- Kyrie Irving has embraced his leadership role with the Celtics this season, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports writes. “He’s really taking guys under his wing — very vocal, encouraging when he needs to be. He’s really embracing that role,” teammate Al Horford said of Irving. The Celtics are winners of seven straight games and have a 17-10 record nearly two months into the season.
Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Atlantic Division:
Terry Rozier, Celtics, 24, PG (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $8.8MM deal in 2015
Rozier showed he could be effective starter filling in for Kyrie Irving during the playoffs. With Irving back in the lineup, Rozier has been forced into a second-unit role again. He has expressed a desire to be a starter in the future and that’s not going to happen if Irving re-signs with Boston. Rozier’s stats aren’t that far off from last regular season but it’s been difficult for the restricted free agent, who is currently ranked No. 18 in our Free Agent Power Rankings, to enhance his value while playing 22 MPG.
DeMarre Carroll, Nets, 32, SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $58MM deal in 2015
Carroll’s offensive numbers have been unsightly since he returned from an injury in early November. He’s shooting 34.4% from the field and 30.8% from long range. He’s also been a defensive liability, according to Basketball Reference, which gives him a minus 1.6 Defensive Box Plus/Minus rating. Carroll cashed in at an opportune time the last time he was a free agent. He’s going to find the offers much more modest next summer, given his age and declining production.
Emmanuel Mudiay, Knicks, 22, PG (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $14MM deal in 2015
The way first-year head coach David Fizdale has been tinkering with his lineup and rotation, it’s hard for anyone on the roster to feel comfortable. The point guard situation has remained a muddle, with Mudiay, Frank Ntilikina and Trey Burke taking turns as the main guy and sitting in the doghouse. Mudiay had a 28-point performance against Milwaukee earlier this month but the Knicks have been outscored by 46 points over the last three games with the restricted free agent on the court. His grasp on a starting spot seems tenuous at best.
Mike Muscala, Sixers, 27, PF (Up) — Signed to a two-year, $10MM deal in 2017
Muscala has reinvented himself as a stretch four and he’s become a valued member of Philadelphia’s rotation. He’s averaging 10.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 2.2 APG over the past six games. He had an 18-point outing to help the Sixers erase a 15-point deficit in Detroit last week. If Muscala can keep this up for one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams, he’ll be in line for a nice payday next summer and might even find a suitor that views him as a starter.
Danny Green, Raptors, 31, SG (Up)– Signed to a four-year, $40MM deal in 2015
Kawhi Leonard isn’t the only former Spur making a major impact north of the border. Green seems rejuvenated as well. His shooting numbers declined during his last three seasons in San Antonio but with Toronto he’s posting his best averages since the 2012/13 season. He’s shooting 44.2% overall and 42.1% from deep. His defensive metrics have remained well above average. Green should be able to score one more multi-year contract, whether he re-signs with Toronto and gets a starting job elsewhere.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Celtics big man Al Horford is expected to miss “at least a few games,” head coach Brad Stevens told reporters today (Twitter link). According to the team, Horford – who has already missed Boston’s last two contests – has been diagnosed with patellofemoral pain syndrome, colloquially known as runner’s knee.
If Boston has four players who all miss three or more games and are expected to remain sidelined for the foreseeable future, the club could apply for a hardship exception to sign an extra player, but that shouldn’t be necessary. Irving, Hayward, and Baynes all appear to be day-to-day, so Horford and Yabusele are the only C’s expected to remain on the shelf for the next several games.
The Celtics have looked just fine without Horford so far, beating the Bulls by 56 points on Saturday and the Pelicans by 13 on Monday. Daniel Theis, Robert Williams, and Semi Ojeleye figure to continue earning extra minutes up front until Baynes and Horford are ready to return. The Celtics also have an open two-way contract slot available if they want to add any more frontcourt reinforcements.
Here are Monday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA:
- In what might be the most significant G League assignment of the season, the Warriors sent All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to their affiliate in Santa Cruz, the team announced. Cousins is rehabbing from a torn Achilles and is hopeful to return within three-to-four weeks. We relayed Cousins’ assignment and his comments after Monday’s practice.
- The Rockets recalled Isaiah Hartenstein from their G League affiliate in Rio Grande, per Mark Berman of FOX 26. Hartenstein (Twitter link). The 20-year-old center has appeared in 21 games this season, averaging 2.1 PPG and 1.6 RPG.
- The Bulls assigned Antonio Blakeney to their G League affiliate Windy City Bulls, the team announced (Twitter link). Blakeney has appeared in 24 games with Chicago this season but only played four of their past seven.
- When asked whether he had any regrets about signing Gordon Hayward to a max contract back in the 2017 offseason, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge pushed back on that idea, Steve Bulpett reveals for The Boston Herald writes. “I see a lot of good things in Gordon,” Ainge said. “I think Gordon’s going to have a great year.”
Here are Thursday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA:
- The Celtics assigned rookie forward Robert Williams to the Maine Red Claws, announcing the news in a tweet. Williams has appeared in nine games with Boston on the season and was drafted by the team 27th overall in June.
- The Jazz recalled rookie Grayson Allen from the Salt Lake City Stars, G League affiliate of the team. Allen has played 14 games with Utah and is averaging 4.6 points in 10.5 minutes per contest.
