at $141MM for ’24/25, then increases by 10% the following year.
  • Jrue Holiday earned a bonus worth $1,264,800 as a result of the Celtics’ championship, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. It’s the second time in the past four years Holiday has cashed in on that bonus in his contract — he also received it in 2021 when Milwaukee won the title. As Marks adds (via Twitter), Holiday earned a total of approximately $2.8MM in bonuses this season for six separate individual and team achievements.
  • Can the NBA’s best team get even better during the coming offseason? Mark Deeks of HoopsHype considers that question in his preview of the Celtics’ summer, while Marks (ESPN Insider link) also takes a look ahead at the key decisions and roster moves on tap this offseason in Boston.
  • The Celtics’ big bets on Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis last summer paid major dividends in the short term and put the team in a great position to vie for additional championships in the coming years, writes Brian Robb of MassLive.com.
  • While Brad Stevens signed off on those Holiday and Porzingis deals, among other moves that pushed the Celtics over the top, Danny Ainge’s fingerprints remain all over the team’s current roster, according to Robb, who spoke to Boston’s former president of basketball operations about his old club’s success. As Robb relays, Ainge said he’s “very happy” for the Celtics but declined to take any credit for this year’s championship run. “I feel fortunate to be a part, a very small part of all of their lives,” Ainge said. “I have a feeling that Jaylen and Jayson and Wyc (Grousbeck) and (Steven Pagliuca) and Joe (Mazzulla) and Brad and Payton Pritchard, Al Horford, the whole group, every one of those guys would have found success without me being involved.”

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Mazzulla, Porzingis, Stevens

Celtics All-NBA forward Jayson Tatum told reporters that Boston, now leading the Mavericks 3-0 in the Finals, is hardly satisfied after the team nearly surrendered a 21-point second half lead in Game 3 on Wednesday night, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

As Tatum notes, Boston itself fell into an 0-3 hole against the Heat during the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals, and ultimately pushed Miami to seven games. Tatum sprained his ankle during the first quarter of that Game 7. The Heat eventually won and advanced to the Finals.

“We really felt like we were going to come back,” Tatum said. “We almost did. You know, we were a sprained ankle away from having like a real shot. So, you know, we are not relaxing or anything like that.”

There’s more out of Boston:

  • Second-year Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla‘s unique approach to the game has the club on the verge of capturing its record-setting 18th championship, notes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “Anytime you’re developing a new philosophy or a new style, it just takes time for understanding and execution,” Mazzulla said. Per Weiss, Mazzulla’s philosophy is all about preparation, as well as read-and-react basketball in a variety of situations. As Steve Buckley of The Athletic adds, Mazzulla rose quickly in the ranks from a second-row assistant coach under former head coach Ime Udoka to his current position. Mazzulla takes an unorthodox approach to his film sessions with his team, going so far as to use UFC clips to motivate players.
  • Some of Celtics coach-turned-team president Brad Stevens‘ less heralded team-building transactions have helped pay dividends for Boston as the Finals have worn on, according to Brian Robb of MassLive.com. With starting center Kristaps Porzingis out in Game 3, Mazzulla opted to use deep-bench reserve big Xavier Tillman behind newly elevated starter Al Horford. Tillman delivered, notching one critical three-pointer, four rebounds and two blocks. Robb also lauds Stevens for his decision to keep the faith in Jaylen Brown, who was frequently mentioned as a possible trade candidate for a more established star earlier in his career.
  • Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t able to play in Game 3, but there’s a chance he’ll be available in Game 4, Shams Charania of The Athletic said on FanDuel’s Run it Back show (Twitter video link). Mazzulla stressed that Boston’s commanding 3-0 lead won’t impact whether or not Porzingis will try to play on Friday, according to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps (Twitter link). Porzingis is dealing with a posterior tibialis dislocation in his left leg, suffered during Game 2. The 7’2″ center did get an opportunity to put some shots up during practice on Thursday while wearing a brace on his left ankle, per Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe (Twitter links).

Celtics Notes: Finals, Porzingis, Brown, Holiday, Stevens

The Celtics have lost four Eastern Conference finals and one NBA Finals since drafting Jaylen Brown in 2016, but the veteran wing believes this year’s club is capable of breaking through and being the one that wins a championship, as he told reporters after the C’s secured their spot in the Finals with a win over Indiana on Monday.

