Ask me anything, just not about the Boston Celtics.
Time for an off-topic mailbag. You can ask me anything you like, just don’t ask me about the Boston Celtics (for now). Warning, I’m pretty boring. In fact, I’m a dad who likes dad-jokes, Star Wars movies, and hasn’t bought a new CD in years so I’m not sure what “the kids are into these days.” That said, I still play pickup ball, read lots of books, and think of myself as a cool dad. Which I’m sure is 100% true and not self delusional at all. Daddy’s always happy.
So ask me anything. Feel free to answer each other too. I’m not the only one with all the answers. I’m also not the best blogger around, just one of the ones that’s been doing it the longest. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. I digress, but this is my blog and I can do that sometimes.
I’ll try to get around to these answers as soon as I can. Which means in a couple of days or so. I hope.
Several short thoughts on the Celtics heading into the deep offseason.
My kids are on a summer swim team, which means they have to pack up their things for the pool every day. Those bags are packed and only half un-packed so regularly that they are currently almost as heavy as the kids carrying them. Every once in a while you have to sit down, hold your nose, and dig through them to clean out some of the clutter (pool toys, extra clothes, snack wrappers, etc.).
That’s what this column is going to be. Cleaning out the swim-bag that is my brain as we head into the deep end of the offseason. None of these thoughts is worth diving into a whole column (at least not yet). Just splashing around in the shallow end with scattered thoughts for now.
Tacko Fall is adorable. He’s a big, sweet guy who’s freakishly tall and really rather nimble for a guy his size. He bends normal concepts of spacing and angles. Just by being on the court he’s a distraction and a wrinkle that both sides need to account for. With all that said, I’m trying not to get too carried away. I’m no expert scout, but it seems to me that there’s an element of gimmick to his game. Like a box-and-one defense or a full court press. At some point good teams will largely figure out how to attack his weaknesses and gameplan him off the floor. I’m rooting for the kid just like I am for any undrafted rookie trying to make an NBA team. I’m just not going to get too carried away demanding that he needs to be on the 15 man roster.
Speaking of which, I’m really trying to talk myself into not obsessing over the 15th roster spot this year. Every year I hang on every scrap of news about the guys who are vying to stay above the cut line. It makes for good content and it is interesting to a point, but when was the last time one of those guys made a significant impact on the team that year? I’m all for keeping a guy around for long term development and “break glass in an emergency” availability. I’m just not going to stress over who gets voted off the island at the end of camp.
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Checking my watch, has there been a new Kyrie Irving update in the last couple of minutes? When did he make up his mind? Who did he talk to and when? What did he mean when he said this or that? What other stories are we going to hear? Am I the only one that’s already sick of these dribs and drabs of Gossip Girl drama? Again, I get it. It is content and this blog certainly plays a role in riding the narrative wave. Also, I get it that the team feels that it needs to justify the timing and direction of their summer decisions. But at some point we collectively need to move on. Let’s appreciate the ones that stuck around and give the new guys space to be themselves.
Speaking of which:
Breaking my postseason twitter break to issue the following proclamation: Kemba doesn’t have to be the anti-Kyrie. He just needs to be Kemba. Let the man be who he is. Thank you.
Also, there’s no replacing Al Horford, period. This is a different mix of guys. They will have all the opportunities that any team has to blend and grow together. We don’t need to hear about what GREAT CHARACTER guys they are every five minutes. We get it. Nice guys, got it. Here’s hoping they really do get passing grades in chemistry next year. Also, let’s hope that they are pretty good at basketball too.
Really hoping that this is the year of Jayson Tatum. For this team to succeed, they’ll need one or more from the group of Tatum, Jaylen Brown, or Gordon Hayward to take a big step forward. Tatum just seems to have the highest upside out of the three (though I’m not ruling out the other two). And while we’re here, I’m hoping that Marcus Smart’s career shooting season is the new norm and not one of those outlier seasons.
It will be very interesting to see how this next season plays out. If the team is making enough progress by the trade deadline, there are a few movable contracts that the team could package together for additional help. Or perhaps we’ll start to hear whispers about Ainge holding on to his assets for the next star to become available (KAT? Beal?).
Plenty of time to get into all of that later. My advice is to grab a book, find a spot by the pool, and enjoy the summer. The blog will be here for you when you get back.
Edwards averaged a smooth 19.4 points on 48% from the field and 47% from 3 over 5 games as the team’s leading scorer. Historically, it’s been rare to see second-round picks garner shoe deals so soon, but maybe that trend is changing.
