Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Celtics’ quiet summer good enough

6 Comments

NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Celtics are in great shape.

They were always going to be in great shape.

Boston just reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals with Gordon Hayward missing practically the entire season and Kyrie Irving missing the entire postseason. Those stars return to a team that still has Jayson Tatum and Al Horford and Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier and… This roster is stacked. Though the Rockets and Raptors can stake legitimate claims, I’d rate the Celtics second in the NBA behind the Warriors.

If that weren’t enough, Boston also has 2-3 extra first-rounders coming – from the Kings or 76ers, Grizzlies and maybe Clippers. It’s an embarrassment of riches.

So, unlike last season, when they turned over 11 of 15 players from a conference finalist, the Celtics remained pretty quiet this year. And that’s totally fine. Boston didn’t to win the offseason. Winning the last several was enough.

The Celtics re-signed Marcus Smart (four years, $52 million) and Aron Baynes (two years, $10,646,880).

Will Smart hold positive trade value? His style of play is so unconventional, teams might not believe they can fit him in.

Did Boston really have to give Baynes a player option or even a second guaranteed season? He’ll turn 32 this year.

But those questions are minor compared to the biggest takeaway: Smart and Baynes will help the Celtics over their contracts. Boston coach Brad Stevens knows how to use those two, and keeping them was important.

It might take the Celtics into the luxury tax, which ownership has shown a willingness to pay – and good for them. Their spending should bring advantages. That said, I also wouldn’t be surprised if Boston sheds a small amount of salary this season to avoid the tax and delay the repeater clock.

The Celtics drafted Robert Williams, who slipped to No. 27 because he’s immature then saw first-hand just how immature he is. Most rookies have their acts together more than that, but Williams’ career won’t necessarily be irrevocably derailed by immaturity at age 20.

Other moves were even smaller – trading Abdel Nader to the Thunder and signing Jabari Bird and Brad Wanamaker to minimum deals.

Really, the most significant move of Boston’s offseason was arguably LeBron James leaving the Eastern Conference he had dominated for the last eight years. No team was more impeded by LeBron during that run than the Celtics.

But even if LeBron re-signed with the Cavaliers, I still probably would have picked Boston to win the East this year. Without two stars, the young Celtics nearly beat an old Cleveland team last year. The road just gets a little easier with LeBron gone.

I’m extremely bullish on Boston. It just has little to do with this summer.

Offseason grade: C+

Report: Bulls likely to keep Jim Boylen as coach for financial reasons

Bulls coach Jim Boylen
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Bulls appeared ready to fire Jim Boylen. After all, Chicago just hired a new team president in Arturas Karnisovas who’d want to pick his own coach. That was unlikely to be Boylen, whose tenure had been defined by players disliking him, ill-timed timeouts and losing.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

But as the Sun-Times learned this week, even if Karnisovas didn’t like what he would have seen from Boylen he would likely be handcuffed from making a change.

According to several sources, there is strong growing momentum that financial concerns the Reinsdorfs have about the 2020-21 NBA season will keep Boylen in his current seat, as well as most of the coaching staff.

Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf has earned a reputation for his frugality. However, the economic downturn surrounding the coronavirus pandemic has caused many teams to tighten their belts. The financial consequences will likely continue into next season.

But this puts Chicago at a disadvantage.

Boylen has looked like one of the NBA’s worst coaches. Though Bulls ownership is more optimistic than most on Boylen and he could exceed expectations, it’s telling that Chicago probably wouldn’t have kept him based on merit. This is about saving money and hoping for the best.

That’s obviously great news for Boylen. He has improved significantly since taking over last season. More time on the job could allow him to grow into it. That said, improving from a near-mutiny in his early days doesn’t exactly mean he’s in an acceptable place now. Boylen still has a long way to go, and it could be more difficult if players are tired of him.

Nets fined $25K for injury-reporting violation

Brooklyn Nets
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Earlier this season, Kyrie Irving missed several weeks with a shoulder injury. Throughout the absence, the Nets provided few details and no clear timeline. Eventually, a report said Irving could miss 2-3 additional weeks with bursitis. The Nets denied it. Later, Irving confirmed he had bursitis then returned nearly three weeks after the report.

Finally, Brooklyn caught the league’s ire.

NBA release:

The NBA today announced that the Brooklyn Nets have been fined $25,000 for failing to comply with league policies governing injury reporting.

It’s unclear what specifically caused this violation. Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen, Jamal Crawford and Rodions Kurucs have all appeared on the Nets’ injury report during the resumption. As 19-point underdog, Brooklyn pulled a historic upset of the Bucks. Remember, public injury disclosures are primarily about preserving gambling integrity.

For the NBA not to reveal even basic details while fining the Nets for their lack of transparency is ironic. It’s also ironic this fine comes amid a restart that featured the NBA being highly secretive about player heath.

The Clippers got fined $50,000 earlier this season for saying Kawhi Leonard was healthy. What did Brooklyn do that was less egregious but still worth of a fine?

LeBron James says Lakers have off-court issues, out vs. Rockets (groin)

Lakers star LeBron James
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Lakers’ offense has stumbled so far in the bubble.

Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

LeBron gave a weird answer about this. He agreed that he and the Lakers were looking for a rhythm on offense. And then he said: “It’s just some things that you can’t control that’s here, that I really don’t want to talk about, that’s off the floor.”

Mike Trudell of the Lakers:

Was LeBron referring to his groin injury? I wouldn’t call that an off-court issue, but maybe he would.

LeBron knows how to work the media. This subtle comment will draw attention and sets up LeBron to look better if he leads the Lakers through this mysterious issue.

Without more context, it’s easy for imaginations to wander – especially about a team with Dwight Howard, Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith. The Lakers could be facing a major hurdle. Or a minor nuisance. Who knows? But the unknown is scary.

It’ll be difficult to detect the Lakers’ progress during remaining seeding games. The Lakers have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, and without a home-court advantage in the NBA Finals, there’s no reason to chase the NBA’s best overall record. That’s why LeBron missing tonight’s game against the Rockets could be mostly precautionary.

76ers: Ben Simmons suffered subluxation of knee cap, considering treatment options

Leave a comment

Ben Simmons injured his knee during the 76ers’ win over the Wizards yesterday.

The diagnosis is in, and the prognosis sounds worrisome.

Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

How quickly will Simmons recover? Once he recovers, will he face elevated risk of re-injury?

These questions now haunt Simmons and Philadelphia.

Simmons is a young star who’ll begin a max contract extension next season. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons opened Philadelphia’s championship window, and now rain is drizzling through. Philadelphia can’t reach it ceiling without Simmons healthy and providing value.

Even more modest goals in a disjointed season will be more difficult to reach.

The 76ers were just adjusting to playing Simmons at power forward. Now, they must again re-configure their plan – maybe for a significant chunk of the remainder of the season.

Even more burden falls onto Embiid, who has been shouldering so much with this mismatched roster. Simmons plays across the positional spectrum, so any number of 76ers could fill in while he’s out. Many of those lesser players will complement Embiid more smoothly than Simmons did. But the talent deficit without Simmons can’t be offset.

That’s the scary issue for now – and maybe a while.