Associated Press

Three Things to Know: Celtics show up to rout Warriors

6 Comments

Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) The Gordon Hayward Boston thought it was getting showed up, Celtics impress routing Warriors. That is the Boston Celtics we expected to see all season, the Celtics who can beat anyone in the East. Apparently, they just needed to get out of the cold Boston winter, come to California and get warm.

Boston opened the game on an 11-0 run, got 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting off the bench from Gordon Hayward, moved the ball on offense, trusted each other, and most importantly communicated and were clean on their switches on defense. The result was the Celtics blowing out the defending NBA champ Warriors 128-95.

After dropping 5-of-6 in a string of sloppy losses, each defeat followed by comments about a lack of unity, this was the kind of game the Celtics needed. They played with the kind of joy the Warriors always talk about — Kyrie Irving looked like he was having fun, scoring 19, dropping 11 dimes, and barking at the Warriors bench.

Can the Celtics build on it during their four-game road trip through the West, or was this game the aberration?

Hayward was in attack mode from the minute he stepped on the court and was throwing down dunks all over the place.

What did we learn about Golden State? Nothing. They’re bored. They don’t have Klay Thompson. They find the regular season tedious and want to get on with the playoffs. That was the worst Warriors loss of the Steve Kerr era. Yawn.

To Boston, it doesn’t matter what Golden State team showed up — that was the kind of win this team desperately needed to turn things around before the playoffs.

Now we see whether it was a one-off, or the start of something.

2) Is Houston’s offense good enough to make them second best team in West? Looked like it against Toronto. Throughout James Harden’s historic run, and continuing through the Rockets’ current six-game win streak, one thing has been constant: Their defense still isn’t very good. Even during this win streak, when it’s been better, they have the 14th ranked defense in the league, just middle of the pack. It has put a damper on expectations.

But with Chris Paul resurgent and the offense clicking at an elite level, does it matter? Can the Rockets’ offense propel them to the Western Conference Finals?

It looked like it Tuesday when the Rockets went into Toronto and took a 22-point lead over the Raptors before eventually winning 107-95.

They still have Harden, who scored the team’s final 16 points and had 19 of his 35 in the fourth to secure the win.

Who is the second best team in the West? Oklahoma City? Denver? Portland? The Rockets, when playing like this, can hang with any of them. Even if their defense isn’t what it was a year ago.

3) Mike Conley reminds everyone why they should trade for him this summer, sparks Grizzlies upset of Trail Blazers. Some team is going to give up plenty this summer to trade for Mike Conley. No team met the Grizzlies high asking price at the trade deadline, but that will be different this summer (and the price likely drops a little).

Tuesday night showed why teams want the man.

Conley had 19 in the fourth, 40 for the game, and was the reason the Grizzlies beat the Trail Blazers Tuesday night. (Well, that and it was the final game of a seven-game road trip for Portland and the team was done.)

Next season, in a situation more conducive to winning than the starting-the-rebuild Grizzlies, Mike Conley is going to show everyone why he finally needs to be an All-Star one year.

Just a reminder, after draft and free agency Wizards have still not named official GM

Rob Carr/Getty Images
Leave a comment

When Wizards owner Ted Leonsis finally ended Ernie Grunfeld’s run as team GM back in April — to the joy of Wizards fans everywhere — it was expected they would have a new head of basketball operations in place by the draft.

Nope.

So by the start of free agency, to guide the Wizards through this tumultuous summer?

Nope.

Tommy Sheppard has been doing the job on an interim basis, and as Jeff Zillgit of the USA Today points out a lot of league talk in Las Vegas was about why Leonsis just hasn’t given Shepard the job.

Team executive after executive had the same question when the Washington Wizards’ unresolved top front-office job opening came up. “Why not just give Tommy the job?”

Tommy is Tommy Sheppard, the Wizards’ longtime exec, who has been running basketball operations since owner Ted Leonsis decided not to bring Ernie Grunfeld back. Sheppard ran the draft, free agency and the Wizards’ Summer League team, but he doesn’t have the full-time job.

