Robert Williams

Celtics Notes: Walker, Stevens, Fournier, Williams, Smart, Griffin

Kemba Walker, who was traded to the Thunder on Friday, had a “tension-filled” season with former coach and now president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Multiple team sources tell Weiss there was dysfunction in the Celtics‘ locker room and Stevens was seen as being tougher with Walker than other players. Weiss adds that after Gordon Hayward left to sign with the Hornets, he told Stevens that he needed to take a more forceful stance with players for the team to be successful.

Stevens became harder on several players, including Walker, whom he frequently criticized for errors on defense. Walker and Stevens often argued, sources add, but they maintained a working relationship and respect for each other.

According to multiple sources, Walker, who signed with Boston two years ago in free agency, became angry about the team’s disappointing season and boos directed at him by Celtics fans. He began talking privately about moving to another team and was willing to accept a trade.

There’s more on the Celtics, all from Weiss:

  • Trading Walker was a first step toward keeping free agent guard Evan Fournier and young center Robert Williams, who is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer. The Celtics hope to bring back Fournier on a long-term deal while creating only a modest tax bill. The trade will also make it easier to add a maximum-salary slot for 2022 free agency, as Horford’s contract has just a $14MM guarantee in its final season.
  • Multiple sources told Weiss that several players were hoping for a coaching change, believing Stevens didn’t hold some of his star players accountable. There was also frustration with the coach’s “college offense” and complaints that players would get stuck in isolation. There seems to be a preference in the locker room for a Black coach with NBA playing experience, and Chauncey Billups, Ime Udoka and Darvin Ham are among the candidates being given second interviews.
  • Marcus Smart stands to inherit the starting point guard role and will hope to re-establish a culture of accountability on defense that he built along with Al Horford, who returns to the team in the Walker trade. Teammates often ignored Smart after Horford left, according to Weiss’ sources, which led to his confrontation with Jaylen Brown after Game 2 of the 2020 Eastern Conference finals.
  • After Blake Griffin‘s buyout with the Pistons, he asked a Celtics player about joining the team and was told there was too much dysfunction.

Celtics Notes: Udoka, Ham, Billups, Walker, Fournier, Williams, Smart

Assistant coaches Ime Udoka (Nets), Darvin Ham (Bucks) and Chauncey Billups (Clippers) are expected to get interviewed a second time by the Celtics’ brass for the head coaching job vacated by new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. While that trio is viewed as serious candidates for the job, others are still under consideration.

Udoka has received endorsements from Celtics players who were members of the U.S. national team in the 2019 World Cup tournament, according to Wojnarowski. Ham has interviewed for several head-coaching jobs in the past two years, while Billups has drawn interest from the Trail Blazers, Wizards, Magic and Pelicans for their current openings.

We have more Celtics news:

  • By shedding Kemba Walker‘s salary in a trade with the Thunder on Friday, the Celtics believe they’ll have a better chance of re-signing free agent Evan Fournier, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald tweets. The trade also increases the possibility of signing another free agent to the full mid-level exception, Murphy adds.
  • Walker’s 15% trade kicker was nullified due to his large salary, Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus tweets. Walker’s $34,379,100 salary this season, coupled with him being a nine-year veteran until August 2, exceeded the $32,742,000 maximum. He couldn’t earn anything above that, so the trade bonus was voided. If Walker had been traded once the new league year began in August, he could’ve received a portion of that bonus.
  • Robert Williams and Marcus Smart are two other prominent players who could be on the move, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Boston’s roster is overloaded with centers and Williams could be used to bring in a backcourt piece. Smart has an expiring $14.4MM contract next season and is eligible for an extension that could go as high as $17.MM in the first year. If Smart believes he could get more on the free agent market next year, the team may consider moving him now and getting assets in return.

Atlantic Notes: Griffin, Stevens, Williams, Green

Nets big man Blake Griffin has been happy, healthy and productive since signing with the team in March, as NetsDaily.com details.

Griffin, an 11-year veteran, has averaged 6.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 24.1 MPG through the team’s first eight playoff games, starting at center in every contest. He’s shot an impressive 52.5% from the floor and 37.5% from deep during those outings.

“Every time I talk to Blake, one of the things that always comes up is how much fun he’s having, playing in meaningful games and making an impact,” said Jeff Capel, Griffin’s college coach.

