Robert Williams

Celtics Notes: Third Star, Brown, Williams, Kanter

The Celtics probably need to find a third star to become title contenders, but they may not have the assets to acquire one, Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes in an extensive look at how the franchise arrived at its current position. Boston has been on a hot streak this month, winning eight of its last 11 games and putting up the NBA’s best defensive numbers during that stretch. But as Bontemps talked to team officials around the league, he found skepticism about whether the Celtics are built to win in the playoffs.

“They probably need another guy,” an Eastern Conference scout said. “I love Al Horford, but he’s getting older. And I love (Marcus) Smart. But once you get past (Jaylen) Brown and (Jayson) Tatum — and especially past (Horford and Smart) — every guy is a question mark for me. They’re down to two legitimate stars, (and) you normally need three (to win).”

Bontemps traces Boston’s misfortunes over the past three years, including the losses of Horford, Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris in free agency and draft picks acquired from the Kings and Grizzlies that both fell to 14th, which was much lower than initially expected. Center Robert Williams has been the only full-time rotation player the Celtics have drafted in the past four years.

There are also concerns about whether Brown and Tatum are good enough to lead the team to a championship.

“Jaylen and Jayson aren’t making anyone better,” a Western Conference scout said. An Eastern Conference assistant coach added, “Jayson Tatum is about Jayson Tatum. I don’t think he cares about winning now, and if he does, it is on his terms. He doesn’t want to score 15 and win. He wants to score 39 and win.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Brown was cleared to play tonight, but coach Ime Udoka said he will be considered questionable for every game for the next week or two as he works his way back from a strained hamstring, Bontemps tweets.
  • Williams was thrilled to receive an extension during the offseason that will keep him in Boston for four more years, he said in an interview with Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. “I told my agent as soon as the season was over, I want to go back. I want to be back,” Williams said. “I feel like we’ve building something great here with a young core getting stronger and stronger every day. And I want to be a part of that celebration when we get to the chance where we raising that banner, I want to be a part of it. To be able to say we went through it all together. It was a big emphasis on me staying.”
  • Nets owner Joe Tsai is the latest target of criticism from Celtics backup center Enes Kanter, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. In a Twitter post, Kanter calls Tsai a coward and a puppet of the Chinese government.

Jaylen Brown Cleared To Return For Celtics

All-Star wing Jaylen Brown will be available on Monday for the Celtics‘ game against Houston, the team announced today (via Twitter).

Brown, who last played on November 4, has missed Boston’s last eight games due to a right hamstring strain. Ime Udoka said on November 8 that Brown would likely miss “a week or two” due to the injury — that was exactly two weeks ago.

The Celtics were below .500 at the time of Brown’s injury, but have bounced back nicely during his absence, going 5-3 in those games, including 4-0 at home.

The Celtics also should have big man Robert Williams back in the rotation on Monday night. Williams, who has missed the last three games due to left knee tendinopathy, is listed as probable.

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Irving, Mills, Carter, Williams, Robinson

Ben Simmons is expected to address the media Tuesday before the Sixers leave for New Orleans to face the Pelicans on Wednesday, Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes. It’s uncertain whether Simmons will suit up for the opener.

“We’ve been together for three weeks, so we’ve established a good rhythm,” coach Doc Rivers said. “So the more he’s been in, the more he does, especially when we’re working on our offensive stuff earlier, because we’ve built from last year but we tweaked a lot of stuff. But it’s easy to pick up — especially for him.”

A source recently told The Athletic’s Sam Amick that Simmons plans to play in games, rather than sitting out while awaiting a trade.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Commissioner Adam Silver said the Nets’ decision to sit Kyrie Irving and the city ordinance that led to that decision is not a league issue, Bontemps writes in a separate story. The Players Association never agreed to a vaccine mandate and Irving is prohibited from playing in Brooklyn unless he’s vaccinated. “This is between Irving and New York City right now,” Silver said. “This is not a league issue … but I think it would have been best for everyone if every player were vaccinated.”
  • With Irving out indefinitely, the Nets will need more out of Patty Mills and Jevon Carter, Zach Brazilier of the New York Post writes. Mills signed with Brooklyn on a two-year contract in free agency, while Carter was acquired in the Landry Shamet deal.
  • The Celtics have an open roster spot after waiving Jabari Parker but they’re not planning to fill it immediately, Jared Weiss of The Athletic tweets. Head coach Ime Udoka said they plan to see who else becomes available around the league but with Boston projected as a taxpaying team, the roster could remain at 14 for the time being.
  • The Celtics rewarded Robert Williams with a four-year extension in August. The goal now is to keep the young center healthy, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald writes. “He’s a young guy we do want to build his role and minutes overall, and a big part of that is staying healthy, so we’re on him about lifting the weights, getting his treatment, take care of himself off the court as well as what we ask him to do on the court,” Udoka said.
  • Mitchell Robinson is still working his way back from a foot injury, though the young Knicks center plans to play in the team’s opener, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Robinson played in the Knicks’ preseason finale on Friday. “Once I get my conditioning back — that’s the main thing — so I can play all day, I’ll be all right,” he said.

