Free agency does not start until July 1 and with the trade deadline less than a week away the final week of January has rocked the league with blockbuster trades, trade rumors and outspoken superstars concerning their future.
The New York Knicks shipped Kristaps Porzingis yesterday to the Dallas Mavericks, which freed room for two max contract spots on the roster heading into a loaded 2019 free agency class. The Memphis Grizzlies have made both Mike Conley and Marc Gasol available in trade talks for the first time, Anthony Davis has requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans and just this afternoon Kyrie Irving spoke out about his pending free agency this summer.
Should the City of Boston be Fearful of a Irving Departure?
Back in October 2018, during fan appreciation night at TD Garden, Irving said he planned on resigning with the C’s in front of fans, “If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here.” This gave General Manager, Danny Angie some comfort room as to how he can potentially team-up Irving alongside Anthony Davis this summer, using his treasure chest of draft picks and young talent. But things got cloudy in Boston this afternoon as Irving seemed uncertain about his future with the Celtics.
“At the end of the day, I’m going to do what’s best for my career, and that’s just where it stands,” said Irving ahead of the match-up between Boston and New York later tonight.
When asked about his decision on whether or not he’ll resign with Boston, “Ask me again on July 1,” he said. “Just do the best for me. That’s what it comes down to. Obviously this has become an entertainment thing for everyone… I’m not worried about a reputation, not worried about a legacy in the league. I’m just trying to be a human being, trying to make the best decision for my family.”
Championship or Bust
Irving’s mindset for this season hasn’t changed as the goal is still a to bring a championship to Beantown, “And my focus this season is winning a championship with the Boston Celtics. Obviously, we had goals coming into the season and the primary goals is to win a championship. So that’s where my focus is,” said Irving.
Throughout the year the Celtics have had a rollercoaster of a season with frustration bubbling between players. Both Irving and Al Horford have questioned the teams determination and hunger, Irving on the other hand called out the young players inexperience.
The questions that should be in the mind of Angie and the rest of the Celtics organization is, should they trade Irving before the trade deadline or be fearful of him leaving during free agency to a team like the Knicks, Brooklyn Nets or Los Angeles Lakers. Time will tell what the Celtics will do between today and the February 7 deadline.
A miscommunication at the free throw line with less than 10 seconds to go in regulation cost the Boston Celtics a chance to upset the reigning NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. At the end, Kyrie Irving’s 32 points and 10 assists was not enough to break Golden States nine game winning streak, as the Warriors came out on top 115-100 at TD Garden.
Al Horford was big for Boston on both sides of the floor, he had 22 points and 13 rebounds. Jayson Tatum caught fire in the second half as he opened up the third quarter with three straight three pointers, he finished with 20 points and five rebounds.
The Boogie Problem in the League
The difference DeMarcus Cousins makes on both sides of the floor for the Warriors is a scary sight for the rest of the league. Last night’s game against Boston was a prime example of how Cousins makes this Golden State team even more deadly. One multiple occasions on defense, Irving and Smart could be seen trying to fight through a Boogie screen to close out on either Klay Thompson or Stephen Curry, but to no avail.
The size and strength of Cousins caused problems for the defense when trying to close out the shooters, which left Curry and Thompson with so much daylight for an open three. Both Thompson and Curry torched the Celtics from behind the arc, Curry at one point hit five consecutive three’s after starting 0-of-4 and Thompson started the game with eight easy points and two from three. Curry finished with 24 points on 7-of-15 from the field, while Thompson scored 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting.
Kevin Durant led the Warriors in scoring with 33 points and Cousins had 15 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes of action.
Hayward is a Defensive Liability for Boston
When Gordon Hayward entered the game you can see he wasn’t himself on offense, on multiple occasions in the first quarter he would attack the basket but wasn’t looking to score. His drives to the hole would often result in an intercepted pass or a turnover. The defense would collapse on Hayward as he dribbled into the paint leaving him stuck in the paint with four Warrior players around him.
On defense it was the same story all season, players would expose Hayward’s lack of quickness off the dribble and score easy jumpers. Hayward was a -8 while on the floor last night, he missed all five of his shot attempts, but managed to grab seven rebounds.
