Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
The Celtics haven’t had much luck in the past few years, but in a welcome change, recent events have trended in their favor. It began with the elevation of Brad Stevens to the front office – although many were sorry to see Danny Ainge leave, that change brought an opportunity to revitalize the team. During the past 10 days or so, Brad has begun to do just that.
His first step was the sudden trade of Kemba Walker, which gave Boston some payroll flexibility and brought back an old friend.
Reality often differs from dreams. The Celtics barely resemble the team Horford first joined half a decade ago, but he is still eager to get back to work after the franchise reacquired him last week in a trade for Kemba Walker.
“Obviously things didn’t end well (two years ago), but now I feel we have a fresh start,” Horford said. “I can help the team, make an impact. I feel the guys are very driven, and we have a lot of work to do. That’s the reality. I actually embrace that part of it, getting to work with this fresh opportunity.”
Then Brad made a solid decision on his successor. Ime Udoka was one of the most highly regarded candidates league-wide. He’s got the requisite playing and coaching experience, he’s known to have a sharp mind for defense, and he’s also going to command respect.
Udoka mostly kept to himself on that team, but Muoneke quickly realized that his calm demeanor should not be mistaken for a lack of fire. In August 2005 a brawl broke out in the AfroBasket third-place game between Nigeria and Algeria. The game was played in Algiers, and the numbers were not in Nigeria’s favor.
“But the person fighting the most people, with no anger or emotion, was Ime,” Muoneke said with a chuckle. “At one point I see him and he calmly says to me, ‘Gabe, watch your back.’ And I turn and see a guy with a chair coming at me. He nicked me in the eye, and I only moved because Ime told me to watch my back. And after he hit me, Ime got him. For me, that sold me on Ime. We were boys from that point on.”
So Brad is 2 for 2 in his first executive actions. Now attention turns to improving the roster. As it stands, the Celtics won’t be players in the draft. They have only their own second-round pick, the 45th overall. Trades and free agency will be their routes. One need is a point guard.
Stevens should have the $5.9 million taxpayer midlevel to add an experienced player. The Celtics also have a handful of trade exceptions available, most notably the $11 million remaining on the Gordon Hayward TPE that helped bring Fournier to Boston. There’s also a newly generated $6.9 million exception generated from the Walker deal. […]
Smart seems poised to elevate to starting point guard. When he commits to playmaking and defense, he can be an extremely impactful player. Entering the final year of his current deal, the Celtics have to ponder his future in green, which adds a layer of uncertainty at that spot. Pritchard should have a sizable role given his solid rookie shooting.
The Celtics likely need a veteran option here. Could they call Chicago and inquire about Tomas Satoransky, whose nonguaranteed $10 million salary could be absorbed into a trade exception? Maybe the Celtics call the Kings and inquire about whether Delon Wright is available. With Udoka taking over, Boston could pursue Patty Mills in free agency, though he might be outside their price range, and receiving any player in a sign-and-trade would hard-cap the Celtics.
NBC Sports Boston: Forsberg: What moves can Celtics make to upgrade their bench?
Mills, a career 38.8% three-point shooter, would bring back memories of the explosive Eddie House. Meanwhile, Cleveland has put Collin Sexton on the market. Is he an option?
The main appeal of Sexton for the Celtics would be his scoring and cheap salary. He’s only making $6.3 million during the 2021-22 season which would fit well on a Boston payroll that has little room for spending flexibility on the free-agent market due to the big money owed to Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Al Horford.
However, the reason why Sexton is available in the first place on the trade market is a big reason why Boston probably won’t have much interest in acquiring the young guard. Sexton will be looking for a big payday during the next offseason coming off his rookie deal. The Celtics just managed to clear up a good chunk of salary cap space for the next two summers by dumping Walker’s pricy contract and could be planning to go after a big name via trade or free agency with that added flexibility.
And now that Horford and Moses Brown have arrived, Boston suddenly seems to have more bigs than necessary. Not many Celtics fans would lose sleep if Tristan Thompson was dealt, which is good because his $9.7 million expiring contract is nicely tradeable.
The numbers and contract situation don’t quite shake out for Thompson to stay in Boston for the long-term. Compared to Horford or Williams, he’s also a traditional big who doesn’t boast as many versatile skills either. Of course, his toughness down in the paint is a welcome sign and could be something Boston values.
