Tag Archives: NBA rumors

2017 NBA Draft: Celtics take Tatum, Ojeleye, and another Bird

The Boston Celtics spent the last week driving the NBA internet nuts. Perhaps Mike Zarren has found a way to garner bitcoin off of search engine traffic related to Boston. The last week was full of peak-speculation and one actual trade that involved the top pick. This doesn’t happen. But it happened. And it will be okay, Celtics fans. Fultz does seem like a special talent…but remember that its easy to dream on 19 and 20 year-olds and convince yourself that your dreams of their success will soon become reality. After reading through Jonathan Abrams’ fantastic Boys Among Men, it will become clear just how uncertain the process of drafting young men one or two years out of high school with the hopes that they become world-class professional hoops magicians by age 23 or 24…how uncertain that process really is. By the way, read the book. Abrams is one of the better sportswriters working today, going deep with his profiles, unearthing deeper truths.

Still, despite the uncertainty, we read enough about a player and we believe. We love the player before he dons the uniform of our tribe…and then we regularly scorn the player for actually making his own choice about where to work. Free-agency was hard-won in all professional sports, but as fans, most of us remain focused on what we want out of the athlete, not on what the athlete wants for his or herself. Some make the argument that having a deeper level of sympathy or compassion for a man making $100 million over four years is too much to ask. Kind of like how the question of reparations for slavery is too much for many to even consider. Here we have a situation, the NBA Draft, where we obsess about potential, the future, and “assets.” The perfect cocktail for the internet age, where trade rumors spread like California wildfires and nothing ever makes any sense. And yet…there were a few impacting trades made this year, as we led up to the draft.

Boston Celtics

First GM Danny Ainge trades the top pick to Philadelphia for the 3rd pick, plus the 2018 Lakers pick if LA’s pick lands in the 2–5 spot next June. But if that Lakers pick doesn’t hit the high lottery sweet spot, Philadelphia will instead send a 2019 first-rounder to Boston that it acquired from the Sacramento Kings in the infamous Sauce Castillo (Nik Stauskas) swindle. The Kings will gradually improve with DeAaron Fox and Justin Jackson helping, but they’ll have a tough time winning 45 games in the crowded west by April of 2019. Watching Fox, I was amazed. Normally, I can’t watch NCAA Tournament for too long without getting annoyed by all the TV timeouts and the stagnant offense, but DeAaron Fox is really fast. John Wall-Isaiah type fast. He got wherever he wanted on the floor with his wiry frame. He’ll be fun.

So, this Celtics pick via Philly will either be great (Lakers, 2018) or possibly great (mid-to-late lottery, Kings 2019).

Why did Danny do it?

A half-dozen possible reasons:

  • Fultz and Isaiah wouldn’t be the most-ideal fit together.
  • Tatum can score in isolation and from the post. His body is more developed than the lanky Fultz. He’s 6’8″ and will be able to give the Celtics options in figuring out who will be the better long-term fit, Tatum or Jaylen Brown. Boston’s bench scoring needed a lift. They get it cheaply so they can attempt a free-agent run at Hayward/Griffin
  • The Lakers 2018 pick was too good a possibility to pass up. Not only could it be a top five pick…it was the rival Lakers pick we’d be stealing. Speaking of the Lakers, they got out from under what would have been a prickly situation with Ball coming in and reducing D’Angelo Russell to an afterthought. Instead, Russell may become an afterthought in Brooklyn (hope not, he doesn’t deserve to be given up on just yet). Clearing out Mozgov’s contract allows the Lakers fans to clear the red carpet for LeBron. Aging LeBron on 50-win Lakers in three years seems like a kind of minor tragedy.
  • They just really like Tatum and weren’t 100% in on Fultz becoming a once-every-five-years type of talent. Who knows?
  • They saved just over $1 million based on draft pick slot (3rd instead of 1st), which gives them a bit more to offer Hayward/Griffin.

From Chris Forsberg (ESPN Boston):

Ainge said the Celtics would have picked Tatum with the first pick if they had stayed in that spot before moving down to №3 in a trade earlier this week with the Philadelphia 76ers. Ainge gushed about both Tatum’s scoring potential and his versatility on the defensive end.

“We liked his size and length and rebounding and shooting. [His] Intelligence [and] character,” Ainge said. “There’s a lot to like about Jayson. He’s going to be a terrific player.”

Asked about trade rumors, including whispers that the Celtics were pursuing New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis, Ainge said, “I don’t comment on trade rumors. I will say this: It was a little blown out of proportion but I’ll just leave it at that. A lot more talk by [the media].”

Jayson Tatum: Let’s Take Him

From everything I’ve read, Jayson Tatum will be a very good isolation scorer…perhaps even soon…like within two years.

