Xavier Tillman

Celtics Notes: Brown, Tatum, Kornet, Brissett

After earning All-NBA honors for the first time a year ago as a member of the Second Team, Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown wasn’t included on the 2023/24 All-NBA teams that were announced on Wednesday. Brown responded on Thursday by performing like the best player on the court in Boston’s Game 2 win over Indiana, racking up 40 points on 14-of-27 shooting in 38 minutes of action.

Asked after the game if the All-NBA snub served as extra motivation entering Thursday’s contest, Brown initially responded, “No I wouldn’t say that. I mean, we’re two games from the (NBA Finals). So honestly, I don’t got the time to give a f–k.”

However, as Brian Robb of MassLive.com writes, when reporters pressed Brown on his thoughts on the All-NBA voting results, the Celtics star admitted to feeling as if not everyone fully appreciates his game.

“I watch guys get praised and anointed who I feel are half as talented as me on either side of the ball,” Brown said. “But at this point in my life, I just embrace it. It comes with being who I am and what I stand for, and I ain’t changing that. I just come out and I’m grateful to step out onto the floor each and every night, put my best foot forward and get better each and every year. Whether people appreciate it or not, it is what it is.”

While Brown didn’t get enough votes from media members to make an All-NBA team this season, his teammates certainly believe he deserved a spot, as Jay King of The Athletic relays.

“I don’t know what they missed, but Jaylen Brown is one of the 15 best players in this game,” Celtics guard Derrick White said. “The whole season, both sides of the ball, he just did so much for us to help us win games, which is the meaning of the game. It’s a shame.”

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • Jayson Tatum, who made the All-NBA First Team for a third consecutive year, referred to the honor as “special” and said he doesn’t take it for granted, per Karen Guregian of MassLive.com. “I’m thankful to everybody that’s helped me along the way,” Tatum added. “Success is not something you can achieve by yourself. There’s a lot of people that deserve credit in helping me get to where I’m at.”
  • In addition to officially ruling out Kristaps Porzingis (calf strain) for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics announced today (via Twitter) that Luke Kornet is considered doubtful to play on Saturday. Kornet sprained his left wrist in Thursday’s victory. Assuming Kornet is unavailable, the Celtics could rely on smaller lineups when Al Horford rests or could turn to backup center Xavier Tillman, who returned on Thursday and played three minutes after missing Game 1 for personal reasons.
  • With Kornet unavailable for most of Game 3, Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla gave playing time to forward Oshae Brissett, who provided a surprise spark after not playing for nearly two weeks, Robb writes for MassLive.com. Brissett scored just two points in his 12 minutes off the bench, but he recorded three steals and matched Brown’s team-high +18 plus/minus mark. “Just trying to do everything I can to get the win,” Brissett said. “Try to do everything I can to give us some energy. We were playing really well. But going into that time, we could definitely turn things around, positive or negative. So I feel like I did a good job of turning us in the positive way and keeping that energy up.”

Eastern Notes: Magic, D-Lo, Tillman, Pistons, Knicks

The Magic are interested in Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell, league sources tell Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Russell holds a player option for 2024/25 worth $18.7MM, but could become an unrestricted free agent if he decides to turn down that option.

Orlando has previously been cited as a potential suitor for Russell. Jovan Buha of The Athletic reported nearly two months ago that, based on conversations he’d had with people inside and outside of the Lakers organization, the Magic were viewed as the biggest threat to poach Russell from Los Angeles in free agency.

While the Magic made significant strides this season, earning a playoff spot and pushing Cleveland to seven games in the first round, they could still use more scoring punch and shooting in their backcourt. Out of 30 NBA teams, Orlando ranked 28th in assists (24.7) and dead-last in made three-pointers (11.0) per game during the 2023/24 season.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Already missing Kristaps Porzingis (calf strain), the Celtics will be without another frontcourt player when the Eastern Conference finals tip off on Tuesday. Xavier Tillman has been downgraded from questionable to out for personal reasons, the team announced today (via Twitter). With Porzingis and Tillman unavailable, Al Horford and Luke Kornet figure to handle center duties in Game 1.
  • With the help of cap expert John Hollinger, James L. Edwards III of The Athletic outlines three potential paths the Pistons could take this offseason. Edwards’ scenarios include a “swing for the fences” three-team trade for Brandon Ingram and Jerami Grant, an all-in approach to free agency focusing on Malik Monk and Tobias Harris, and a combination of signings and trades.
  • With the Knicks‘ offseason underway, Steve Popper of Newsday and Stefan Bondy of The New York Post each pose some pressing questions that the team will need to answer this summer. Exploring OG Anunoby‘s upcoming free agency, Bondy says that people around the league expect the three-and-D standout to receive between $30-40MM per year on his next contract.

Porzingis Won’t Play In Game 1 Of Conference Finals

Kristaps Porzingis won’t return for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics big man has been listed as out for the opener against the Pacers on Tuesday, the team’s PR department tweets.