Celtics Notes: Mathews, Two-Way Slot, Langford, Williams

Garrison Mathews, who was released by the Celtics earlier today, turned down a two-way contract with the team, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Mathews is hoping to receive a standard contract from another organization, sources tell Weiss. He has returned home to examine possible opportunities and doesn’t plan to play overseas.

Mathews was reluctant to accept Boston’s offer because he doesn’t believe the team will consider converting either of its two-way players to standard deals because of its tax situation, Weiss adds. Mathews is a similar player to Sam Hauser, who holds the Celtics’ other two-way slot, and he decided that he’s better off pursuing at least a two-way deal with another team.

Mathews, who will turn 25 next week, isn’t expected to join the Celtics’ G League affiliate in Maine like the three other players who were waived today. He spent the past two seasons as a two-way player with the Wizards, averaging 5.5 PPG and shooting 38.9% from three-point range in 82 total games.

There’s more from Boston:

  • Theo Pinson, who was also waived today, is still a candidate for the open two-way slot, Weiss adds. Coach Ime Udoka played Pinson a combined 33 minutes in two preseason games this week, and Weiss reports that he showed some ability on the pick and roll and was impressive on defense. However, president of basketball operations Brad Stevens will see which players become available before making a final decision.
  • Romeo Langford capped off an impressive preseason Friday night with a 7-for-9 shooting night, writes Souichi Terada of MassLive. The third-year shooting guard, who hopes to expand the 15.7 minutes per game he played last season, was in the starting lineup for the last three preseason games. “It’s been good being able to get the run in and with confidence and just being able to go out and play basketball,” Langford said. “Being in the rotation, being in the first group was good to be able to do. Glad for that opportunity.”
  • Starting center Robert Williams missed Friday’s game with right knee tendinopathy, but Udoka says it doesn’t appear to be a long-term concern and he likely would have played if it were a regular-season game, Terada adds in the same piece. “He just had some soreness yesterday and early this morning,” Udoka said after the game. “Tested it at shootaround, tested it before the game and he felt a little soreness. So we just were on the safe side and obviously a preseason game. … He’ll be ready to go against New York (on opening night).”

Celtics Notes: Langford, Brown, Williams, Horford

Jaylen Brown‘s positive COVID-19 test is giving Celtics guard Romeo Langford more preseason playing time, and he hopes to turn that opportunity into a regular spot in the rotation, writes Brian Robb of MassLive. Langford was used as a starter in Friday night’s game and delivered 13 points in 19 minutes while hitting five of six shots from the field.

“I thought Romeo was great with the starting lineup, played well offensively and defensively,” coach Ime Udoka said. “Obviously shot it well going three-for-four from 3. But does a lot of little things as well—solid defender, ball mover, just a guy that knows how to play with that unit and you saw it last year. So he did a good job. All of those guys are gonna get an opportunity. It’s just a matter of maximizing that and trying to play the right way, and I think they’re all making a concerted effort to do that.”

Boston selected Langford with the 14th pick in 2019, but he saw limited playing time under former coach Brad Stevens, getting into a combined 50 games during his first two seasons. The coaching change provides a fresh opportunity, and Robb believes Langford will be in the mix for backcourt minutes off the bench once the season begins.

“I feel good,” Langford told reporters after the game. “Body feels good. Mind is good. Just happy that I finally got a chance to do a training camp, a healthy summer, and it just feels good to be in a little rhythm and being able to work out in a practice with the guys leading into the regular season, and just building off from here.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Brown remains in quarantine, but is expected to be ready for the October 20 season opener, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Brown is the only Celtics player who has been affected, according to Udoka.
  • Friday’s game marked the first time that big men Robert Williams and Al Horford were on the court together, notes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Udoka may use some bigger lineups this season, and Horford’s versatility can help make the combination with Williams successful, Weiss adds. “With him, I need to space the floor more,” Horford said. “That’s kind of what I have to do, and he’s the kind of big who can pass the ball a little bit. When he rolls to the basket, it puts a lot of pressure on the rim and it opens stuff up for the perimeter. That’s why I feel comfortable that if we need to go to that lineup, it will work.”
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic reviews the Celtics’ offseason moves and examines whether they were able to fix the frontcourt problems they had last season.

