At 19-38 the Boston Celtics are enduring one of their worst seasons ever. For a franchise that has a league leading 17 championships and a .591 regular season win percentage all-time, a down year like this is nothing to be overly concerned about.
The Celtics knew when they sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Piece to Brooklyn and traded head coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for a first-round pick that they were going to take a couple of steps back this season. Every franchise has to do it at some point. The Celtics were fortunate to squeeze an extra season or two with Garnett and Pierce as their center pieces, but like all good things, it had to come to an end at some point and this summer was that time.
The departures of Garnett, Pierce and Rivers have been compounded by Rajon Rondo’s absence for all but 12 games so far this year.
This is a development year, and for this franchise they are few and far between. They should benefit from this one for many years to come, though. Brad Stevens is getting to learn the NBA head coaching ropes without any pressure. Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger are having strong seasons with expanded roles. They’re going to have a high draft pick in one of the most highly-regarded draft classes in recent memory. And, most importantly, Rondo is healthy and on the road back to being one of the more productive point guards in the league.
Although their second round pick Colton Iverson, who they acquired in a draft night trade, is not with the team this season, he’s another piece of the Celtics’ future that is developing to be a difference maker in coming years, only overseas in Turkey. Iverson is playing with Besiktas CT and averaging 8.6 points and 6.6 rebounds in 21.6 minutes a game.
The Celtics have kept a close eye on Iverson and have stayed in frequent contact with him, making the cross country journey recently to watch him in person.
“It’s great to know that they’re still supporting me, watching me evaluating me, helping me think about ways that I can better,” Iverson said to Basketball Insiders. “I know they’re really invested in me right now; I am going to try and put in the hard work and do everything I can to be ready, when they are ready for me be to be ready for them. I am going to keep working every day. Knowing that they have my back and are supporting me right now is a great motivation and I’ll keep working harder than ever before.
“It’s a special feeling knowing that such a prestigious organization is really counting on you to get better and work hard and do the things for them that they need. I am trying to live up to the expectations right now even though I am not technically part of the team; I am just trying to get better. If and when they do need me, to be ready to produce and help the team win any way possible. I know it is such a big time organization, they have legends that have played there and so many championships, it really is a high expectation that you have to be ready for and ready to live up to.”
Iverson exploded onto the draft scene during his final year of eligibility at Colorado State, where he transferred to for his senior year after three years of being a role player at Minnesota. He went from being completely off the radar to a draft pick by putting up 14.2 points and 9.8 rebounds a game. With all the makings of a blue collar big man in the same mold of Kendrick Perkins, who helped the Celtics win a championship in 2008, Iverson was given a small list of things to add to his game this year in Turkey.
“My offensive game definitely needed improvement for the next level,” Iverson said “Having the post moves to go against pros so I’ve been working on that this year, stepping out being able to knock down 10-15 foot jump shots, working on pick-and-roll defense, which is going to be huge in the NBA because 75 percent of the offense in the NBA is pick-and-roll. Being able to guard that will really benefit me and just continue rebounding, which is what I’ve always been good at, if I can continue rebounding at a high level that will really transition well into the NBA.”
As Iverson states, pick-and-roll defense will be key for him at the next level. Fortunately, the style of play and defensive schemes in the Turkish league give Iverson the chance to work on it every game.
“It was a little bit different for at first because Summer League we relied on the guards to fight through screens and you basically were just like a second source,” Iverson said. “Right here it’s all on the big man to contain penetration, stop the guard completely, then allow for recovery and get back and guard your man in time. You have to be able to that and it happens really fast. It’s a little bit different over here because there is no defensive three seconds so it’s a little bit more crowded in the paint, I guess that helps you a little bit. It’s definitely on the big man to contain penetration on any pick-and-rolls.”
He’s also been forced to step away from his comfort zone inside the paint offensively and work on becoming more versatile like the Celtics’ desire.
“There is definitely not as much back to the basket game here, there is a lot more setting screens, being at the high post, the short corner,” Iverson said. “It’s a little bit different for me, it’s a bit of an adjustment. I think it’s going to benefit me in the long run because I am expanding my game and I’m learning to have the ball in different situations and scenarios. Even though it is different for I think I am benefitting from it and the experience of it.”
Iverson’s contract expires at the end of the season, after which he plans to come back to the states and train at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas, Nevada as he did in preparation for the NBA Draft until he can join the Celtics’ summer league team.
Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge recently hinted that the team could swing big to make some improvements this season. Last time the Celtics were this bad was the 2006-07 season where they went 24-58. The next season they went 66-16, a record for the biggest turnaround in a single season in league history. If anyone knows how to rebuild in a hurry, it’s him. As an affordable, defensive-minded center who is still improving, Iverson could easily fit into his big plans.
Clippers Officially Sign Glen Davis
The Los Angeles Clippers announced today that they have signed free agent forward Glen Davis. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed. Davis will be available to play in the Clippers game vs. New Orleans tonight and will wear uniform number 12.
Davis, 28, appeared in 45 games (43 starts) this season with the Orlando Magic averaging 12.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 30.1 minutes per game. A native of Baton Rouge, LA, Davis is reunited with Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, who coached him for four seasons in Boston and together were a part of the 2008 NBA Championship Celtics team.
A seven-year NBA veteran, Davis has appeared in 417 career games (120 starts) with both Orlando and Boston, averaging 8.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 23.1 minutes per game.
Originally drafted by Seattle with the 35th overall selection in the second round of the 2007 NBA Draft, Davis was traded to Boston along with Ray Allen as part of a Draft Day trade. After four years with the Celtics, Davis joined the Magic on Dec. 12, 2011 along with Von Wafer in exchange for Brandon Bass.
The power forward has made 69 career Playoff appearances, averaging 8.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 21.9 minutes. Last season, Davis averaged a postseason-best 19.0 points and 9.2 rebounds for the Magic in five playoff games (all starts).
Davis enjoyed a successful college career, playing three seasons at Louisiana State University. He averaged 16.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.16 blocks in 95 games (93 starts) at LSU, with his best year coming in 2006 when he led the Tigers to the Final Four and was named the SEC Player of the Year and a first-team All-American, leading the SEC in scoring (18.6) and rebounds (9.7).
Kemba Walker, Kevin Love Named Players of the Week
The Charlotte Bobcats’ Kemba Walker and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love today were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Tuesday, Feb. 18, through Sunday, Feb. 23.
Walker led the Bobcats to a 4-0 week behind averages of 22.5 points (tied for seventh in the conference), 8.8 assists (second in the conference) and 5.5 rebounds. His 40.5 minutes per game ranked third in the East. Walker tallied 20-plus points three times and eclipsed the 30-point plateau once. He scored 24 points, handed out a career-high 16 assists and added five rebounds on Feb. 19, during a 116-98 win over the Detroit Pistons.
Love helped the Timberwolves to a 2-1 behind a league-best 36.7 ppg and 12.7 rpg (fourth in the league). He recorded a point-rebound double-double in all three contests, and notched one triple-double with 37 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists on Feb. 22, during a 121-104 win over the Utah Jazz. Love leads the NBA with 47 double-doubles on the season.
Here is a recap of the week for Walker and Love:
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats
Feb. 18 @ Detroit: Collected 22 points, six assists and four rebounds in a 108-96 win over the Pistons.
Feb. 19 vs. Detroit: Tallied 24 points, 16 assists and five rebounds during a 116-98 win over the Pistons, finishing a home-and-home sweep.
Feb. 22 vs. Memphis: Scored 31 points and added eight rebounds and five assists in a 92-89 win over the Grizzlies.
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Feb. 19 vs. Indiana: Scored 42 points and added 16 rebounds in a 104-91 win over the Pacers.
Feb. 22 @ Utah: Collected a triple-double with 37 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a 121-104 win over the Jazz.
Feb. 23 @ Portland: Posted 31 points and 10 rebounds during a 108-97 loss to the Trail Blazers.
Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Charlotte’s Al Jefferson, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Indiana’s Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers’ Jamal Crawford and Blake Griffin, Miami’s Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Portland’s Damian Lillard, Sacramento’s Isaiah Thomas, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Washington’s John Wall.
NBA Daily: Don’t Forget About Romeo Langford
Once a top-five high school recruit, Romeo Langford has yet to make an impact in his brief NBA career.
As a highly-touted high school prospect, Romeo Langford found himself at the fifth spot in the 2018 ESPN Top 100. His play earned him a spot in the 2018 McDonald’s All-American Game among big-name recruits such as Zion Williamson, and after a very successful high school career, the five-star shooting guard decided to take his talents to Indiana over both Kansas and Vanderbilt.
