Derrick White

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: Brown, Tatum, White, Williams, Brogdon

Following a disappointing Game 7 loss to the Heat on Monday, the Celtics face some significant offseason decisions, writes Sopan Deb of The New York Times. Jaylen Brown‘s contract situation looms largest among those decisions, as his All-NBA berth this spring made him eligible for a super-max extension.

Boston will have to decide whether to put that offer – which could be worth nearly approximately $295MM over five years – on the table for Brown, who will be entering the final year of his current deal in 2023/24. While he didn’t specifically address the financial details of a potential Celtics offer, Brown’s co-star Jayson Tatum said after Monday’s loss that it’s crucial the team locks up Brown beyond next season.

“He’s one of the best players in this league,” Tatum said. “He plays both ends of the ball and still is relatively young. And he’s accomplished a lot so far in his career. So, I think it’s extremely important.”

For his part, Brown wasn’t ready to address his contract situation in the wake of Monday’s loss.

“I don’t even really know how to answer that question right now, to be honest,” Brown said, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “My thought process is take it one day at a time, focus on getting better. Focus on what the future holds and see where we are from there.”

Here’s more on the Celtics after they fell short of their second consecutive NBA Finals appearance:

  • Tatum sprained his ankle during the first minute of Game 7 on Monday. Although he remained in the game, Tatum admitted after scoring just 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting that he was “a shell of myself,” per Bontemps. “It was tough to move,” Tatum said. “Just frustrating, it happening on the first play.”
  • Game 6 hero Derrick White will undergo an MRI on his left leg, which he injured in the second half of Game 7, writes Bontemps. “I mean, I’ll be fine,” White said. “I’m not too worried about it. But I’ll find out more (on Tuesday).”
  • Despite the disappointing end to their season, the Celtics raved on Monday about how the locker room stuck together after the team fell behind 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami. As Jay King of The Athletic writes, Brown referred to it as “one of the most together groups that we’ve had,” while head coach Joe Mazzulla said it was “one of the best locker rooms” he has been a part of. “Obviously, we didn’t achieve our goal; we didn’t win, which was our goal,” Mazzulla said. “So, we failed in that regard, but it’s not because the guys didn’t have a sense of togetherness, character and just who they are as people.”
  • Robert Williams, who played just 14 minutes in Game 7, was battling an illness on Monday, a league source tells Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Weiss observes within the same story that Malcolm Brogdon was “clearly too injured to play” on Monday after missing Game 6 due to a forearm injury. Brogdon, a minus-15 in just seven minutes in Game 7, confirmed that he has a partially torn tendon in his right elbow and said he’d consider undergoing offseason surgery (Twitter link via Weiss).
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype and ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) previewed the offseason decisions facing the Celtics, including how to handle Grant Williams‘ impending restricted free agency.

Celtics Notes: Game 6, White, Defense, Brogdon

Ahead of Monday night’s Game 7 to determine the Eastern Conference champion, Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe takes a look back at the remarkable final three seconds of Saturday’s game that saved the Celtics‘ season.

The sequence began when Al Horford was whistled for a two-shot foul on Jimmy Butler with 2.1 seconds remaining, but both of those things were eventually changed after a challenge by Boston coach Joe Mazzulla. A review of the play showed that Butler had both feet behind the line and had started his shot when the contact occurred, which resulted in three free throws instead of two.

Monty McCutchen, the NBA’s head of referee development, told Washburn that the replay center would have checked to see if three shots should be awarded whether Mazzulla had appealed the play or not. He also explained the decision to reset the clock to 3.0 seconds, which left enough time for Derrick White‘s game-winning tip-in.

“When you challenge a foul, we go to the first illegal act,” McCutchen said. “Mind you it’s not the camera angle that’s floating around on Twitter. We have nine different camera angles. We (show) the camera angle and the official says, ‘Right there. That’s where I had the foul.’ And we go from there.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • The fact that White was on the court for the critical play was significant, according to Brian Robb of MassLive, who argues that Mazzulla went away from him too often at crunch time during the season. With Malcolm Brogdon unavailable due to a right forearm strain, Mazzulla opted to give White 42 minutes Saturday night rather than extending his rotation. White delivered 11 points, four rebounds and six assists, along with some stellar defense against Butler.
  • The Celtics turned around the series by making adjustments after falling behind 3-0, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic. It took several games for Boston to figure out an effective double-team strategy on Butler, but Weiss believes the approach in Game 6 was ideal. Jayson Tatum was able to read Butler’s moves and provide help at the last second without leaving a clear lane to an open shooter, Weiss observes, adding that White has figured out when to go over or under on screens with Butler to help slow him down.
  • Brogdon is listed as questionable for Game 7, but a source told Marc J. Spears of Andscape that he plans to play (Twitter link). He was able to take part in the Celtics’ shootaround Monday morning, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