Atlantic Notes: Iverson, Sixers, Watanabe, Raptors, Celtics

Former Sixers star Allen Iverson would be interested in working for an NBA team, he said during a conversation with Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report (video link; hat tip to RealGM). Iverson told Rooks that he’s “forgotten more basketball than some people know” and would love to put his expertise to use by helping current NBA players — especially if he could so in Philadelphia with his old team.

“I’m a Sixer for life. I’ve got Sixer blood pumping through me. Everybody knows that I want to help that organization,” Iverson said. “I’ve been retired, what, 11 years? I don’t know how I’m not a part of that staff (in) some kind of way.”

Iverson added that he’s not necessarily interested in being “the guy that’s right up front” (ie. a head coach) and that even just being a consultant for the Sixers would make him happy.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Addressing reports that the Sixers and Pacers have discussed a potential Ben Simmons trade, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer says that if the 76ers can get Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert, and a future first-round pick in exchange for Simmons, they should pull the trigger. Philadelphia and Indiana have reportedly discussed both Brogdon and LeVert, though it’s unclear if either club has made an offer along those lines.
  • Raptors forward Yuta Watanabe is battling a left calf strain and won’t be available for Thursday’s game in Philadelphia, tweets Blake Murphy of The Athletic. As Michael Grange of tweets, the injury is considered minor, so hopefully it won’t affect Watanabe’s standing as he fights for a spot on Toronto’s 15-man regular season roster.
  • While Scottie Barnes is drawing far more interest, the Raptors‘ “other” rookies – Dalano Banton and Justin Champagnie – are also vying for playing time, as Josh Lewenberg of details. Given the team’s roster turnover and injury issues, there are opportunities in the rotation available for the taking, Grange writes for
  • Al Horford‘s return to Boston reunites him with Robert Williams, who considered Horford a veteran role model during his previous stint with the Celtics. Jared Weiss of The Athletic spoke to the two big men about their relationship during Williams’ rookie year in 2018/19 and how they can help one another going forward.

Celtics Notes: Williams, Horford, Smart, Camp Battles

So far during the 2021 NBA offseason, five players have signed rookie scale extensions. Of those five, only Robert Williams signed for less than the maximum salary. While it’s uncommon for players to sign non-max extensions so far in advance of the season, Williams said this week that he didn’t want to wait until 2022 to sign his next contract.

“I told my agent before the season even started, when we started discussing contract extensions, I told him I wanted to stay,” Williams said, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. “I feel like we have a pretty good group here. A good group of coaches, a couple people I came in the league with here with (Marcus) Smart, (Jayson Tatum), (Jaylen Brown), we got Al (Horford) back. So we kinda know what it takes, we just gotta apply it.”

Even though Williams prioritized getting an extension done with the Celtics, it still took him some time to wrap his around the fact that he was able to complete a deal that locks him up through 2025/26 and guarantees him at least $48MM, Forsberg writes.

“Honestly, it was amazing, I went through three days of shock — feel like I’m still in shock,” Williams said. “Just a sense of — they trust me. When people put their trust in you, you gotta take it seriously.”

Let’s round up a few more Celtics notes…

  • Al Horford wouldn’t say this week that he regretted his decision to leave the Celtics for the Sixers during the 2019 offseason, but he did acknowledge that his time away from Boston made him better appreciate his time with the franchise, per Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Horford was thrilled to be sent back to the C’s in June. My family and I were all just jumping and screaming,” he said. “It was so exciting, because I know what kind of place this is. I didn’t want to be any other place but here. It’s taken me being away from here and having to go through what I went through to really realize that.”
  • Speaking to Jay King of The Athletic, Marcus Smart explained why he wasn’t surprised by Brad Stevens‘ decision to move on from his head coaching position and admitted that he strongly considered passing on the team’s extension offer in favor of reaching free agency. According to Smart, he believed he could potentially get $90MM+ in free agency, but opted for long-term security by accepting Boston’s four-year, $77MM offer. “I was actually willing to go straight into free agency and go to the market. But just talking to my circle, my family, my people and just understanding the pros versus the cons, the good versus the bad and things like that,” Smart said. “What are you willing to sacrifice? What are you willing to gain? So it was a business decision. Especially with the way everything’s going with COVID and everything, nothing’s for sure, nothing’s guaranteed.”
  • Ethan Fuller of outlines five Celtics roster and rotation battles to watch during training camp.

