Celtics

NBA Notebook: Could Marcus Morris be on the move from the woeful Knicks?

NBA Notebook: Could Marcus Morris be on the move from the woeful Knicks?

BOSTON -- For teams who have gone through a bit of buyer’s remorse after signing players this summer, Dec. 15 can’t get here soon enough. 

That’s the earliest teams can move on from deals they signed this offseason. 

Still, in conversations with various league officials and scouts, don’t expect to see much if any movement right away. 

“No one is in this huge rush to get from under a deal or anything like that,” a league executive told NBC Sports Boston. “There will be a deal done here and there, but I don’t think you’ll see any blockbuster deals involving the guys who signed in the summer.”

One player I’m told to keep an eye on is ex-Celtics forward Marcus Morris, now with the New York Knicks. 

He’s having a career season and the organization loves the tough, rugged brand of basketball that he brings to the floor.

“But is he worth more to the Knicks on their roster, or as a trade chip,” a Western Conference scout told NBC Sports Boston. “What’s the value for a veteran with his talents, contract and toughness?”

That’s a question the Knicks almost certainly are asking themselves as they continue to mire in a rebuild that has them again among the worst teams record-wise in the NBA. 

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

And with Morris on a one-year, $15 million deal, there’s no long-term risk in bringing him in the fold if a team isn’t sure what his role would be beyond the remainder of this season. 

If Morris were to be traded, it won’t be because he just wants to latch on with a playoff contender. 

“Like I said in the beginning, I love being in New York, win, lose or draw,” Morris told reporters recently. “I’m here to try and help turn this thing around. I’m not really looking to get traded, that’s just my personal opinion.

He added, “That’s my approach, but this is the NBA. I’d rather help turn this thing around. Melo [Carmelo Anthony] said it best: Some guys aren’t built for New York. I’m built for New York. I’d rather be here. I’d rather help.”

DAVID STERN UPDATE

Thoughts and prayers go out to former NBA commissioner David Stern who underwent emergency surgery for a brain hemorrhage. 

Stern was the longest-tenured commissioner of the league, having held the post for 30 years before passing the torch to Adam Silver in 2014. 

As important as the actual players have been in the growth of the NBA globally, Stern’s imprint on the game is undeniable with games now being not just broadcasted but actually played all over the world to sell-out crowds globally. 

One of the highlights of my career covering the NBA was getting a chance to sit down 1-on-1 with then-commissioner Stern in a 2015 preseason game in Milan, Italy, pitting the Celtics against EA7 Emporio Armani. 

MORE K-LOVE TRADE RUMORS

Cleveland’s Kevin Love remains the most talked-about player likely to be on the move between now and the Feb. 6 trade deadline. 

He is in the first year of a four-year, $120.4 million contract extension which multiple league sources have indicated will make a deal involving Love tougher to come by than it should be for a player with his talents. 

But there are concerns about his health, with Love playing 60 or fewer games in each of the last three seasons. 

And with the number of years a team will have him on the books, weighing those concerns with what the Cavs are seeking in such a trade (at least one first-round pick) is going to make getting a deal done challenging to say the least. 

The team many believe will have the toughest time figuring out whether to pursue Love or not, is the Miami Heat. 

They have been one of the surprise teams in the NBA this season, but still look to be one superstar talent away from firming up their place as an NBA Finals contender. 

However, it’s no secret that they have been doing their part to clear cap space to make a run at Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo who will be an unrestricted free agent in 2021. 

However, the success of the Bucks and Antetokounmpo’s repeated desire to be in Milwaukee may lead them to try and pull the trigger on a K-Love deal which again, would only strengthen their position as one of the top teams in the East this season. 

KNICKS COACHING SEARCH

Barring a change of direction (which you know is always, always possible with this franchise), the Knicks won’t pursue a new coach until the offseason. 

Taking that approach makes a lot of sense for the Knicks, a franchise that has made more than its share of head-scratching decisions in the past decade or so. 

Mike Miller is the interim coach and should have every shot at getting this team on track even when that seems damn near impossible for several reasons. 

If he can’t, the Knicks will go into the draft with another top-shelf draft pick. 

