Kristaps Porzingis

Atlantic Notes: Hetzel, Nets, Maxey, Thibodeau, Celtics

The Nets are hiring veteran assistant coach Steve Hetzel to be part of Jordi Fernandez‘s new staff in Brooklyn, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Hetzel was an assistant coach in Portland for the past three seasons under Chauncey Billups. Prior to his stint with the Blazers, he worked on Steve Clifford‘s staffs in both Charlotte (2014-18) and Orlando (2018-21).

Perhaps most notably, Hetzel was the head coach of the Canton Charge in the G League during the 2013/14 season. Fernandez was an assistant on his staff that year before taking over as the Charge’s head coach for the next two seasons after that.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Sixers have listed guard Tyrese Maxey as questionable to play in Game 2 on Monday due to an illness that forced him to miss this morning’s shootaround, tweets Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • In an anonymous player poll conducted by The Athletic, 47% of the respondents named Tom Thibodeau as the head coach they’d least want to play for. However, Thibodeau’s Knicks players were prepared to go to bat for him, as Fred Katz of The Athletic writes. “Nobody’s in our locker room and everybody that talks is on the outside of our locker room. They don’t know what goes on,” Donte DiVincenzo said. “Thibs is a great leader. He’s a great head coach and he’s done an amazing job this year not only dealing with injuries in and out of the lineup but also getting the best out of every single player on our team. I’m having a career year. Different guys on the team are having career years.”
  • The Celtics have made at least the Eastern Conference Finals in five of the last seven postseason but haven’t won a title during that time. Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston explores how last year’s additions of Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday give the team a new dimension and raise its ceiling entering the 2024 playoffs.
  • Porzingis passed a key test in Game 1 on Sunday vs. Miami, writes Brian Robb of, scoring 18 points and finishing as a +17 in his 34 minutes. Porzingis – who had only played in 10 playoff games, including none since 2021 – lacks the extensive postseason experience of his fellow Celtics starters, but he showed on Sunday that he’s up to the challenge with the stakes raised, says Robb.

Celtics Notes: Heat Rivalry, Brown, Porzingis, Kornet, Hauser

The Celtics got a very familiar playoff opponent when the Heat defeated Chicago Friday night, writes Khari Thompson of The Boston Globe. The teams have faced each other in three of the past four Eastern Conference finals, with Miami winning last year and in 2020 and Boston prevailing in 2022. With all the history between the two organizations, Jaylen Brown believed another meeting was inevitable.

“I knew it was going to be Miami. I knew it from a few weeks back,” Brown said. “Just coming from last year to this year, it just makes sense, so we’re looking forward to it. It should be a great challenge. Miami is a tough team, well coached, they play hard, and they’re physical. All the things that we need to emphasize. So it should be fun.”

Kristaps Porzingis, who was acquired in a trade last summer, is looking forward to his first experience with the Celtics-Heat rivalry, Thompson adds. Boston won all three regular season matchups, but Porzingis understands that Miami is dangerous because of how its players approach the play0ffs.

“We have to expect them to be ultra-aggressive,” he said. “Ultra-handsy and trying to do all the little dirty things they can. Not dirty things, but to mess up the game a little bit to get some advantages. And, yeah, we have to be ready for that. It’s going to be a war.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Luke Kornet will miss Sunday’s opener with a strained right calf, according to Souichi Terada of MassLive. The backup big man has been part of the rotation, but Terada notes that the Celtics have other options due to a midseason trade for Xavier Tillman and the recent conversion of Neemias Queta‘s two-way contract. No explanation was provided for when or how Kornet was injured.
  • With Sam Hauser developing into a dangerous three-point weapon off the Celtics’ bench, Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe looks back at the night the sharpshooter decided to join the organization. Moments after the 2021 draft ended, Hauser got two-way contract offers from the Celtics and Timberwolves, along with an opportunity to join the Heat’s Summer League team and compete for a two-way deal. All three teams wanted an answer right away so they could pursue other players if they didn’t land Hauser. “When I got off the phone, my dad was like, ‘Well, why don’t you just sleep on it?’” Hauser said. “And I told him, ‘We’ve got 10 minutes.’ So we all just kind of sat down and talked about the options and came to the conclusion that Boston was probably the best spot for me.”
  • Jared Weiss and Jay King of The Athletic talked to scouts and coaches about the best strategies for countering the Celtics’ defense.

