Celtics Mailbag: Kobe Bryant's legacy, trade chatter, and All-Star reserves

Celtics Mailbag: Kobe Bryant's legacy, trade chatter, and All-Star reserves

This is quite a week for the Boston Celtics.

They got their first glimpse of Zion Williamson on Sunday, have a South Beach showdown with a primary rival for the No. 2 spot in the East on Tuesday, and host the Philadelphia 76ers in a primetime battle on Saturday night.

On Thursday, All-Star reserves will be announced and we’ll find out if Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown muscled their way into their first appearance.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Heat, which begins Tuesday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live. You can also stream it on the MyTeams App.

Through it all, a lot of fans’ thoughts remain on the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his part in the Celtics-Lakers rivalry. That’s where we start this week’s Celtics Mailbag: 

What was Kobe’s best moment at TD Garden? — @PlatanoGuy

Bryant’s last visit to TD Garden in December 2015 was incredible because of the way he was received. This was a player who broke the hearts of Boston fans, particularly in the 2010 NBA Finals, and he got deafening cheers on enemy soil. While there was plenty of purple and gold in the building that night, it was just a neat moment to see a rival fan base showing its respect to Bryant while celebrating his career.

Watch lineup introductions from that game and tell me it doesn’t give you goosebumps to hear that roar. And then it’s just perfect when Boston fans boo him the first time he touches the ball. Just an amazing experience. 

As far as most important victory at the Garden, the Lakers winning Game 3 of the 2010 Finals, after Boston had stolen Game 2 out west, was critical to that series. Bryant had 29 points that night in 44 minutes of action. He didn’t shoot the ball well, a theme in the series, but with three games in Boston, the Lakers needed that one and he went and got it for them.

Was Kobe the greatest pure scorer in NBA history? — @tom_steely

The 33,643 career points certainly put him in the conversation, but I think Bryant’s legacy will go far beyond scoring. His absurd competitiveness, his unrelenting desire to win, and his take-no-prisoners style of play is what we remember more than just his absurd offensive arsenal.

Kevin Garnett tells the story about how the Lakers won Game 7 in 2010 because Bryant eventually realized he couldn’t win the game on his own that night. Bryant found ways to impact the game beyond his offense and it hammered home how winning was always the most important thing to him. As Brad Stevens suggested Sunday, for this current generation of NBA players, Kobe was their Michael Jordan. 

How could they play games Sunday? So [messed] up. Only money matters? I bleed green and I remain gutted. A dad taking his daughter to her game. How can Adam Silver justify it? — @jljedgemere1

There’s no denying the impact the news of Bryant’s passing had on players throughout the league. I think Gordon Hayward said it well after Sunday’s game when he noted he wouldn’t have been upset if the NBA postponed the games. Alas, it was hard to fathom how the league could erase that day’s slate and find a way to make up all the games.

It’s one thing to postpone Lakers-Clippers when there will be ample opportunities to get two teams based in L.A. together again. Getting Boston back to New Orleans would have been a real logistical challenge. Alas, there’s no denying the product didn’t look the same given the day’s events.

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The current roster seems effective enough for the regular season, but do you think reinforcements are needed for the playoffs, when flaws are more quickly exposed? — @MikeDynon

We’d argue that, given all the team's injuries, Boston could really benefit from having one more experienced role player right now. Someone who could potentially hold down the 8th or 9th spot in the playoffs but also be able to play a larger role while navigating the remaining slate.

The fact that Boston played as well as it did against the Lakers — putting together some of its best basketball when 1) As close to fully healthy as it's been and 2) Playing with a shortened rotation — is an encouraging sign about the team's playoff potential. And yet we can’t shake the notion that some extra bench shooting would really benefit this team given the matchups they’ll likely encounter in the postseason. That last visit to Milwaukee showcased just how important shooting can be against one of Boston’s primary road blocks out of the East.

Is Nemanja Bjelica an obtainable player? Is he what the Celtics need? — @brad_lessard

Guys like Bjelica and Dario Saric check a lot of the boxes in terms of size, shooting, and manageable contract that wouldn’t force you to move one of your core pieces. But then you watch Bjelica put up 20/9/8 last night and you wonder why Sacramento would be in a rush to move him when he’s under contract for reasonable money next season. But that’s certainly the type of player I think Danny Ainge will hunt before the deadline with hopes of giving Boston an extra guy it can lean on.

What are Boston's tradable assets? — @HippoFoppy

That’s the hard part for Boston. The Celtics have some decent draft picks to dangle, especially if the team is willing to put the Memphis pick on the table for a more impactful player, and yet many of the Celtics’ bench players have limited trade value and you’d be sacrificing some just to make the money work in most deals.

Boston’s in a tough spot where it doesn’t want to move any of its core pieces that comprise all of its big-money contracts, and yet the Celtics don’t have any mid-tier salaries that could expand the pool of players they could pursue. Ultimately, it limits the trade partners and might put a premium on finding a lottery-bound team that yearns for draft assets or raw young talent.

Any chance you could see the Cs trying to trade for Isaiah Thomas? Shooting 41% from 3, he played his best under Brad Stevens and we could use a shooter off the bench. Plus, his cap hit isn’t much. Could be a win win for the C's and IT. -- @mjmed12

No one loves a “we’re getting the band back together!” story more than this writer and Thomas’ time in Boston remains my favorite years covering this team. All that said, I just don’t see the fit right now. Thomas needs the ball in his hands and a high volume of shots (10.4 per game this year), while the Celtics need more size and spot-up shooting to space the floor. Here’s hoping Thomas can continue to revive his career in Washington and earn himself a decent payday, wherever he lands this summer.

Do the Celtics have enough assets to go get Davis Bertans without giving up a Marcus Smart or Gordon Hayward? Would picks and a player to match salary work? — @ZLR43

I did not expect this much lusting for personnel from the 15-win Wizards in this week’s bag but here we are. Now I’m just waiting for an Ish Smith query to roll in. The Celtics called on Bertans early in the season and got the same message that the Wizards publicly declared soon after: Washington contends it's in no rush to trade a player who could be a key part of their core moving forward.

You could certainly try to overwhelm them with draft assets, especially with three potential picks in this year’s draft, but the price tag that Bertans might ultimately command this summer could be a bit prohibitive, especially for someone who doesn’t solve your defensive concerns at the big-man spot.


If you could only vote one player an All-Star reserve, who gets the nod: Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown? — @NBCSBoston

OK, so this might be a shameless plug for our most recent Celtics Talk Podcast in which we not only tackled this question but tried to predict the seven players who will be named reserves for the East on Thursday night.

The exercise showed that the talent in the conference makes it hard to see a path to three stars for Boston and, the fear for the Celtics has to be that Brown and Tatum split votes among voting coaches. Ultimately, we think Tatum gets in and joins Kemba Walker in Chicago.

Yes, he hasn’t been as efficient as Brown, but Tatum’s been a two-way monster whose on/off splits hammer home his overall impact. Stevens always talks about voting based on “fear factor,” and we simply think opposing coaches likely spend more time worrying about how to limit Tatum’s offensive impact right now. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Heat, which begins Tuesday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live. You can also stream it on the MyTeams App.

Classic Celtics: Watch C's outlast Suns in epic 1976 NBA Finals Game 5

Classic Celtics: Watch C's outlast Suns in epic 1976 NBA Finals Game 5

When it's referred to as "the greatest game ever played," it's probably worth re-watching.

NBC Sports Boston's "Classic Celtics" series -- which featured Larry Bird's dominant performance in Game 6 of the 1986 NBA Finals on Friday -- is back this Sunday with a gem from the archives: Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns.

With the series knotted at 2-2, the Celtics and Suns battled through three overtimes that featured several controversial calls before C's emerged with a thrilling 128-126 win at the Boston Garden.

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Buoyed that victory, the Celtics went on to win Game 6 and secure what would be the last NBA championship for the iconic core of John Havlicek, Dave Cowens, Jo Jo White, Paul Silas and head coach Tommy Heinsohn.

Our re-broadcast of Celtics-Suns airs Sunday at 7 p.m. ET, and Heinsohn will join Brian Scalabrine to provide color commentary throughout the game. 

Here's how to watch:

When: Sunday, April 5, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Boston
Streaming: NBCSportsBoston.com and in the MyTeams app

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Enes Kanter wants to finish season, thinks Celtics have a chance to win title

Enes Kanter wants to finish season, thinks Celtics have a chance to win title

It has now been 25 days since the Boston Celtics last played and 24 days since the NBA suspended its season over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. And right now, it's unclear when -- or if -- the season will resume.

And even if the games do return, there is going to be an adjustment period for players as they look to get back into game shape. In a Zoom conference on Friday, Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter outlined why the league can't just jump right back into the playoffs without any sort of tune-up.

"I think we’ll need two to three weeks just to get back on the court because people are in their apartments and not moving at all," Kanter said, as transcribed by Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. "We have to make sure everyone is doing their stuff and in great shape, so they can go out and compete. If you jump straight to playoffs, playoffs are like a war, where you have to give it everything you have. Make sure everyone is 100 percent healthy, in game shape, and then we can compete."

This completely makes sense, as the last thing the league wants is to put the players in danger of suffering long-term injuries by bringing them back too quickly. Additionally, the league probably would also want their players in peak physical shape in order to avoid fielding a subpar product in the playoffs.

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Even with the uncertainty surrounding a potential NBA return, Kanter is holding out hope that the season will return. And he's pretty confident in the C's chances of going all the way if it does happen.

"We are competitors man, so we want to go out there and finish the season,'' he said. "Especially, like, it’s crazy — we actually have a really good chance to go out there and win a championship.''

Kanter has a point. The Celtics were the No. 3 seed in the East at the time of the league's suspension, but with time to get healthy, they may have a chance to have their full roster available, something they've rarely had this season. And their relative youth could allow them to get into shape quicker than some other more veteran-laden teams.

Still, until the league actually does return, it'll be more waiting and wondering what could've been for the Celtics had the season continued.

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