Celtics

Bucks acquire Eric Bledsoe from Suns for Greg Monroe and draft picks

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Bucks acquire Eric Bledsoe from Suns for Greg Monroe and draft picks

MILWAUKEE -- Eric Bledsoe's disgruntled days are over.

The talented guard is getting a fresh start with the Milwaukee Bucks, who have another proven scorer to take some pressure off All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Bledsoe, who wanted out of Phoenix, was traded to the Bucks on Tuesday in exchange for big man Greg Monroe and two 2018 draft picks.

The 27-year-old Bledsoe had not been with the Suns since Oct. 22, when he posted "I Don't wanna be here" on Twitter, the same day the Suns fired coach Earl Watson. He had been averaging 15.7 points per game, second behind Devin Booker, and was the team's on-court leader.

He was sent home by the Suns after the tweet, reducing the team's leverage because everyone in the league knew Phoenix was trying to trade him. Bledsoe had asked to be traded before the season, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough has said. The NBA fined the eight-year NBA veteran $10,000 for the tweet.

Adding Bledsoe will take some of the focus off Antetokounmpo, the Bucks' primary ball-handler. Milwaukee had lost four of its last five games before visiting the Cavaliers, but adding Bledsoe's scoring ability alongside Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton on a team that also includes rising guard Malcolm Brogdon could help.

"We're excited. Eric's excited," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said in Cleveland.

Bledsoe will take his physical on Wednesday and is expected to join the Bucks in San Antonio in time for Thursday's game against the Spurs.

Middleton can't wait to see what Bledsoe brings.

"He'll be another great player for us, a guy who can create for others and create for himself on offense," Middleton said. "I'm excited to play with him. We can do a lot of things. We'll have more ball-handlers on the court at the same time. He's going to be a great for us."

Already a dangerous and up-and-coming team, the Bucks could go to another level with Bledsoe.

"He adds a veteran point guard, a guy who plays with pace and can get into the paint, can make the right play," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "He's been on the cusp of being an All-Star the last three years. He brings a different dimension to their team. He can shoot the basketball, get in the paint, run pick-and-roll and he's a good defender also.

"It's a good pickup for them."

Bledsoe averaged more than 20 points and six assists per game in each of the last two seasons with the Suns, including career highs in points (21.1) and assists (6.3) last season. Bledsoe spent the past five seasons in Phoenix after his first three years with the Clippers.

The 27-year-old Monroe, who joined the team as a free agent in 2015 after five years in Detroit, has been sidelined recently because of a left calf strain. Over three seasons with the Bucks, he averaged 13.3 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists over 165 games.

Without him, Milwaukee will likely consolidate the center position and look ahead to early next year, when the front line should get a boost with the return of injured forward Jabari Parker.

The 6-foot-11 Monroe has an expiring contract, which means even more room for a Suns team with loads of cap space. They also could have as many as three first-round picks next season.

"Moose did everything we asked him to help us win, from being a starter to being asked to go to the bench and help us have a stronger bench," Kidd said. "I wish him the best because he did everything we asked."

Milwaukee's first-round pick will belong to the Suns in 2018 if in the range of 11-16 overall; in 2019 if in the range of 4-16; in 2020 if in the range of 8-30; and in 2021 it will be unprotected. The Suns get Milwaukee's second-round pick next year if in the range of 48-60 overall.

Phoenix, rebuilding with an extremely young roster featuring Booker and T.J. Warren, has not made the playoffs in six years.

Marcus Smart is fortunate to be returning this season

Marcus Smart is fortunate to be returning this season

BOSTON – When it comes to sports-related injuries, much like the games that are played, it really does become a matter of inches.

For Marcus Smart, that minuscule a distance was the difference between his right-hand laceration after punching a picture frame keeping him sidelined for a few weeks or ending his season.

Fortunately for Smart, the former proved to be his fate as he rejoined the Celtics for practice on Wednesday after missing the previous 11 games.

“I’m back. It feels good to be back with these guys and the coaching staff,” Smart said.

But after the incident which required 20 stitches, Smart said the doctors explained to him how fortunate he was that the injury wasn’t more severe and wouldn’t require season-ending surgery.

“They pulled a glass piece out of the palm of my hand,” Smart said. “And they said there two tendons that ran along the pinkie and the glass was sitting right in between them.

Smart said if the glass would have hit the tendons he would have most likely had to have season-ending surgery.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was aware of how close Boston was at losing Smart for the rest of the season.

“It was … I’m sure he would second this, it wasn’t a very good move,” Stevens said. “You don’t want to put yourself in that risk. Luckily, what happened, happened. His hand looks a lot better and that is encouraging.”

Said Smart: “I felt I let my team down. But I got a second chance to come back and redeem myself.”

As reported by NBC Sports Boston earlier today, Smart has been given the medical clearance to suit up for Boston’s next game which is at Detroit on Friday.

His return comes at a time when the Celtics (40-19) are looking to get back on track after what has been a rough patch of games recently.

Boston has lost three straight and four of its last five games. And the lone victory was an overtime win against the Washington Wizards.

Since Smart’s injury, the Celtics have gone 6-5 in his absence.

And within those 11 games, Boston’s numbers on several fronts have taken a slight dip.

Boston’s top-ranked defense slipped down to No. 11 with a defensive rating of 105.2 within the last 11 games missed by Smart.

And the success Boston has experienced this season has been heavily influenced by the play of Smart.

His defensive rating this season is 98.9 which stands out on several levels, the most notable one being how he stacks up against others defensively that log major minutes.

Among players that average at least 30 minutes per game, Smart’s defensive rating of 98.9 is tops among in the league with teammates Jayson Tatum (99.8, third in the league), Jaylen Brown (100.3, fifth) and Al Horford (101.0, seventh) all ranked among the league’s leaders.

Not surprisingly, Smart’s teammates are excited to have him back in the fold.

“There’s no question having Marcus back, makes our defense a lot better,” Horford said.

Boston’s Kyrie Irving echoed similar sentiments about Smart.

“He adds a very unique understanding of the game, at both ends of the floor,” Irving said. “We all know how great he is defensively, so he adds to our team … it’s great.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Marcus Smart cleared to play Friday

Marcus Smart cleared to play Friday

According to league sources, Celtics guard Marcus Smart was back in Boston on Tuesday and had a private workout with the team. He has been officially cleared to practice tonight and play Friday when the Celtics return after the All-Star break to play the Pistons in Detroit.

Smart has been out since he lacerated his hand swiping at a picture frame in his hotel room after a Celtics' loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Jan. 25.

The Celtics have lost three in a row and four of five heading into the All-Star break to drop behind the Toronto Raptors for the best record in the East and losing Smart's defense has been a key part of their recent slump.