Griffin is seeking his first NBA championship, earning a starting role on a contending team at 32 years old. The Nets are currently tied with the Bucks 2-2 in the second round of the postseason.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • A. Sherrod Blakely of the Boston Sports Journal ponders whether Celtics fans will be ready to “trust the process” now that Brad Stevens is the team’s lead decision-maker. Boston dealt with numerous injury and COVID-19 issues this season, never getting a fair chance at developing chemistry and competing. The team finished with an underwhelming 36-36 record and lost to the Nets 4-1 in the first round.
  • Justin Leger of NBC Sports Boston explores the factors that would go into a potential Robert Williams extension this offseason. Williams is eligible for a rookie scale extension after becoming the Celtics‘ top big man in the final stages of the season. He averaged 8.0 points and 6.9 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game this year.
  • The Sixers sent Danny Green home to Philadelphia to get treatment on his right calf strain, but hope to get him back around the team as quickly as possible due to his veteran leadership, head coach Doc Rivers said on Sunday (Twitter link via Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com). Of course, the team would love to welcome a healthy Green back on the court too, but he’s expected to miss at least two or three more weeks due to his calf injury.

Injury Updates: Walker, Williams, KCP, Doncic, Kleber, T. Antetokounmpo

With the Celtics facing elimination, Kemba Walker and Robert Williams have been declared out for Game 5 against the Nets on Tuesday, Malika Andrews of ESPN tweets. Walker (left knee bone bruise) and Williams (left ankle sprain) had previously been listed as doubtful. Neither played in Game 4 after exiting Game 3 in the early going.

We have more injury updates:

  • Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is expected to return to the lineup for Game 5 against Phoenix on Tuesday, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets. He missed Game 4 with a sore left knee.
  • The Mavericks’ Luka Doncic (neck strain) and Maxi Kleber (right Achilles soreness) are listed as probable to play Game 5 on Wednesday, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News tweets.
  • Thanasis Antetokounmpo isn’t doing any contact work yet but “he did most, if not all of the non-contact portion of (Tuesday’s) practice,” according to Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, as Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. He suffered an avulsion fracture to his right patella tendon suffered on May 16.

Injury Notes: Embiid, Bertans, Celtics, CP3

As we relayed on Monday evening, Sixers center Joel Embiid left Game 4 vs. Washington due to right knee soreness after playing just 11 minutes. After the game, head coach Doc Rivers said that Embiid would undergo an MRI on the injured knee on Tuesday, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Rivers was unsure whether Embiid would be available for Game 5 on Wednesday.

While the Sixers will need a healthy Embiid to make a serious run at the NBA Finals, the club is confident that it can win one more game against the Wizards and advance to the second round with or without its All-Star center.

“We’re going to need him to be the last team standing, to win,” Sixers guard Danny Green said, per Windhorst. “It doesn’t mean we can’t win the next game without him.”

Here are a few more injury-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Wizards forward Davis Bertans was having his best game of the playoffs on Monday before a right calf strain forced him to exit the game early. It’s the same injury that sidelined him for two weeks in March, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, who reports that Bertans will undergo an MRI on Tuesday.
  • The Celtics have listed Kemba Walker (left knee bone bruise) and Robert Williams (left ankle sprain) as doubtful for Game 5 on Tuesday. If Walker and Williams don’t play in tonight’s game, their seasons may be over, since Boston is on the brink of elimination, down 3-1 to Brooklyn.
  • Suns guard Chris Paul (right shoulder contusion) “didn’t do a ton” at Monday’s practice, according to head coach Monty Williams, but it was a light day of work in general for the team (Twitter link via Gina Mizell). Paul is listed as probable for Game 5 on Tuesday and seems very likely to suit up.
  • In case you missed it, All-Star Lakers big man Anthony Davis (left groin strain) is considered unlikely to be available for Game 5 vs. Phoenix. He’s officially listed as questionable.

Eastern Notes: Irving, Celtics, Bucks, Cavaliers

After having to address a series of fan-related incidents at games last week, the NBA is dealing with another one to start this week. As the Nets were leaving the TD Garden court on Sunday following a win over the Celtics, a fan threw a water bottle at Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving.

A TD Garden spokesperson announced late last night that the individual who threw the water bottle was arrested and is subject to a lifetime ban from the arena (link via Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe). The 21-year-old male is facing charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and will be arraigned on Tuesday, according to Boston PD (Twitter link via Shams Charania of The Athletic).

The bottle missed hitting Irving, who had spoken prior to Game 3 about hoping that fans would keep heckling and jeering “strictly basketball” in his return to Boston.

“You can see that people just feel very entitled out here,” Irving said after Game 4, per Malika Andrews and Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “They paid for their tickets — great, I’m grateful that they’re coming in to watch a great performance. But we’re not at the theater. We’re not throwing tomatoes and other random stuff at the people that are performing.”