“We feel like we’re a different team than we were last year and the year before that,” Brown said, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “I know everybody wants to continue to kind of pigeonhole us to what was happening in the past but we’ve had a different team every single year, different coaches, we’ve had like three coaches in the last five years. And still people want to make it seem like it’s the same, it’s the same, it’s the same.

“Time has gone by, experience has been gained and I think we are ready to put our best foot forward.”

This year’s version of the Celtics was certainly the best regular season team in recent franchise history, winning 64 games and registering the third-best net rating in NBA history (+11.7). Boston’s critics remain skeptical of the team’s playoff résumé not only due to its past losses but also because the team had a relatively clean path to the NBA Finals. Each of the three opponents the Celtics have beaten so far in the postseason were missing their best player (Jimmy Butler, Donovan Mitchell, and Tyrese Haliburton) for part or all of the series.

Still, the C’s have handily beaten the opponents in front of them, performing well in clutch situations and recording a league-best +10.8 net rating in the playoffs (Dallas’ net rating, by comparison, is +3.5).

“We feel comfortable in any type of game,” Derrick White said on Monday, per Steve Buckley of The Athletic. “We feel like we have the answers for anything teams throw at us, no matter what the scenario is.”

Here’s more on the Celtics as they prepare for a lengthy layoff before the Finals tip off on June 6:

  • Will Kristaps Porzingis be ready to return from his right calf injury by the time the Finals begin next Thursday? That’s the hope, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, but it’s not a lock. “There’s definitely optimism. There are still some hurdles, I’m told, that he has to clear before he can play in Game 1 of the Finals,” Charania said on FanDuel’s Run it Back show (Twitter video link). “… Porzingis has to make sure he’s 100% healthy. This could, of course, lead to worse injuries if you do end up getting back on the floor sooner than you’re supposed to. But there’s obviously hope the next week-and-a-half he’s able to ramp up and get ready.”
  • Brown and teammate Jrue Holiday each earned a contract bonus for making the NBA Finals, as Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (Twitter links). Brown has now maxed out his incentives this season, earning a total of $3,321,428 (on top of his $28,508,929 base salary) for a series of individual and team achievements, while Holiday earned an extra $297,600 as a result of the Celtics winning the East. Holiday can further increase his total bonus money for this season if Boston wins the title.
  • Brown, who made it a goal this season to be an All-Defensive player, admitted he was more disappointed to miss out on that honor than he was not to make an All-NBA team, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. But Brown added that he’s not dwelling on either outcome and knows his own value as a “versatile two-way wing,” which his teammates also recognize. “We ask a lot of him. (On Monday), he started out guarding (Andrew) Nembhard, then he switched up to (Pascal) Siakam, he probably was on (Myles) Turner,” Al Horford said. “He was on different people all over. That versatility is what makes us so tough as a team.” As we detailed in an earlier story, Brown was named the MVP of the Eastern Conference finals.
  • Brad Stevens‘ aggressive 2023 offseason – which included trading away longtime franchise pillar Marcus Smart in a deal for Porzingis and then making a second blockbuster deal for Holiday – has paid major dividends to this point, writes Brian Robb of MassLive.com. As Robb observes, the roster was constructed to withstand the absence of a starter like Porzingis, with Holiday and Horford among the players taking on larger offensive roles to make up for that loss.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens Named NBA’s Executive Of The Year

Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens has been named the NBA’s Executive of the Year for the 2023/24 season, the league announced today (via Twitter).

In his third season as the Celtics’ head of basketball operations after eight years as the team’s head coach, Stevens put together a dominant Boston roster that posted a 64-18 record, easily the best mark in the NBA, along with a +11.7 net rating, the third-best mark in league history.

The Celtics were coming off a 57-win season in 2022/23, but Stevens shook up the roster drastically last summer, trading away longtime defensive stalwart Marcus Smart in a deal for Kristaps Porzingis, then moving key role players Malcolm Brogdon and Robert Williams in a a blockbuster for Jrue Holiday as training camps got underway.

Stevens also signed several Celtics players to contract extensions in the past 12 months, including Jaylen Brown, Payton Pritchard, and Holiday.

Unlike the NBA’s other major awards, the Executive of the Year is voted on by 29 team executives from around the league rather than 99 media members. Stevens received 16 of 29 potential first-place votes, along with six second-place votes and three third-place votes, for a total of 101 points (Twitter link).