Atlantic Notes: Brunson, Bridges, Oubre, Porzingis

Jalen Brunson isn’t going to be named this season’s Most Valuable Player, but the Knicks point guard deserves real consideration for the award, or at least a spot on voters’ five-man ballots, writes Steve Popper of Newsday (subscription required).

Brunson eclipsed the 40-point mark for a second consecutive game on Tuesday in Chicago, racking up 45 points and eight assists in a victory that gave the Knicks sole control of the No. 3 seed in the East with three games left to play. Asked about the star guard placing sixth in ESPN’s final MVP straw poll, head coach Tom Thibodeau joked that he wanted a recount.

“He’s earned that. It’s not like some hype,” Thibodeau said, per Popper. “If you look across the board, I think it’s a byproduct of the winning and what he’s done. More importantly they’re not empty stats. It’s impacting winning in a great way. And so to be a leading scorer in the league, to do it with the amount of pressure that he’s had on him in terms of double teaming. We’ve had a lot of guys out, got a number of guys with minute restrictions and everything else and this guy has delivered night after night.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Nets forward Mikal Bridges admits that it’s “not fun at all” to be missing the postseason for the first time since 2020, but he’s still looking forward to a future in Brooklyn, as Peter Botte of The New York Post relays. “Yeah, 100 percent. I don’t think I look at anywhere else,” Bridges said. “I don’t think about my contract at all. Just try and come back, and my biggest thing this summer is to be better than I was this year. Take a lot from what I learned. Obviously it was not what I wanted and what we wanted as a team, but you can’t really sulk about it.”
  • Kelly Oubre has significantly outplayed the one-year, minimum-salary deal he signed with the Sixers last summer and put himself in line for a raise in free agency, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (subscription required). After averaging over 20 points per game in Charlotte last season, Oubre has been more of a two-way force this season, Pompey writes, making more of an impact defensively while still being a threat on offense. “Kelly has been phenomenal the last two months since I’ve been here,” teammate Kyle Lowry said. “He’s been phenomenal shooting the ball, driving the ball, making aggressive takes to the rim. He’s just been phenomenal.”
  • Jay King of The Athletic takes an interesting look at how big man Kristaps Porzingis has transformed himself into a far more efficient post-up player than he was during his days in Dallas and how Porzingis’ post-up ability could be a difference-maker for the Celtics‘ offense this postseason.

Mavs’ Irving, Celtics’ Porzingis Named Players Of The Week

Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving has been named Western Conference Player of the Week, while Celtics big man Kristaps Porziņģis has claimed the Eastern Conference’s weekly honor, the NBA announced (via Twitter).

Irving averaged 31.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting 52.4% from the field as Dallas went 3-1 last week. Porzingis averaged 19.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in four Boston victories.

Irving has gained Player of the Week honors five times in his career, but this is his first since the 2014/15 season.

The Suns’ Devin Booker, Lakers’Anthony Davis, Mavs’Luka Doncic, Timberwolves’Rudy Gobert and Spurs’Victor Wembanyama were the other Western Conference nominees. The Magic’sPaolo Banchero, Knicks’Jalen Brunson, Sixers’ Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey and Pacers’ Tyrese Haliburton were the other Eastern Conference nominees (Twitter link).

Atlantic Notes: Trent, Porzingis, Barclays, Jones

The reeling Raptors appear doomed for an NBA draft lottery return this summer, but there are still plenty of reasons to pay attention to the team down the stretch, contends Eric Koreen of The Athletic.