The water bottle toss was the latest in a series of incidents involving fans. Fans in Philadelphia and New York received indefinite arena bans last week for dumping popcorn on Russell Westbrook and spitting on Trae Young, respectively. Ja Morant‘s father also said that he and his wife had racist, vulgar comments directed toward them in Utah, as Andrews and Bontemps note.

“I know that being in the house for a year and a half with the pandemic got a lot of people on edge, got a lot of people stressed out, but when you come to these games, you have to realize these men are human,” Kevin Durant said on Sunday. “We are not animals; we are not in the circus. You coming to the game is not all about you as a fan. So, have some respect for the game. Have some respect for the human beings, and have some respect for yourself. Your mother wouldn’t be proud of you throwing water bottles at basketball players or spitting on players or tossing popcorn.”

Here’s more from around the East:

  • The Celtics played without Kemba Walker (left knee bone bruise) and Robert Williams (turf toe, sprained left ankle) during Sunday’s loss, as Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes, and it’s not clear whether one or both players will be available for the team’s win-or-game-home Game 5 on Tuesday.
  • The transformation the Bucks‘ roster underwent during the 2020 offseason paid off in the first round of the 2021 postseason, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. The team – which added Jrue Holiday, Bobby Portis, and Bryn Forbes last fall – figures to face a tougher test in round two, with a potential matchup vs. Brooklyn on tap.
  • Jason Lloyd of The Athletic pushes back against GM Koby Altman‘s assertion that the Cavaliers had no young talent or draft assets in place when the team’s rebuild began in 2018 following LeBron James‘ departure. As Lloyd observes, rather than going all-in during LeBron’s final years in Cleveland, as they did during his first stint with the franchise, the Cavs had already traded Kyrie Irving for a lottery pick and had swapped out some veterans for younger players like Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance.

Injury Notes: Davis, KCP, Paul, Doncic, R. Williams, Walker

Anthony Davis is officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s Game 4 with Phoenix, but the Lakers star doesn’t see any question about his status, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“There’s no chance that I don’t play tomorrow,” Davis said after today’s practice. “As a player, I’ve wanted to be in this moment. You want to be in the playoffs and help contribute to my team’s success. I want to be out there. So in my eyes, for me as a competitor, I think I’ll be out there tomorrow.”

Davis suffered a hyperextended left knee after landing awkwardly on a chase-down block in Game 3. He was able to play 40 minutes in the victory, even though he was in pain for the rest of the night. Davis said he didn’t need an MRI, but there has been swelling in the knee and he’s been wearing a compression sleeve.

“I haven’t mentioned or talked about a brace,” he said. “But if that’s going to help, then I don’t mind going back to the 1970s brace.”

There’s more injury news to pass along:

  • The Lakers are also listing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as questionable after he hurt his left knee and quad area in Thursday’s game, McMenamin adds. Coach Frank Vogel said he’s hopeful that both players will be available.
  • Suns guard Chris Paul sat out today’s practice and is still experiencing pain in his left shoulder, tweets NBA writer Gina Mizell. Coach Monty Williams said the team’s medical staff told him Paul is “ready to play, and that’s all I can go off of.”
  • The Mavericks are listing Luka Doncic as questionable for Sunday with a cervical strain, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Doncic said he began feeling pain in his neck around halftime Friday night and it eventually spread down his left arm. “It’s just weird,” he said. “Just some massage, some ice and hopefully it will be good.”
  • Celtics center Robert Williams has been downgraded to doubtful for Sunday, according to Brian Robb of MassLive. Williams had an awkward landing in the first quarter Friday night and didn’t return to the game after playing just six minutes. He has also been dealing with turf toe for the past month. “Rob’s doubtful,” coach Brad Stevens said after today’s practice. “He probably won’t do anything in the morning and see how he feels as we get closer to game time. But you saw him last night, even in his stint, I thought he looked pretty limited. We’re hopeful to have everybody available, but at least in Rob’s case I’d say that’s probably doubtful.”
  • Celtics guard Kemba Walker is listed as questionable for the second straight game with a bone bruise in his knee, Robb adds. Walker played in Game 3, but shot just 3-of-14 from the field and had five turnovers. “Kemba was sore today,” Stevens said. “I think that he’ll go through stuff in the morning tomorrow and have a better idea on him.”

Atlantic Notes: Payton, Randle, Noel, Williams

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau may be pulling the plug on struggling point guard Elfrid Payton, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. He played just eight minutes in Game 1 against the Hawks on Sunday. Thibodeau was noncommittal on how he’ll use Payton the remainder of the series.