The runner-up, Sam Presti of the Thunder, had 47 points, including four first-place votes. Tim Connelly of the Timberwolves also earned the top spot on four ballots en route to a third-place finish (29 points).

Knicks president Leon Rose (27 points; one first-place vote) was the only other executive to earn more than 11 points, though Nico Harrison (Mavericks) and Monte McNair (Kings) also received first-place votes, while Rockets general manager Rafael Stone earned a pair of them. A total of 13 executives showed up on at least one ballot.

Celtics Notes: Brown, Springer, Tillman, Stevens, Porzingis, Holiday

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown finished second in the All-Star dunk contest and he’s open to participating again, according to Souichi Terada of Masslive.com. Brown said he had a “great time” during the event.

“If nobody else cares to do it, (expletive) it, I’ll do it again,” Brown said. “I don’t really care. People think like memes and stuff. But like I said, I think dunking is an art form. Obviously, I think I got more in the tank than what I displayed. I think I could perform better. I had a great time.”

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Boston returned from the All-Star break with a fully healthy roster, Brian Robb of MassLive.com reports. Jaden Springer, who was acquired from Philadelphia at the trade deadline for a second round pick, had been sidelined with a right ankle impingement during the past two weeks. Big man Xavier Tillman, who was acquired from Memphis a day before the deadline, has been cleared to play for the first time since the trade. He has been recovering from left knee soreness for the past few weeks. Both saw playing time in the team’s victory over Chicago on Thursday.
  • President of basketball operations Brad Stevens noted during a wide-ranging interview with Heavy.com’s Steve Bulpett that team building goes well beyond the player roster. “I feel very, very responsible for putting a team together that not only includes the players, but coaches, trainers, nutrition, analytics and everyone else that is on one page and represents the Celtics really well,” Stevens said. “We will be judged on how well we play and how many games we win and our competitive character that we exhibit through it. So just putting all of the right people in all of the right spots to do that is, I think, the No. 1 responsibility. Get the right people on the bus, and make sure that we’re all moving in one direction.”
  • In his midseason evaluation of the Celtics’ strong first half, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe details how much Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday have changed the way the team plays.

Wyc Grousbeck Explains Celtics’ Decision To Shake Up Roster

The Celtics reached the NBA Finals in 2022 and fell one game short of returning last season, but management decided changes were needed after the playoff loss to the Heat, co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said in an interview with Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

Grousbeck characterized the last two seasons as “missed opportunities,” even though he admitted his team lost to two good opponents. Following the playoffs, he had a meeting with president of basketball operations Brad Stevens and head coach Joe Mazzulla in which they decided to explore chances to revamp the roster. That led to a three-team trade in late June that brought Kristaps Porzingis to Boston.

“The general tone was, how do we take this energy we’re feeling right now that was built up over having two good seasons, but then didn’t get all the way,” Grousbeck said. “The whole point is, how do we get to banner 18? If we’d all agreed we should keep things the same, that would have been fine. But the idea of bringing in another talented big popped up early in the conversation, and we ended up executing on that idea.”

They decided to focus on Porzingis, who was facing a decision on a $36MM player option after a productive season with the Wizards. Porzingis had other interested teams if he had opted for free agency, but Grousbeck said he was eager to join the Celtics.

“He is a committed and now seasoned and effective player. He’s a real force. I’m really impressed with his commitment to being part of a winning Celtics team,” Grousbeck said. “I met with him when he came up for the press conference and spent some real time with him, and he’s so happy to be here. He’s so ready to shine at this stage of his career. But he sees a team concept, not the KP show. He’s continually improved over his career, and he thinks this is his prime. But he’s about the team, his teammates and the banner. He chose us. There were other people, I hear, that wanted him. And he chose us. He wants to be here and he wants to win a ring.”

Grousbeck covers several other topics in the interview, including:

The commitment to Mazzulla, who faced criticism in the playoffs in his first year running the team:

“If Joe had done a poor job, I would have thought about replacing him, but he did a very good job. He took us within one game of the best record in the league and then one game of being in the Finals, as a rookie coach. So I’m comfortable and happy to have Joe as head coach.”