Langford’s time as an Indiana Hoosier was short-lived as he only spent one year with the team before declaring for the draft. He played in thirty-two games despite tearing a ligament in his thumb. His shooting percentages reflected this injury as he shot a meager 27.2 percent from three and 44.8 percent from the field, per Sports-Reference. Both of these percentages were not reflective of the electric, efficient scorer he was at New Albany High School.
Selected with the No. 14 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics, there was a lot to be excited about. For starters, the Celtics were able to draft a player just inside the lottery who many thought would be a top-five pick before the 2018-19 NCAA season. They were also able to get a resilient player that grinded through his injury and was still able to pace the BIG 10 in freshman scoring with 16.5 points per game. The potential with a healthy Langford is there, and that’s what led to him being a Boston Celtic.
During a 2019 interview with Boston.com, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens spoke highly of their rookie.
“If they would have been more on the national radar, and he would have not hurt his thumb, he probably would have been even more discussed,” Stevens said at the Celtics practice facility. “He’s a guy we were all well aware of before his first game at IU.”
If it was not clear by this quote, big things were expected from the former Indiana Mr. Basketball.
Unfortunately, his first season on the Celtics was not much of one to write home about. Across 32 games, he managed to average only 2.5 points with 1.3 rebounds in 11.6 minutes per game, often finding himself with Boston’s G League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.
This should not be a big indicator of how things will end up for Langford though – as flourishing Charlotte Hornets star Terry Rozier was also an afterthought off the Celtics’ bench in his first season, even though many people saw his future potential. In a Feb. 7th matchup with the Atlanta Hawks, Langford made the most of a starting opportunity, dropping 16 points on 5-for-11 shooting, including 2-for-5 from three-point range, and 3 blocks. Later, he would then undergo season-ending surgery to repair the scapholunate ligament of his right wrist during the team’s playoff run in the bubble.
As the 2020-21 season heads towards the All-Star break, Langford has yet to suit up as he still is recovering from surgery. But according to a report by NESN, Langford should be healthy enough to return following the pause.
This then leaves the question: where does Langford fit on the Celtics roster, if at all? Amidst a disappointing start to the season, many fans and people around the Celtics have begun to sound the alarm. When the owner even comes out to 98.5 The Sports Hub and acknowledges the fact that the young Eastern Conference finalists are not currently a contender, there should be plenty of reason to panic.
The Celtics’ troubles have been all over the place this season, but the one that seems to be the most glaring is the lack of explosive scoring outside of Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. There has been some great play off the bench by Payton Pritchard and Robert Williams, but players like Grant Williams, Jeff Teague and Semi Ojeleye have struggled to be consistent factors.
As the Celtics continue to look for splashes in the trade market, there is a lot of uncertainty around Langford’s future as the team now seems to lack tradable assets outside of the core.
Despite his long injury, Langford is still a much more desirable piece than Javonte Green or Grant Williams. Moving on from Jeff Teague may be a route that the Celtics opt to take as well because he has failed to make much of an impact off of the bench, and this would open up playing time to test out a 100 percent healthy Langford.
Langford could bring a great burst of energy off the bench for the Celtics if healthy, and so exciting to see how he fits alongside the outstanding rookie point guard in Pritchard. With Langford on the second unit, it would open up the floor for Tatum as he would have another solid scorer to kick the ball out to.
Could Langford end up being the guy that fixes the bench scoring problem for the Celtics? Only time will tell, but based on his high school and collegiate careers, he very well might be 𑁋 if he’s still on the team past the deadline.
NBA Daily: Luke Walton’s Uncertain Future
Could this be it for Luke Walton in Sacramento? David Yapkowitz examines.
There’s one big question surrounding the Sacramento Kings this season: what, exactly, will become of head coach Luke Walton? Walton, in the second year of a four-year deal he signed back in 2019, has often headlined the group of coaches that are thought most likely to be let go next.
Brought in by the previous regime, Sacramento’s situation has changed considerably since they brought in Walton. Former general manager Vlade Divac has since stepped down and been replaced with Monte McNair. And, often, new management will look to build their team, coaching staff included, in their own mold — that’s nothing really against the current personnel, just that different voices sometimes have different visions and want to construct a team within that vision.
