Celtics

Enes Kanter inspired as Celtics organization rallies together to drive change

Enes Kanter inspired as Celtics organization rallies together to drive change

Enes Kanter said he’s proud to be a member of the Boston Celtics after watching the way that every level of the organization has responded this week while trying to combat racial injustices.

Kanter was one of at least four teammates to participate in peaceful protests last weekend and said the Celtics held a powerful Zoom meeting Wednesday where players, coaches, and ownership all expressed a desire to drive change.

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“This is not about white against black. This is about all of us, everyone against racism. Just to make this clear,” said Kanter, who made a 20-hour drive from Chicago to join peaceful protests in Boston on Sunday. "I just came to my city, to be with my people. I got inspired a lot.

"I got inspired a lot by Jaylen Brown. It just shows how good of a leader he is … what kind of character he has. Not just him but Marcus Smart and, not many people talked about it, but Vincent [Poirier] went out there. We had a conversation [Wednesday] night and, [Thursday], so many players texted me and said, ‘Hey are we going [to protest] again?’ That shows a lot about what kind of teammates we have. You’re proud to be a Celtic, man.”

Kanter said that Wednesday’s Zoom meeting featured impassioned conversation that included owner Wyc Grousbeck, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, coach Brad Stevens and his staff, and players.

“You could see why this is like one of the best organizations in the league. You can see the leaders,” said Kanter. “It was just amazing to see from the older guys to the younger guys, from the rookies to the owners, the coaches, everyone stepped up and said, ‘What can we do? What should we do to bring more awareness?’"

In the aftermath, Ainge posted a message on Twitter noting, “I’m so proud to be associated with [Celtics players] in our shared quest for positive change.” On Thursday, both Grousbeck and Stevens posted video messages on social media with a goal of driving change.

"I saw [Thursday] that Wyc posted a video out there and I’m like, ‘This is my owner, man. That’s my owner.’ You’re just proud to be a Celtic,” said Kanter. "We have 30 [NBA] teams, right? How many owners stepped up? I see [Mavericks owner Marc] Cuban and Wyc, that’s it. I have not seen anyone stepping up and talking about this.”

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Stevens said earlier this week that he labored over a letter to players last weekend trying to express his desire to help them in their quest for change.

"Your coach is your leader, right? Coming from him, it definitely meant a lot to all of us,” said Kanter. "Brad’s a special guy, man. Brad makes a difference. This is like a big family and Brad is obviously like the dad, I would say. I look at my teammates like my brothers and Brad is like the dad. It’s a huge big family.

Everyone cares about each other, everyone respects each other. I’m learning a lot from Brad. I’m learning about being a good leader, being a good person, and that’s what makes him different, man. The whole world knows he’s a good coach. He’s a very smart coach, he knows the game of basketball. But the difference is his character. He cares about the world. He cares about the players, not just on the court but off the court, too.

Kanter, who has spent recent years passionately fighting for human rights in his native Turkey, said his conversations with teammates this week have left him emotional.

"I know what it’s like to fight for freedom and justice,” said Kanter. "There’s only one race and it’s the human race. I’ve said this before in many many interviews: It doesn’t matter what your religion is, what your skin color is, what your race is, whatever you are — the most important thing in life is leaving your differences on the table and trying to find what we have in common.

"I learned a lot this week. I learned a lot from Jaylen, I learned a lot from Celtics … We need to fight for each other, we need to fight for good.”

Final week focus for Celtics fans: Grizzlies pick and the No. 6 seed

Final week focus for Celtics fans: Grizzlies pick and the No. 6 seed

The Boston Celtics have clinched the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and their final two seeding games inside the bubble seem fairly perfunctory.

But there’s still plenty to be determined over what amounts to the final week of the NBA’s (not-so) regular season.

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH THE GRIZZLIES PICK?

While Boston’s playoff seeding is locked in, the Grizzlies team they play on Tuesday evening is most certainly not.

Here’s the deal: The Western Conference will have a play-in game this weekend to determine the conference’s final playoff representative. The team with the eighth-best record in the West will play the team with the ninth-best record, but the No. 9 team must win twice in order to steal the final playoff spot. One win by the No. 8 team secures that spot for them.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Grizzlies, which begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

The Grizzlies enter Tuesday clinging dearly to the No. 8 spot in the West but there were three other teams within one game in the Blazers, Spurs, and Suns. Memphis isn’t just trying to hold onto that prime No. 8 real estate to make the play-in easier, they’re trying to avoid getting bounced from the play-in all together.

Which is why Tuesday’s tilt means a whole bunch to Memphis. But the Celtics have some motivation of their own to try to knock the Grizzlies out of a playoff spot and it centers around the Grizzlies' first-round pick that Boston is in position to collect this offseason.

If Memphis sneaks into the playoffs, they’ll avoid the lottery and deliver a pick somewhere between spots 15-17, depending on whether their post-bubble record is better than Orlando and Brooklyn.

If the Grizzlies fall out of the playoffs, they’ll land in the lottery and almost certainly convey the No. 14 pick to Boston. There’s a 2.4 percent chance that pick could vault into the top 4, which would trigger Memphis’ protections and cause Memphis to instead deliver a 2021 unprotected first-round pick.