The Celtics’ willingness to spend despite restrictions in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement:

“The league doesn’t allow us to comment on the details of the CBA, but having said that, we’re obviously all in, with the record contract for Jaylen (Brown) and with our payroll this year and in coming years. Eventually, there are basketball penalties for spending, so that will go into the thought process down the road. But at the moment, the best basketball thing we can do is what we’re doing.”

Heading into the future with Brown and Jayson Tatum as franchise cornerstones:

“They’re the best two people I could imagine building a team around. We’ve had them since the beginning. We’ve been very lucky to have them here for their whole careers, and we’re building the team around them. But you add the next eight guys to the list. You take our top 10 and we’ve got a really good team. The focus is naturally on those two because they’re All-NBA players and All-Stars, but I like the whole roster.”

Celtics Notes: Brown, Porzingis, Brogdon, G. Williams, Roster

Nearly two weeks have passed since Jaylen Brown became eligible for an extension, but Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens didn’t appear worried about the situation on Wednesday night, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Stevens explained that he’s limited in what he can reveal, but he indicated that talks are going well.

“It’s been all good discussion,” Stevens said. “We want Jaylen to be here for a long, long time and we’ve made that clear. We’re looking forward to all sitting down, and we’ve got time here. I probably shouldn’t say anything else, but I feel optimistic.”

There are no signs that Boston plans to offer Brown any less than the projected $295MM he’s eligible to receive in a five-year super-max contract, Himmelsbach states. He adds that the sides have until October to finalize an extension, and the delay seems to involve the incentive structure and the possibility of a fifth-year player option for Brown like the organization gave to Jayson Tatum.

There’s more on the Celtics, all from Himmelsbach:

  • The team finalized a two-year, $60MM extension on Wednesday with Kristaps Porzingis, who was acquired from the Wizards in a three-team deal last month. Stevens said Porzingis provides numerous options for the Celtics because of his versatility. “I just think we’re fortunate to do that, a guy that can play with either of our bigs and play as the lone big,” Stevens said. “I mean, that’s a big part of what we need to be moving forward, as far as we have a little bit more balance there in that group. He’s a good player and to have him here for a few years is obviously a good thing.”
  • Stevens also provided a health update on Malcolm Brogdon, who was included in an early version of the Porzingis trade. The Clippers were originally going to acquire Brogdon, but they pulled out of the deal because they didn’t have time to review his medical records before Porzingis had to pick up his option. Stevens said Brogdon, who suffered a torn tendon in his right elbow during the Eastern Conference Finals, has been rehabbing the injury and is close to resuming basketball activities.
  • Stevens acknowledged Grant Williams‘ contributions during his four years with the team, as a sign-and-trade with the Mavericks become official on Wednesday. “I do think it’ll be a good opportunity for him and it gives us some flexibility here as we move forward,” Stevens said. “But he did a good job. He’s a hard guy to lose.”
  • Stevens indicated that more roster moves could be coming as the Williams trade creates an open spot, and Justin Champagnie and Luke Kornet both have non-guaranteed contracts. “I think we’ll try to add, obviously, a little bit,” Stevens said. “I’d like to get a little more depth, maybe on the wing, and then also maybe with a (power forward/small forward) type. I feel pretty good about our bigs. We’ve got a couple two-way (contract openings), so we’ve got some things we’re still very much looking at.”

Celtics Notes: Brogdon, G. Williams, Gallinari, Summer League

Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens reached out to Malcolm Brogdon after he was offered to the Clippers last week in a three-team trade for Kristaps Porzingis, writes Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston.

L.A. eventually pulled out of the deal because it didn’t have time to examine Brogdon — who suffered a right forearm strain during the playoffs — before Porzingis’ deadline to pick up his option. Stevens said he called Brogdon to let him know that he’s still a valuable part of the team, and he considers it unfortunate that word of the potential deal was leaked in the press.