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
DePaula’s piece details Edwards’ history with the brand and his love for watching Tracy McGrady – an Adidas athlete – as a child. Edwards was even able to meet with McGrady recently because of the Adidas connection. Derrick Rose was also highlighted as an inspiration for Edwards, and I officially feel old remembering that Derrick Rose is now a 11-year veteran in the NBA.
Commenting on his color choice for this upcoming season with the Celtics, Edwards offered this tremendous quote:
“I’ll probably be low-key with it,” he said. “I can just picture my parents if I’m wearing some crazy colors -- ‘You’re not producing enough to be wearing crazy colors. Why don’t you go do something first?’ I’ll keep it calm at first, and if I start doing some stuff, I might branch out.”
Hopefully, his Adidas shoes have buckets in them all season long with the Celtics.
The Celtics will be signing Javonte Green to a partially guaranteed deal, league sources told ESPN. Green played well for Boston's summer league team, averaging 10.8 points and shooting 50 percent from the field in 5 games. He'll get a shot at earning Boston's final roster spot.
In addition to the elevated play of Carsen Edwards and Grant Williams as well as the spectacle of Tacko Fall, Javonte Green was a solid contributor over the two weeks that the Celtics played in Vegas as they went 4-1. Green’s partial guarantee allows him to compete for the team’s last roster spot as they currently have 14 players who will most certainly make the team.
The Celtics have several options with this spot, but they’ll give Summer League players a shot to earn it. This morning, Danny Ainge mentioned how Tacko Fall, the 7-foot-7-inch center, fits into plans for next season:
Danny Ainge on @Toucherandrich on Tacko Fall: “We’re trying to still get a contract done with Tacko. We haven’t signed him yet. I really can’t say much more about Tacko than we’re just trying to get him in the fold. … Hopefully we can get that done but we’ll see.”
Yesterday during the introductory press conference for Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter, Ainge said that Fall “is a high priority for us to really develop into a player.”
It appears that the Celtics are mostly done for this summer, barring any huge moves coming out of left field.
Javonte Green is planning to sign a 2-year deal with the Celtics, with a partial guarantee in year 1 and non-guaranteed year 2, per source. I've been told by multiple sources that the Cs plan to have several players, likely partial & two-way contract guys, vie for the last spot.
The loss of Al Horford could be a huge opportunity for Grant Williams to come in and make a big time impact immediately.
By now, we all should know the impact Al Horford had on this Celtics team for the past three years. Off the court, he was the glue guy and calming presence who kept the team together when they needed a level head to push them through a season. On the court, he consistently put up solid numbers, but they were always overshadowed by others in the box score. Many people looked past him, but Horford was one of the most vital players on the Celtics roster. With his departure, they are now going to have to fill this void in the front court.
This is where rookie Grant Williams can come in and make a dominant impact right out of the gate. At the University of Tennessee, he was the team’s North Star, taking over games, trying to get his teammates to follow him, continuously showing off his leadership skills for most situations. These intangible skills and basketball IQ are a big reason why he was selected in the first round. The Celtics’ front office knew these specific skills that Williams possess will translate easily to the league.
This Celtics’ situation may be one of the best in the league for a rookie with a brilliant head coach in Brad Stevens and other young players who collectively play better together as a sum of their parts. There is not anyone on this team who demands the spotlight which will help Williams learn his role fitting into this lineup.
In each of his three years in college, he brought an off-court attitude that made the Tennessee fan base adore him. He did not want the attention and just kept his head down grinding away to keep getting better. This calm mentality and leadership is exactly what Horford leads with as well. No speaking out, no nonsense, just the willingness to do whatever it takes for the benefit of the team.
On the court, these two are a bit more different, but they could end up playing the same style of game overall. Williams only measures in at 6’7”, about three inches shorter than Horford. This means that he will never really be able to play the five position unless the opposing team goes super small. However, this is something that fits Williams better for his role. He has the skills to impact the game setting screens and coming off those crashing towards the basket. In college, he exploited most flat footed big men beating them down on the drive and roll to the hoop.
Luckily, we got to see a little preview of his NBA talent this past Summer League where Williams put up great numbers averaging 13 points and 6 rebounds per game. The eye-popping number that most clung to was his plus-minus at +74 over the five games Boston played in. CelticsBlog’s Max Carlin had a great breakdown of one of his games in Vegas.
