Sam Hauser

Celtics Notes: Williams, White, Brown, Hauser

Hornets big man Grant Williams has fond memories of his days with the Celtics, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe writes. Williams was moved to Dallas in a sign-and-trade transaction last offseason. He was then dealt to Charlotte at the trade deadline.

“That’s where I was first drafted; that’s the team that believed in me,” Williams said. “I had so many great memories of the team there, the players there, the organization and the city. I’m thankful just to be able to go back and be well received. Honestly, I loved my time in Boston and I loved those years. I enjoyed the experience there and now it’s a matter of when I go back, trying your best to keep your emotions in and compete and that’s something I’ll have to do for the rest of my career.”

Charlotte will play at Boston on April 12.

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Derrick White earned a $500K bonus by surpassing 185 three-pointers made this season, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. The bonus was deemed unlikely before the season, so Boston will have an additional $500K charged toward its team salary. White’s cap hit for 2024/25 is now adjusted to $20,071,429.
  • Jaylen Brown sat out Monday’s game against Charlotte due to a hand sprain, Jared Weiss of The Athletic tweets. The good news is the coach Joe Mazzulla said Brown’s injury is minor and he was held out as a precaution, Washburn tweets.
  • Sam Hauser had his second biggest output of the season against the Hornets in Boston’s 118-104 win. He knocked down seven three-pointers while scoring 25 points, Steve Reed of The Associated Press notes. Boston holds a club option on Hauser’s $2.09MM contract for next season. “I think just layers of our offense is what unleashes him,” Mazzulla said. “The guys understand that he’s a weapon in different ways, and so when we get to the second and third layer of our offense, especially when teams are guarding us a certain way, it really unleashes guys like Sam. And his teammates continuing to trust him and find him within the layers of our offense.”

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Holiday, Hauser, Nets

Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid is now traveling with club as he continues to progress toward an on-court comeback, writes Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The reigning MVP has rejoined the team for the first time since undergoing surgery to address a meniscus injury in early February.

Mizell adds (via Twitter) that, per head coach Nick Nurse, Embiid took part in a light practice Saturday on the road in Toronto. Nurse indicated that the club “geared” some of the workout toward the recuperating big man.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Celtics guard Jrue Holiday has now earned his $354,960 minutes-played bonus for the 2023/24 season, reports Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link). The two-time All-Star has submitted another All-Defensive season during his first year in Boston, though he has taken a step back as a scorer. Nevertheless, Holiday has been an essential component of the top-seeded Celtics’ perimeter attack. According to Marks, this is the seventh straight season that the veteran has reached the minutes played benchmark (2,075) required for this bonus.
  • The Celtics have a cost-effective team option on reserve sharpshooter Sam Hauser for 2024/25. In his latest mailbag, Brian Robb of predicts that Hauser could earn a salary in the range of the mid-level exception if he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2025.
  • The Nets’ recent improvement on defense looks like something the club might be able to develop further in the future, writes Jared Schwartz of The New York Post. As Schwartz writes, the team’s 111.7 defensive rating since the All-Star break is the No. 11 mark in the NBA, a huge improvement from its 116.8 rating prior to the break.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Jeffries, Diakite, Walker, Dinwiddie

The Celtics’ bench has turned into a strength during their current hot streak, Jay King of The Athletic writes.

Over the last nine games, Payton Pritchard has averaged 13.9 points and 5.8 assists per game while shooting 47.0% from the field. Meanwhile, Sam Hauser has made 21 three-pointers over his past three games entering Monday’s action. Al Horford, Luke Kornet, Xavier Tillman and Oshae Brissett have also delivered impactful performances.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • DaQuan Jeffries’ contract with the Knicks, which he signed on Monday, runs through the end of this season with a team option for 2024/25, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets. Mamadi Diakite’s contract with the Knicks, also signed on Monday, runs through next season too, but the 2024/25 salary is non-guaranteed rather than a team option, Katz adds (Twitter link).
  • Lonnie Walker‘s minutes have dropped since Kevin Ollie was named the Nets’ interim coach but he’s trying to keep a positive attitude, according to “I don’t think it negatively affects me. You might have your ups and downs, your days where you might not feel as much,” Walker said. “But for the most part, I got a great family around me that really supports me and I understand that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.” Walker will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie was given very little leeway by former Nets coach Jacque Vaughn before he was dealt and later joined the Lakers, according to Shams Charania. Speaking on the Run It Back program (video link), Charania said Dinwiddie “was essentially told in Brooklyn: No pick and rolls, no isolations.”