And on the coaching front, there will be the usual cast of characters to make the rounds (Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy, Tom Thibodeau to name a few) as well as potentially a couple of new faces from the assistant coaching ranks who should get consideration, too. 

The point is, there’s no need for the Knicks to rush in hiring a new coach. 

Because whoever is on the clock, whether it be now or next November, is going to have a hard time winning even when the bar for success is as low as it is now. 

KAWHI U DO THEM LIKE THAT!

Kawhi Leonard returned to Toronto for the first time since leaving in the summer and received the kind of reception you would expect from a guy who had been there for several years - not just one. 

In that one season, Leonard delivered the ultimate prize - an NBA title. 

And because of that, he will always be loved whenever he returns to Canada. 

But more than winning, Leonard was loved because he was genuine throughout the process of his time there. 

He never gave any indication that he was going to be back, nor did he absolutely rule it out (even though we pretty much knew he was intent on returning to the West coast). 

For him, it was business. 

I play.

I win.

I go where I want to go afterward.

The way Leonard and Raptors fans handled the situation, is a blueprint for superstars of the future to follow.

Fans are going to love you forever if you win. 

If you don’t, you shouldn’t be surprised if you get some jeers mixed in with cheers upon that first trip back. And you promised them you wanted to come back and then have a change of heart… they have every reason to have a change of heart as well in how they feel about you as a player regardless of whether the reasons for your change are legit. 

And for fans, when a player comes through with the ultimate prize - an NBA title - there’s literally nothing they can do that can top that other than winning it again which would only add to their legacy. 

Enjoy the time you have a great player, knowing that if they’re in a contract year that season is all you can bank on. 

A NEW (AND SCARY) JOEL EMBIID

Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal were known for their dunks and rebounds, but the assist they threw to Joel Embiid may become the ultimate game-changer for Embiid, the Sixers and the rest of the Eastern Conference.

After criticizing Embiid for not working as hard as he should be a dominant player, he responded with an absolute crushing performance in Philly’s win over Boston which snapped the Celtics previously-unbeaten streak of 10 home wins. Embiid finished with 38 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and a ton of added respect from many who saw him taking their words and using them to get better.

No one has ever questioned Embiid’s talent. 

But his commitment to being the best version of himself, time and time again, hasn’t been there. 

We’ll see if his performance in the win over Boston was just a one-off kind of thing or whether he can truly sustain playing at the elite level that a player with his talent is capable of doing. 

If he doesn’t do it consistently, it’s not like he didn’t know what he had to do after getting called out earlier by a pair of Hall of Famers. 

FAST BREAKS

  • With a boatload of picks from the Russell Westbrook and Paul George trades, look for the Oklahoma City Thunder to be called upon to help facilitate a trade or two as the third team.
  • Denver, Phoenix and Portland are expected to be among the more aggressive teams on the trade front this season.
  • One of the more low-key deals done last summer, was the Celtics re-signing Daniel Theis to a two-year, $10 million deal. Finding a team with a starting center not on his rookie deal, making that kind of money is a steal in the NBA these days.
  • Dion Waiters was suspended a third time this season, by the Miami Heat. This suspension brings the total he’s losing this season to suspensions to about $1.4 million of his $12.1 million salary. League sources anticipate the Heat will become even more aggressive than they have been, in finding a trade partner

 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Mavericks, which tips off Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 9:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics vs. Suns odds: Best NBA picks as C's look to end slide

Celtics vs. Suns odds: Best NBA picks as C's look to end slide

The Celtics will try to begin to reverse a slide that has seen them lose two in a row and five of their past seven when they welcome the Phoenix Suns to TD Garden on Saturday night.

The C's are just 4-5 in 2020 after back-to-back losses on consecutive nights at home to the Detroit Pistons and on the road in Milwaukee. Phoenix, meanwhile, figures to be a Western Conference also-ran at 17-24 but comes in having won three of their past four, including demolishing the Knicks 121-98 on Thursday night.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App. 

The Celtics are 20-5 against below .500 teams, but three of those losses have come in the new year (to the Wizards, Spurs and Pistons). So, despite a 16-4 home record and taking on one of the lesser lights in the West, the C's are no sure thing. 