Celtics Notes: White, Brogdon, Officiating Report, Mid-Range Shots

Derrick White saved the Celtics’ season with a game-winning putback just before the buzzer in Miami on Saturday night, but he also made a number of underrated contributions earlier in the game, Baxter Holmes of ESPN notes.

White’s teammates shot 6-of-8 off his passes for 12 points and he held the Heat to 1-of-12 shooting when he contested a shot. That includes an 0-for-6 performance by Jimmy Butler when White was his primary defender in Game 6.

White has two years left on his four-year, $70MM contract.

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Guard Malcolm Brogdon is listed as questionable for Game 7, Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets. Brogdon suffered a right forearm strain that limited him in Game 5 and forced him to miss Game 6.
  • The NBA officiating report stated the timing on allowing three seconds to remain after Butler was fouled by Al Horford was correct, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. The officials added 0.9 seconds to the clock after a review. The report says the only incorrect calls in the last two minutes were a missed foul by Gabe Vincent against Jayson Tatum and a lane violation on Miami’s Caleb Martin.
  • Mid-range shots played a key role in Game 6 as the Celtics made only 7-of-35 three-pointers and forced just five turnovers, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe observes. Based on the shot chart, the Celtics connected on 12-of-19 shots inside the 3-point line and outside the restricted area, while the Heat were just 6-for-28 in that area.

Celtics Notes: White, Smart, Game 6, Horford

Derrick White didn’t need to wait for a review to know that his game-winning tip Saturday night left his hand before the buzzer, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. White became the latest hero in the Celtics‘ long playoff history, putting back Marcus Smart‘s miss a split second before time expired to extend this year’s wildest series to a seventh game.

After inbounding the ball with three seconds left, White crashed the boards in case of a missed shot. The Heat denied passes to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, leaving Smart to fire up a three-pointer that rattled in and out, setting the stage for White’s putback.

“That’s the only place it could have bounced to hurt us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I thought we had a lot of things covered on that play, and sometimes things just don’t break your way.”

The play saved the Celtics from what was shaping up to be an epic collapse with their season on the line. They led by nine points with three minutes to play before their offense stalled, allowing Miami to take the lead on three late free throws by Jimmy Butler.

White’s tip denied the Heat a spot in the NBA Finals, at least for now, and it kept alive the Celtics’ chances to become the first team in league history to overcome a 3-0 deficit.

“The group that we have is unique, the group that we have is special,” Brown said, “and sometimes you need a little bit of luck to bring it home.”

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Smart was determined to get his shot off quickly after his potential game-winning three in Game 4 against Philadelphia was disallowed because it came after the buzzer, per Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Smart told reporters that he rushed to release the shot last night to make sure that didn’t happen again.
  • A challenge used by coach Joe Mazzulla when Butler got fouled set the stage for White’s heroics. The clock was at 2.1 seconds when the whistle blew, but it was reset to 3.0 after a review of the play. The decision to change the time was made by the NBA’s review center, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.
  • A trip to Topgolf may have turned around the Celtics’ fortunes in the series, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. After a lifeless performance in the Game 3 loss, Al Horford decided that the players needed a fun activity to reconnect with each other, so he suggested to Mazzulla that they all skip a planned film session and go golfing instead. “That moment, that small instance, that small moment really signifies everything that we’re seeing right now,” Brown said after Saturday’s win. “In that moment, we could have chose to be like, throw in the towel, and I think like that’s what everybody was expecting or seeing or feeling, that that was coming. But no, that’s not how we wanted to go out.”

Celtics/Heat Notes: Game 6, Brogdon, Vincent, Lowry, White

Even if the Celtics don’t end up completing their comeback from a 3-0 deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals, they can put the Heat in an unprecedented position by winning Game 6 on Saturday, writes Law Murray of The Athletic.

As Murray details, of the 150 NBA teams to fall behind by a 3-0 margin in a best-of-seven playoff series, only three forced a Game 7, and all three of those clubs had to play Game 7 on the road. If the Celtics can win Game 6 tonight in Miami, they’ll head back to Boston for Game 7 and become the first team in league history to attempt to win a series at home after losing the first three games.

