Celtics

How did the game in London impact All-Star aspirations?

boston-celtics-jayson-tatum-london-76ers-11218.jpg

How did the game in London impact All-Star aspirations?

LONDON – As much as players for both Boston and Philadelphia wanted to win their Thursday afternoon matchup, there was more at stake for a number of players with all-star weekend aspirations.

A number of players are in the hunt to be named to the all-star team, while others are under consideration for other events such as the Rookie-Sophomore game and the 3-point shootout.

So how did Boston’s 114-103 win over Philadelphia impact their all-star weekend chances?

KYRIE IRVING

He is a four-time all-star and all signs point toward him making a fifth all-star appearance next month. He was a media magnet during his time in London and his play on Thursday did nothing but cement his place among the top players in the NBA. And the most recent fan poll had Irving tops among Eastern Conference guards with 1,370,643 votes.

“That would be great,” Embiid said. “Every time I play I feel like, this is a business, I want to win, I’m a winner, I’m competitive. But at the same time, this is also for the fans. I want to have fun. I always do have fun on the court. And I play better when I have fun.”

JAYSON TATUM

The Tatum bandwagon seems to get bigger and stronger as this season progresses. While he’s most likely to be named to the league’s Rising Stars Challenge (aka the Rookie/Sophomore game), the 6-foot-8 Tatum is getting some surprisingly strong all-star voting love. He is currently seventh in the voting with 213,499 votes.  And his play on Thursday can only help his chance of being in Los Angeles for all-star weekend. In the win, Tatum had 16 points which included 11 in the third quarter. He was 1-for-3 on 3’s and is currently shooting 45.9 percent on 3’s which is second in the NBA to Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic (46.5 percent on 3’s).

JAYLEN BROWN

While one of the league’s most improved players, Brown’s likely all-star weekend plans will include a spot in the Rising Stars Challenge. Brown’s versatility at both ends of the floor has stood out. It was on display Thursday night when he led the Celtics with 21 points. His play has been so good, he has cracked the top-10 among guards in all-star voting. The 6-7 wing has received a total of 103, 222 all-star votes.

AL HORFORD

Horford’s All-star weekend plans are likely to include a trip to Los Angeles for the all-star game with Horford once again getting in by being selected by the coaches. Their role is so vital in selecting all-stars whose contributions may get overlooked by fan voting. And the job he did on Thursday was yet another reminder of how important Horford has been to Boston’s success of late. He had 13 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, but the real key to his play was his defense which limited Joel Embiid to 15 points on 6-for-17 shooting with most of his points coming while being guarded by Daniel Theis.

DANIEL THEIS

Speaking of Theis, the 25-year-old has no shot at being an all-star, but he might squeeze his way into all-star weekend as a potential participant in the Rising Stars Challenge game which is now divided up into games with American rookies and sophomores taking on international first and second-year players. Embiid was a tough cover whenever Theis was on him, but still had a decent game against the Sixers by finishing with seven points and five rebounds while making all three of his field goal attempts. It was a good performance, but not good enough to move the needle one way or another when it comes to having something to do during all-star weekend.

JOEL EMBIID

Embiid has emerged as one of the more engaging international players in the NBA. And it only helps that he’s an extremely dominant player most nights. And while the Celtics delivered yet another defensive masterpiece against him, there’s little doubt about Embiid’s status as a likely all-star next month. And most likely, he’ll be a starter. The top-3 frontcourt players after all the various voting groups are tabulated, will be named to the all-star team. Embiid is currently third among frontcourt players in the East with 784, 287 votes.

BEN SIMMONS

The runaway leader for Rookie of the Year is a lock to be named to the Rising Stars Challenge game. But he’s making a strong push to be named as an all-star as well. Simmons is currently third among Eastern Conference guards, with 397,942 fan-based votes. Like Embiid, his performance on Thursday (16 points, three assists) did not help or hinder his all-star weekend plans.

J.J. REDICK

Redick has been one of the better 3-point shooters for as long as he’s been in the NBA, so it would come as no surprise if he’s among those invited to compete in the 3-point shootout. If so, it would be his third time competing. In 2015, he finished seventh out of the eight-man field, and came back the following year to finish fourth. Based on how he lit up the Celtics defense in the first half, you can understand why he’s always in the conversation when talk centers around the best pure shooters. He led all scorers on Thursday with 22 points which included 5-for-9 shooting from 3-point range.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

CELTICS TALK PODCAST: How 2018 playoffs will get the 2019 Celtics close to Banner 18?

CELTICS TALK PODCAST: How 2018 playoffs will get the 2019 Celtics close to Banner 18?

Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely are joined in this episode by Ian Thomsen to discuss the Celtics/Bucks series, a big picture look at where Boston is right now in the NBA landscape, and his new book, “The Soul of Basketball.”

The guys get into a deep discussion about how the 2018 playoffs should help the long-term growth of this team. 

Kyle Draper started off the debate saying "on paper they have to be favorites coming out of the East, depending on obviously what LeBron does, going into next season."

Ian Thomsen largely sided with Drapes but added the Celtics still have plenty of work to get there.