Here are our betting predictions for Celtics-Suns, as well as two NBA locks against the spread.

(All odds provided by WestGate Superbook.)

Phoenix Suns at Boston Celtics, 7 p.m., ET

Moneyline: Is this the night the C's put it all together again? They'll be without Jaylen Brown (thumb), as they were in Milwaukee, and will be facing a guard in the Suns' Devin Booker, who two years ago went off for 70 points at the Garden against them. Still, with a three-game losing streak staring them in the face, look for the Celtics (-260) to come away victorious.

Celtics Mailbag: Readers have no shortage of ideas to get C's back on track

Point Spread: As for covering, a lot points to the Suns being able to make this a close one. Phoenix has four of its past five against Eastern Conference foes, is respectable 8-10 on the road, has a motivated Aron Baynes returning to Boston for the first time he was traded on draft night and there's the Booker factor. Also, DeAndre Ayton, coming off a 26-point, career-high 21 rebound performance in the win over the Knicks, missed this season's first matchup in Phoenix. Still, look for the Celtics (-6) to regroup for a double-digit win.

Point Total: It's the defense that has let the Celtics down recently. They've allowed 115 points per game in their past three (1-2) and a 51.6 opponents' field goal percentage. The Suns have the NBA's 18th-ranked defense and allow 114.3 points per game on the road. Go with the OVER.

Pat's record, pinch-hitting for Darren Hartwell, picking the Celtics' moneyline, point spread and point total: 7-8

NBA Locks of the Night

Philadelphia 76ers (-4) at New York Knicks: The Sixers are still without Joel Embiid, are on the second night of a back-to-back on the road, where they're only 7-14 and are playing their third game in four nights. Still, it's the Knicks. 

Milwaukee Bucks (-10) at Brooklyn Nets: Let's see what Kyrie has to say about his teammates after dealing with Giannis & Co. 

Pat's record, pinch-hitting for Darren Hartwell, picking NBA locks against the spread: 5-5

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Suns-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Jaylen Brown (thumb), Kemba Walker (knee) out for Celtics Saturday vs. Suns

Jaylen Brown (thumb), Kemba Walker (knee) out for Celtics Saturday vs. Suns

The Celtics will be without two key starters on Saturday night against the Phoenix Suns at TD Garden.

Jaylen Brown will miss his second consecutive game as he recovers from a right thumb sprain while Kemba Walker will miss the contest while dealing with a sore left knee.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App. 

The C's were without Brown in their 128-123 loss in Milwaukee on Thursday night. The swingman was injured in a home loss to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night. Walker picked up the scoring slack against the Bucks with a 40-point performance. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters at the team's shootaround Saturday morning that a scan of Brown's thumb showed no tear but he'll be out again as Boston tries to turnaround a recent slide that has seen them lose two in a row and five of their past seven.

"He’s getting a lot better. They went into last night thinking there was a chance he would play but he’s not going to play," Stevens said. "The scans didn’t show anything from a tear standpoint. It’s a sprain. Still got a little swelling."

Brown was still wearing a protective glove as he went to the weight room after the shootaround.

Rookie point guard Tremont Waters was recalled from Maine of the G League to add ball-handling depth. Carsen Edwards and Tacko Fall remain with Maine.

Brown (20.0) is one of three Celtics averaging 20 points or more per game along with Walker (22.1) and Jayson Tatum (21.2). Marcus Smart moved into the starting lineup on Thursday in place of Brown. Smart had been a new addition to the injury report Friday due to an ankle sprain but is expected to play.

"I rolled my ankle the last game so just rather be safe than sorry but the ankle’s feeling fine,” Smart said. "A little sore, nothing crazy, but 99 percent chance I’ll play.”

In still more injury news, forward Gordon Hayward said the foot injury he's been playing through is lingering but he wouldn't blame it for his inconsistent play lately (1-for-10 shooting vs. Bucks).

“I think it’s going to be an ongoing issue for a little while, so it is what it is...," Hayward said. "The night before I had a good game (10-for-15 shooting, 25 points vs. the Pistons), so some days are diamond, some days are stone.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Suns-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.