A link to a Tatum story from 2015, via STL Today. Tatum is from St. Louis.

http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/benjamin-hochman/hochman-like-godfather-like-godson-jayson-tatum-is-on-track/article_9599b815-ebc5-5a6a-8743-1cd389e3b0a7.html

Tatum’s Draft Express Profile: http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Jayson-Tatum-7249/

Fortunately the Celtics have a 53-win team that will probably add a high-level free-agent (Hayward still seems like the most likely possibility), and that will likely be it. No fireworks! None! Just a clear blue sky with a bright fucking future. Can we handle that?

Part of the issue is the culture of fandom is obsessed with stars. But sometimes the guys that become stars are unheralded. Sometimes they are picked 35th, sometimes they’re picked last (Isaiah). Sometimes, they’re not picked at all (Jonathan Simmons! Remember how good he was against Houston a month ago?)

Second Round Celtics Pick: Semi Ojeleye (SMU)

SI profile of Ojeleye from February:

https://www.si.com/college-basketball/2017/02/28/semi-ojeleye-smu-mustangs

From The Ringer:

There aren’t many sure-bets for the 3-and-D role in this year’s draft. Reed stands out as a good one — so does Villanova wing Josh Hart and the SMU duo of Sterling Brown and Semi Ojeleye. They’re all hiding in plain sight: Brown could go undrafted, and Ojeleye is likely a late-first-rounder at best. Ojeleye in particular, with his chiseled, Wreck-It Ralph body, has remarkable potential. There’s little doubt he will be able to effectively defend multiple positions. He also plays with intensity, which manifests in chase-down blocks.

Jabari Bird, 56th pick from Cal.

The Celtics had a chance to pick Bird again. So they did.

Wolves Howling

Anyway, the Timberwolves have some happy fans right now. They got the star. Jimmy Butler doesn’t have to move far to relocate from Chicago to Minneapolis. He’s headed for more snow this December. And Wolves fans are ecstatic. A core of Dieng-Towns-Butler-Wiggins-Rubio will battle for home court in the west, while the Clippers descend into mediocrity when Chris Paul and Griffin bolt, and the Jazz and Grizzlies try to hold firm to 48+ wins. Utah is balancing treacherously on the what-if-we-lose-Hayward?-waterslide. I’m happy for Thibs. I’m happy for Towns. I’m happy for Rubio. They need one more shooter…

Lingering Questions for Boston

Gordon Hayward?

Blake Griffin?

More trade speculation around Paul George, who probably needs a new public relations team. George has made it perfectly clear he’d like to stop playing basketball until he can move back to southern California.

Official signing date for free agents: July 9.

***

I wrote a basketball-themed memoir. It’s a collection of personal essays and reflections on the game of basketball, fandom, and identity. From childhood memories of growing up with the Boston Celtics, to playing the sport as a means of coping with adolescence, this is about basketball as a means of connection. Whether playing, watching, reading and writing about the NBA, or absorbing the intensity of being in the arena, the game has me firmly in its grasp. The book is my way of appreciating basketball and fandom.

http://www.blurb.com/b/8005459-the-dusty-jumper

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Celtics Making 8th Seed Noises (Scratching at the window of the Playoff Lobby)

Let us give credit where credit is due. After tearing down the Boston Celtics, month-by-month and trade-by-trade, GM Danny Ainge has begun to build an intriguing roster. As of today (Thursday, March 5) the Celtics sit on the edge of the playoff wall, two losses behind both Miami and Charlotte for the 7th and 8th seeds in the Eastern Conference. More importantly, they have won 4 of their last 6 games, including a very competitive loss to the Golden State Warriors, in which they blew an early 26-point lead. Boston has reason to hope, and that reason comes in the form of newly-acquired pint-sized point guard Isaiah Thomas. Since arriving, Thomas has recharged what was a sputtering Celtics offense. Thomas has scored 19 or more points in all but one of the 7 games, while playing fewer than 30 minutes per contest. Instant offense. Is Nescafe a truly awful nickname? Probably, but he’s instant something. In a promising development over the last week, Isaiah has 21 assists to only 8 turnovers in his last four games. All this goodness is happening without burly power forward Jared Sullinger, who went down with a stress fracture to his left foot on February 11. Many Celtics fans, myself included, thought the injury spelled the end of what was turning into a six-team race for the final two East playoff spots.

Instead, the Celtics are beating decent teams (Phoenix and Charlotte) and playing gritty basketball. It’s a refreshing scene.

I was about to write about Javale McGee and how, even though he’s become something of a punching bag, he will provide an intriguing rim protector for the Celtics bench, and gives fans one more reason to watch these final 20-plus games. Instead, I find that McGee has NOT agreed to the deal that was rumored this morning. The mirage of NBA rumors strikes a false note once again. Apparently there was a disagreement about next year’s option. According to NBC’s ProBasketball Talk, McGee wanted a player-option, while the Celtics wanted the team-option. After the injuries and lackluster production this year (only played in 23 games, totaling 256 total minutes), McGee was traded to Philadelphia, who needed the salary to reach the cap floor, and then waived after 6 games.