Atlantic Notes: Watanabe, Gillespie, Schroder, Williams, Maxey

The Raptors have 12 players with guaranteed contracts and five others with non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed deals. Eric Koreen of The Athletic speculates on who might grab the remaining roster openings, with Yuta Watanabe and Freddie Gillespie most likely to nail down spots. That would leave Sam Dekker, Ishmail Wainright and Isaac Bonga in a battle for the final spot, unless Toronto chooses to carry 14 players on the regular roster.

We have more on the Atlantic Division:

  • Dennis Schroder cost himself serious money but passing on a four-year, $84MM extension offer from the Lakers but he’s taking a lighthearted approach to that mistake, Brianna Williams of ESPN relays. In an Instagram post, the Celtics guard — who settled for a one-year, $5.9MM contract — said he “fumbled the bag” and invited fans to insert their best joke about his bad free agent gamble.
  • Details on Robert Williams‘ extension with the Celtics were reported late last month and now Keith Smith provides more specifics on the incentives in the four-year deal (Twitter link). Williams will make $446,429 if he plays 69 games; an additional $223,215 if the team reaches the conference semifinals along with meeting the games criteria; $223,214 more if the Celtics make the Eastern Conference finals; and $446,429 if he’s named to the league’s All-Defense First Team, or $223,215 if he’s named to the All-Defense Second Team. Those incentives will increase by 8% per year after the deal goes into effect in 2022/23.
  • Would the Sixers benefit from Tyrese Maxey‘s offensive skills in the starting lineup? Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice takes a closer look at whether playing Maxey with the other starters would make Philadelphia a better postseason team in the long run.

Contract Details: Forbes, Richardson, R. Williams, Randle

As expected, the Spurs used their room exception to finalize the signing of shooting guard Bryn Forbes, according to Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link). Forbes’ deal with San Antonio, which is worth $4.5MM, only covers one year, so he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.

Although Forbes’ contract technically doesn’t use up the Spurs’ entire room exception, the amount left ($410K) isn’t big enough to be used on a second player. It’s possible it could come in handy very late in the season, when the prorated portion of the room exception exceeds the prorated minimum salary, but I’d expect it to just go unused.

Our full breakdown of how teams are using their mid-level/room exceptions this season can be found right here.

Here are a few more contract details from around the NBA:

  • The one-year extension that Josh Richardson signed with the Celtics is worth $12,196,094, which represents a 5% raise on 2021/22 salary ($11,615,328), tweets Smith. Because Richardson was traded to Boston just a few weeks ago, extend-and-trade rules limited his raise to 5% of his previous salary.
  • Smith also provides the specifics, down to the dollar, of Robert Williams‘ rookie scale extension with the Celtics (Twitter link). We took a closer look at that deal, along with details on some of the incentives, last week.
  • Julius Randle‘s new four-year extension with the Knicks includes a 15% trade kicker, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter). Unlike several other deals with 15% trade kickers, Randle’s contract is well below the maximum, so he’d be in position to earn a sizeable bonus if he’s traded in the coming years.

Celtics Notes: Parker, Horford, R. Williams

Jabari Parker earned a $100K guarantee by staying on the Celtics‘ roster this week, but he will still have to win a job in training camp, writes Brian Robb of MassLive. Parker signed with Boston in April and averaged 6.4 points and 3.6 rebounds over the final 10 games of the season while playing 13.8 minutes per night . The remainder of his $2.283MM contract is non-guaranteed, but he will receive $1,141,517 if he’s still with the team on opening night.

Robb believes Parker has a decent shot at sticking with the Celtics, who don’t have another reliable scorer off the bench at power forward. However, sources tell Robb that Boston continues to explore roster additions, and finding another forward could affect Parker’s prospects. He adds that trading Carsen Edwards or Kris Dunn would be another option to trim the roster to 15 players.

There’s more from Boston:

  • The extensions the Celtics gave to Marcus Smart, Robert Williams and Josh Richardson will limit their roster flexibility next summer, Robb states in a separate story. The luxury tax line for the 2022/23 season will be about $145MM, and the new extensions leave Boston with a commitment of $141MM for 10 players. That could change if the Celtics decide to waive or stretch the contract of Al Horford, who only has a $14.5MM guarantee on his $26.5MM salary for 2022/23. Getting rid of Horford could open anywhere from $12MM to $18MM.
  • With only $48MM in guaranteed money, the extension for Williams could turn out to be one of the best deals of the summer, contends Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Forsberg reports that the Celtics looked at several power forwards this summer and have the assets to make a deal if one becomes available.
  • In case you missed it, we relayed several details on Williams’ extension earlier in the week.