Celtics

Celtics Exit Interviews: Will Marcus Morris be back?

Celtics Exit Interviews: Will Marcus Morris be back?

BOSTON -- Say what you want about Marcus Morris; the man doesn’t lack confidence. 

Like Kyrie Irving, Morris also talked about how things would be different for the Celtics, in a good way, once the playoffs rolled around. 

He was right … sort of. 

A strong first-round sweep of Indiana was as good as things would get for Morris and the Celtics who were soon knocked out of the playoffs in the second round by Milwaukee. 

And while Morris proved to be one of the few bright spots for the Celtics this season, he, too, had a less-than-ideal finish to the season and potentially, his career as a Celtic. 

Morris will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and is expected to receive a decent amount of attention from a number teams, which include the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers. 

The attention Morris will garner this summer is in large part due to how he played this past season for the Celtics. 

Morris put up career-best stats in a number of categories such as rebounding (6.1 per game) and shooting (44.7 percent from the field).

Still, there’s a need for him to become a more consistent shooter. 

Prior to the All-Star break, Morris was averaging a career-high 14.5 points on 47.6 percent shooting from the field and 40.9 percent on 3’s. 

After the break, his scoring had dropped to 12.5 points while shooting 37.8 percent from the field and 30.0 percent on 3’s. 

Morris has a solid 6-foot-9 frame and seems built for today’s NBA game, which rewards players with defensive versatility. While that’s a big part of who Morris is as a player, his defense this past season wasn’t as good as we’ve seen from him in past.

Even with some aspects of his game being off compared to past years, Morris, who turns 30 in September, is a player who has tremendous value in the NBA for not just what he does statistically, but also because of the tough-guy demeanor that he plays with on a night-in, night-out basis.

And those skills are going to be rewarded in a big way this summer when he hits free agency and lands what’s likely to be a contract that will at least double the $5 million he made last season. 

The only question isn’t whether he will get paid, but rather will he be getting paid by the Celtics?

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Celtics' Kyrie Irving seems Brooklyn-bound; is Al Horford next?

Celtics' Kyrie Irving seems Brooklyn-bound; is Al Horford next?

BOSTON -- For weeks we have heard about Kyrie Irving reportedly taking his talents to Brooklyn next season. 

Well, he may not be the only Celtics player ballin’ for the Nets in the near future. 

In addition to Kyrie Irving, Al Horford is another potential addition to what could be an immense offseason haul for the Nets, according to a league source. 

The source cited three main reasons why 32-year-old Horford is a viable option for the Nets. 

ON THE RISE

Brooklyn is coming off a return to the playoffs following a three-year hiatus. The Nets were one of the peskiest, hardest-playing teams in the East and garnered the praise of many including Celtics players and coaching staff. 

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was among the first to publicly proclaim last season's Nets squad was good enough to be in the playoffs.

“I’d be surprised if this team’s not in the playoffs,” Stevens told reporters back in January. “They’re awfully good. Again, they’re really well-coached. I love the way they play. They play hard, they play together. Everybody knows what they’re supposed to do and they do it every night. They don’t get outside of it. Shooters shoot, drivers drive, guys that can do both do both, rollers roll. They look like a team. They’ve done a great job of building that over time. (Head coach) Kenny (Atkinson) has done a great job, his staff’s done a great job and they’ve got good players.”

But the Nets realized that they had to add great talent; the kind that can build off of last season’s first-round exit to the Philadelphia 76ers. 

The Nets didn’t waste much time once the season ended by swinging a deal with the Atlanta Hawks that created a pair of max-salary slots, presumably to bring in Irving and one of his best friends, Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant. 

However, Durant’s Achilles injury in the playoffs complicated matters. 

While the Nets are still among the teams whose interest in Durant remains strong as ever despite an injury that’ll likely keep him out for most if not all of the 2019-2020 season, there’s a growing sense among league executives that he’ll re-sign with the Warriors. 

And with the framework for an Anthony Davis trade to the Los Angeles Lakers already agreed upon, Brooklyn will find itself in the market for a max or near-max salary player who provides versatility, experience and can make a difference on the floor. 