- The Hawks assigned guard/forward Daniel Hamilton to their G League affiliate, the Erie Bayhawks, announcing the transaction on social media. Hamilton, 23, has played just two games with Atlanta so far this season.
- The Wizards assigned Troy Brown Jr. and Okaro White to the Capital City Go-Go, according to a tweet from the team’s social media account. Both players were available for Thursday’s game against Delaware.
- The Lakers recalled Isaac Bonga from the South Bay Lakers, the team announced in a press release. Bonga has averaged 14 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 12 games with South Bay.
- The Grizzlies have assigned Jevon Carter and Ivan Rabb to their G League affiliate, the Memphis Hustle, according to a tweet from the team’s PR department.
- The Pelicans recalled rookie forward Kenrich Williams from the Westchester Knicks, the team announced via press release. Williams has averaged 13.4 points and 11.6 rebounds in his past two games with Westchester.
- The Magic assigned Melvin Frazier Jr. to the Lakeland Magic of the NBA G League, according to a tweet from their PR department. Orlando drafted Frazier Jr. with the No. 35 pick last June.
In a recent article, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston wrote about four storylines to watch in anticipation of the Celtics next game against the Knicks tomorrow night: offensive improvement while Kyrie Irving is on the bench, reintegrating Jaylen Brown, the long-term starters, and minutes to go around when everybody is healthy.
The Celtics own a team-best offensive rating of 109.6 when Irving is on the court this season, a figure that would place Boston in the NBA’s top ten. But when Irving sits, that number drops to 95, which would rank far below the Hawks’ league worst rating of 100.5.
Brown has missed the last three games after suffering a back bruise against the Mavericks a couple weeks back. He could start tomorrow night, but the team has won three games in a row with Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris starting, and head coach Brad Stevens may elect to keep that group intact.
Stevens’ challenge in selecting who to start is figuring out how to balance the lineup with the most talent, and thus the most potential, with the lineup that is giving the team the most success right now. Eventually, Boston might work its way back to the Irving-Brown-Jayson Tatum–Gordon Hayward–Al Horford lineup, but keeping Smart and Morris on the bench is a risk.
In the Celtics’ last four wins, they’ve been shorthanded, which some may argue shows that some players play better with more minutes. Terry Rozier has reportedly conveyed his displeasure with his playing time already this season, and as mentioned above, Stevens will need to balance playing time between Smart, Morris, Hayward, and Brown as the season plays out.
There’s more from Boston:
- Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald writes that Hayward’s struggle to reintegrate himself after last season’s horrific injury is also a result of how much the Celtics have changed since he arrived in the summer of 2017.
- In another piece for NBC Sports Boston, Forsberg relays that Brown is open to coming of the bench in his return from injury. Brown downplayed the significance of becoming a reserve, and said he will embrace any role Stevens has in mind for him.
- As we relayed yesterday, the value of some of the Celtics trade assets have depreciated a little this season, with the Kings, Clippers, and Grizzlies outperforming expectations and Brown not as impressive as many anticipated.
- While the Celtics still have an enviable collection of assets to put in play if they take a big swing on the trade market, the value of some of those assets has depreciated a little this season, as Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report details. Boston’s first-round picks from the Kings, Clippers, and Grizzlies may not be as valuable as initially anticipated, given how those teams have performed, and Jaylen Brown has taken a step back in his development so far.
Kyrie Irving is enjoying another stellar offensive season as the Celtics find their footing. However, one distinct difference has been Irving’s improvement on defense, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston writes.
While the statistics are not eye-popping, there is a visual and discernible difference in Irving’s hustle and performance. As Forsberg notes, Irving entered Friday’s game ranked fifth in loose balls recovered (2.1), seventh in deflections per game (3.1), and eighth in steals (1.9). Irving is also ranked 18th in the NBA in charges drawn.
After Irving made comments earlier this year about him “coasting” on defense in his career, he has made it a point to not have that mentality anymore.
“I think it’s just a true challenge that I came into the season with of wanting to put an emphasis on that end of the floor,” Irving said. “That’s really what it comes down to. I think in my career I’ve really gotten away with just being an offensive talent, being a guy that has just been solid but never being a guy that I would say just consistently brings that effort every single time down the floor. “
Check out more Celtics notes below:
- At a recent practice, Irving urged teammate Gordon Hayward to be more aggressive on the floor and he responded with a solid shooting performance in Friday’s win. As Harry West of Sporting News writes, Irving — who shares a birthday with Hayward — wants him to release the ‘a**’ in him. “I remember [Irving’s former Duke] coach [Mike Krzyzewski] telling me, you know, Gordon has a little bit of a** in him. And he needs that,” Irving said. “That toughness where he starts turning red and he starts getting into the basketball, getting out in transition and dunking the basketball and start doing those things.”
- Jaylen Brown was asked how he felt about a possible change in the rotation upon his return from injury and he put the team winning ahead of his role, Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston writes. “Possibly, especially if we are winning,” Brown said of the idea that his role could change. “Whatever it is that needs to be done to figure it out. Everybody has talent, everybody has ability, but, obviously, we have to make something work here. We don’t want to be looking down the line and trying to figure out, ‘What if?’ or ‘Woulda, coulda,’ whatever.
- As we relayed recently, the Celtics waived Walt Lemon Jr.,. He was on a two-way pact with Boston but did not see NBA action this season.