Brad Stevens

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.

Joe Mazzulla In Jeopardy After Game 3 Loss?

The Celtics‘ embarrassing Game 3 loss to Miami could lead to significant changes this offseason, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Boston entered the conference finals as the odds-on favorite to win the NBA title, but the team didn’t look anything like a champion in Sunday’s 128-102 defeat. The Heat seized control of the game late in the first quarter and led by as many as 33 points before the night was over.

The most obvious questions center on the future of head coach Joe Mazzulla, who has been overmatched by Heat mentor Erik Spoelstra in the series. Windhorst states that Mazzulla seemed well-positioned to return for another season before Game 3, but the Celtics’ lifeless performance makes his job much less safe.

Mazzulla accepted blame for the loss, repeatedly telling reporters, “I just didn’t have them ready to play,” and adding, “I have to get them in a better place ready to play, and that’s on me.”

Windhorst believes Mazzulla went too far in trying to protect his players with his post-game comments, stating that they were so “over-the-top” that they came off as “transparent.”

President of basketball operations Brad Stevens remains a strong supporter of Mazzulla, Windhorst adds. Stevens selected Mazzulla to run the team after Ime Udoka was suspended last fall and then appointed him as permanent head coach in midseason.

However, Windhorst cites a “rising expectation” that Mazzulla will become the fall guy for the disastrous playoff ending it appears the Celtics are headed toward. He was given an undisclosed contract extension when the “interim” was removed from his title in February, but the organization may decide that a 34-year-old with no prior head coaching experience isn’t the right person to run a team with championship aspirations.

The recent firings of high-profile coaches such as Mike Budenholzer, Nick Nurse and Doc Rivers, who have all led teams to titles, may make Mazzulla’s future even more tenuous.

Boston also has to determine this summer whether to give Jaylen Brown an extension worth more than $280MM that he qualified for by earning All-NBA honors. Brown has been particularly bad against Miami, shooting 2-of-20 from three-point range, including an 0-of-7 performance Sunday night.

Windhorst states that questions are re-emerging about whether Brown and Jayson Tatum should be the foundation of the team. It will eventually cost the Celtics more than $50MM apiece annually to keep them together, and the front office has to determine whether that’s the best pairing for the future.

Barring an unprecedented turnaround, the Celtics will enter the offseason haunted by the feeling that the team wasn’t prepared for the Game 3 challenge and quit when things got tough. Another loss Tuesday night could set the direction for a summer upheaval.

Kings’ Monte McNair Named Executive Of The Year

Having constructed the roster that snapped a record-setting 16-year playoff drought, Kings general manager Monte McNair has been named the NBA’s Executive of the Year for the 2022/23 season, the league announced today.

McNair, who controversially sent ascendant guard Tyrese Haliburton to Indiana in a blockbuster deal for Domantas Sabonis at last season’s trade deadline, supplemented the star duo of Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox this past offseason by drafting Keegan Murray, signing Malik Monk, and trading for Kevin Huerter.

Perhaps most importantly, McNair hired Mike Brown as the Kings’ new head coach after parting ways with Alvin Gentry. Brown won Coach of the Year honors after leading Sacramento to a 48-34 record and its first postseason berth since 2006.

Unlike most of the NBA’s other major postseason awards, the Executive of the Year is voted on by the league’s 30 general managers instead of 100 media members.

McNair received 16 first-place votes and showed up on 24 ballots, earning 98 total points. He beat out runner-up Koby Altman of the Cavaliers, who got seven first-place votes and was included on 21 ballots, finishing with 63 total points.

No other executive received more than two first-place votes or 20 total points. Jazz GM Justin Zanik, Nuggets GM Calvin Booth, and Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens rounded out the top five vote-getters, while sixth-place finisher Bucks general manager Jon Horst joined Stevens as the other executives who received two first-place votes. Nine additional execs received at least one vote.

Atlantic Notes: Finney-Smith, Barlow, Knicks, Maxey

Forward Dorian Finney-Smith underwent successful surgery on Wednesday to correct a contracture of his right pinky finger, the Nets announced. He’s expected to be cleared for offseason workouts in about six weeks, the team says.

Contractures are characterized as a permanent shortening of muscle fibers, which reduces flexibility. When people try to move the muscles affected, they become rigid and cause pain.

Considering the injury was on his shooting hand, it likely affected Finney-Smith’s performance this season. After making 39.5% of his three-pointers over the past two seasons, he shot just 33.7% from deep in 2022/23.

Here’s more from the Atlantic:

  • Maine Celtics head coach Alex Barlow has been hired by Butler University as an assistant coach, the Bulldogs announced in a press release. Barlow spent eight seasons with the Celtics organization after playing under president of basketball operations Brad Stevens at Butler. “From the day Alex walked on campus at Butler, his goal was to be a coach,” said Stevens. “In his time here, he’s shown he’s going to be a really good one. Though we’ll be sad to see him leave Boston and Maine, I’m excited for him that his first college assistant job will be back at his alma mater. I know he can’t wait to get back to Hinkle.”
  • The Knicks are peaking at the right time and have become a team no one wants to face in the playoffs, according to Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post. The Knicks never trailed their series-clinching Game 5 victory over the Cavaliers, Vaccaro notes. “The way this team plays resonates with all our fans,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game. “They play hard and play smart and play together. When you play that way in New York it’s always recognized. You need everybody in a situation like that to win on the road and play the way we did and that’s a credit to our entire team.”
  • Tyrese Maxey struggled mightily against Boston this season and that has been the case throughout his three-year career. The Sixers guard expects to be better against the Celtics in their second-round matchup, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I mean, the ultimate goal, it’s not about me. It’s about winning,” Maxey said.