Chief among them, argues Koreen, is watching combo guard Gary Trent Jr. make his push towards a lucrative new contract in free agency. As Koreen notes, Trent is enjoying a particularly prolific scoring run right now.

Koreen wonders if Trent will fetch something around the league’s mid-level exception, projected to be around $13MM, or something significantly more than that. He also writes glowingly about young new trade acquisition Ochai Agbaji, as well as intriguing 10-day signing Jahmi’us Ramsey.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics’ strategy of conserving the minutes of oft-injured center Kristaps Porzingis as he returns from a hamstring injury worked swimmingly against the Pistons, per Brian Robb of Porzingis played for the first time since incurring a hamstring strain that sidelined him for 11 days. He logged just 22 minutes, but scored 20 points while shooting 7-of-14 from the floor. He also grabbed eight boards.. “It felt great,” Porzingis said. “Yeah, just different because I had the minutes restriction. Just different spurts of playing. I barely played in the first and then in the second I had a longer stretch. Something unusual, but other than that it’s always good to be out there.”
  • Barclays Center owner BSE Global announced that it will undertake work on some major renovations to the Nets‘ homecourt, per Lucas Kaplan of Nets. The project will reportedly include building out some fresh, premium fan clubs.
  • New Sixers big man Kai Jones is looking forward to his opportunity to play for a contender after an emotionally trying offseason, he said during an interview with Shams Charania of Stadium (Twitter video link). After demanding a trade from the Hornets ahead of the season, Jones was cut instead. He explained to Charania that he has suffered some close personal losses and is now in therapy. “I didn’t want to die,” Jones reflected.

Celtics Notes: Hauser, Pritchard, Tatum, Porzingis

Celtics forward Sam Hauser appears to have escaped serious injury after stepping on the foot of a Wizards player during Sunday’s game, a source tells Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. X-rays on Hauser’s left ankle came back negative, according to Himmelsbach’s source. His status for tonight’s game against Detroit hasn’t been determined, but he isn’t expected to be out of action long.

Hauser was on the verge of a historic night when the injury occurred early in the third quarter. He was 10-of-13 from beyond the arc, leaving him one short of the franchise record for three-pointers in a game and four away from Klay Thompson‘s league mark. Coach Joe Mazzulla recognizes what a dangerous shooter he has in Hauser, who’s connecting at 43.2% from long distance this season and is typically one of the team’s most durable players, writes Brian Robb of MassLive.

“I loved his confidence, loved his aggressiveness, loved how guys look for him and I love how he got his shots within the flow of our execution,” Mazzulla said. “And that’s the weapon that he is, his ability to just put two on the ball, his ability to create open shots for himself and for other people, so it was fun to watch him shoot him. It was fun to watch his guys look for him.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Payton Pritchard registered his first double-double of the season, posting 14 points and 13 assists in the win over Washington, notes Souichi Terada of MassLive. Pritchard was vocal about his lack of playing time last season, but he has settled into a regular reserve role after signing a four-year extension last summer. “I think Payton really, amongst our season, has been kind of underrated and the growth that he’s had as a player,” Mazzulla said. “His ability to play with the ball, his ability to play without the ball. He’s finding ways without scoring to highly impact the game, whether it’s his assists or with his defense or his rebounding.”
  • With the top seed in the East all but wrapped up, the Celtics will likely rest their stars a little over the last month of the season, but it won’t be easy to convince Jayson Tatum to go along with that plan, per Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston (video link). “I’ve been here seven years. They understand kind of what they’re dealing with,” Tatum said. “I don’t like to sit out. I understand if I was injured or whatever, but I said it before, I just love to play the game.”
  • Wizards interim coach Brian Keefe is impressed by the development of Kristaps Porzingis, Himmelsbach adds in a separate piece. Keefe was with the Knicks when they drafted Porzingis in 2014 and was tasked with helping him get ready for the NBA. Keefe also coached him last season as an assistant in Washington. “He’s grown tremendously,” Keefe said. “This is kind of what we probably all envisioned when we first had him. The guy was so versatile, could play multiple different positions inside and outside. I’m thrilled that he’s having a great year this year.” Porzingis missed his fifth straight game Sunday due to hamstring soreness, but he worked out on the court prior to the game and may return to action tonight.

