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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Celtics are calm, focused, and ready for Game 4

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Celtics are calm, focused, and ready for Game 4

MILWAUKEE – Inside the Boston Celtics locker room, there was an unmistakable calm among the players moments removed from a 116-92 thumping at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Players talked among themselves about what went wrong, about what they will do different in Game 4 on Sunday but more than anything else, they owned the loss.

There was no finger-pointing or second-guessing the head coaches’ player rotations or not-so-stealth putdowns of an opposing player who had been playing well – all things done by the Bucks thus far in this series.

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The post-game highlights were still in heavy rotation, but the Celtics had already moved on mentally to Sunday’s Game 4 matchup.

“They did what they had to do. It is what it is,” Marcus Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “Can’t dwell on it. We’ll see them on Sunday.”

As much as Boston has been a team that’s built upon a “Next Man Up” framework, an “on-to-the-next-game” mindset is also deeply woven into this team’s DNA.

That’s why win or lose, the Celtics don’t spend much time thinking or talking about what just happened.

And it is games like the one we saw on Friday where that approach is absolutely critical to them continuing along a successful path and not let rough nights such as Friday’s beatdown, derail them.

More than anything else, the Celtics have extracted elements beyond the X’s and O’s of Friday’s loss as their takeaways in helping improve their overall play for Sunday.

It’s easy to forget that Friday’s game was the first time this team had played a postseason road game together which any NBA veteran will tell you, is different than what you experience during the regular season.

Boston’s Al Horford believes having gone through that with this group for the first time on Friday, will benefit the Celtics in Game 4.

“We learned what the level of intensity is when you’re playing in the playoffs on the road,” Horford said. “At home, you feel good. You’re comfortable and confident. Even though we’ve been playing on the road all year, it’s different in the playoffs.

Horford added, “it’s a good learning experience for our group.”

And while there are sure to be adjustments made on Boston’s part, don’t expected them to stray too far away from who they have been all season.

“We’re super excited about Sunday,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “(Friday), we dropped the ball. We feel like we could have played a lot better. We can’t wait for Sunday, and we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing all year.”

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Morris fined $15,000 for criticism of officiating

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Morris fined $15,000 for criticism of officiating

MILWAUKEE – Marcus Morris has been fined $15,000 for “public criticism” of officiating relating to Boston’s 116-92 loss to Milwaukee on Friday night.

Following the loss, Morris was asked about the technical foul he received after some brief words with Bucks forward/center Thon Maker.

Morris was the only player whistled for a technical foul for either team.

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"I can't even speak on it, man," Morris told reporters when asked about the technical foul. "It's been the same (bleep) all year. I'm expecting it. They knew what they wanted before the game started. They knew who they wanted to go after.”

Morris was ejected in a Celtics win over Toronto on March 31, and afterwards tapped the official on his backside as he left the court.

Since then, Morris has sensed officials were giving him the cold shoulder and to a lesser degree, not giving him the same benefit of the doubt or leeway as other players.

After the ejection, Morris took to Twitter to apologize for making contact with an official.

“Sorry @NBA for smacking the ref ass after getting ejected. I see other refs took offense to it. My apologies

— Marcus Morris (@MookMorris2)”

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