Even as I am a big believer of not taking too much from the Summer League, the intensity Williams played with was on display every game he played. That high motor is something to get excited for when he comes off the bench for the Celtics this season. He just knows where to be on the court at all times to help the team each possession. It is the same type of feeling you get with Horford on the floor as well. The aforementioned basketball IQ of these two cannot be overstated.
The one skill that Williams will have to continue to prove is his three-point shooting. This is something that was not needed at Tennessee as he could just take it to the paint every time with ease. Now, in the NBA against grown men, Williams will have to take it back behind the three-point line and stretch out the defense. Once again, Horford, knowing the changing of the times, started shooting threes at a higher mark when he came to Boston. He was able to work on his shot and end up shooting 38.2% from three in his years in green.
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This clip was a patented Al Horford play. He stood outside the three-point line exploiting the big man to guard him on the outside after the screen. When the did not, Horford had an open look for three. This is where Williams can learn and fit into his role on this team. The following clip is a perfect example of his basketball smarts extending out behind the arc.
Grant Williams excites me a lot. This is a 6'7", 240lb forward initiating pick-and-roll, making the correct read off of a hard gap stunt and with the awareness to relocate and hit an open three.
For Williams, he will have to change his ways from college, shooting only 1.0 three-pointers a game and increase the output to around three or four per game. Luckily, he seems to have understood this message looking at his Summer League numbers. He shot 36.8% from three on 19 attempts which was 3.8 per game. Yes, Williams had some games where he went ice cold from behind the arc, but the simple fact that he is taking on this shot and expanding his range is most important of all.
Grant Williams has the on and off court skills to fit into the role that Al Horford left open with his departure to Philadelphia. Williams understands how to impact the game without the ball in his hands. It may take some time for Williams to breakout in the box score, but he will instantly come off the bench and take on a different role. His basketball IQ will be his biggest asset as a rookie along with the constant motor and gritty play which will be felt immediately. This style of play will instantly be adored by the Celtics faithful. Grant Williams has the opening he needed after being brought on by this Celtics team, and now he just has to do what it takes to secure it.
It looked as though Enes Kanter couldn’t stop smiling in his introductory press conference with the Boston Celtics.
Less than an hour before the Boston Celtics trotted out Enes Kanter for his introductory press conference Wednesday, the veteran big man was busy with paperwork.
It was important paperwork after all, as Kanter signed his contract, which is a reported two-year, $10 million deal, to becomes the newest member of the C’s. It is Kanter’s fifth different organization he has played for since he joined the NBA in 2011.
“This is the first step to a championship,” said Kanter on a video post from the team’s twitter account of him signing his contract. “Thank you for your amazing support. I’m very excited about it, and you know what, let’s do it together.”
With multiple suitors, it was a phone call from the C’s other prize free agency pick up in Kemba Walker that helped lure Kanter to Boston.
“(Walker) didn’t call me on his phone. He called me on Danny (Ainge’s) phone,” Kanter said. “I answered the phone and it was a deep voice, and I was like, ‘Who is this?’ That’s Kemba, man, (and he said), ‘We want you to be here.’ That made me very excited and feel special. … I talked to my manager and I was like, ‘This is the place I want to play for.’”
Kanter brings with him a big personality and a love of social media. Kanter was goofing around many times as he met the Boston media for the first time and he should keep the C’s loose when adversity hits during the season.
“Every team needs one guy like that,” Kanter said. “It’s definitely important to have character, personality. This team already has it, but I’m just going to add a little more.”
Enes Kanter On Playing For Brad Stevens, His Love For Tom Brady - YouTube
Kanter also let his personality shine in the opening minutes of the press conference when he was asked about why he chose to wear No. 11, the same number Kyrie Irving wore during his time with the C’s.
Kanter, who wore No. 11 while he was with the Thunder, poked fun at Irving in his response, uttering the same line the guard used in a Nike commercial with his dad about Irving trying to have his number retired one day by the Celtics.
“I want to be the reason why no one else will,” said Kanter, who couldn’t hold back a big smile and laugh while answering the question.
Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter Introductory Press Conference With Boston Celtics - YouTube
On the floor, the 6-foot-11, 250-pound center averaged 13.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game last season while playing for the Knicks and Trail Blazers. With the departure of Al Horford and the C’s trading Aron Baynes, Boston is very thin at the center spot and will look for Kanter to bolster the unit.
