Celtics

Marcus Smart defends Kyrie Irving: To blame him is 'bulls---'

Marcus Smart defends Kyrie Irving: To blame him is 'bulls---'

BOSTON — Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart adamantly refuted the suggestion that Kyrie Irving’s leadership struggles were a primary culprit in the team’s inability to reach expectations this season.

Speaking the day after Boston’s season ended with a five-game loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in an Eastern Conference semifinal series, Smart bristled when asked about those that have suggested Irving’s leadership killed Boston's locker room.

“Bulls---. That’s bulls---,” said Smart. "Not one of us on this team knows what Kyrie’s been through. Probably a few amount of people in this world knows what Kyrie goes through. It was hard for him as well. 

"He was forced into a situation where it was business over the friendships, where he had to come into a situation knowing that this is a group of guys that had something going before I come here. 'How will I fit in?' He didn’t want to disrupt that. And that says a lot. This is Kyrie Irving we’re talking about. And he’s talking about coming in and disrupting us.”

The Celtics surged to the cusp of the NBA Finals a year ago while both Irving and Gordon Hayward were lost to season-ending injuries. Boston entered the 2018-19 season with grand expectations in pairing those two with the young core that got a taste of playoff success, but the combination never worked.

Smart still applauded the way Irving tried to integrate himself without disrupting what this team had built before he arrived.

"We took him in with full arms and we tried to understand it,” said Smart. "Like I said, we never really understood. We’re not in his shoes. So that’s just a bulls--- statement to say his leadership killed us. There’s four other guys out there, there’s 12, 13 other guys on the team, coaches and everything. So to blame it on one guy is bulls---.”

Irving is expected to opt out of the final year of his deal this summer. While he expressed a desire to return to Boston before the start of the 2018-19 season, he later hedged and told reporters to ask him July 1 about his future.

Smart said he hasn’t talked to Irving about his future and supports whatever decision he makes.

"I think if he wants to talk about it, he will. That’s his decision,” said Smart. "It’s not for me to ask. That’s not really my business. I love Kyrie as a brother. I talk to Kyrie. I wish nothing for the best. If he decides to stay, if he decides to go, I wish nothing but the best for Kyrie. That’s my brother but I have not talked to him about it and I don’t plan to. That’s his decision.”

Smart repeatedly said he wishes this Celtics group could get a do-over and believes things would have played out differently. When a reporter asked about bringing back a similar core, Smart sounded open to the idea.

"Of course. Anybody would be a fool not to say yeah,” said Smart. "That’d be like the Warriors saying they don’t want their team. We definitely wish we could start over right now from the beginning and do things differently, but I definitely want another crack at it. If that’s in the plan for us then it will. But at this point you just control what you can control.”

The Celtics could experience another overhaul depending on the summer plays out and Smart said he’ll try to ignore the noise and focus on his own development.

"I can’t really focus on the changes that are going to come, if any come,” said Smart. "I can just focus on what’s put in front of me and do the best that I can do being the longest-tenured Celtic and being the player and person I am to try to help this team make a run at it. That’s all I can do. That’s all I can control.

"For me, this summer is really just honing my game even more. This is probably, by far, the best year I’ve had in my five years, especially on the offensive end. Each year I plan on getting better on both ends of the court. I’m one of the best two-way players to do it. I’m constantly working. It’s going to take time, it’s not going to be easy, but if I want to do it, it’s just going to happen. So for me just honing my game on every skill and just trying to reach up and increase on that ladder for my talent.”

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NBA Draft rankings 2019: Big Board of top 30 players available in exciting class

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USA TODAY Sports

NBA Draft rankings 2019: Big Board of top 30 players available in exciting class

The 2019 NBA Draft finally is here.

Brooklyn will play host Thursday night to one of the marquee events on the basketball calendar, and there’s a ton of hype entering this particular draft.

Much of the excitement involves top prospect Zion Williamson of Duke. The ultra-athletic forward has been rated by experts as one of the best draft-eligible players since LeBron James in 2003, and he’s expected to make an immediate impact for the New Orleans Pelicans next season as they begin the post-Anthony Davis era. Two of his Blue Devils teammates, guard R.J. Barrett and forward Cam Reddish, also are expected to be top 10 picks during what should be a great night for Duke.

There’s also a lot of uncertainty in this draft, which creates a lot of excitement itself. After the third or fourth overall selection, the draft could do in many different directions.

We could see several trades as well. The Pelicans reportedly have received “significant interest” in the No. 4 pick after they acquired it from the Los Angeles Lakers in the Davis trade. The Atlanta Hawks also are looking to move up, per reports, and the Boston Celtics could package a combination of their three first-rounders (No. 14, 20 and 22) to potentially move up.

Which players would they move up to draft? Here’s our 2019 NBA Draft Big Board ranking the top available players in this year’s class. 

