Celtics

Sixers hurting Jahlil Okafor's trade value by not playing him

Sixers hurting Jahlil Okafor's trade value by not playing him

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics are no different than the handful of teams that have expressed interest in Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor.

They like him for the right price which as it stands now, is too high for every team that’s considered a possible landing spot  – that includes the Celtics.

Okafor is looking for the quickest exit out of Philadelphia now that the Sixers have made it abundantly clear that he is not in their plans for the present or the future.

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"A buyout or a trade," Okafor told reporters in Philadelphia on Wednesday. "A buyout's not the only option. It's just, I want to get on the court. That's not happening here. It could be a buyout, it could be a trade. I just want something to happen rather quickly."

He has been a healthy scratch in all but one game this season in addition to the Sixers declining to pick up the fourth-year option on his contract worth about $6.3 million which rarely happens to a player selected as high as Okafor (No. 3 overall) was in 2015.

A league source told NBC Sports Boston that the issue at hand, Okafor’s future, has been made unclear because of two factors.

The Sixers overvalued Okafor’s value in the eyes of other teams, presuming that because he was a high draft pick that they can expect comparable compensation in return. 

Also, they underestimated how not playing him would significantly lessen his value in the eyes of potential trade partners, which includes the Celtics.

“This isn’t rocket science,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “You have a player you want to get rid of, you need to get rid of. So … you don’t play him? That makes absolutely no sense in the world.”

One of the knocks on Okafor has been his inability to keep his weight at a manageable. With a mostly vegan diet, he lost about 30 pounds during the offseason and looked to be in the best shape of his basketball career.

But that career is very much up in the air with the Sixers, a team that has no interest in playing him now or motivated to trade him elsewhere.

The Celtics were recently awarded an $8.4 million disabled player exception in relation to the left leg/ankle injury suffered by Gordon Hayward that’s expected to keep him sidelined for the rest of the season.

If Okafor gets a buyout, the Celtics would be well-positioned to sign him which would provide another big body who is at his best scoring around the post in half court sets – a strength that would set him apart from most of the current Celtics.

And while Boston has entertained the idea of trading for Okafor, Boston isn’t interested in giving up assets other than a possible second-round pick for Okafor.

It's not a matter of whether they think he's worth it.

Boston is willing to gamble that the Sixers will ultimately buy him out which would allow them to sign him for the remainder of the season, providing the kind of depth that could be just what they need to move beyond last season's success and represent the East in the NBA Finals. 

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Blakely: Work in progress, but oh, what progress

Blakely: Work in progress, but oh, what progress

BOSTON – The words of Stephen Curry following the Celtics’ 92-88 win over his Golden State Warriors had an off-handed, end-of-the-night throwaway feel to them, a statement that would soon be forgotten after the Warriors reel off what should be a long string of victories going forward.
 
“They’re playing the best right now in the East,” Curry said of the Celtics, who now have a 3-2 edge in their past five meetings following Thursday night’s thriller. “And obviously until they beat Cleveland, who's done it three years in a row … so we’ll see.”

CELTICS 92, WARRIORS 88

We already have, folks.
 
The Celtics and the Warriors are both quick to remind us all that we are only a month into the season and that there’s still lots of basketball to be played.
 
But the big takeaway from Thursday was that the Celtics’ ascension to the top of the NBA mountain is a matter of when, not if, it’ll happen.
 
Because what we’re seeing now is a team that is very much a work in progress, yet one that still manages to win games on a lot of nights that they have no business winning.
 
Think about it.
 
They shot 32.9 percent against the Warriors, the best team in the NBA, and still managed to get the win. According to NBA stats guru Dick Lipe, it was only the second time in the past 35 years that the Celtics shot less than 33 percent from the field and still managed to win.
 
That speaks to how well Boston defended the Warriors, who came in averaging a league-best 119.6 points per game.
 
But more than that, it shows this team has a will to win that’s almost unheard of for a group whose pieces are so relatively new to one another.
 
Of the 14 Celtics with guaranteed contracts on the roster, all but four are in their first season in Boston.
 
But even with the new guys coming together quicker than anticipated, Boston should not all of a sudden be considered the favorites in the NBA.
 
Even with the victory, Boston still has some ground to make up if they are to be on the same level as Golden State, a franchise that has been to the NBA Finals each of the past three seasons and has emerged a champion twice.
 
“It takes a lot of basketball to get there,” said Warriors guard Klay Thompson. “They have a good, young, hungry team. You have to give them credit. They have a better record than us, so you can say they’re better now.”
 
And while Thompson didn’t place an emphasis on it, the last word in his comments, “now,” is why Thursday’s victory leaves the Celtics cautiously optimistic.
 
Because as we’ve seen time and time, regular-season success does not always travel well beyond that and into the playoffs.
 
Still, Thursday’s win provides something for Boston beyond hope and optimism.
 
They now have results to go with the work they’ve put in to be a better team and compete with the league’s best.
 
And they’ve done it under less-than-ideal circumstances.
 
Gordon Hayward went down with an ankle injury less than five minutes into the season and he’s expected to be lost for the rest of the season. Al Horford missed two games while recovering from a concussion while Kyrie Irving missed a game after suffering a facial fracture.
 
So in other words, the Big Three that Boston was set on unleashing to the rest of the world has logged less than five minutes together all season.
 
And yet there are the Celtics (14-2), tops in the NBA while riding a historic 14-game winning streak, and there's reason to believe that maybe, just maybe, these two will be the last teams standing when all is said and done and some of those customary throwaway lines uttered by Curry might have some value after all if these two wind up meeting in the NBA Finals.

“I hear the weather is great here in June,” Curry said.
 
 

Brown leads C's to victory just a day after best friend's passing

Brown leads C's to victory just a day after best friend's passing

BOSTON – The NBA is an emotional game, but the feelings Jaylen Brown was working through on the eve of Thursday’s game against Golden State, are the kind you don’t wish anyone with the death of his best friend less than 24 hours before Thursday night’s tip-off.

Brown channeled his pain into a performance that was absolutely vital to Boston pulling off the biggest upset for them this season, a 92-88 win over the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

He led the Celtics with a team-high 22 points in the win which extended the Celtics’ winning streak to 14 straight. 

But he was in no mood to celebrate afterwards.

CELTICS 92, WARRIORS 88

“My best friend (Trevin Steede) passed last night,” Brown said after the game. “It was tough to accept it. Everybody was kind of in shock. I knew coming in today, he would want me to play.

Brown paused, and added, “It’s hard to get my thoughts together. After talking to his mom and family, they inspired me to come out. I wasn’t in any shape to come out. I didn’t want to leave my room. They inspired me to come out and play and I came out and played in his spirit today.”

Indeed, Brown played with the kind of purpose that made it clear that this wasn’t just another game. 

Sure, Golden State was the defending champs but Brown’s temperament seemed to be on a level higher, much higher, than what you would come to expect from a highly-anticipated matchup. 

His teammates as well as the coaching staff were aware of what Brown was dealing with, and were prepared for him to not play if he decided that was the best thing for him. 

After the game, Kyrie Irving gave the game ball to Brown.

“I knew from start of the game, I gave him some great words that were given to me,” Irving said. “I’ve lost individuals in my life. It’s never a good thing when someone is going through it. You do your best to encourage them, to console them. But at the end of the day, it’s about the strength within themselves and he showed a lot of that tonight.”

Irving added, “to be able to go out and perform the way he did, I knew exactly who the game ball was going to.”

Dealing with this kind of adversity unfortunately is nothing new to the Boston Celtics. 

On the eve of the playoffs last season, ex-Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas’ younger sister Chyna Thomas died in a car accident. 

Just as they rallied around Thomas at that time, the Celtics have done the same for Brown. 

“It’s been a tough 24 hours for him as you call can imagine,” said coach Brad Stevens. “Very similar meetings and talking points I had with Isaiah (Thomas) last year, today. Like Isaiah used it as a distraction, he (Brown) went out there and played and was really, really good.”

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