Horford checks off all those boxes. 

FAMILIARITY

Horford is given a lot of credit for how he went from being a back-to-the-basket player to one of the best “stretch” bigs in the NBA in a very short period of time. 

His evolution into a three-point threat began under the tutelage of Atkinson, an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks at that time who now is Brooklyn's head coach.

The two maintained a strong relationship even after Horford left for Boston and Atkinson assumed his first head coaching job in the league with the Nets. 

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Atkinson has never held back his praise for Horford’s game, or how impressed he has been with how Stevens utilized him in a variety of ways. 

“Sometimes as coaches we hold back guys sometimes,” Atkinson told reporters prior to a Brooklyn-Boston game in 2017. “I can even see with Brad he's doing even more things than he did Atlanta. I see him handle the ball a lot more at the top of the key and bringing the ball up sometimes. It's impressive. I know Al was thirsty and hungry to kind of embrace that new big man role. And he didn't shy from it. That was the thing that impressed me in Atlanta. When we asked him to do more, get out of his comfort zone, he embraced it, rather than some guys they don't embrace that role. So that's a real credit to him, and then, again, for Brad giving him the freedom to do those things."

SALARY CAP SPACE

When the Nets agreed to trade Allan Crabbe to the Atlanta Hawks, it generated enough salary cap space for the Nets to sign a pair of max-salary players. So with Irving expected to join them this summer, there’s room for Horford as well.

Horford, who became a free agent after opting out of the final year of his deal with Boston that would have paid him $30.1 million for this upcoming season, had made no secret about being open to the idea of taking less money than a max salary for the security of additional years with a title contender. 

It is that latter dynamic in all this - finding a title contender - that league executives believe more than anything else factored in Horford’s decision to opt out of his contract and eventually walk away from a new deal in Boston. 

It's also unclear if the Celtics, well aware that they’re likely to not be in title contention this season, were willing to provide the kind of salary or number of years Horford was seeking with the knowledge that they’re not necessarily built to be among the elite teams even with his return. 

Meanwhile, the Nets already have a young all-star in D’Angelo Russell, who is a free agent this summer, as well. They have a young big in Jarrett Allen whose presence would allow Horford to play both power forward and center at times, if needed. And while Boston’s offense had its share of ups and downs last season, the pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop game between Irving and Horford was strong. 

And while Celtics fans will certainly be disappointed to see Al Horford leave, there’s a lot about where Brooklyn is now that makes a lot of sense for Horford in achieving both his individual as well as team goals going forward.

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Al Horford rumors: Ex-Celtic expects this contract in free agency

Al Horford rumors: Ex-Celtic expects this contract in free agency

To say the Boston Celtics' offseason plans have changed would be an understatement.

News broke Tuesday night that Al Horford, who declined his $30.1 million player option for the 2019-20 season Tuesday, is no longer expected to sign a new contract with the Celtics and will look for a deal elsewhere.

It was a surprising development, and one apparently caused by a disagreement on contract terms. Here's what The New York Times' Marc Stein reported late Tuesday night:

The C's reportedly had hoped to sign Horford to a three-year deal. But the 33-year-old apparently believes he can find another team that will pay him more over a longer period.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski essentially confirmed Stein's report Wednesday morning on "SportsCenter."

"He has a belief, and I think his agent has a belief, that there is likely a four-year deal for him at 33 years old that would pay him significantly more than the Celtics were willing to offer," Wojnarowski said of Horford.

Wojnarowski added that Horford "almost certainly" will depart the Celtics in free agency beginning June 30 amid reports that Boston still has hope it can work out a deal with the veteran big man.

According to the Boston Herald's Mark Murphy, the C's believe Horford already has a new destination in mind.

Losing Horford and All-Star guard Kyrie Irving -- who reportedly has signaled his intentions to sign with the Brooklyn Nets -- would be a gut punch for the Celtics, who would have to pivot to a new plan after losing two of their best players for zero return.

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