[RELATED: Poll: Will Celtics Complete Eastern Finals Comeback?]

The Heat have shown an ability to win playoff games away from home, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic, noting that Jimmy Butler scored 47 points to lead Miami to a victory in Boston in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago. Still, Butler and the Heat face significant pressure to finish off the series on Saturday to avoid having to go back on the road to win a Game 7.

Here’s more on the Heat and Celtics:

  • Despite losses in Games 4 and 5, Butler remains optimistic about the Heat’s ability to finish off the Celtics and earn a spot in the NBA Finals, as Nick Friedell of writes. “Because the last two games are not who we are,” Butler said after Thursday’s loss when asked why he’s still so confident. “It just happened to be that way. We stopped playing defense halfway because we didn’t make shots that we want to make. But that’s easily correctable. You just have to come out and play harder from the jump. Like I always say, it’s going to be all smiles, and we are going to keep it very, very, very consistent, knowing that we are going to win next game.”
  • Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon, who left Game 5 in the second half due to what was referred to at the time as right forearm soreness, is listed as questionable to play in Game 6 with a forearm strain. The banged-up veteran is already reportedly playing through a partially torn tendon in his right elbow.
  • Like Brogdon, Heat point guard Gabe Vincent is considered questionable to play on Saturday, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Vincent missed Game 5 due to a left ankle sprain, forcing Kyle Lowry to reenter the starting lineup for the first time in this postseason. Lowry was effective in the first two rounds but has struggled against the Celtics, averaging just 4.3 points and 4.0 assists per game on 29.2% shooting in the last four games.
  • Celtics guard Derrick White helped lift Boston to a Game 5 win with 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting (including 6-of-8 three-pointers). Jared Weiss of The Athletic takes a look at how White’s career night was rooted in a message from his father, and passes along several quotes from White’s teammates that reflect their appreciation for him.

Celtics Notes: R. Williams, Horford, White, G. Williams, Tatum

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla turned around the series with the Sixers by inserting Robert Williams in the starting lineup alongside Al Horford, but that pairing hasn’t been effective against Miami, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. In the 14 minutes that they’ve played together in the conference finals, Williams and Horford are getting outscored by 51.6 points per 100 possessions, which has made a difference in two close losses.

With the two big men on the floor together, Jimmy Butler has searched for opportunities to draw Williams away from the basket, Himmelsbach adds, and Horford has been outplayed by Bam Adebayo. After Game 1, Mazzulla was hesitant when asked whether he planned to stick with the two-big lineup, but they were both starters again Friday night. However, they played less than five minutes together as Mazzulla didn’t go back to that lineup after the Heat took an early lead.

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Himmelsbach’s recommendation for Game 3 is to put Derrick White in the starting lineup and give him more minutes in general. He notes that White is an All-Defensive Team selection who blocked two shots by Butler in Game 2. He makes Boston a better shooting team as well, hitting 6-of-10 three-point attempts in the series. White played just 23 minutes on Friday and hasn’t topped that figure in the Celtics’ last four games.
  • Mazzulla isn’t upset about Grant Williamstrash-talking incident with Butler in the fourth quarter Friday, even though Butler responded by leading Miami’s game-winning rally, per Brian Robb of MassLive. The exchange overshadowed a nice bounce-back performance from Williams, who made 4-of-6 shots after not being used in the series opener. “I mean, he didn’t do anything wrong necessarily,” Mazzulla said. “So, I don’t think it’s emotions getting the best of him.”
  • The Celtics’ biggest concern is the continued lack of production late in games from Jayson Tatum, observes Matt Vautour of MassLive. Tatum didn’t make a shot from the floor in the fourth quarter of Game 1 or 2, leaving his teammates to try to carry the scoring load.

Atlantic Notes: Brunson, Quickley, Raptors, R. Williams, Harris

There was a general perception that the Knicks may have overpaid point guard Jalen Brunson last summer when they signed him to a four-year, $104MM contract. Instead, he has been outperforming his nine-figure deal to an extent that’s rare for New York sports stars, according to Howie Kussoy of The New York Post (subscriber link).

Kussoy points to the contracts signed by various players across the four major North American sports leagues as examples, writing that most haven’t lived up to the lofty expectations of their enormous paydays.