It wasn’t just Hayward who had an off game, Marcus Morris struggled to find his jump shot, although he made up for it on defense by playing stellar defense on Durant. Morris finished the night with nine points and nine rebounds, he shot 3-of-12 from the field.
The Celtics continue their home stretch tomorrow as the Brooklyn Nets come to Boston. The C’s will look for revenge after losing to the Nets two weeks ago 109-102.
One of the most anticipated match-ups of the season takes place tonight when the Golden State Warriors visit the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. This will be the first meeting between these two teams as both clubs are currently riding winning streaks. Golden State has won nine games in a row and the Celtics have won five of their own.
Warriors sit at the top of the Western Conference and Boston still finds themselves in the fifth seed in the East.
Baynes and Cousins Set to Go Tonight
As if the hype for this game wasn’t big enough both Aron Baynes and DeMarcus Cousins are set to play tonight, both coming off major injuries as Baynes continues to be limited to just 18 minutes of playing time since returning from a broken hand injury. Cousins on the other side is still working his way back from an torn Achilles tendon he suffered last season with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Head Coach Steve Kerr has limited Cousins to just 20 minutes of playing time, but that hasn’t stopped the big man from making an impact alongside Golden States other four All-Stars in Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. In their last game against the Washington Wizards, Cousins put up 17 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes of action. Cousins has gelled in nicely alongside the Warriors starting five, he’s made an impact in the paint with his post-game and is still hitting the three at an efficient rate.
Battle of Point Guards: Curry vs. Irving
Whenever Curry and Kyrie Irving go head-to-head NBA fans know they’re going to be in for a treat. The countless battles they’ve shared in three straight Finals was something nobody could forget. During the 2017 Finals Irving averaged 29.4 points per game (PPG) and 4.4 assists per game, while Curry averaged 26.8 PPG and 9.4 APG.
Who can forget the last meeting these two point guards had last season. It was last January when Curry and Irving lit up Oracle, Curry led the Warriors to a 109-105 victory by dropping 49 points and five assists, Irving had 37 points and four assists.
What to watch out for; The Boston Depth
Boston’s depth will determine the outcome of this game. Brad Stevens will look at his young trio of Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier to make a huge impact on both sides of the floor. Rozier will have a tough assignment as he will occasional have to switch up onto Curry whenever Irving’s on the bench or needs to lay back on the defensive side. Brown and Tatum will have to score in double digits if Boston wants a chance to beat Golden State
And then there is Al Horford, which since coming back from injury has been playing well. Against the Miami Heat, Horford put up 16 points and controlled the glass with 12 rebounds.
Both Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris will need to bring their grittiness and toughness on the defensive side when checking Durant and Thompson.
Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m. Their next match-up will take place after the All-Star break at Oracle Arena on March 5.
It wasn’t a pretty win for the Celtics, before the game Gordon Hayward was ruled out due to personal reasons, in the third quarter Marcus Smart was ejected after receiving a second technical, Marcus Morris and Al Horford shot a combined 7-21 from the field. It was a combination of another heroic Kyrie Irving fourth quarter and sloppy plays by a young Atlanta Hawks team that secured Boston the 113-105 victory.
This is Boston’s third straight win after losing three in a row. Since the start of the New Year Boston has won seven of their last 10 games and still sit in the fifth spot in the East.
Kyrie Irving Saves the Night
Maybe it was the back-to-back games, but the Celtics started the game slow and at one point were down by as many as 16. With 6:30 remaining in the second quarter Irving re-entered the game to find his team down 38-52, from there Irving scored or assisted on 20 of Boston’s 32 second quarter points, which included 15 points of his own. At the half Boston cut the 14 point lead to just seven.
During the third quarter Boston lost their defensive guy in Marcus Smart when he lost his cool with Hawks DeAndre Bembry during a jump ball. Smart and Bembry had to be separated after an exchange of words, which resulted in a double technicals that being Smart’s second he would be ejected. The defensive pressure feel on Irving and Terry Rozier once Smart was out of the game and Rozier stepped up.