Kanter’s inside presence on both ends of the floor will be vital, but offensively, he is trying to stretch his game out to beyond the 3-point line to go along with his ability to score around the basket. Kanter took just 34 3-point attempts a season ago, making 29.4% of those shots.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who encourages nearly every player on the roster to shoot the deep ball, said he likes what he sees out of Kanter’s long-range shot, which has given Kanter confidence moving forward as he tries to bring a different element to his game in his first season with the C’s.
“The league is changing and you’ve got to change with the league,” Kanter said. “The back to the basket players, you don’t see a lot anymore. This summer, my plan was to add (the 3-point shot) to my game. It’s very important to stretch the floor.”
The Celtics held an introductory press conference for their new star point guard Wednesday.
Star point guard Kemba Walker made it known that it wasn’t an easy decision. But he also conveyed that he had made the right one as well.
After spending all eight seasons of his NBA career with the Charlotte Hornets, Walker signed a four-year, $141 million deal with the Boston Celtics at the start of free agency and the organization officially introduced their newly coveted prize at a press conference at the Auerbach Center Wednesday.
“It was one of the hardest decisions of my life,” Walker said. “Charlotte’s all I know. It really came down to my happiness and how I want to compete night in, night out. I gave that organization everything I’ve had. My time was up there. I’m ready to start a new chapter, especially here with the Celtics. … I’m excited. I’m happy I made this decision. I definitely made the right choice.”
Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter Introductory Press Conference With Boston Celtics - YouTube
In his eight seasons with the Hornets, Walker averaged 19.8 points, 5.5 assists and 3.8 rebounds, but blossomed this past season by setting career highs in points (25.6) and assists (5.9) per game.
Walker has earned All-Star recognition each of the past three years, and for his efforts during the 2018-19 campaign, which included a 60-point outburst versus the Philadelphia 76ers, Walker was named to the All-NBA Third Team.
But despite the individual success, winning at a high rate and getting to the playoffs – Walker reached the postseason only twice with the Hornets and never made it past the first round – has eluded the UConn product. Walker sees a chance to finally change that with the Celtics.
“For me, it’s the competitiveness of this organization,” said Walker, who led the Huskies to a national championship in 2011. “They’ve been winning for years. You see all the banners. It’s a winning organization and I want to win. That’s what I’m about. Throughout my basketball career and as a pro, I haven’t won consistently. I just want to get a taste of that and I thought this was the best place for me to do that.”
With the Celtics, Walker will be thrusted immediately into a leadership role, one that was gaping and plagued the C’s a season ago. And for Walker, it seems his leadership style will differ greatly from his predecessor.
“I try to lead by example for the most part. That’s the kind of guy I am,” Walker said. “Never really going to scream at anybody or anything like that. Chemistry is important. The team has to be together.”
Kemba Walker On Feeling The Love in Boston, Playing For Brad Stevens - YouTube
Walker said he was “looking forward” to joining forces with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward. Along with that trio, Walker becomes an essential figure in helping the C’s pick up the pieces from the shattered season that just took place.
But Walker won’t say for sure that the C’s will be better than last year, but he’s certainly optimistic that his arrival in Boston will take him and the organization to where they desperately want to go.
“I’m excited,” Walker said. “Hopefully it’s great things to come.”
“I think I had a pretty good idea in March or April,” said Ainge. “Not for sure, though. Not certain. But I was obviously thinking about moving in a different direction at that point. Thinking of the different options.”
As Irving and the Celtics put more distance and time between each other, more information continues to reach the public sphere. Between Ainge’s comments and recent reports elsewhere, it appears as though Irving’s intentions to leave Boston (and Kevin Durant’s to leave Oakland, for that matter) were more open secret than Eyes Only.
In podcast released today for The Athletic, Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie told Shams Charania that Irving made first contact perhaps as early as December 2018.
My debut on The Athletic Podcasts, with Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Inside his relationship with Kyrie Irving, when their initial dialogue began, how Brooklyn appealed to free agents, 'silver lining' of 2019-20 without Kevin Durant, more. https://t.co/xCvi9uh55zpic.twitter.com/piVeTI8qbd
Hindsight, of course, is 20-20. Ainge’s comments today presented the calculated mindset that Celtics fans have come to know intimately since the 2007-2008 championship season. According to Ainge, Irving’s departure was always on the radar in Boston’s front office.
“It’s a tough business. You got to have lots of different directions to go. You have to be ready. We had others—if this one that we had today, we’re sitting here with two guys that chose to come to us that we’re very fortunate to have—but if it hadn’t happened, we would’ve had another plan.”
The distress created by an underachieving season, Irving’s about-face, Al Horford’s move to Philadelphia are all unwanted. But the context of today’s comments are important: even as the public clamors to debrief about what happened last season, Ainge appears to always have at least one eye trained on the future.
Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
After Jamal Murray and Ben Simmons signed max extensions this summer, is Jaylen Brown next?
The off-season isn’t over yet. Even after waiving Guerschon Yabusele, there’s still some book keeping transactions that need to finished. Vincent Poirier is officially a Celtic, but Daniel Theis has yet to put pen to paper on his agreed two-year deal. Tremont Waters is ticketed for a two-way contract, but it’s not official official. The intrigue around Summer League standout Tacko Fall has not amounted to anything more than the Exhibit 10 look-see. For the most part, we know what Boston is going to look like going into camp, but there are still bigger questions looming.
Last week, Jaylen Brown told Boston Sports Journal’s Brian Robb that the Celtics have not reached out to him regarding a rookie extension. “The ball is in their court,” Brown said. Brown is entering the final guaranteed year of his rookie contract and if the he and the team that drafted him can’t come to an agreement before the start of next season, he’ll enter restricted free agency in 2020.
Historically, Danny Ainge almost never extends players coming off their first contract. Rajon Rondo was the last player to get one. In the 11th hour before the deadline, both sides struck a 5-year, $55 million deal. The circumstances were different though. The Celtics were just a year removed from their banner season, Boston was arguably better in 2009, and Rondo had nearly averaged a triple-double in the playoffs with Kevin Garnett out. Rondo was peaking and Ainge wasn’t about to break up a championship team.
At this point, Brown looks to be part of the foundation of the franchise and offering him a contract extension before the 2019-2020 cements him in. It’s a vote of confidence in the 22-year-old who has not just shown growth as a player, but has displayed promise as a leader as a Vice President of the NBPA’s Executive Committee. Fellow alumna from the 2016 NBA Draft have already been assured their places with their respective teams. Both Ben Simmons (drafted #1) and Jamal Murray (drafted 7th) signed max contract extensions of 5 years, $170 million.
So much of this comes down to--for lack of a better word--feelings. The Celtics undoubtedly want to keep Brown long-term. It’s just a matter of price and timing. In recent years, Ainge has tried to negotiate contracts with young players right up to the deadline. Both Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier received discounted offers that they passed up in the fall and allowed the market to dictate their value in restricted free agency. The question is, what does that year of uncertainty do to the psyche of a player?
It’s been surmised that when the Jazz did not offer a max deal to Gordon Hayward after his third season in Utah, he soured on the franchise. He went on to ironically sign an offer sheet in Charlotte (after also being recruited by Kyrie Irving in Cleveland) to play with Kemba Walker in 2014. The Jazz would match and retain Hayward, but the damage was done. Three years later, Hayward did not pick up his player option and joined Brad Stevens and the Celtics.
There’s no way to know if the Jazz playing hard ball with Hayward in 2013 affected his decision in free agency in 2017, but that’s the prickly dynamic with restricted free agency. Imagine spending the first four years of your career learning, developing, and growing up at the same company and then them telling you, “this is what we think you’re worth, but if you can find someone that wants you more, we might match it and bring you back anyway.”
On the other hand, as much as Ainge has earned his nickname “Trader Danny”--I’ve often wondered if “Traitor” would be more accurate--he’s also a pragmatist. Financially speaking, there’s no reason to make Brown his highest offer now. Anything can happen in a year and Ainge can offer him the same contract next summer. There’s also the added value of flexibility. This off-season saw a record number of sign-and-trade deals. With fewer teams with cap space and fewer free agents on the market in 2020, not setting a price tag on Brown could entice another team to make a deal; for example, the Celtics could make a move for Bradley Beal with Brown as the Wizards’ target.
Regardless of how it plays out, this is a “show me” season for Brown whether he’s guaranteed long-term stability now or rewarded next July. To his credit, he’s enjoyed steady progress over the last three seasons in less than ideal circumstances. He’s been at the center of trade speculation and criticized for not knowing what it takes to win a championship. Brad Stevens has praised Brown and teammate, Jayson Tatum, for their poise under this high level of pressure at such a young age. Next season, he’ll be even more of a focal point. As good as he’s been, he hasn’t shown that next level stuff that Simmons and Murray have as cornerstones in Philadelphia and Denver, but he’ll have that chance now.