“Regards to Elfrid, we always put the best players out there that will help us win the game,’’ he said. “So some guys are a bit better than others in situations, some guys may be going well. Whoever is going well, we have confidence in everyone on the roster.’’

Payton is headed to unrestricted free agency this summer.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks forward Julius Randle, a finalist for this season’s Most Improved Player award, is certain he’ll play better in Game 2, Peter Botte of the New York Post relays. He shot 6-for-23 from the field in the opener. “It’s the name of the playoffs, you make the necessary adjustments, and I look forward to that, and like I said, look forward to the next game,” he said. “Shots, opportunity, challenge, that’s what I’m encouraged by. When you’re trying to figure out how to solve a problem, it’s a process. For me, that’s what really makes this whole thing fun.”
  • Knicks center Nerlens Noel, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, suffered an ankle injury in the playoff opener and his status for Wednesday’s game is uncertain, according to Joseph Staszewski of the New York Post. “He tweaked his ankle, so we’ll see where he is [Tuesday],’’  Thibodeau said. The extra day should give Noel enough time to suit up for Game 2, Staszewski speculates.
  • Robert Williams presents the Celtics with a dilemma this offseason, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston notes. They could try to negotiate a modest rookie extension, which wouldn’t kick in until the 2022/23 season. If that doesn’t happen, his price tag could rise. Williams has had trouble staying on the court due to hip ailments but the 23-year-old big man might just be scratching the surface of his potential, Forsberg adds.

Celtics Notes: Fournier, R. Williams, Thompson, Irving

The Celtics were expecting to use Evan Fournier in a sixth-man role for the playoffs, but an injury to Jaylen Brown changed those plans, writes Souichi Terada of MassLive. With Brown unavailable after having surgery for a torn wrist ligament, Fournier will be part of the starting lineup in the first-round series against the Nets.

Acquired from the Magic at the trade deadline, Fournier has been productive since returning from the league’s health and safety protocols. In 16 games with the Celtics, he is averaging 13.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per night and shooting a sizzling 46.3% from three-point range. Fournier’s time in Orlando gave him some experience in approaching the playoffs as a low-seeded team.

“There’s no secret,” he said. “Being the lowest seed playing against the No. 1 or second seed, you just have to compete against them. When you play the best teams in the NBA, you have to compete. You have to show them that everything they’re going to get is hard.”

There’s more on the Celtics:

  • Center Robert Williams is available to play tonight, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Williams had to leave Tuesday’s play-in game against the Wizards because of turf toe and sat out Friday’s practice.
  • Due to Williams’ unpredictable status, the Celtics will have to rely more heavily on veteran big man Tristan Thompson, notes Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. Boston signed Thompson as a free agent during the offseason to add a veteran with plenty of playoff experience to its front court. “I think that his role probably looms large regardless,” coach Brad Stevens said.
  • The matchup with the Nets will give Boston fans plenty of opportunity to vent their anger at Kyrie Irving, the former Celtic who told season ticket holders in 2018 that he was planning to re-sign with the team, Murphy adds in a separate story. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge believes Irving was sincere at the time and speculated that changing circumstances prompted him to reconsider his pledge. “No grudges, no second-guessing,” Ainge said. “I just wish him well. He was a player that came through this organization. I appreciate how talented he was, how much he wanted to win, and I’m grateful for the experience to get to know him.”
  • The Celtics plan to increase their crowd size for Game 3 of the playoff series and hope to be “near full” capacity for Game 4, tweets Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated.

Atlantic Notes: Williams, Knicks, Harris, Rose

Celtics big man Robert Williams sat out Friday’s practice due to a turf toe injury, Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets. However, he’s expected to play in Game 1 against Brooklyn, sources told Shams Charania of Stadium (video link). Williams saw 14 minutes of action in the play-in victory over Washington.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks will host a league-high 15,000 fans per game for their playoff contests against Atlanta, Marc Berman of the New York Post tweets. “This overwhelming response by Knicks fans — almost 90% of whom are vaccinated — should silence any doubters,” owner James Dolan said in a statement. “It’s time to start booking events and filling up our schedules.”
  • Sixers owner Josh Harris is stepping down from his day-to-day role as managing director of Apollo Global Management, Derek Bodner of The Athletic tweets. He will remain on the company’s board and its executive committee.
  • Derrick Rose is grateful that he’s been named a finalist for the Sixth Man award but the playoffs mean a lot more to him, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes. “It means something, but at the same time I’m just happy, I’m more happy with being in the playoffs, to be honest,” said Rose, an unrestricted free agent after the season. “Being in that category, being a finalist, that shows that when I came here, I guess I did my job.”