If the team plays well, the new management team may be inclined to ride it out with the current staff. In a somewhat recent example, when Masai Ujiri first took over in the Toronto Raptors front office, the Raptors started surging in the standings and Ujiri held on to Dwane Casey for a while before ultimately replacing him with Nick Nurse. Casey had been hired by former executive Bryan Colangelo.
The Kings are in an interesting scenario in that, despite being a perennial bottom-dweller, expectations have existed for the team for over a decade now, the main expectation being that they would eventually improve beyond that bottom-feeder status. Now, that expectation may be more warranted than ever, as Sacramento has some seriously talented pieces in place, including franchise cornerstone De’Aaron Fox and Rookie of the Year contender Tyrese Haliburton.
In fact, just a few weeks ago, the Kings looked like they might actually be turning things around. On a four-game win streak, with wins over the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston Celtics, they looked like a different team.
Since then, unfortunately, they’ve reverted to the Kings of old. Now, they’re on an eight-game losing streak, their first such skid since 2019.
There are plenty of good teams in the Western Conference and, because of that, at least a couple of them are going to be on the outside looking in come playoff time. Of course, it can be hard to fault teams that show consistent effort and improvement. But that just hasn’t been the Kings, for quite some time now.
The main area of concern for the Kings where they haven’t shown real improvement is on the defensive end. They were already among the bottom half of the league on that end before their most recent skid, while it’s been significantly worse during their last eight games.
It’s always a possibility to bring in a defensive-minded assistant to help with that end, much like Sacramento tried to do on offense this past offseason. To spark the team on that end of the court, the Kings added Alvin Gentry to Walton’s staff and for the most part, it’s worked out: Sacramento is 12th in the league in scoring, up from 22nd last season. They’re also shooting better from three-point range while playing at a quicker pace.
But in order to win in this league, you need to do it on both ends. And that’s something the Kings haven’t shown the ability to do.
Sacramento is allowing 119.6 points per game, dead last in the NBA. Their defensive rating of 118.7 is also last. And, at this point, simply adding an assistant might not do the trick; at this point, it might just be easier (and more effective) for management to simply cut ties with Walton and set up a new staff under a new head coach.
Walton’s popularity and potential as a head coach first piqued during the 2015-16 season with the Golden State Warriors. When he stepped in for Steve Kerr, who took leave from the team to recover from back surgery, Walton guided the team to a 24-0 start and a 39-4 record upon Kerr’s return. While the Warriors were in their second of what would be five-straight runs to the NBA Finals and had a strong foundation already in place, Walton’s involvement in the feat can’t be discounted, while it opened the league’s eyes as to his potential as a head coach.
But later, during Walton’s years as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, the team showed slight, if minimal improvement each year at best. In fact, those Lakers were similar to these Kings in that they were a young team with no real experience just trying to get better. And, obviously, it’s much easier to look good when you already have an established unit.
Coaching in the NBA is a tough and often thankless job. When things go right, they get little credit. When they go wrong, the blame lies almost squarely on their head. As with players, sometimes a coaching situation just isn’t the right fit for either party; maybe this Kings’ roster just isn’t built to maximize Walton’s system.
That said, in this particular case, it would probably be best for the Kings to ride the current situation out. Sacramento has shown some improvement from last season and Walton deserves some credit for that. He’s shown constant faith and trust in his rookie, Haliburton, while he has Fox playing at a near All-Star level and Richaun Holmes looking like one of the NBA’s best in the painted area (and an absolute steal, given his contract).
Going forward, it’s worth rolling the dice and seeing if they can’t end this skid and get back to their strong play earlier in the year. Further, it might not be that great an idea to make such a radical structural change halfway through the season when your team might still have a realistic shot at the postseason.
That said, should the team continue to struggle, then it would be wise to revisit the matter in the offseason. If they do, it wouldn’t be much of a reach if McNair decides that two years is enough and that he wants to bring in a head coach of his own choosing.
NBA Daily: Where Does John Collins Really Fit?
Since the Atlanta Hawks and John Collins were unable to agree to an extension in the offseason, rumors have swirled about the 23-year old big and his future. Ariel Pacheco breaks down which teams might be the best fit for Collins should he and Atlanta decide to part ways.
John Collins has been the subject of trade rumors all season long. The Atlanta Hawks are reportedly seeking a “lottery level pick” in return for the talented big man. With Collins set to be a restricted free agent this upcoming offseason, any team that trades for him must also be willing to either offer an extension that will likely be north of $100 million or lose him for nothing.