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Brown, Tillman, Roster Opening

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla recently started adjusting the rotation patterns and responsibilities for his two star wings, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. For most of the season, Jayson Tatum had been getting his first rest about six minutes into the game while Jaylen Brown typically played the entire first quarter. Brown then started the second quarter on the bench while Tatum ran the second team. Those roles often reversed in the second half.

Himmelsbach notes that Tatum played the entire second half in last Saturday’s win over Phoenix. In their rematch on Thursday, Brown rested first, while Tatum was on the court for all of the first quarter. Tatum saw just five minutes in the second quarter as Brown played the entire time.

“It’s both of them were having constant, free-flowing conversation throughout the game,” Mazzulla explained. “Credit to them for just kind of trusting the staff on the decision that was made at the time, but there’s a few things that go into it. Obviously, if one of them is playing really well, you want to keep that. [On Thursday] we changed the pattern so we could keep the matchups that we wanted later in the half, later in the quarter. So it’s just a thing that, at first, is in the best interest of them. And then the next best thing is how can we make sure we’re taking advantage of the matchups having the right lineup?”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Xavier Tillman has seen his playing time steadily increase since being acquired in a trade with Memphis last month, Himmelsbach adds. The Celtics brought Tillman along slowly because he was dealing with left knee soreness at the time of the deal, and they wanted to give him time to learn a new system. He appears to have claimed a consistent rotation role, averaging 22.2 minutes in the last two games. “Just being patient, waiting for him to understand the language, understand the dynamics of it,” Mazzulla said. “Obviously, the staff has done a great job getting on the floor with him, walking him through all of the rules and areas. And just him hearing it in the first few shootarounds and film sessions and getting a clear understanding of what expectations are.”
  • The Celtics are in no hurry to fill their open roster spot, Brian Robb of MassLive states in a mailbag column. Another salary will add to the team’s tax bill, so there are financial benefits to carrying just 14 players for a while longer. The roster is mostly healthy, and the team would prefer to have flexibility with the open spot in case someone does get hurt. Robb observes that the only intrigue regarding the opening is whether the team will wait until the last day of the regular season or sign someone earlier to give them time to get acclimated. He notes that won’t be an issue if the spot ultimately goes to a two-way player such as Neemias Queta.
  • Kristaps Porzingis will miss his fifth straight game on Sunday against Washington with a strained right hamstring and Derrick White will sit out with a strained left hand, per Souichi Terada of MassLive. Tatum and Brown are listed as questionable with minor injuries, and Terada notes that Boston is likely to be careful with its players entering a stretch of five games in seven days.

Atlantic Notes: Achiuwa, Hart, Anunoby, Porzingis, Celtics

Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa has impressed in the midst of several injuries to key players like Julius Randle, starting 18 straight games and averaging 12.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.8 blocks per night. He returned to the bench as the team got healthier on Tuesday, but remained productive, registering 12 points, eight boards and two blocks against Philadelphia.

As observed by Newsday’s Steve Popper (subscriber link) and as we previously noted, it’s been a pleasant homecoming for Achiuwa, who moved to New York from Nigeria in eighth grade and played some high school ball there.

It was a very, very cool moment for me,” Achiuwa said. “Inner city kid, growing up in the city, of course, hearing about the Knicks, seeing the games and stuff. Now, being able to represent the city on that platform is really huge. Seeing how the city accepted me and just me being there in that particular moment was very nostalgic in a way. It was a crazy moment for sure.

This is the best I’ve played in a really really long time.

While Achiuwa’s play is exciting, Stefan Bondy of the New York Post writes New York may soon have a difficult decision to make. Achiuwa’s a restricted free agent this offseason and while his current projected $8-10MM valuation is more than reasonable for his production, Mitchell Robinson, due $14.3MM next season, is under contract. Additionally, Isaiah Hartenstein, who has taken over the starting job in the wake of Robinson’s injury, will become an unrestricted free agent.