So…back to having no backup big man as of yet. Tyler Zeller, who hit the game-winning, twisting, up-faking lay-up to beat Utah last night, remains the man in the middle.

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The Celtics and Rondo: Endless Waves of Speculation

At this point, it feels less like speculation and more like inevitability. The Boston Celtics are one of the NBA’s beloved franchises, with a devoted base of fans who are particularly active on the internet (unlike…say…the Atlanta Hawks). Those Celtics fans over the age of 60 have been spoiled by the franchise’s historical dominance dating back to the late 1950’s. Seventeen NBA championships in all. Sixteen between 1957 and 1986. Younger Celtics fans, especially those born after 1985, have the Pierce-Garnett-Allen-Rondo years (2007-2012) to appreciate Celtics greatness. Being born in 1980 means I have foggy memories of the end of the Bird-McHale-Parish-DJ Celtics of the 80’s. It means that I came of age during an especially mediocre period of Celtics history (1993-2001) when the Celtics refused to win more than 36 games in any season, in addition to absorbing the premature death of Celtics star Reggie Lewis in 1993. Pervis Ellison? Check. David Wesley? Check. Stojko Vrankovic? Indeed. Today’s Celtics are in danger of getting stuck amid the flotsam and jetsam of the Association. Entering “Year Two” of a rebuilding project that many are hoping does not resemble the Big Dig (in which construction lasted from 1991-2006).

The NBA rumor mill in the age of Twitter is less like a mill and more like an garment factory in southeast Asia that is known to exploit its workers and spit out misshapen clothing and damaged fingers. Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who is now the last man standing from the 2007-08 Celtics championship team, was 21 when he found himself as the lucky young starting PG in a starting lineup full of NBA legends Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. As we head toward the 2014-15 season, Rondo remains the subject of endless trade speculation, which started shortly after the Pierce-Garnett-to-Brooklyn trade last July. Recently, renowned Boston reporter Jackie MacMullan was recorded in an off-camera moment by ESPN’s “Around the Horn” crew remarking on the fact that Rondo “wants out” of Boston.

 

This piece of information is equivalent to kerosene on the already glowing fire of speculation. There are Celtics fans, like myself, who are pro-keeping-Rondo (either for his ability and potential leadership or the fact that the demand for Rondo on the trade market is not all that high). Then there are the trade-Rondo-yesterday fans (many influenced by the various media hype-men who never stop dreaming up trades. The truth is likely neither that Rondo is a savior or that a trade of Rondo would solve all the Celtics issues (shot-blocker, scorer, few veterans). 

My issue is this: being a fan of a team becomes brutal and unbearable when impatience surrounds everything about your team. If there is a trade, okay. If there isn’t, okay. But the unending string of barely-substantiated rumors is simply deflating. If a Kevin Love trade provided a glimmer of hope for some, the fact that Love was traded to Cleveland made life harder for those hopeful Celtics fans. Rondo has been in an impossible situation for most of his career:

Consider:

  • He was 21 years old and asked to be the starting point guard on a championship contending team.
  • He came out of college with a jump shot that was best described as a “work in progress.”
  • When he emerged as a triple-double threat, he was soon after criticized for worrying too much about his assist numbers.
  • When he took over several playoff series (1st Rd vs Chicago, 2009; 2nd Rd vs Cleveland, 2010) he was rightly praised for his versatility and passing genius. Soon after, he was criticized for not playing at that otherworldly level throughout the grind of the 82-game regular season.
  • Throughout Rondo’s success, he was always viewed (somewhat reasonably) as the beneficiary of an uber-talented team where his weaknesses (shooting) were minimized. 
  • As soon as Pierce and Garnett were traded, the unfair assumption (both toward Rondo and toward GM Danny Ainge) was that Rondo would certainly be next. 
  • Over the last fourteen months, Rondo has been rumored to be traded 175 times*. (*note: slight exaggeration)
  • Over the last fourteen months, Rondo has played 30 NBA games. 
  • Yes, every athlete faces unfair criticism, but the amount of heat Rondo has dealt with is entirely out-of-proportion to the amount of criticism that would have been fair.

So…instead of the question, “Will Rondo be traded?” how about the ironic statement: “Rajon Rondo has been traded…for the 175th time.” (The Onion has missed a golden opportunity)

Maybe he will be. Maybe he won’t be. Let’s wait until late October to worry about who will be on the roster this year. Try and enjoy a few months without the speculation. Defend yourself against the media machine. Is Jackie MacMullan telling the truth? Probably. Is Rondo right to deny that he wants out? Yes. Is Danny Ainge now forced to trade him? No. Because throughout the last fourteen months, Danny Ainge has been alternately laughing and pulling his gray hair out whenever a member of the media comes to him with rumors. 

 

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