Report: Brad Stevens’ dedication to Gordon Hayward caused chemistry issues with Celtics

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Things are not all well in Boston. The Celtics are already in a free fall when it comes to free agency, and it’s not yet July. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford are reportedly poised not to return to TD Garden next year. Now, a team that was aiming for the NBA Finals next year could be in serious trouble.

Things have quickly fallen apart for Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens, who are left with a team that also has an apparent enemy in one of the biggest agencies in Klutch Sports. Boston reportedly backed out of serious offers in trade negotiations with the New Orleans Pelicans in part because they felt as though Klutch client Anthony Davis would not re-sign after one year.

Basketball is a game of chemistry, and the Celtics seemed to lose theirs over the course of the year. At least externally, it appeared Boston was disintegrating. Now, according to a report from Jackie MacMullan, we have some confirmation of this rift.

Via NBC Sports Boston:

“You hate to pick on Gordon Hayward because he was coming back from injury and he was doing the best he could, but I really think that’s where it started,” she said. “They were force feeding him on his teammates, Brad [Stevens] knew Gordon well, he wanted to get his confidence back.

“I would contend that Brad Stevens would have done that for any player on that roster that had a catastrophic injury, he would want to fill him with that same confidence, but that’s not what happened,” MacMullan continued. “He gave the benefit of the doubt over and over to a player that wasn’t ready, to a guy who had history with him, and it rankled that locker room, and it bothered that locker room.”

The Celtics have a roster on paper that should have been good enough to get them deep into the playoffs. But Hayward returned and never really looked like himself, and Stevens devoting his faith to his former Butler Bulldog was obviously misplaced.

Chemistry issues for Boston we’re not all to blame on Stevens and Hayward. Irving is perennially mercurial. Given a situation where he got his own team (whatever that means) he didn’t lead the way folks were expecting.

Unless something drastic can be done — and don’t put it past Danny Ainge to get wild — Boston could be taking a step back next season.

Their saving grace, ironically, could be a fully healthy Hayward who has more reign to do what he wants and an unrestricted role on offense. We’ll see how that goes.

DeMarcus Cousins on returning for Warriors in 2019 NBA Finals: ‘I had no business on the floor’

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We spent considerable time discussing whether the Warriors mishandled Kevin Durant‘s injury.

What about DeMarcus Cousins‘?

Cousins tore his quad in the second game of the 2019 playoffs. Golden State coach Steve Kerr said Cousins would likely miss the rest of the postseason. Cousins – who’d spent most of the previous year rehabbing a torn Achilles suffered with the Pelicans – later revealed he was ready to quit.

But Cousins played and even started in the NBA Finals

Cousins on All The Smoke:

I was terrible in the Finals. One leg, was a one-legged bandit on the floor. But you know what I’m saying? I wanted to be a part of it. Not only that, this is – in the Finals, you play hurt. If you can go, you can go.

That’s where you lay your body on the line. So, I went out there and gave it what I had. I mean, the results were unfortunate.

I helped. I helped in spots.

I wasn’t supposed to be on the floor.

I rehabbed a torn quad in six weeks.

And came back and played.

I had no business on the floor. None whatsoever.

I just kept telling myself, “This is what I’ve played for my entire career, to be on this stage, to have this opportunity. Whatever I’ve got to do to be able to be a part of that, I’m going to do it.”

I don’t even know how I did it, honestly, through the rehab. I went in there – s—, the first week, I laid in an oxygen tank, the first week, for like four hours a day, just laid there, ears, brain feels like it’s about to explode, bro. But it was supposed to promote healing and all this. So, I did that the whole first week. After that, rehabbed every single day. Maybe twice a day.

So, just to be a part of that moment. And I got the chance. Do I regret it? Hell no. That’s what I hoop for. Win or loss, I was a part of that. I’m OK with the results. Guess what? I got a little taste of it. I want it again. So, it’s all good.

I appreciate Cousins acknowledging that he pushed himself harder because of the stakes. It’s always dangerous playing hurt. But the cost-benefit analysis changes in the NBA Finals. This is the time players preserve their health for – especially Cousins, who spent years toiling with the Kings. It’s the time to more aggressively risk aggravating an injury.

That said, there are still limits. Teams should be somewhat responsible for protecting players from themselves. After everything with Durant and Andre Iguodala saying he broke his leg but the Warriors called it just a bruise, this raises more questions about Golden State’s handling of injuries.

Cousins felt the consequences hard.

Durant still got a potentially max four-year contract. Cousins settled for just $3.5 million for one year. Then, he tore his ACL over the summer. I definitely can’t say that’s related to rushing back from the quad injury, but it’s at least reasonable to wonder whether these leg injuries are building on each other. The Lakers waived Cousins, and though they might re-sign him, that’d probably be for the minimum.

Cousins said he has no regrets, and we should salute his competitiveness. We can also feel sympathy for his predicament and question the Warriors for playing him. We don’t have to choose a single takeaway from a complex situation.

Draymond Green gets ejected, LeBron James tries to hide smirk (video)

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Steve Kerr vented after the Warriors’ loss to the Lakers last night.

Draymond Green did it during the game.

Green got a technical foul midway through the second quarter. Eleven seconds later, he got another tech and automatic ejection.

LeBron Jamessidelined due to a groin injury – sure enjoyed the spectacle from the Lakers’ bench.