Celtics Notes: Holiday, Hauser, Pritchard, White

Boston has all but secured the No. 1 seed in the East, holding an 11-game lead on second-place Milwaukee with 12 games left on the team’s schedule.

As Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe writes (subscription required), the Celtics have been resting some of their top players over the past week to be cautious — for example, Jayson Tatum missed Friday’s game vs. Detroit with what was officially called a right ankle impingement, but there’s no indication it’s anything serious.

However, veteran guard Jrue Holiday, who missed his third straight game on Friday with a sprained right AC joint in his shoulder, does not fall into that category. Holiday tells Himmelsbach he’s been experiencing “dead arm” following a hard screen from Wizards center Richaun Holmes last Sunday (Twitter video link).

The two-time All-Star has been getting treatment for the injury, which requires rest to heal, per Himmelsbach. While Holiday says he’s starting to feel better, there’s no timeline for his return. Despite the team’s sizeable lead in the standings, he’s eager to get back on the court.

I still want to play,” Holiday said. “That’s part of the reason I play basketball. But it’s also keeping rhythm. Sometimes when you’re out for a long time you break rhythm, but I feel like I’ve been in a good groove and I want to continue to play.”

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • Backup forward Sam Hauser missed a couple games with an ankle sprain he sustained vs. Washington, but he returned to action in Friday’s victory, Himmelsbach adds in the same story. The third-year sharpshooter says he was relieved the injury wasn’t more serious. “It didn’t feel great, that’s for sure,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect or how it was going to feel in the days to come, but it’s felt pretty good throughout the week.”
  • Giving Payton Pritchard a four-year, $30MM rookie scale extension last offseason is looking like a shrewd decision by the Celtics, according to Brian Robb of MassLive, who says the fourth-year guard has outperformed that deal this season, though the extension doesn’t begin until 2024/25. “Payton’s been great, and I’m not surprised, to be honest,” Jaylen Brown said. “Some guys just got a certain mentality they carry themselves with. Payton is somebody you don’t worry about. Even in the lowest of times he’s a hard worker and his mindset is phenomenal in terms of a relentless, never-give-up warrior-type mentality. So you put him out there, I’m not surprised at anything we’re seeing now. It’s just now the work is coming to fruition.” Pritchard has been logging major minutes of late with Holiday injured and is arguably playing his best basketball of the season.
  • Guard Derrick White met the 65-game criteria for postseason awards on Friday, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. White earned a spot on the All-Defensive Second Team in 2022/23 and is having another excellent campaign. White has three pending bonuses, Marks notes — the 29-year-old will earn $250K if he makes another All-Defensive team, $500K if he makes at least 185 threes (he’s currently at 172), and $500K if he appears in 70 games.
  • Robb of MassLive lists four takeaways from Friday’s blowout victory, including a big night for Brown, who finished with 33 points on 13-of-19 shooting.

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.

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.

Celtics Notes: Brissett, Pritchard, Hauser, Brown

Oshae Brissett has mostly been out of the rotation since signing with the Celtics this summer, but he took advantage of an opportunity to play on Friday night, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. With Al Horford, Kristaps Porzingis and Luke Kornet all sidelined by injuries, the 6’7″ Brissett was called on to help protect the rim in small-ball lineups. He responded by making all four of his shots and scoring 11 points in nearly 16 minutes. He had just 14 points all season before Friday’s game.

“It’s tough, wanting to win and wanting to do so well and trying to play perfect,” Brissett said. “You can’t really do that as a basketball player, especially in limited minutes. You’ve just got to be yourself and play a little free. It’s tough, again, because you want to do the right thing so bad. But, at the end of the day, it’s basketball and I’ve been playing basketball for a long time.”

Himmelsbach adds that Brissett has remained focused while he’s been out of the lineup, studying the game from the bench to identify ways he can help the team. Brissett also receives regular guidance from coach Joe Mazzulla, who reminded him that his shooting in a game two years ago with Indiana sparked the Celtics’ interest.

“I know what I can bring to the table, and that’s energy and being excited to be out there with these guys,” Brissett added. “And any given night I can get out there, I’m just going to do that.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Jaylen Brown was dealing with hypertension in his right knee, but he was determined to play in what is becoming an intense rivalry with Orlando, per Brian Robb of MassLive. The Magic had won their previous four games against the Celtics, including an in-season tournament contest in which they ran up the score in the final minutes to help with point differential. “In my opinion, for us, I think one we had a bunch of guys out and were on a back-to-back versus a team that’s been kicking our ass the last four or five times we played,” Brown said. “I think this was the biggest game to me so far.”
  • Payton Pritchard is showing the Celtics that they’re better off keeping him than using him as a trade chip, Robb observes in a separate story. Pritchard, who scored 21 points in 28 minutes on Friday, and Sam Hauser have become the leaders of a bench unit that is exceeding expectations. “Like I said, those guys since day one,” Mazzulla said. “I coached them both in Summer League, so I’ve always known they were going to be great rotation players, and I had full confidence in them last year, and full confidence in them this year.”
  • Brown, a member of the NBPA’s executive committee, endorsed Andre Iguodala‘s recent ascension to interim executive director, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, who notes that Brown indicated he may also have interest in leading the players union after he retires from basketball.

Celtics Notes: Hauser, Pritchard, Porzingis, Mazzulla

After a slow start to the season, Celtics reserve forward Sam Hauser has found his three-point stroke since the calendar flipped to November, writes Souichi Terada of MassLive. Hauser shot 3-of-15 from long distance in three October games, but he has been sizzling over his last six contests, connecting on 21-of-38 three-point attempts, including 4-of-6 in Saturday’s win over Toronto.

“It’s kind of my job,” he said. “It’s nothing crazy. Obviously it’s nice to see more go through than miss, so I’m really happy with that. But yeah, it’s my job, so I always have to be ready to make some shots.”

Hauser’s hot streak is providing a reliable weapon for a team that may have the best top six in the league, but entered the season with uncertainty about its bench. Hauser appears to have solidified his role in Boston’s rotation, as he’s playing a career-high 19.3 minutes through the first nine games.

“You can kind of dig your feet in a little bit you could say,” Hauser said. “And just knowing that your number’s going to get called more often this year than it was last year is pretty cool and you just want to make the most of it and kind of have gratitude with where you’re at.”

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Backup guard Payton Pritchard decided to stay away from social media during an early-season shooting slump, Terada adds in another story. Pritchard said he’s not bothered by the critics, even if he opts not to engage them online. “Keep hating,” he said. “This is just making me better. This is part of the journey. These slumps, I think end of the day will pay dividends and will make me a better player overall. Like I’m not hitting shots, so these last couple of games, I had to find other ways to impact it. So it’s making me an all-around player and not just a shooter.”
  • Kristaps Porzingis felt fine after playing in back-to-back games Friday and Saturday, per Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. There had been questions about how often Porzingis would be used in those situations given his injury history, but he believes he can handle it. “I think last year I added a few things to my routine that I’ve been doing,” Porzingis said. “Honestly, I didn’t start the season in perfect shape. I think now I’m starting to feel the way I need to feel, and I’m still going to improve. Rhythm, feel, shot, everything is still going to get much better.”
  • The Raptors were upset that Joe Mazzulla used a coach’s challenge with a 27-point lead and 3:39 left in the game, Himmelsbach adds. Mazzulla defended his decision, saying he owes it to his players to keep coaching. “It was a clear opportunity for me to empower the players, let them know that I’m coaching you, and those minutes to me are just as important as the start of the game,” he said. “That’s what I told my players. I’ll always put them first.”

And-Ones: All-Star Game, Porter, Breakout Candidates, More

Appearing on ESPN’s First Take on Wednesday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league is weighing the idea of reverting to the East vs. West format for its All-Star Game, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

Since the 2017/18 season, 12 players from each conference have been named All-Stars, but in order to set the two rosters, the top vote-getters in each conference have drafted teams from pools of eight starters and 14 reserves.

“We’re looking at some potential changes in format in Indianapolis this year,” Silver said, referring to the 2024 All-Star Game. “Maybe a return to something more traditional in terms of how the teams are presented. We went to sort of this captain and draft notion, but clearly historically it was East vs. West. So that’s maybe something we are looking at.”