Brunson, meanwhile, had an All-Star-caliber debut season with New York and has been the Knicks’ best player in the playoffs, averaging 26.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.5 steals on .457/.300/.915 shooting through 10 games (39.8 minutes). Kussoy states that Brunson has the “inside track” on becoming the best free agent addition in team history.

Here’s more from the Atlantic:

  • Knicks reserve Immanuel Quickley has been ruled out of Friday’s Game 6 in Miami, head coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters, including Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News (Twitter link). The third-year guard is still battling a left ankle sprain and had previously been listed as doubtful. Quickley will miss his third straight game with the injury.
  • The 2023 free agent class isn’t the strongest, particularly the group of players who might be available for the Raptors‘ mid-level exception or less, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic, who lists 25 players Toronto could target. Among the top candidates Koreen considers realistic are Bruce Brown, Donte DiVincenzo, Nickeil Alexander-Walker (for part of the MLE, not full) and Josh Richardson. Brown and DiVincenzo hold team-friendly player options for 2023/24, while Alexander-Walker will be restricted if Minnesota gives him a qualifying offer — only Richardson is an unrestricted free agent at the moment.
  • Celtics guard Marcus Smart was thrilled with head coach Joe Mazzulla‘s adjustment of inserting Robert Williams into the starting lineup for Game 6, per Jamal Collier of ESPN. “I was ecstatic about it,” Smart said. “To have Rob in there, he changes the game a lot … that just goes to show you, Joe is learning. Just like all of us. I know he’s been killed a lot. Rightfully so. He needs to make some adjustments, and he did that. And that’s all you can ask for, just continue to be the best he can be. It takes everybody; it’s a full team effort.” Williams recorded 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, and the Celtics were plus-18 in his 28 minutes.
  • It was reported in April that Sixers owner Josh Harris had reached an agreement to buy the NFL’s Washington Commanders. Harris and the team released a joint statement on Friday officially announcing the sale, as Sam Robinson of Pro Football Rumors relays. The agreement still has to be approved by the other NFL owners, but that’s considered a formality.

Celtics Shifting Robert Williams Into Starting Five

Ahead of a potential elimination game tonight in Philadelphia, the Celtics have opted to swap center Robert Williams into their starting lineup for guard Derrick White, per Shams Charania and Jared Weiss of The Athletic.

The Sixers, led by newly-minted league MVP Joel Embiid and veteran point guard James Harden, currently lead Boston 3-2, and have an opportunity to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 22 years with a home victory tonight.

As The Athletic’s duo notes, Williams had served as the team’s All-Defensive Team starting center during Boston’s 2021/22 season, which resulted in an NBA Finals run. Injuries have limited his availability this season, and he has been used in more of a reserve capacity, with White replacing him in a smaller first five.

“Just [gives] us a different look,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said of the switch, Weiss tweets. “Rob gives us a lift on the defensive end.”

Sources inform Charania and Weiss that backup guard Payton Pritchard could also see additional time tonight after enjoying an active run in mop-up duty during the end of a Game 5 blowout loss.

NBA Announces 2022/23 All-Defensive Teams

The NBA has officially announced its All-Defensive teams for the 2022/23 season.

A total of 100 media members vote on the All-Defensive awards, with players receiving two points for a First Team vote and one point for a Second Team vote. This year’s All-Defensive teams are as follows:

First Team

Second Team

Unsurprisingly, Jackson – who was this season’s Defensive Player of the Year – received the most First Team votes (96) and showed up on the most overall ballots (99). Only one voter didn’t have Jackson on either All-Defensive team.

Milwaukee teammates Holiday (94) and Lopez (85) received the second- and third-most First Team votes. No other player earned more than 50.

While the Bucks have two players on the First Team, it’s a bit surprising to see former DPOY Giannis Antetokounmpo miss out altogether. Antetokounmpo earned 16 First Team votes and 28 Second Team votes for a total of 60 points, the most of any player who didn’t earn All-Defensive honors. Although he received more total points than Brooks or Adebayo, Giannis didn’t make the cut because there were four forwards with more points than him.

Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels (40 points), Celtics guard Marcus Smart (35), Nets guard Mikal Bridges (33), and Nets center Nic Claxton (25) would have joined Antetokounmpo on a hypothetical All-Defensive Third Team as the highest vote-getters who fell just short.

A total of 38 players showed up on at least one ballot — the full voting results can be viewed here.

Being named to an All-Defensive team will benefit a pair of players financially, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter). White earned a $250K bonus for his Second Team nod, while Holiday will receive $129,600 for making the First Team.