Green might have also enjoyed the aftermath, getting an early exit from Golden State’s 30-point loss.

Three Things to Know: Joel Embiid out at least a week, Sixers shift focus to getting healthy

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday during the NBA regular season we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) Joel Embiid will be out at least a week, Philadelphia shifts focus to getting healthy. Clippers coach Doc Rivers was asked about this Monday night, in the wake of his team having a rash of injuries this season while also making sure guys got to rest during the 82. If forced to choose, Rivers wants his team fully healthy entering the playoffs and would give up good seeding to get it.

That’s where the Philadelphia 76ers find themselves now. Coach Brett Brown may not want to have to choose, but ultimately he and his Sixers need to get healthy before the playoffs start. That has to be the priority.

Joel Embiid will be out at least a week with a sprained shoulder, although the MRI reportedly showed no structural damage. As much as Embiid will push to get back on the court, he’s been playing through a few minor injuries and this is the time the Philly staff should make sure he is right before the physicality of the playoffs comes.

Embiid being out is on top of Philly’s other All-Star, Ben Simmons, being out weeks with a pinched nerve in his lower back. The timeline on Simmons’ return is harder to predict because backs and nerves are more unpredictable. He could miss more than a couple of weeks getting this right.

The Sixers responded well on Thursday with a 115-106 win over lowly Knicks, behind Tobias Harris’ 34 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. The Sixers are now 28-2 at home.

Next up is a stiffer test: Doc Rivers’ Clippers out in Los Angeles, the start of a four-game road trip through the West.

2) Anthony Davis steps up with LeBron James out, the Lakers rout the struggling Warriors. For Golden State, the cavalry — in the form of Stephen Currycould ride over the hill as soon as Sunday to help save the day.

Thursday night, however, the Warriors looked every bit the worst team in the NBA going against one of the best in the Lakers.

Things went frustratingly poorly for Steve Kerr’s squad: Draymond Green got ejected in the second quarter, the Warriors turned the ball over 27 times, the Lakers won the third quarter 40-17, and after that there was a lot of garbage time on the way to a 116-86 Los Angeles rout of Golden State.

For the Lakers, this was the kind of win they need to keep a cushion on the top of the West (they currently have a 5.5 game lead over the second-seeded Nuggets, six games in the loss column). It’s the kind of cushion that lets them rest key players down the stretch before the playoffs — LeBron and company will call it something other than load management, but they shouldn’t worry about the semantics and just make sure guys get fresh before the postseason. That’s going to be a tough grind for everyone.

3) The NBA fines Minnesota $25,000 for resting a healthy D’Angelo Russell. Minnesota shrugs. The NBA knew that when it came to flopping, warning players and then, after three violations, fining them $5,000, was not the kind of financial hit that would get players to stop doing it. The hope was that making it public every time would shame them into doing it less. In the aggregate, it worked.

It’s not going to be the same with fining teams $25,000 for resting healthy players. It’s just going to lead to a semantics dance.

Thursday the league slapped a $25K fine on Minnesota for “violating the league’s player resting policy.” The league is very sensitive to the “load managment” PR issues.

The Timberwolves’ response was essentially a shrug.

The new management team in Minnesota is very focused on modernizing the health and player development programs in the organization. Resting Russell was part of that, and if they felt the need to make sure Russell was good to go for future games they were not going to be dissuaded from sitting him.

Especially if the cost is just $25,000.

Every other NBA team is going to feel the same way. At this point in the season (and much earlier than this, in reality), every NBA player has bumps/bruises/strains/aches that could use a little rest to get healthy. It is not a stretch for teams to say, “Player X is out due to a sore ankle” (or whatever body part they choose) as opposed to listing him out for rest. It’s a loss for transparency, but teams aren’t going to do things differently. Nor should they. Player health — and, in some cases, making sure they are rested and right for the playoffs — should be the priority.

Frustrated Steve Kerr vents a little after Warriors loss to Lakers (VIDEO)

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Nothing that happened should have been a surprise: The Lakers are one of the NBA’s best teams this regular season and even without LeBron James should have had little trouble with the worst team in the league this season, the Warriors. They didn’t. Draymond Green got ejected in the second quarter, the Warriors turned the ball over 27 times, the Lakers won the third quarter 40-17 and from there cruised to a 116-86 rout of Golden State.

After the game, Kerr was frustrated with his team’s effort in its eighth straight loss. Via Logan Murdoch of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“We understand where we are record-wise,” Kerr said. “But we still have a standard that we need to play to and we didn’t do that…

“Tonight was a step backward in the second half,” Kerr admitted. “I was very disappointed with all of the turnovers. We just let things slip away from us…

“For the most part, this year has gone well in terms of our level of competition and energy,” Kerr said. “But that second half was not up to our standards…

“I think you can probably attribute the lack of continuity to that,” Kerr said. “We’re putting some lineups that haven’t been together all year. Having said that, a lot of careless one-handed passing, cross-court, right into the defender’s arms. A lot of plays that just had nothing to do with continuity and everything to do with fundamentals.”

The Warriors have some hope on the horizon in the form of the return of Stephen Curry, which could happen as early as Sunday against the Wizards. That is what Curry wants, Kerr is being a little more cautious, but it should happen soon.

That should bring a few more wins. Not enough to move the Warriors far up in the lottery, but enough to keep Kerr sane.