Back in June, Silver didn’t close the door on the possibility of introducing an All-Star format that would pit U.S. players vs. international players. However, he downplayed the likelihood of that change on Wednesday, noting that the international player pool isn’t currently as deep as the U.S. one, which could result in skewed rosters.

According to Bontemps, Silver also reiterated during his First Take appearance, following up on the league’s recent statements on load management, that he views the idea of shortening the regular season as non-starter.

“None of us believe that,” Silver said. “None of the data supports that. As I was saying, back to this issue about load management, we don’t see more injuries later on in the season. Guys aren’t more likely to be injured after they’ve played 40 games as opposed to the first week of the season. I mean, unfortunately, injuries happen.”

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Former WNBA player Kysre Gondrezick has disputed Manhattan prosecutors’ characterization of Kevin Porter Jr.‘s alleged assault, telling Priscilla DeGregory and Emily Crane of The New York Post that Porter “never balled his fists up and hit me” and “definitely didn’t punch me in the face numerous times.” A second-degree assault charge against Porter was dropped this week after it was determined that Gondrezick’s vertebra fracture was a congenital defect and not caused by the former Rocket, who still faces third-degree assault and second-degree strangulation charges after being traded and waived on Tuesday. “It happened very fast, not to the degree of what was reported,” Gondrezick said of the incident. “And it was an argument that occurred in the room for not even 10 seconds.”
  • The Athletic’s NBA writers named a breakout candidate for all 30 NBA teams, with their picks ranging from popular choices such as Pistons guard Cade Cunningham and Trail Blazers center Deandre Ayton to less obvious selections like Celtics wing Sam Hauser.
  • Jonathan Givony and Jeff Borzello of ESPN (Insider link) identify the top international freshman in the NCAA this season, starting with center Aday Mara and forward Berke Buyuktuncel of UCLA.
  • In an entertaining article for FOX Sports, Melissa Rohlin reveals that a Clippers employee – who happens to be a Lakers fan – was the original source of the erroneous offseason rumors linking Lakers guard Austin Reaves to Taylor Swift.

Celtics Notes: Hauser, Banton, Pritchard, Porzingis

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown sat out Wednesday’s game, but the Celtics scored 112 points in a win over Philadelphia because of the performance of several complementary players, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Jrue Holiday made his first start, and he and Derrick White kept the offense humming, but Weiss points to Sam Hauser and Payton Pritchard as the stars of the night.

Hauser finished with 15 points and three assists and showed an improved ability to switch effectively on defense, Weiss states. He also observes that the third-year small forward appears crisper in releasing his jumper and is moving with more purpose on offense. Weiss believes free agent addition Svi Mykhailiuk is on his way to earning a rotation spot, so Hauser will have to keep producing in the preseason to have a chance at regular minutes.

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Dalano Banton is trying to earn a roster spot, but he didn’t help his cause with Wednesday’s performance, Weiss adds. Banton started the second half, but was pulled from the game after 34 seconds after failing to dive for a rebound that landed at his feet. “Listen, there’s nothing more important than holding people to a high standard, especially when you believe in them and know they can be really, really good,” coach Joe Mazzulla said. “… Everybody on the roster competes at a high level and understands that taking pride in defense is number one.” 
  • Pritchard is making his new four-year, $30MM extension look like a bargain, Weiss notes. He had 17 points and three assists in 24 minutes Wednesday and looks like he’ll be an important component in Boston’s offense. Bobby Marks of ESPN breaks down Pritchard’s new contract, which will pay him $6.7MM in 2024/25, followed by $7.2MM, $7.8MM and $8.3MM the following seasons (Twitter link). His salary will range from 4.7% to 5.1% of the cap.
  • The Celtics are using the preseason to experiment with the different possibilities that Kristaps Porzingis brings to the offense, Weiss writes in a separate story. Porzingis displayed his versatility in Sunday’s opener, Weiss observes, successfully executing rim rolls, pick-and-pops and spot-up three-point shots. “I thought we passed up some open shots, but he gives us a different dynamic,” Mazzulla said. “(He) makes the game easier for all the guys, and it’s gonna continue to get better.”