This cuts down the list of potential suitors to just a handful of teams. These teams will have to be willing to part with draft capital and/or young players. Here’s a look at where John Collins could fit in.
San Antonio Spurs
Few teams are as good of a fit for Collins as San Antonio. The Spurs are off to a surprising start at 16-11 and the sixth seed in the Western Conference. That said, they are in desperate need of a floor-spacing big with some upside and Collins is just that. With the 35-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge set to be a free agent and his play dropping off, Collins can slide right in as the team’s big of the future.
The Spurs have multiple young guys and their draft picks. The question is how much would they be willing to part with. There are a couple of iterations that the Spurs could send out to Atlanta. A trade centered around Derrick White and a protected pick could be something that interests the Hawks. They might also be interested in a deal that includes Lonnie Walker, salary filler and a protected pick. Again, it depends on how far San Antonio would be interested in going in their pursuit of Collins.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder have quietly been a competitive team this season, possibly more so than they want to be. With a young star they certainly want to build around in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Collins would represent an intriguing co-star to lead the franchise into the future. At the very least, the fit between the two would be beautiful to watch. Oklahoma City has a number of young, high-upside players they like in Lugentz Dort, Isaiah Roby, Darius Bazley and Theo Maledon. Adding in Collins to compliment them would significantly accelerate their rebuild.
The Thunder also happen to have a war chest stuffed with draft capital. They have 16 first-round picks and 13 second-round picks through the 2027 draft. It’ll be impossible for them to select a player with every one of those picks and, while they are unlikely to just offer them recklessly, using some of that capital to swing a trade for a young talent with All-Star potential in John Collins would be a great use of resources.
Yes, Cleveland just added Jarrett Allen. But that shouldn’t preclude them from a potential move for Collins.
The Cavaliers have struggled after a nice start to the season. While they seem to have settled on a core centered around Allen, Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, they are in need of a frontcourt scorer who can space the floor for their guards. Collins might prove the perfect fit, as he can play alongside Allen and should prove a threat with both Sextan and Garland in the pick-and-roll. And, given his upside, the Cavaliers’ future would shine even brighter.
The difficulty here is finding a deal that works for both sides. If a deal were to happen it would more than likely have to be a three-team deal. The Cavaliers just aren’t a natural trading partner with the Hawks. A third team would be able to give both sides what they are looking for. Cleveland could also bet on Collins not signing an extension with a new team; in that event, they would be better off waiting until free-agency to offer him a deal.
Sacramento struck gold in this past year’s draft with Tyrese Haliburton. Alongside De’Aaron Fox, the Kings have their backcourt of the future firmly in place. Marvin Bagley and Buddy Hield have both been rumored to be unhappy in Sacramento, involving one or both of them in a trade for Collins could give the Kings a lot more upside and add some frontcourt scoring.
This is another situation where, given their personnel, the Kings and Hawks aren’t ideal trade partners and would probably need to involve a third team. Sacramento has shown some growth this season and an upgrade in talent could help make their playoff aspirations more attainable. The Kings own all of their first-rounders and should look to be aggressive in improving their roster.
Pursuing a Collins deal is unlikely for Boston, who has shown to be very reluctant in parting with future assets in recent seasons. Still, Collins would add a pick-and-roll threat Boston just doesn’t have. The Celtics would then be able to build around an extremely strong core of Collins, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
The Celtics would have to pay Collins in the offseason, however, making them even more unlikely to swing a deal for Collins. Already paying Kemba Walker, Tatum and Brown over $100 million each, Boston would almost certainly have to and the same to Collins, further restricting their ability to fill out a roster that, beyond those three, has been lacking this season. On paper they are a great fit, but there are just too many extenuating factors that make a deal unlikely.
Plenty of other teams could (and should) put their hat in the Collins-ring but are also unlikely to do so due to various factors. The Houston Rockets, Charlotte Hornets and Denver Nuggets could all swing a deal for the big man, but they either have younger guys at his position or wouldn’t be willing to pay him.
Collins is a talented 23-year-old big man with All-Star potential. It’s not often someone of his caliber at such a young age is available on the trade market and teams should be aggressive in their pursuit. If Collins doesn’t get traded, teams will have a chance to sign him to an offer sheet in restricted free agency. He will likely command a $100 million deal, with any team that trades for him essentially ponying up for the first shot to pay him.