1. Zion Williamson, Duke, PF
2. Ja Morant, Murray St., PG
3. RJ Barrett, Duke, SG
4. Darius Garland, Vanderbilt, PG
5. Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech, SG
6. Coby White, North Carolina, SG
7. De’Andre Hunter, Virginia, PF
8. Nassir Little, North Carolina, SF
9. Cam Reddish, Duke, SF
10. Jaxson  Hayes, Texas, Center
11. Sekou Doumbouya, Guinea, PF
12. Romeo Langford, Indiana, SF
13. Tyler Herro, Kentucky, SG
14. PJ Washington, Kentucky, PF
15. Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga, PF
16. Bol Bol, Oregon, C
17. Kevin Porter, USC, SG
18. Keldon Johnson, Kentucky, SF
19. Cameron Johnson, North Carolina, PF
20. KZ Okpala, Stanford, SF
21. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Virginia Tech, SG
22. Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga, PF
23. Goga Bitadze, Georgia, C
24. Mfiondu Kabengele, Florida State, C
25. Luguentz Dort, Arizona State, SG
26. Darius Bazley, USA, SF
27. Ty Jerome, Virginia, SG
28. Eric Paschall, Villanova, PF
29. Nic Claxton, Georgia, C
30. Grant Williams, Tennessee, PF

Favorite to land Al Horford in free agency might surprise you>>>

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2019 NBA Draft order: Updated list of picks for first and second round

2019 NBA Draft order: Updated list of picks for first and second round

The 2019 NBA Draft has arrived, and the order of selection remains a fluid situation.

We’ve already seen several picks change hands over the last week, and we could see even more trades shake up the order both before and during Thursday night’s first round. 

One pick rumored to be in play is the No. 4 selection, which the New Orleans Pelicans acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers as part of the reported Anthony Davis trade last weekend. The Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks among the teams that have reportedly shown interest in trading up to No. 4

The Detroit Pistons acquired another first-rounder Wednesday night. They reportedly received the No. 30 pick and Tony Snell from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Jon Leuer. This was a salary dump for the Bucks, who wanted to get rid of Snell's contract.

The Pelicans and Hawks are the only teams with multiple lottery picks, and the Celtics own the most first-round selections overall with three.

Here’s the updated 2019 NBA Draft order for the first and second rounds. This list will be updated throughout Thursday as trades happen.

ROUND 1
1. New Orleans Pelicans
2. Memphis Grizzlies
3. New York Knicks
4. New Orleans Pelicans (via LAL)  
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
6. Phoenix Suns
7. Chicago Bulls
8. Atlanta Hawks
9. Washington Wizards
10. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas)
11. Minnesota Timberwolves
12. Charlotte Hornets         
13. Miami Heat
14. Boston Celtics (from Sacramento via Philadelphia)
15. Detroit Pistons
16. Orlando Magic          
17. Brooklyn Nets          
18. Indiana Pacers            
19. San Antonio Spurs     
20. Boston Celtics (from LA Clippers via Memphis)
21. Oklahoma City Thunder
22. Boston Celtics
23. Memphis Grizzlies (via Utah)
24. Philadelphia 76ers
25. Portland Trail Blazers
26. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Houston)
27. Brooklyn Nets (via Denver)
28. Golden State Warriors
29. San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto)
30. Detroit Pistons (via Milwaukee)

ROUND 2
31. Brooklyn Nets (from New York via Philadelphia)
32. Phoenix Suns 
33. Philadelphia 76ers (from Cleveland via Orlando and New York)
34. Philadelphia 76ers (from Chicago via Los Angeles Lakers)
35. Atlanta Hawks
36. Charlotte Hornets (from Washington via Orlando, Denver and Atlanta)
37. Dallas Mavericks
38. Chicago Bulls (via Memphis)
39. New Orleans Pelicans
40. Sacramento Kings (from Minnesota via Portland and Cleveland)
41. Atlanta Hawks (from Los Angeles Lakers via Cleveland and Indiana)
42. Philadelphia 76ers (from Sacramento via Brooklyn and Milwaukee)
43. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Miami via Charlotte)
44. Miami Heat (from Atlanta via Charlotte)
45. Detroit Pistons
46. Orlando Magic (from Brooklyn via Memphis and Charlotte)
47. Sacramento Kings (from Orlando via New York)
48. LA Clippers Clippers
49. San Antonio Spurs
50. Indiana Pacers
51. Boston Celtics
52. Charlotte Hornets (via Oklahoma City)
53. Utah Jazz
54. Philadelphia 76ers
55. New York Knicks (from Houston)
56. LA Clippers (from Portland via Detroit and Orlando)
57. New Orleans Pelicans (from Denver via Milwaukee)
58. Golden State Warriors
59. Toronto Raptors
60. Sacramento Kings (from Milwaukee)

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