Horford is locked in through the next two seasons, including a partially-guaranteed final year. Williams will be a restricted free agent, but he’s shown potential to be the center of the future, pending his health. Brown signed a four-year deal with Oklahoma City, though the final three years of his contract are non-guaranteed.
So many personnel decisions are shaped by the financial factors, which is unfortunate. I miss the days when Red Auerbach didn’t need back-up center Mel Counts but did need a power forward, so Mel was sent to the Baltimore Bullets for future Hall of Famer Bailey Howell (another W for Red). It was that simple. No math or legal training required.
Back to today, I’m hopeful that good fortune continues to find the Celtics. They certainly deserve it.
On Page 2: This doesn’t sound good
“The Celtics were among the teams that I know of that didn’t take Covid seriously,” Mannix said. “They continued to go out on the road, and would find ways to skirt the rules at times when they were traveling. They didn’t take these protocols seriously — not as seriously as some other teams did. Washington, when they had all of their Covid issues back in January and early February, they blamed Boston. They complained to the league that the Celtics, because of what they had heard about players going out in Florida I believe it was, they believed they contracted their issues through the Celtics.” […]
Mannix says the Celtics skirted around those rules, which may have cost them games. Through early April, they lost a total of 131 player-days due to Covid-19, more than the bottom 10 clubs combined. It was a significant contributor to their constant lineup shuffling.
This is one report from one reporter, which may amount to nothing – but it has the potential to be trouble. If the league investigates and determines the organization willfully disregarded the Covid rules, the penalties could be costly.
A major obstacle this season was that Jayson Tatum, Romeo Langford, Tristan Thompson and Evan Fournier all missed extensive time due to Covid. If the Celtics did that to themselves, that’s just stupid.
And, finally… Media mania
Brian Scalabrine has signed a multiyear contract extension with NBC Sports Boston to continue as the lead analyst on Celtics broadcasts.
Scalabrine, 43, spent five of his 11 NBA seasons with the Celtics, winning a championship in 2007-08. He has been part of NBCSB’s Celtics broadcast team since 2015-16.
He will serve as the game analyst for every Celtics broadcast on the network alongside Mike Gorman, who will be entering his 40th season as the team’s television play-by-play voice in 2021-22.
NBC Sports Boston: Brian Scalabrine gets multiyear extension to stay with NBC Sports Boston
Based on what I’ve seen from many Celtics fans on Twitter, this isn’t the best news of the day. Not everyone is a fan of Scal’s loud and boisterous style in his roles as game analyst and commentator on pregame and postgame shows. But it looks like everyone better get used to it.
To be fair, Scal is in a tough spot: he’s never, ever going to be beloved like Tommy Heinsohn was. After Tommy’s passing, Scal was on every game and almost every studio segment last season; there was no break from him. For whatever reason, he seemed at times to be pissed off, and he usually took it out on fan favorite and studio host Abby Chin. Those were some terrible optics, not to mention another popularity contest that Scal had no hope of winning.
I have no doubt that Scal earned this contract. He’s insightful in his game analysis, effectively working in the technical aspects and coaching terminology behind the game we’re seeing on our screens. And Mike is such a pro that he keeps Scal in line without difficulty. Now all the redhead needs to do is just lighten up a bit, soften his tone, and maybe Twitter will ease up on him in return.
The other media episode of this week was Jay Williams’ epic brain fart. If you missed it, he tweeted congrats to Udoka for being the first person of color ever hired to coach the Celtics. Of course, that was wildly incorrect. Udoka is the Celtics’ sixth black head coach (among 18 total), and the Cs have won five titles under the leadership off black coaches. Williams deleted the tweet and made it worse for himself by claiming his account had been hacked.
Absolutely no one believed this, and apparently, fellow ESPN basketball analyst Jalen Rose is among that list of folks. The two were on set ahead of Game 3 of Clippers-Suns and spent some time discussing Game 1 of Hawks-Bucks. Williams raised a point where he was correct about how Trae Young would cook Milwaukee’s defense if it employed drop coverage against him, but Rose, being the pro that he is, slipped an “I got hacked” in there as an excuse for being wrong.
That link contains a video of the exchange. Williams doesn’t break stride – he ignores Rose, just like he has ignored the countless fans and media who’ve mocked him. No apology, no “my bad,” not even an acknowledgement that he stuffed up.
Actually, maybe Williams did us all a favor by causing media to highlight the Celtics’ lineage of black head coaches. It’s a history that more fans should know.