Report: Rival GM warns of injury concern for C's rumored trade target Griffin

Report: Rival GM warns of injury concern for C's rumored trade target Griffin

With trade rumors involving the Celtics heating up - a three-way deal with the Clippers and Kings that lands Blake Griffin in Boston is the latest - one Western Conference general manager told the Boston Herald that while Danny Ainge is itching to make a trade, Griffin's leg injury could complicate things.

“Oh, Danny definitely wants to do something,” the GM told Bulpett of the Celtics president of basketball operations. “We’ve got nothing that really works with Boston, but I bet something happens there.”

Griffin has an opt out next summer from a deal that's scheduled to pay him $20 million this season and $21 million next, but in addition to signability, the GM was leery of the partially torn left quad tendon that derailed Griffin last season, led to a bone marrow injection after the season, and is keeping Griffin off the US Olympic team. 

“I still think there’s a concern with his leg,” the GM told Bulpett “We looked into him, and we’re hearing that’s a pretty serious thing,” the source continued. “I’m not saying you don’t go after him, but you’d better be really sure about that leg before you go making any big commitments.”

The GM also brought up the Celtics' oft-rumored pursuit of 76ers' big man Jahlil Okafor, the subject of much pre-draft speculation. He told Bulpett that Okafor may be the best fit for a deal with the Celtics.

Celtics Exit Interviews: Marcus Smart was everything the 2018-19 Celtics weren't

Celtics Exit Interviews: Marcus Smart was everything the 2018-19 Celtics weren't

Allow Aron Baynes to explain why Marcus Smart is such a pest on the defensive end of the floor.

"He makes people uncomfortable,” said Baynes. "At the end of the day, [defenders are] trying to do what you can to make every shot tough but he wears on people. And it’s not just in that moment that he’s on the ball. It might be at the end of the game, they come down, they don’t have quite as much legs as they had at the beginning of the game. He’s worn on them the entire time. The cumulative effect of Marcus’ pressure over 48 minutes, it’s going to deteriorate anyone's offense.

“It’s great being able to have a guy like that on your team.”

Late this season, Smart had suggested that Baynes was as important to Boston’s defense as any player on the roster. This drew an audible grunt from Baynes — one of those booming All-of-Australia scoffs that left the big man ranting about why Smart is the team’s defensive conscience and why he deserved a spot on the All-Defense team.

Smart earned the long-overdue honor Wednesday when the NBA announced he was the top vote-getting guard, earning a spot on the All-Defense first team. Smart finished behind only Rudy Gobert, Paul George, and Giannis Antetokounmpo in media voting while earning 63 first-team and 19 second-team votes. 

This might not have even been the best defensive season of Smart’s career, but the reputation he’s built as one of the league’s top defensive bulldogs finally reached voters. Smart was on full display after elevating to a starting role in November and he spent the rest of the season playing alongside Kyrie Irving and hounding the opposing team’s best offensive weapon.

By March, Celtics coach Brad Stevens was publicly stumping for Smart.

"I'm sure if you took a poll of players around the league — even though they might be annoyed by him sometimes — they would all say that he is [one of the top defenders],” said Stevens. "Because he's into people, he's physical, he's tough, he's got a motor, he's got great hands. He should be on that team.”

It’s somewhat ironic that, in maybe his biggest season of offensive growth, Smart is finally being lauded for his defensive abilities.

Still, in a season in which little made sense about these Celtics, Smart was one of the few players to consistently bring a passion and desire that Boston fans so dearly yearned to see.

Smart’s shooting splits this season — 42.2 percent overall, 36.4% beyond the 3-point arc — weren’t just career highs but a jarring leap over his career numbers (36 FG%, 29.3 3PT%). On a team brimming with offensive potential, Smart sacrificed his own offensive chances and embraced being a creator, even as his teammates failed to show the same growth he did. 