Another frontcourt player, Xavier Tillman, is listed as questionable due to personal reasons.

It’s no surprise Porzingis will remained sidelined. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported over the weekend that Porzingis would likely miss at least the first two games of the conference finals, but there’s optimism he’ll return sometime during the series.

Porzingis has been out with a calf injury since Game 5 of the first round against the Heat on April 30, missing the entirety of Boston’s second-round series against Cleveland. Porzingis has been making progress in his recovery and is increasing his on-court activity.

In 57 regular season games, Porzingis averaged 20.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per contest and shot 51.6% from the field and 37.5% from beyond the arc while helping the Celtics to an NBA-best 64 wins. He was traded by the Wizards to Boston in a three-team blockbuster last summer.

Tillman has only appeared in three postseason games, logging a total of 25 minutes.

Celtics Notes: Porzingis, Horford, White, Tatum

Holding a commanding 3-1 lead against an injury-riddled Heat team, the Celtics may not need any more contributions from Kristaps Porzingis to get through the first round of the playoffs. But Boston’s odds of winning a title this spring would take a serious hit without a healthy Porzingis available in future rounds.

After the Celtics announced on Tuesday that Porzingis would miss Game 5 on Wednesday due to a right soleus (calf) strain and Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the big man is expected to miss multiple games, Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe clarifies (via Twitter) that no one considers it to be a season-ending injury.

According to Himmelsbach, the Celtics have yet to provide a specific timeline for Porzingis’ recovery and potential return because they want to see how he responds to treatment first.

Appearing on FanDuel’s Run it Back show on Wednesday morning (Twitter video link), Shams Charania of The Athletic said he expects the club to treat the soleus strain like a “week-to-week” injury, suggesting that Porzingis might end up missing just a week or two, though there’s a chance he’ll be sidelined for longer than that.

Here’s more on the Celtics as they prepare for a possible close-out game at home vs. the Heat:

  • For as long as Porzingis is unavailable, Al Horford is expected to move into the starting lineup, with Luke Kornet and Xavier Tillman acting as his primary backups at the five, writes Jay King of The Athletic. As King observes, Horford played 21 of the final 24 minutes in Game 4 following Porzingis’ exit, but that level of workload likely won’t be sustainable for the 37-year-old on a regular basis going forward, so the team will need effective minutes from its reserves.
  • Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday, and Porzingis combined to shoot just 17-of-47 (36.2%) from the field in Game 4, but Derrick White‘s 38 points on 15-of-26 shooting helped propel the team to victory. In a separate story for The Athletic, King takes a look at White’s career night and details why his teammates want to see him continue to seek out his own offense. “When he’s being aggressive it just opens everything up,” Tatum said. “Whatever they’re trying to take away, maybe for myself, when your teammates are hitting shots and being aggressive and attacking closeouts and making plays, it really makes us very, very hard to guard. You want everybody to be assertive and be aggressive and try to make plays. It just makes us a better team.”
  • As we relayed on Tuesday, Tatum turned an ankle during the fourth quarter of Game 4 when he came down on Bam Adebayo‘s foot while attempting a jump shot after a whistle (Twitter video link). The star forward was ultimately fine, but Horford wasn’t happy about Adebayo contesting Tatum’s shot and getting into his landing area during a dead ball. “I know that we get to playing around and trying to contest shots after fouls and things like that, but there’s levels to contest,” Horford said, per Souichi Terada of MassLive.com. “And if a guy shooting and the play is over with, just kind of let him be. I know he’s trying to compete over there, but I was just mad. I don’t want to see any of my guys get hurt or anything like that. Thankfully, JT is fine, but it could have been bad.”

Celtics’ Porzingis To Miss Game 5 With Strained Calf

4:30pm: Porzingis is expected to miss multiple games, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

4:03pm: Porzingis has been ruled out for Game 5 due to what the Celtics are calling a right soleus strain (Twitter link via Brian Robb of MassLive.com).

The soleus is the same calf muscle that has sidelined Giannis Antetokounmpo since the final week of the regular season, though it’s unclear whether Porzingis’ strain is as severe as Antetokounmpo’s.

7:40am: The Celtics took full control of their first-round series vs. Miami on Monday by picking up their second consecutive road victory and extending their series lead to 3-1. However, as Chris Herring of ESPN writes, the Game 4 win might have come at a cost, as big man Kristaps Porzingis exited in the second quarter due to a right calf injury and didn’t return.

The Celtics’ starting center is expected to undergo an MRI on Tuesday to assess the severity of the ailment, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who hears from sources that early indications are that Porzingis didn’t suffer an Achilles injury.

Porzingis initially appeared to start limping with about 3:15 left in the second quarter when he stepped on Tyler Herro‘s ankle (video link). However, he turned his left ankle on that play, and the injury was said to affect his right calf, so it may have been unrelated. Less than a minute later, as he caught a pass from Jaylen Brown, Porzingis began limping again and gestured toward the bench that he needed to be subbed out of the game (Twitter video link).