Scary Terry Steps up Defensively
Over the last three games Rozier has stepped up on the defensive side after many head scratching plays on the offensive end this season. During Boston’s Florida trip that resulted in two losses to Orlando and Miami, Rozier has flipped the switch on the defensive side. In the past three games, the team has had a 93.7 defensive rating when Rozier is on the floor and his 17.5 net rating is third on the team.
Rozier has be so inconsistent on the offensive side with many questionable shots and lack of production because of a bench role. For the past couple of games Rozier has been picking up opponents full court, flying around on the defensive end and has made good decisions on offense.
Head coach Brad Stevens has praised Rozier’s effort as of late, “Terry’s playing at a high level and he can go 4 for 12 and impact us in a real positive way. Then on the nights he’s 9 for 12, he’s going to feel great and he’ll impact us in a positive way, but I’m excited about the way he’s played in the last two,” Stevens said.
Boston has a chance to avenge their loss to Miami tomorrow when the Heat visit the Celtics at TD Garden.
With the NBA trade deadline three weeks away and Boston still sitting in the fifth seed we have to wonder if General Manager Danny Ainge is going to pull the trigger and make a deal by the deadline. With all the drama between players we’ll see if Ainge sticks with the current roster and cashes in this summer for an Anthony Davis trade.
The New Orleans Pelicans have continued to say they’re not trading Davis, so with that being said will Boston go into the postseason with the same roster and finally make an offer for Davis once Kyrie Irving signs a new deal. Below are three trade options the Celtics can make to better their roster.
Trade Daniel Theis for Some Size
Daniel Theis is an energy guy, there’s nothing to questions about his play off the bench or as a starter, but because he’s injury prone and his size for a big man causes an issue for Boston’s frontcourt rotation. This season Theis is averaging 6.6 points per game (PPG) and four rebounds a game (RPG), his small frame is exposed when Boston faces teams with a deep frontcourt such as Detroit, Miami, Toronto, Indiana and Philadelphia.
Boston currently has three players in Aron Baynes, Robert Williams and Al Horford at 6’10 and with the emergence of rookie Williams it’s easy to see he deserves more minutes. Williams can do everything Theis does, but has an advantage because of his athletic ability.
Boston can package Theis and Rozier for Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic, who is on the trade block on the final year of his contract. The 28-year-old is putting up 20 ppg, 12 rpg, and 3.8 assists per game (APG). Vucevic can give Boston another option down low aside from Horford, he can post up and has a mid-range game.
Ship Scary Terry for assets
After this season Rozier will be a restricted free agent and with Irving looking to resign with Boston, its obvious Rozier will play his last season with the Celtics. Teams like the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks who are in need of a point guard will be going after Rozier, but the question is whether or not Boston will want to match whatever they offer Rozier. Irving will eat up the majority of Boston’s cap space and Horford will most likely pick-up his player option and stay with the team.
Boston can flirt with the Suns about a Rozier trade and see if they offer up a few first rounder picks to add to Boston treasure vault. If Boston continues to stock up on draft picks they can make a stronger case to the Pelicans this summer on a Davis deal.
Trade Hayward to Get the Best out of Tatum
Boston can continue to wait and see if Gordon Hayward ever gets back to who he was or they can look for a team that can use him and get some veteran and bench prescience in return. Hayward’s trade value is at an all-time low, no team will offer up a first round pick and with $127 million remaining in his four-year deal it will be difficult to see a team take him.
A Hayward trade will benefit Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown the most. With Hayward out of the rotation it can probably open up Brown and Tatum’s game and get them back to who they were during the postseason. Tatum and Brown showed during the playoffs they are bona fide stars in this league and can average equal or more numbers to what Hayward put up in Utah.
The roller coaster of a season for the Boston Celtics goes on as tensions continue to raise amongst players, and in last night’s 105-103 loss to the Orlando Magic a brief disagreement was caught between head coach Brad Stevens and superstar point guard Kyrie Irving.
