Marcus Morris

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Co-owner: Celtics will pay luxury tax to win a title

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The Celtics traded Avery Bradley to clear cap space to sign Gordon Hayward now, but they also positioned themselves to save a lot of money in future seasons.

Bradley and Isaiah Thomas – who wants a Brinks truck backed up – will be unrestricted free agents next summer. With Hayward and Al Horford already on new-TV-deal max contracts, keeping that core together would have been quite costly. Instead, Boston preemptively swapped Bradley for Marcus Morris, who’s locked into a relatively cheap deal for two more seasons.

Are the Celtics willing to pay the luxury tax?

Co-owner Steve Pagliuca, via Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald:

“I don’t know if it’s inevitable, but if we feel it’s going to help us win a championship, then we will,” he said. “We have a history of doing what we need to do to win.

“But you have to be careful — if you sign people to bad contracts, it’s going to preclude you from signing other players. But I’m very happy with how it’s gone.”

Nearly all owners say they’d pay the luxury tax for a winner. Fewer actually do it.

But Boston ownership has a proven track record, paying the tax every season from 2007-08 to 2012-13. In those six years, the Celtics won a title, reached two Finals and made the playoffs every year.

That was before the repeater tax came into effect, so maybe this ownership group – led by Wyc Grousbeck – won’t again approve exceeding the tax line for so many straight seasons. But with asset-rich Boston entering a lengthy period of contending, we’ll see. And we’ll see how high its payroll will get in any single year.

The Celtics have proven their willingness to pay the luxury tax. The open question is just how much of it.

But Thomas should hear a “beep, beep, beep” approaching.

Suns didn’t draft Kawhi Leonard, in part, because he sweated too much during interview

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A snapshot of the 2011 NBA draft:

The Morrii have had nice careers, but why did Phoenix pass on Leonard, who has become one of the NBA’s best players?

Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic (hat tip: Scott Howard):

But with a front office conducting its first draft in Phoenix, then-General Manager Lance Blanks’ staff did not have Leonard in the discussion. Part of the Suns’ knock on Leonard, beyond his perimeter shot, was how nervously he acted in a draft combine interview, when he sweated through his suit.

That’s from a 2015 article, but the humor and lesson are lasting.

Teams sometimes drive themselves crazy in the pre-draft process by overanalyzing players. Interviews are important, but like every factor, nobody should overreact to them.

The Spurs didn’t see a sweaty wreck. They saw a good defender with potential to develop offensively and the diligence to work at his craft. And they were very right.

Report: Pistons plan to match any Kentavious Caldwell-Pope offer sheet, even a max

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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Bad news for the Nets or any team planning to pursue Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in restricted free agency this summer.

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

The Pistons are prepared to match any offer sheet he receives, even if it produced a maximum contract, according to multiple persons with firsthand knowledge of the franchise’s thinking.

One person told the Free Press: “We can’t lose him.”

This is the right course for Detroit.

If the Pistons let Caldwell-Pope walk, they’d have just the $8,406,000 mid-level exception or so to replace him. That’d yield a far lesser player, which is untenable for Detroit with too many players – Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris and Jon Leuer – under contract and at least theoretically ready to win now.

The 24-year-old Caldwell-Pope should remain productive through his next contract, which makes paying him major money less risky. He’s a strong defender, solid 3-point shooter and fantastic transition threat. Teams can’t get enough two-way wings as small ball gains popularity. His recent DUI arrest is unlikely significantly affect his stock, because his blood-alcohol content registered barely above the legal limit and he has an otherwise solid reputation as a diligent worker.

Caldwell-Pope would likely  get max offers if he were an unrestricted free agent. By putting word out now, the Pistons might dissuade other teams from wasting their time pursuing him. More likely, Detroit opens the door to negotiating a five-year deal with Caldwell-Pope rather than matching a shorter offer sheet from another team, which can be for a max of four years.

Interestingly, the next Collective Bargaining Agreement bans teams from declaring an intent to match all offers for a restricted free agent. It’s unclear how the league will enforce anonymously sourced reports like this, because the Pistons have plausible deniability they didn’t provide Ellis the information. More importantly in this case, the next CBA has not yet taken effect. The Pistons have wide latitude for another couple months to publicly negotiate Caldwell-Pope’s next contract – a deal that increasingly appears will return him to Detroit.

Bulls’ Jimmy Butler waits to high-five Pistons’ Marcus Morris, who just missed FT (video)

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Jimmy Butler ought to feel fortunate Marcus Morris didn’t smack him for this (admittedly harmless, but still infuriating) stunt.

Butler wasn’t so lucky with the game’s result. The Pistons beat the Bulls, 109-95.

Pistons set season high for points in 136-106 rout of 76ers

Associated Press
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 13 of his 26 points in Detroit’s dominating third quarter, and the Pistons set a season high for points while rolling to a 136-106 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

The Pistons, holding the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, had lost two of three, including Wednesday’s 109-86 drubbing at New Orleans that resulted in coach Stan Van Gundy calling out point guard Reggie Jackson.

Van Gundy told reporters Friday that he wanted to see Jackson play with more energy and contemplated starting backup point guard Ish Smith over Jackson on Saturday. Jackson, though, did make the start and scored 21 points.

Marcus Morris scored 22 points, Tobias Harris added 20 and Andre Drummond had 14 points, 14 rebounds, four steals and three blocks, one game after getting ejected for swatting the Pelicans’ Tim Frazier in the back of the head.

Detroit shot a season-best 56.8 percent, making 54 of 95 field goals.

Already short-handed due to the loss of Joel Embiid (knee) for the season, not to mention the absence of No. 1 pick Ben Simmons (foot) all season, Philadelphia was without center Jahlil Okafor (right knee soreness) while playing the second game of a back-to-back set. Nik Stauskas had 24 points.

The Pistons put the game out of reach in the third quarter when they scored 39 points, the most they’ve scored in a third quarter this season, to expand their 67-52 halftime advantage to 106-82 entering the fourth.

Detroit led by as many as 30 points in the period and made 17 of 28 field goals, including 4 of 9 3-pointers. Drummond had eight points and six rebounds in the period.

Philadelphia was playing one night after a 105-102 home win over the Knicks. Justin Anderson tied his career high with 19 points and drew accolades for his defense on New York star Carmelo Anthony, who was 5 for 18 from the field. Anderson had five points against the Pistons.

The Pistons pulled away with a 19-4 run over the final 4:19 of the first half that broke a 48-all tie and gave Detroit a 15-point halftime lead. Smith had four points and three assists during the spurt, capping it with a high floater with 1.3 seconds left.

Smith, who played in 50 games for the 76ers last season, finished with 11 points and 13 assists.

TIP-INS

Pistons: After setting an NBA mark for futility by a team attempting 10 free throws with a 3-for-17 performance from the foul line on Wednesday, the Pistons were 18 for 21 from the line against Philadelphia. Smith started the first 21 games of the season in place of the injured Jackson (knee). Detroit’s previous scoring high was 125 in a 125-124 win at Portland on Jan. 7.

76ers: Gerald Henderson (hip) missed his second straight game. Philadelphia’s 15 first-half turnovers equaled the most in any half this season.