To put it simpler: The Celtics can better their potential draft spot by up to three positions if the Grizzlies don’t make the playoffs. The Memphis pick is set to be the best of Boston’s three potential first-round picks in the upcoming draft (they also have their own and a pick from Milwaukee).

WHO IS GOING TO GET THE SIXTH SEED IN THE EAST?

Boston’s spot is set but their first-round playoff opponent is still very much in the air.

The Heat and Pacers played the first of their two remaining head-to-head matchups Monday with Miami cruising to a 114-92 win and taking sole possession of the No. 4 seed. Indiana sits a half-game ahead of the No. 6 Sixers, who are the most likely first-round opponent for Boston. Appropriately, Philadelphia had a nearly 76 percent chance of meeting Boston, based on projections by ESPN’s Basketball Power Index.

But those numbers could shift, especially if Pacers can't top the Heat in their second meeting. A look at each team’s remaining schedule:

MIAMI: 8/12 vs. OKC, 8/14 vs. IND

INDIANA:  8/12 vs. HOU, 8/14 vs MIA

PHILADELPHIA: 8/11 vs. PHX, 8/12 vs. TOR, 8/14 vs HOU

Remember, some of those matchups might look more daunting than they really are if some of the NBA’s top seeds downshift over the final week of seeding games.

While the conversation surrounding the Celtics’ first-round opponent has often centered on who might be the easier out — with Philadelphia’s recent injury woes seemingly making the Sixers a more agreeable draw — remember, too, that there could be value in the 4-5 winner being able to push one of the top seeds. It might be in Boston’s best interest if Milwaukee had to play a team like, say, the Heat in Round 2 given their regular-season struggles against them.

WHAT ELSE CAN BOSTON TAKE FROM ITS FINAL TWO GAMES?

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he will use the final two seeding games in order to ensure his team’s conditioning is adequate given the minimum three-day break the team will endure between Thursday’s matinee finale and the potential start of the playoffs next Monday. Still, we’d be surprised if Boston’s key rotation players log heavy minutes in Thursday’s game against the Wizards. 

A few things that Boston can still gather from these two games:

1) More minutes for the starting 5: A group that played only 188 minutes during the regular season can continue to build necessary continuity at the start and end of halves. With Kemba Walker’s minute restriction set to lift in the postseason, it will allow Boston’s core players to share the floor even more frequently and Stevens can continue to nail down his primary rotations. Daniel Theis did land on the injury report for the Memphis game but he’s probable with right foot soreness. And even if he can’t go it could given Stevens a better chance to experiment with his bigs including … 

2) Is it Timelord’s time? Second-year big man Robert Williams has put together consecutive quality outings against Toronto and Orlando. He’ll get two more games to build Stevens’ trust as a potential option off the bench. Kudos, too, to Enes Kanter, who was one of the more impactful players early in Boston's seeding games while the team shook rust, and has dealt with a reduced workload in recent games.

The Celtics essentially know what they’ve got in Kanter and Stevens seems to be using these games to figure out what he’s got with Williams. The split of postseason playing time for those players could be dictated by matchups. But Williams needs to continue to put his best foot forward this week to ensure Stevens is willing to lean on him in big-game situations.

3) Another audition for rookies: The Celtics played some of their best minutes of scrimmage play with Grant Williams at small-ball center but he’s struggled to consistently make perimeter shots in the seeding games and was a DNP against Orlando. We’re not ready to say that he’s out of the rotation — we can see Stevens leaning on him as much as Williams or Kanter in certain matchups — but as Semi Ojeleye fires away and makes 42.9 percent of his 3s over the past six games, the veteran is making a case to be that stout body that Stevens leans on when he needs a little extra muscle on the court.

Romeo Langford should also get another chance this week to show he’ll be ready to provide solid wing defense if called upon during the postseason. Every minute in a real game is an opportunity for Boston’s youngest players to make an impression and all of them should be motivated for the uptick they’ll see this week. Any floor time they get starting next week should almost certainly be in much small doses.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Banner 18 in the bubble? Celtics' title chances getting stronger as postseason nears | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

NBA Rumors: 76ers star Ben Simmons expected to miss rest of season

NBA Rumors: 76ers star Ben Simmons expected to miss rest of season

The Philadelphia 76ers' 2020 NBA title hopes have taken a major hit.

Sixers star Ben Simmons left the Orlando bubble to undergo surgery on his left knee after injuring it in Wednesday's game against the Washington Wizards. Now, it looks like his season is over.

Simmons had the surgery in Philadelphia to remove a loose body in the knee, and he'll stay there for rehab. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Simmons isn't expected to return to the bubble for the 76ers' playoff run.


Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Grizzlies, which begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

That's obviously a huge blow to a Philly team that currently holds the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. Without one of their most important players for the postseason, it'll be extremely difficult for them to gain any kind of momentum.

The news directly impacts the Boston Celtics, who are locked into the No. 3 seed in the East. As of Monday, the 76ers would be their first-round opponent. But Philadelphia still has to wrap the season up with seeding games against the Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets.

Simmons averaged 16.4 points, 8.0 assists, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.1 steals per game during the 2019-20 season.