Assuming the Knicks re-sign OG Anunoby, bringing back both Hartenstein – who could get a contract with an annual value around $13-14MM – and Achiuwa would send New York into the luxury tax, Bondy observes. While those salary projections seem safe for now, Bondy writes, it’s possible each Hartenstein and Achiuwa get more money than expected in a relatively weak frontcourt free agent class.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau defied his own trend of playing one lead guard, two wings, a power forward and a center when he transitioned to a position-less lineup in Anunoby’s return, Bondy writes in a member-only New York Post article. As Bondy observes, Anunoby played alongside Josh Hart in the starting lineup, and that duo has the NBA’s best net rating among two players with at least 241 minutes together (+37.7). “I like that versatility, and we thought that was one of the big reasons why we wanted OG, was what he would bring to the team,” Thibodeau said. “So I think it’s a huge plus for us.
  • Kristaps Porzingis missed his fourth straight game for the Celtics on Thursday, but head coach Joe Mazzulla gave a promising update on the star before the game, according to MassLive’s Brian Robb. “He’s progressing well,” Mazzulla said. “He was on the court today earlier, just working out with the guys. Don’t have an official timeline, but he’s getting better and better.
  • Boston’s starters have gotten plenty of credit for the Celtics‘ success this season, but the bench has played a pivotal, yet understated role this year, according to NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg. The bench unit including Sam Hauser, Payton Pritchard and Luke Kornet have outscored opponents by 219 points on the year, the best in the NBA. In-season addition Xavier Tillman has also been a key contributor as of late.
  • In case you missed it, the Sixers are signing Kai Jones to a 10-day contract. Get the details here.

Atlantic Notes: Brown, Raptors, Reed, Nurse, Maxey, Celtics

After missing four games with knee inflammation, Bruce Brown hopes to be able to play against his former team when the Raptors visit Denver tonight, writes Michael Grange of Brown, who played an important role in the Nuggets’ title run last season, has been increasing his workload recently and hopes he’ll receive medical clearance to take the court.

This will be Brown’s second visit to Denver, which is rare for a player in the opposite conference. He picked up his championship ring on January 14 when he was still with the Pacers, three days before being shipped to Toronto in the Pascal Siakam trade.

I always looking forward to coming back here,” Brown said. “Great fans, great fan base, excited to see my previous teammates. It will be great to see everyone.”

Brown is officially questionable for Monday’s contest, while Immanuel Quickley (left hip flexor strain), Chris Boucher (right knee contusion) and Gary Trent Jr. (groin strain) are all out, according to Grange (Twitter links). RJ Barrett, who missed Saturday’s loss to Portland with an illness, is probable.

Here’s more from the Atlantic:

  • Sixers big man Paul Reed criticized the officiating following Friday’s loss to New Orleans, per Kyle Neubeck of PHLY Sports (Twitter video link). “Just knowing that the referees are going to be the referees, and we’re going to have to beat them too. So we got to already be expecting that,” Reed said. Philadelphia was victorious on Sunday vs. New York, with Reed recording 13 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. The team was plus-13 in his 28 minutes in the ugly 79-73 win.
  • While Reed lamented the officiating, head coach Nick Nurse was more unhappy with the Sixers‘ effort in the first half of Friday’s game, calling their offensive approach “soft,” writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (subscription required). “We tried to jump-shoot our way to a lead early, and you can’t count on that,” Nurse said. “ … That’s not good enough. You’ve got to play tougher than that. You’ve got to put your nose in there and drive it in the paint and try to get to the foul line and draw some defense and kick it out to somebody who’s open.” Nurse also said he’s still evaluating the make-shift rotation following a number of injuries, most notably to reigning MVP Joel Embiid.
  • Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey has missed the past four games while in the NBA’s concussion protocol, but he has been cleared to return on Tuesday against the Knicks, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The first-time All-Star is set to hit restricted free agency this summer and will likely command a massive payday.
  • The Celtics‘ entire starting lineup is on the injury report for tonight’s game in Portland, tweets Keith Smith of Spotrac. Jaylen Brown (sacroiliac strain), Jrue Holiday (left knee tendinopathy), Jayson Tatum (right ankle impingement) and Derrick White (left hand sprain) are questionable, while Kristaps Porzingis will miss his second straight game with right hamstring tightness.
    [Update: Brown, Tatum and White are active, but Holiday will be out, Smith tweets.]
  • Heading into Saturday’s contest vs. Phoenix, the Celtics had dropped two straight games for only the second time during the 2023/24 season. They responded with a victory they badly wanted, as Jay King of The Athletic writes. “Just not letting it snowball effect, right,” said Tatum, who specifically asked to play the entire second half. “We’re not perfect. We try to be. We really do try. But we make mistakes and things like that. This is a tough league. The other teams are really good, got great players. So it’s all about how you respond. If you want to be a special team, you have to do a really good job of responding. Especially winning on the road is tough, being away from home for 10, 12 days or whatever. So this is a great way to come out here and get a win against a team that’s been playing well lately.”

Arthur Hill contributed to this post.

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Porzingis, Van Gundy

Being named MVP is one of Jayson Tatum‘s career goals, but leading the Celtics to an NBA title ranks higher on his list, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Tatum said at All-Star Weekend that he believes voters look at him differently based on a subpar performance in the 2022 Finals, Washburn adds. Although Tatum averaged 21.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 7.0 assists in that series, he shot just 31% on two-pointers and had difficulty scoring inside against Andrew Wiggins.

“Of course you want to win those things,” Tatum told reporters last weekend in Indianapolis. “But you can’t take precedence over playing the right way and doing the things that you have to do in order for your team to essentially be the best team in the league and have a chance to win a championship. Would I love to win? Yes. But apparently us losing the Finals two years ago affects what people think of me now, so I guess I’ve got some ground to make up.”

Tatum’s MVP case is boosted by the dominance of the Celtics, who won their eighth straight game Saturday in New York. Boston holds the league’s best record by a wide margin, but its roster is so talented that Tatum doesn’t have to carry the team, which often limits the stats that voters tend to look at when casting their ballots. Coach Joe Mazzulla made that point after Tatum’s 19-point performance against the Knicks.

“I thought today was a beautiful display of basketball from Jayson that will go underlooked and will not go into the most valuable category,” Mazzulla said. “But his ability to control the game with his pick-and-roll pace, his pick-and-roll passing; his defense, he put himself on ((Jalen) Brunson. And the poise of welcoming the two-on-ones (double teams) and creating for others was great.”

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Kristaps Porzingis, one of Boston’s major acquisitions last summer, gives credit to the front office for its bold moves in assembling the current roster, per Souichi Terada of MassLive. “When the opportunity presented, for me at least, I said this is gonna work, 100%,” Porzingis said. “Or we’re gonna figure it out sooner than later. And it just worked right away because of the fit, because of where I am in my career, and adding Jrue (Holiday). … So just overall great players but also great people and that makes the team connect very easily.”
  • With an eight-game lead for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, Mazzulla will have the opportunity to rest players for the remainder of the season to keep them fresh for the playoffs, notes Brian Robb of MassLive. He adds that it’s a luxury for a team that may have worn itself out by chasing seedings in past years.
  • Senior consultant of basketball operations Jeff Van Gundy has stayed out of the spotlight, but he has been a welcome addition to the Celtics’ management team, according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. “One of the best things he does is he’s just a great listener,” Mazzulla said. “And so you don’t realize how long he’s been in the NBA. You don’t realize the playoff series that he’s been in, the experiences that he’s had, because he waits for the opportunity to come up and almost waits for you to ask him. So he’s very patient. He’s a great listener. And then just a guy that you can bounce ideas off of.”