“There are a lot of narratives out there because of (the failed trade) that certainly are inaccurate,” Stevens said. “The bottom line is, right now, he’s going through a period of four-to-eight weeks where he’s resting and rehabbing, as suggested by our docs, as suggested by the third-party doc that he went to see. He feels good and we expect him to be back right (at the) start of the season and have the great year that he’s had every year he’s been in the league. So we’re excited about that. But it’s hard for him. That’s the other part, being in the rumors and stuff, that stinks.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • The addition of Porzingis will make it much harder for the Celtics to keep Grant Williams, Forsberg adds. Even if they can work out a sign-and-trade deal involving the restricted free agent, Forsberg doesn’t expect the team to get much value in return.
  • Danilo Gallinari was disappointed that he never got to play for Boston because of a torn ACL, but he offered a message of thanks to the team on Twitter after being sent to Washington in the Porzingis trade, relays Souichi Terada of MassLive. “A huge thanks to the Celtics staff that helped me rehab and reach my goal,” Gallinari wrote. “It would have been even better to show it on the court.”
  • Mychal Mulder and Jay Scrubb are among the players with NBA experience projected to be on the Celtics’ Summer League roster, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Mulder played three seasons with the Warriors, Magic and Heat, while Scrubb spent time with the Clippers and Magic before Orlando waived him this month. A source tells Himmelsbach that Boston’s Summer League team is also expected to include 22-year-old Polish center Aleksander Balcerowski, whom Celtics officials have been monitoring for several years.

Celtics Notes: Stevens, Playoff Exit, Brown, Pritchard

It certainly doesn’t sound like the Celtics will be making a change to their core, as president of basketball operations Brad Stevens told Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston that he’s a firm believer in the team’s “foundation.” It’s a lengthy interview with several other insights from Stevens.

I really believe in our foundation,” Stevens said. “It’s really hard to be in the mix in this league. The competition is great. Sometimes things have to go your way, and sometimes they do. But you’ve got to do everything you can to take the luck out.”

Listen, we didn’t have a great playoff run in whole,” Stevens added. “And we certainly were outplayed for the better part of that Miami series, even though it went seven games. So we have a lot of work to do. But it doesn’t mean that we need to mistake activity for achievement. For my seat, I think we have to understand what’s really good and how hard it is to have a foundation, and then figure out how to build off of it.”

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer takes the opposite approach, arguing that they can’t run back the same group and need to make some big changes, including trading Jaylen Brown, whose poor ball-handling was a glaring issue in the Celtics’ Game 7 blowout vs. Miami.
  • Although it could be costly, Stevens seems committed to keeping Brown, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Brown is eligible for a super-max contract after earning All-NBA honors this year, which could eventually subject the Celtics to some of the harsher provisions in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. “I can say without a doubt we want Jaylen to be here, he’s a big part of us, we believe in him and I’m thankful for him,” Stevens said. “I’m really thankful for when guys have success, they come back to work. When they get beat, they own it and they come back to work.”
  • Stevens also addressed the situation involving Payton Pritchard, who was unhappy with his playing time this season and expressed disappointment after not being traded before the deadline in February, Weiss adds (Twitter link). Stevens said other teams recognize that Pritchard is a talented player who is stuck behind established veterans, but he didn’t promise to pursue a trade this summer.

Joe Mazzulla To Remain Celtics’ Head Coach

Joe Mazzulla will return as the Celtics’ head coach, president of basketball operations Brad Stevens said in a press conference on Thursday, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe tweets.

Mazzulla was thrust into the head coaching job just as the season was set to begin when Ime Udoka was suspended by the team for the season. Mazzulla eventually had the interim tag removed and received an extension in mid-season.

Questions about Mazzulla’s status arose as the Celtics fell behind 3-0 in the best-of-seven series to underdog Miami in the conference finals. Boston rallied to tie the series but played poorly in Game 7 after Jayson Tatum suffered a first-quarter injury and got eliminated on its home floor.

Stevens believes that Mazzulla will benefit from having been thrown into the fire this past season, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston tweets.

“Joe’s experience now, you could probably measure in dog years, right? Because he’s now been in three Eastern Conference finals and a Finals,” said Stevens, referring to Mazzulla’s stint as an assistant as well as this season. “Now he’s been the head coach throughout one of those runs, I mean that’s an experience in and of itself.”

Stevens believes Mazzulla has the leadership qualities to be a head coach for many seasons, Jared Weiss of The Athletic tweets.

“He’s a terrific leader,” he said. “He’ll only get better at anything that he can learn from this year cause he’s constantly trying to learn and he’s accountable. Those leadership qualities are hard to find.”

Mazzulla will have some different voices on the staff, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). The staff is expected to be overhauled, with former Rockets coach Stephen Silas a leading candidate to be one of those additions.