A couple of more prominent names were linked to the Wizards job at points. There were reportedly talks with Tim Conley, who built Denver into a real threat, but he decided to stay in the Rockies. There were rumors of Masai Ujiri, but he has chosen to stay in Toronto after winning a title.

At this point, after Sheppard has built the team for this coming season, is Leonsis really going to bring in someone else?

The Wizards have decisions to make. This is a young roster not ready to be a threat in the East, but with Bradley Beal and the injured John Wall (likely out for the season after tearing his Achilles), they also are capped out. So far they have turned away calls from other teams about a Beal trade (nobody is calling about a Wall trade with his max contract extension just kicking in).

Come July 26 the Wizards can offer Beal a three-year, $111 million extension, both sides are talking and the offer is expected to be made. That’s when the big decision comes — if Beal doesn’t sign that offer the Wizards have to look at trading him. Beal has spoken numerous times in the past about wanting to stay with the Wizards, but there was plenty of informed league speculation at Summer League that he is frustrated with the franchise and may not sign the extension, essentially forcing his way out. It’s something to watch in the coming weeks.

It probably would be nice to have a locked-in head of basketball operations by then, but who knows what Leonsis will do.

Cameron Payne reportedly agrees to partially-guaranteed contract with Toronto

Getty Images
1 Comment

Cameron Payne was the starting point guard at one point early in the season in Chicago (until Kris Dunn returned), it didn’t last long, and by the middle of the season he was waived. The Cavaliers picked him up in a limited role at the end of the season.

Payne played for Dallas at Summer League and needed to impress there to have a shot a roster spot for next season. He did, averaging 20 points per game on 51 percent shooting, and he had one 32-point game.

The Toronto Raptors will bring Payne and let him compete to be the third point guard, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Raptors have Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet at the point, there are not a lot of minutes to be had there. However, both men are in the final year of their contracts. Plus, he brings some pregame dancing that every team needs.

The Raptors now have 16 potential NBA contracts coming into training camp, which means there will be cuts. The fact Payne has a decent guarantee his first year means he’s going to get a real look.

Payne, the No. 14 pick of the Thunder back in 2015, has struggled to find a fit in the NBA. While his skill set should fit the modern game, he doesn’t quite shoot or distribute well enough to earn a coach’s trust. He will try to change that with Nick Nurse.

Enes Kanter trolls (jokingly) Kyrie Irving on why Kanter will wear No. 11 with Boston

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kyrie Irving is off to Brooklyn, which opened up the No. 11 jersey in Boston.

New Celtics center Enes Kanter will wear it, and his answer as to why is an awesome joke and troll of Irving.

You have to love the smile before he makes the joke, he has planned this out.

If you don’t get the “I want to be the reason no one else will” wear No. 11, you have to remember this Irving/Nike ad from Boston.

Well played Kanter, well played.

Report: Knicks’ Reggie Bullock could miss first month of season with injury

Leon Halip/Getty Images
1 Comment

On Tuesday, the Knicks made it official, they had signed sharpshooter Reggie Bullock to a two-year contract.

It had been a strange negotiation. Bullock had initially agreed to a two-year, $21 million contract with New York but after that (during the physicals) an injury of some nature came to light and the contract was re-negotiated down to two-years, $8.2 million (part of the room exception), money freed up allowed the Knicks to chase and land Marcus Morris.

Now comes a report Bullock will miss the start of the season with an injury. From Ian Begley of SNY.tv

There is no specific timetable for Bullock to be on the court at the moment. But, per SNY sources, Bullock is expected to miss at least a month of the regular season due to his ailment…

The medical issue that caused the hiccup is unclear, but Bullock has dealt with plantar fasciitis in the past.

Plantar fasciitis is something generally healed with rest, which Bullock should be getting plenty of this summer, making it a little unusual for it to extend into the season.

Bullock has a history of injury issues, having played 62 games two seasons ago in Detroit, then 63 last season between the Pistons and Lakers.

Bullock averaged 11.3 points and shot 37.7 percent from three last season. He will provide some much-needed floor spacing in New York, once he gets on the court.