"I agree, so long as everyone is happy with their roles going into next year. So let's say they decide to bring Marcus Smart back, is Terry Rozier going to be happy with the minutes he gets? This has been a balancing thing for Brad Stevens every year and he does such a good job of it that we kinda take for granted, if they are this talented going into next year, there's going to be a lot of management here between ego and ambitions to manage. I'm not saying anybody is a bad guy, this is just natural. This is your career and livelihood, it's everything you care about. What if Terry Rozier helps drive the Celtics to the conference finals? They do it without Kyrie, Hayward, without Marcus Smart for half the playoffs, Daniel Theis, they're missing like 40% of their team."

Complete show notes:

(:30) Kyle and Sherrod talk about the first two games of the series against the Bucks, and how the lack of fight and organization from a talented Bucks team has been the most noticeable factor so far.

(4:57) Ian Thomsen joins the pod, and starts off talking about how the Bucks need to win the next four games, because there’s no way they’re winning a Game 7 in Boston.

(6:30) Ian weighs in on the Terry Rozier/Eric Bledsoe “feud.”

(8:25) Jaylen Brown has been huge for the C’s so far. Thomsen talks about how impressed he’s been with the 2nd year guard this season.

(10:44) While in some respects, the logjam of point guards the Celtics have had has hurt Terry Rosier, the benefits have also been great in some aspects, including how to be a leader. Ian references Avery Bradley as a mentor to Rozier on his inconsistent minutes. Thomsen talks about the number of role models and culture the Celtics have built.

(12:29) The discussion then moves to how this postseason and the experience the Celtics young players are getting could be a huge factor in Boston being a contender next year, when their health hopefully returns. Ian talks about the only factor that could derail this thinking.

(15:00) Thomsen talks about what Danny Ainge might do with Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier, and the possibility they could be used in a trade for Anthony Davis.

(16:40) Thomsen then talks about his new book “The Soul of Basketball” and how Paul Pierce and the Celtics shaped the last 7-8 years of the NBA. Thomsen gives us some great nuggets on the 2010 behind-the-scenes drama with Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. Ian’s of the opinion that Paul Pierce, the Celtics, and the 2007 NBA Draft lottery had a lot to do with LeBron’s decision to leave Cleveland for Miami.

(25:00) Kyle and Sherrod take a quick trip around the NBA playoffs, discussing the Cavs/Pacers series, along with OKC/Utah and New Orleans/Portland.

SUBSCRIBE HERE

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Celtics fans may see a little Pierce in Middleton's game

Celtics fans may see a little Pierce in Middleton's game

MILWAUKEE – Sitting down before a recent shoot-around, Khris Middleton looks comfortable, at ease, very chill.

And when you watch him play, he exudes similar qualities on the floor, often moving at a pace that seems slower than most and yet he still manages to get buckets – lots of buckets.

Celtics fans have had the pleasure of seeing similar skills on display for more than a decade in Paul Pierce.  

So, it’s no surprise that Middleton counts Pierce among those whose play has greatly influenced his game.

“He was a great scorer,” Middleton said of Pierce whose number 34 was retired earlier this season at the TD Garden. “He had great footwork. He knew how to use his body, angles to get his shot off. He was probably a little bit faster than me, more athletic than me but he was crafty, knowing how to create just enough space to get his shot off or get by a guy. That’s what I try to do.”

While Boston has a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series against Middleton's Milwaukee Bucks, it certainly hasn’t been because of Middleton’s scoring.

The 6-foot-8 wing is averaging 28.0 points in the first two games, along with six rebounds and 3.5 assists, while shooting 64.7 percent from the field and 69.2 percent (9-for-13) from 3-point range.

Game 3 is Friday night in Milwaukee.

“He’s a good player,” said Boston’s Marcus Morris, who has competed against Middleton dating to when they were at Kansas and Texas A&M, respectively.

Middleton’s ascension to being such a key figure in Milwaukee’s roster speaks to how he was prepared when given an opportunity to perform.

A second-round pick of the Detroit Pistons in 2012, injuries limited his chances to play there.

So they traded him in 2013 to Milwaukee as essentially a salary-cap filler as part of a deal that sent Brandon Knight to the Bucks and Brandon Jennings to Detroit.

Middleton stresses that he has no ill-will towards Detroit; in fact, he’s thankful in hindsight for them trading him to a franchise that was willing to give him a shot at playing and to Middleton’s credit, he has been healthy enough to take advantage of it.

“Growing up all your life, you’re kind of that guy,” he said. “And then to get to the next level and be told you’re not that guy...it’s humbling. But it gave me a hungry mindset to keep working and never give up. That’s why I keep working, prove that I belong in this league and I belong on that court.”

You won’t get an argument from Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who has been singing the praises of Middleton well before Boston found itself facing him and the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs.

“Middleton spaces the floor. He can run off screens and score,” Stevens said earlier. “He’s a really good scorer cutting off the ball. And he’s a knockdown shooter.”

And he’s hungry to continue adding to his offensive arsenal by learning from the league’s best players past and present, a group that includes Pierce.

“I try to take a little stuff from their game and fit it in my game,” Middleton said. “I’m not the most athletic guy, so I see how they set up some of their moves just to create a little bit of space to get their shot off; that’s what I try to do.”

 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE