Celtics

David Griffin lays out why Celtics backed off in Anthony Davis trade talks

David Griffin lays out why Celtics backed off in Anthony Davis trade talks

Remember all that reported acrimony between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Los Angeles Lakers over Anthony Davis trade talks at the deadline?

Apparently none of it mattered.

Pelicans executive president of basketball operations David Griffin, who joined New Orleans in April, traded Davis to the Lakers anyway in June, leaving other suitors like the Boston Celtics out in the cold.

In a recent interview with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Griffin suggested the Lakers were always the clear favorite to land Davis because of the big man's desire to sign with L.A. in free agency next summer.

"We were really fortunate that Rich Paul was representing LeBron James, and the Lakers need(ing) to put another star with LeBron sort of dovetailed with the fact that Anthony had picked the time he had picked to want to move on," Griffin told Wojnarowski. "There was really only one destination (L.A.) where they were confident he would sign."

That meant any other trade partner ran the risk of relinquishing key assets for just one year of Davis. The Toronto Raptors took that gamble with Kawhi Leonard last offseason and saw it pay off with an NBA title, but Griffin suggested the Celtics were less willing to take that gamble, even if landing Davis may have convinced Kyrie Irving to stay in Boston.

"We were in a situation where it was clear that Anthony was ready to move on, and it wasn't clear that he was willing to stay anywhere other than L.A.," Griffin added. "So, I think that probably played into Boston's thinking more than the Kyrie aspect of it, because Boston intended to stay elite. They wanted to compete at the highest level. I think the risk factor of him not staying put the trade conversations more in the space of those other deals we talked about."

If it's any consolation prize for the Celtics, their interest in Davis may have forced the Lakers to pay more for the superstar. Griffin added the Pelicans "had our sights set a little higher" in trade talks with L.A., in part due to the leverage other suitors like the C's provided.

Boston pivoted quickly after whiffing on Davis, replacing Kyrie Irving with Kemba Walker and adding an intriguing rookie class to the young Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown duo. Based on Griffin's comments, that may have been the right strategy, as it seems AD was determined to go to L.A. from the outset.

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NBA picks: Celtics vs. Kings betting predictions, plays against the spread

NBA picks: Celtics vs. Kings betting predictions, plays against the spread

Last year, the Sacramento Kings were one of the league's biggest surprises and seemed like a team on the rise. After a tough start to the year, it seems that they're back on that track once again.

Under new head coach Luke Walton, the Kings are 4-7 so far this season. They struggled out of the gate and lost their first five games, but they have been resurgent in their last six games, logging a 4-2 record. And that's in spite of the fact that they've been without De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley in recent games.

Still, the Celtics figure to be a tough test for the Kings. Though the Kings just played the Los Angeles Lakers (and lost 99-97), they haven't seen a team quite like the Celtics so far. The C's are on a massive 10-game win streak and while they haven't played their best basketball yet, they're simply finding ways to win.

Speaking of finding ways to win, that's what I'll be looking to do today, as I'm pinch-hitting for Darren Hartwell in this spot. Darren is 16-10-1 so far with his betting picks this season, so I have quite a bit to live up to. Here are our betting picks for Celtics-Kings, as well as two NBA locks against the spread.

(All odds provided by WestGate Superbook.)

Boston Celtics at Sacramento Kings, 3:30 p.m. ET

Moneyline: The Celtics (-145) are coming off a sloppy win against the Warriors and aren't favored to win this game by much despite their 10-game winning streak. It seems that experts are expecting that the Celtics will trip up at some point on this road trip. But if they can clean up some of their mistakes from Friday night and win the turnover battle once again, they should beat the 4-7 Kings.

Point Spread: By virtue of the team's close win over the Warriors in which the Celtics failed to cover a seven-point spread, this spread has come down a full point. As good as the Kings have been in recent weeks, including their two-point loss to the Lakers in L.A. on Friday night, the Celtics (-2.5) seems like the right side if we're going to pick them to win this one. They should be able to notch at least a three-point victory and cover this spread.

Point Total: In each of the Celtics' last four games, both the C's and their opponents have scored at least 100 points. And prior to their loss to the Lakers, the Kings had scored in triple figures in six consecutive games. Thus, it feels that the OVER is the right side here as the two teams should be able to surpass the 218.5 point total in their mid-afternoon clash. 

Jacob's record picking the Celtics' moneyline, point spread and point total: 0-0-0

NBA Locks of the Night

Philadelphia 76ers at Cleveland Cavaliers (+7): The 76ers are mired in a slump and are just 2-6 overall in their past eight games. One of the wins came against the Cavaliers at home, but it was just by a single point. Amid the 76ers' struggles, this spread just seems too high and the Cavaliers should improve upon their 6-3-2 record against the spread.

Washington Wizards (+7) at Orlando Magic: Much has been made of the Wizards' poor defensive play this season. While they have been awful on that side of the ball, they have scored 133 and 137 points in each of their past two games. If Bradley Beal and the offense can stay hot, the Magic may have trouble keeping pace with them as they rank second-to-last in the league in points per game.

Jacob's record picking NBA locks against the spread: 0-0-0

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Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Kings, which tips off Sunday at 3 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 3:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Stop being surprised by Marcus Smart's 3-point shooting

Stop being surprised by Marcus Smart's 3-point shooting

It’s time to stop acting so surprised by Marcus Smart’s 3-point shooting.

We now have the past 2 1/2 years of data that suggests that, when healthy, Smart is an above-average 3-point shooter. He shot nearly 39.7 percent beyond the arc in Boston’s 2017 playoff run and carried the momentum into last season when he shot a career-best 36.4 percent. Eleven games into the 2019-20 season, Smart is shooting 40.8 percent while putting up a hefty 6.9 attempts per game.

This isn’t a fluke. No longer does Smart need a snow-day practice session to harness his 3-point superpowers. Smart’s hard work — and, maybe more important, sustained good health — has allowed his natural talents to be spotlighted.

MORE FORSBERG: It's a winning play from Tatum, with help from Smart 

A Smart pull-up 3-pointer used to elicit groans. Now it’s one of Boston’s better looks. Yes, he's still prone to the occasional bold heat check but the results speak for themselves. Smart ranks 13th in the NBA in total 3-pointers made (31) this season and there’s no reason to believe that, given the offensive talent around him this season, this isn’t sustainable.

This isn’t Smart getting hot from one spot or feasting on just open catch-and-shoot looks. On Friday night against Golden State in San Francisco, Smart made five 3-pointers, confidently firing when the ball came his way in transition. When the Celtics kicked out to Smart after an offensive rebound late in the first quarter, it kickstarted their comeback from a 15-point deficit. Early in the fourth quarter, when a defender rushed to impede his path to the paint, Smart hit a little step-back 3-pointer from straightaway.

Smart finished 5-for-9 beyond the arc. It’s the 13th time in his career that he’s made at least five triples in a game (including postseason). Eleven of those have come in the past two-plus seasons. He’s made at least four 3-pointers in each of Boston’s past four wins.

The inconsistencies you remember from the past might have had more to do with health than talent.

Whether it was shredding his hand punching a mirror a few years back or tearing a ligament in his thumb later that season, there have been ailments that contributed to stretches of poor shooting. Still, what Smart is doing now doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone in the Celtics organization.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge have long maintained that Smart had the right mechanics to thrive with the 3-point shot. He’s certainly never lacked for confidence. Assistant coach Jay Larranaga spent a lot of time working with Smart when that shot struggled early in his career. Now Smart fires away with the confidence of someone that completely trusts his shot.

The 3-point shot now accounts for just under 70 percent of Smart’s total shot attempts this season. That’s up from 61 percent last season. While Boston’s offensive quartet of Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward have relentlessly attacked the basket this year — Boston’s drives way up from a season ago — Smart has been the beneficiary of drive-and-kicks, particularly when the driver kicks out with a hockey assist and the ball moves quickly to Smart while catching the defense in rotation.

Even better, Smart’s 3-point penchant hasn’t come at the expense of his playmaking. He’s still averaging 4.6 assists per game, providing needed ball-handling with Hayward injured and taking some of the load off Walker.

The NBA’s shot-tracking data hammers home Smart’s better shot selection in recent years. Half of Smart’s 3-point attempts this season have come with zero dribbles and he’s made 40 percent (22 of 55) of those quality catch-and-shoot looks. Smart is shooting 43.6 percent on all “wide-open” 3-pointers (6 feet or more of space) and 38.7 on “open” looks (4-6 feet). More encouraging: He has only six attempts in what’s deemed tight (2-4 feet) coverage and none with “very tight (0-2 feet).

In fact, Smart hasn’t taken a “very tight” covered 3-pointer in either of the past two seasons. Smart isn’t forcing anything and showing a greater maturity in shot selection than at times earlier in his career.

We get it — it was those ill-timed, defense-smothered 3-pointers that used to make fans cringe. Smart didn’t shoot the ball well enough early in his career to justify some of the bold pull-up offerings he’d take.

Now he does. He's earned that trust. And it's time to stop being so surprised when those shots go in.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Kings, which tips off Sunday at 3 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 3:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.