Porzingis has been relatively healthy for the past two seasons, appearing in 57 regular season games in 2023/24 and 65 a year ago. But he has missed significant time due to health problems in the past, having made just 151 total appearances in the four seasons prior to 2022/23. As such, any injury is a concern, though there have been some signals that this isn’t a significant one.

Abby Chin of NBC Sports Boston reported at the start of the second half that Celtics assistant Charles Lee was “cautiously optimistic” that Porzingis would be OK (story via Brian Robb of MassLive). And Porzingis himself tweeted after the win that he “will be good.”

If Porzingis is unable to play in Game 5 on Wednesday, it would mean an increased role for Al Horford, with reserve bigs Luke Kornet, Xavier Tillman, and Neemias Queta moving up on the depth chart. As Jared Weiss of The Athletic notes, Boston gave up a pair of second-round picks at February’s trade deadline for Tillman precisely so the team didn’t find itself shorthanded in the frontcourt in a situation like this.

“Luke, Xavier, Neemie, have to kind of be ready to step up and answer the call,” Horford said after the game, per Weiss. “They’ve been doing a good job of that all year. Obviously, it’s the playoffs now, it’s different, but I have confidence in those guys if they need to come in and bring energy and impact the game.”

The Celtics had another injury scare in the fourth quarter of Game 4, as Jayson Tatum turned an ankle when he came down on Bam Adebayo‘s foot while attempting a jump shot after a whistle (Twitter video link). However, Tatum was able to walk it off and finish the game — he’ll presumably be good to go for Game 5.

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: Embiid, Reed, Celtics, Tillman, M. Williams

Joel Embiid isn’t eligible to win a second straight Most Valuable Player award, but that doesn’t bother him at all, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Sixers center will fall far short of the 65-game minimum to be considered for postseason honors after sitting out two months following meniscus surgery. Embiid returned this week and he’s enjoying being able to play without having to worry about the MVP race.

“I’m happy I’m not even in the conversation,” he said. “That conversation has been toxic for a very long time. I’ll be honest, this year is kind of boring. This year, there’s not enough toxicity going around. So it’s pretty fun, but at some point, it’s pretty bad, too. I’m glad I’m not nowhere near that. I’m just focused on getting back healthy. Obviously, all great candidates and they all deserve to win, which is unfortunate that only one person has [a chance] to win.”

Embiid admitted that he battled depression after tearing the meniscus in his left knee in late January, Pompey adds. Embiid is still dealing with those issues, but he said returning to the game and being with his teammates has helped improve his mental state.

“For me personally, I didn’t have to come back, but I want to play,” Embiid said. “I love playing basketball, and I want to be on the floor.”

Embiid will miss tonight’s game at San Antonio for injury recovery purposes, Pompey tweets.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Coach Nick Nurse experimented with a Twin Towers approach in Saturday’s win at Memphis, Pompey adds in a separate story. Embiid and Paul Reed played together for part of the second quarter, allowing the Sixers‘ perimeter players to be more aggressive with two shot blockers protecting the rim. “That’s something that I hope that we can go back to at some point,” Reed said. “I always look forward to playing with him at the same time. And I’m just glad I was able to play with him tonight, get the opportunity.”
  • The “stay ready crew” that comes off the Celtics‘ bench is significantly better than the reserves Joe Mazzulla had to work with last season, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Mazzulla rested his starters for the final six minutes of Friday’s win over Sacramento, giving the reserves some experience with a game on the line. “I feel like he’s doing a great job of keeping everybody involved,” Svi Mykhailiuk said. “That makes everybody stay ready because you might get that call at any time. You’ve got to be prepared, make sure you do your work, and buy into whatever we’re doing. You’ve got to understand we’ve got one of the best teams in the league — five, six All-Stars on the team — and just seeing the big picture. I think tonight showed that we’re a really deep team and coach really believes in us.”
  • Xavier Tillman, whom the Celtics acquired at midseason to provide frontcourt depth, was thrilled to hit his first NBA game-winner Friday night, per Souichi Terada of MassLive. Tillman sank a floater with 7.4 seconds remaining, and Boston held on for a one-point victory. “It was great getting the opportunity to do that,” Tillman said. “I feel like because it was crunch time, I was really locked in. Obviously the crowd was loud, but I was really zoned in, so it didn’t faze me as much. But it was great practice as far as what we’re going to go through as far as having that mental fortitude.”
  • Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca examines the unlikely journey of Malik Williams, who signed a 10-day contract with the Raptors this week and wound up starting in his NBA debut. Toronto has used 30 players — one short of the record set this season by Memphis — which is why there was an opportunity for Williams, who was cut by the G League team in Sioux Falls earlier this season.

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 NetsDaily.com. “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: 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.