First it was Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown’s brief scuffle during a timeout in Thursday’s loss to the Miami Heat, and last night an argument was witnessed between Stevens and Irving over a drawn up play for the last shot of the game. At the end, Gordon Hayward inbounded the ball to Jayson Tatum, who then attempted a fade away over Magic guard, Wesley Iwundu, with 2.7 seconds remaining in regulation. After the game, Irving seemed frustrated over Hayward’s decision to give the ball to Tatum for the last shot, Irving can be seen telling Hayward, “You had Al,” who was open at the top of the key.
Irving Critical of Young Teammates over Lack of Experience
After the game Irving and Al Horford both questioned their young teammate’s inconsistent play, “We play hard at times. We don’t play hard all the time,” Horford said.
We’ve reached the mid-way point of the season and the Celtics continue to show inconsistency on both sides of the floor. Boston seemed to have figured it out after their team meeting occurred after their loss to Milwaukee on December 21. The Celtics won 7 of their last 9 games after the meeting took place, but their losses to non-playoff teams in the Heat and Magic over the week have the players thinking if the problem has resurfaced.
Irving was critical of his young teammates and how they’ve played this season, “The young guys don’t know what it takes to be a championship-level team. And if they think it is hard now, what do they think it will be like when we’re trying to get to the finals?” said Irving.
Time heals all Wounds
Even throughout these low points in the season Irving still believes in this team’s potential, “I know from the majority of the fact that we’re better than most teams in this league,” said Irving. “It’s just going out and proving it every single night and demanding it and actually showing it.”
Irving emphasized how experience has been a major issue to why this club hasn’t lived up to their potential. This is the most stacked team in the NBA and Brad Stevens has to find a way to mesh the egos of nine legit starting players into accepting new roles, which includes less playing time, low productivity and bench roles. Guys like Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum who were playing at an All-Star level last season have seen their productivity decline since Irving and Hayward returned this season.
Time will tell if the Celtics can bounce out of their inconsistency and FINALLY make a run at the number one seed. Home court advantage is going to play a major role in the playoffs with teams like Milwaukee, Toronto, Philadelphia and Indiana gunning for a spot to represent the East in the Finals since LeBron James departure to the West. We’ll see if Boston can get it together before it’s too late.
Last night’s showdown between two red-hot Eastern Conference teams seemed to be no problem for the Boston Celtics as they rolling through the Indiana Pacers 135-108.
The four game home stand was something the Celtics needed after winning one out of four games on their West coast road trip two weeks ago. Boston have now won four straight and are 15-5 at TD Garden. They play a back-to-back today as they take their talents to South Beach and play the Miami Heat.
Boston’s Depth on Full Display
At the start of the season the talk around the league was the amount of talent the Celtics have, they have eight legit starting caliber players and last night’s victory showed that. The Pacers were out gunned yesterday, even with their talented duo of Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Boston had seven players that reached double figures, which now makes it four consecutive games where at least five players have scored in double figures.
The team was led by Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown, who each scored 22 points to go along with eight and seven rebounds. Jayson Tatum showed out offensively as he scored 20 points while shooting 60 percent from the field on 9-of-15 shots. Another positive takeaway was the performance of Gordon Hayward, who has been more consistent on the offensive end over the last couple of games. He finished with 14 points on 5-of-7 from the field.
It was one of those games that allowed Kyrie Irving to take a break offensively, he played only 24 minutes and scored only 12 points. Al Horford also had a laid-back night, playing only 18 minutes and chipped in with six points and eight assists.
The True Test for Boston Begins in the Coming Weeks
Since airing out their frustrations after the loss to Milwaukee back in December, the Celtics are now 7-2 over their last nine games with their only losses coming to the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs. The home stretch provided an extra boost of confidence for the Celtics, but in the upcoming weeks they will play legit championship contenders like the Toronto Raptors, the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Celtics and Raptors will square-off on Wednesday at TD Garden. Their even at 1-1 over their last two meetings with Boston taking the second game in overtime when Irving exploded for 43 points.
A potential NBA Finals match-up with the Warriors will take place on Saturday the 26th, as both teams continue to get back to playing championship level basketball. Although the Celtics could be one of the first teams to face a returning DeMarcus Cousins with Golden State, as he’s scheduled to return from an Achilles tear in mid-to-late January.