Smart took great pride in emerging as a two-way threat, dispelling a reputation as a player who could only impact the game on the defensive end. Smart was still a defensive menace and his steal percentage (3.1) was the best in the NBA (he was third overall in total swipes). 

Smart ranked eighth among all point guards in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus/Minus and that felt criminally low (though he lingered in the same neighborhood as fellow All-Defense guards Patrick Beverly and Jrue Holiday).

Smart played a career-high 80 games only to suffer an oblique injury in the penultimate game of the regular season and missed seven of Boston’s nine playoff tilts. His return wasn’t enough to get the team on track as the Bucks raced away in the Eastern Conference semis.

Alas, you’d be nitpicking to point out ways Smart could have been better this season. He embodied everything that Celtics fans wanted from the rest of the roster — a player that yearned only to win and made the sacrifices necessary in hopes of bringing out the best in his teammates.

It’s why, after Wednesday’s All-Defense announcement, Smart took to Twitter to express appreciation for the honor but also noted, “I want a banner though,” and added, “Offseason is a myth. Let’s get it.”

Stevens isn’t big on captains — believing that players throughout the roster should feel empowered — but, man, Smart continues to make a compelling case for the honor with the way he carries himself on and off the court. Even in simply going to bat for Irving after the season, Smart continually showed the markings of a true leader.

Mind you, all this came a season after he inked a four-year, $52 million extension. While most players throttle down after getting their first big deal, Smart ramped up. And he was playing in the emotional aftermath of losing his mother to cancer last summer.

Smart might just be moving towards untouchable status because of what he brings to the Celtics. That’s particularly notable as we enter a summer in which Boston might need to use Smart’s contract in order to make money match in the pursuit of Anthony Davis.

That’s a bullet the Celtics almost certainly don’t want to bite and will explore all other avenues to avoid such an occurrence on the chance that a Davis deal could become a reality. It won’t be easy, but Smart is worth the headaches of exploring the three-team, sign-and-trade options or other front-office witchcraft that might be necessary to avoid putting him in a package.

But that sorta underscores the Marcus Smart experience. Here’s a player that’s been routinely criticized throughout his career and Celtics fans might legitimately riot if he was moved for one of the best players on the planet.

Smart’s intangibles are just that valuable. And, if the All-Defense honor is any indication, the rest of the league might just be catching on to just how important Smart is here.

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Cavs owner sees Kyrie Irving leaving Celtics, calls 2017 trade a success

Cavs owner sees Kyrie Irving leaving Celtics, calls 2017 trade a success

What a difference two years makes.

When the Celtics acquired Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers in August 2017, it felt like a steal for Boston. When Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder were off the Cavs' roster within a year and a talented Celtics squad reached the Eastern Conference Finals without Irving, it felt like a fleecing.

But if you ask Cavs owner Dan Gilbert now, he'll tell you Cleveland actually made out swimmingly in the deal -- because he believes Irving's tenure in Boston is over.

"I don’t know, but I think Kyrie will leave Boston,” Gilbert told Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "We could have ended up with nothing. Looking back after all the moves (Cavs general manager) Koby (Altman) made, we killed it in that trade."

"Killed it" might be a bit strong, Dan.

The Cavs did use the Brooklyn Nets pick the Celtics sent them to draft point guard Collin Sexton. But turning Thomas and Crowder into Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson didn't exactly move the needle, and Cleveland dropped to No. 5 in the 2019 NBA Draft after tanking its way to a 19-63 record.

What Gilbert might be right about though, is trading Irving at the right time. Gilbert confirmed Irving's agent mentioned the All-Star guard could opt for knee surgery if the Cavs didn't deal him in 2017, and Irving's knee eventually held him out of the 2018 NBA playoffs.

One year later, Irving's future in Boston looks murky, as he's reportedly considering the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers in free agency this summer after cooling on his preseason promise to sign with the Celtics long-term.

As team success goes, the Celtics are still the clear winner of that 2017 blockbuster. But it sounds like Gilbert would view Irving bolting Boston as further validation the Cavs made the right move.

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