Celtics

NBA rumors: Celtics, Mavs at 'front of the line' trying to lure Kemba Walker

NBA rumors: Celtics, Mavs at 'front of the line' trying to lure Kemba Walker

The Boston Celtics' pursuit of All-Star point guard Kemba Walker in NBA free agency is serious, according to reports Tuesday.

The New York Times' Marc Stein reported Tuesday the Celtics were emerging as a "stealth suitor" for the Charlotte Hornets guard, who will be an unrestricted free agent beginning June 30. Stein added more reporting regarding the Celtics and Walker in another tweet later Tuesday afternoon.

Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer termed the Celtics' interest in Walker as "serious."

The Celtics will be in need of a top-tier point guard if Kyrie Irving leaves Boston in free agency, and recent reports (as well as the latest betting odds) indicate the Brooklyn Nets are the most likely destination for him. Boston could always re-sign restricted free agent Terry Rozier, but Walker is a clear upgrade over the Celtics' backup point guard.

Walker was an All-Star starter last season (his first ASG appearance) and averaged a career-high 25.6 points in 82 games for the Hornets. He is eligible for a super-max contract extension with the Hornets that would be worth more than $200 million over five seasons. That's a lot of money, but the Hornets are nowhere near a legitimate NBA title contender, so Charlotte would not be the best option for him if winning is very important.

The Mavericks reportedly are a contender to sign Celtics forward Al Horford, who's also an unrestricted free agent. Luka Doncic, the newly crowned 2018-19 Rookie of the Year Award winner, handled the ball a lot for the Mavs last season, but he's not a true point guard. A Walker-Doncic-Kristaps Porzingis trio for the Mavericks could help them compete in what should be a wide open Western Conference title race next season as a result of the Golden State Warriors being decimated by injuries.

Click here for the top 35 NBA free agents available this offseason>>>

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Forsberg: A year later, these Celtics don't crack from adversity

Forsberg: A year later, these Celtics don't crack from adversity

After the Boston Celtics’ 20th game of the 2018-19 season, Marcus Smart was speechless. And not in the good way.

On that night in late November, the Celtics lost for the fourth time in five games while dropping to 10-10 overall. A smoldering Smart, who had already bristled after a rough road trip out west earlier in the month, considered his team’s general lethargy and fumed, “Until we [change our ways], we’ll continue to get our ass whooped.” Kyrie Irving wondered if the team was near, “rock bottom."

Fast forward a year and, no longer encumbered by the heavy burden of expectations, it’s all sunshine and puppy dogs in CelticsLand. The 2019-20 Celtics are 15-5 and, despite being pegged a Tier 2 team in the East, they have asserted themselves as a legitimate East contender even while playing at less than full strength for nearly the entirety of the season.

And therein lies the biggest difference between last year’s Celtics and this year’s squad. When last year’s team encountered adversity, or things started to go sideways, that group splintered and cracked. When this year’s squad hits bumps in the road, the players stick together.

Take Wednesday night against the Heat as an example. Boston, playing without two starters, fell behind early by double digits. Last year’s team probably would have packed it in; this year’s team ripped off a late first-half run and controlled the rest of the game against a team that had been ahead of them in the standings.

That resiliency is a particularly endearing trait of this year’s team. This year’s Celtics squad competes every night. Take away a jagged opening-night loss in Philadelphia and Boston has stuck close in every other game this season, their other four losses coming by a combined 13 points.

It’s almost certainly unfair that we keep comparing and contrasting last year’s Celtics team to this year’s version. This year’s version has stressed a desire to focus on the now. Alas, the juxtaposition is undeniably stark and you can’t acknowledge where the Celtics are now without remembering what they went through.

Last year’s team internalized their struggles, which caused unnecessary friction and things always seemed tense around the team. This year’s squad gets contributions throughout the roster, celebrates each other’s successes, and then engages in a playful team snowball fight.

How this year’s team reacts to large-scale adversity remains to be seen. Boston’s longest losing streak is two games and, even then, the Celtics came away encouraged with the fight they showed while losing to the championship-favorite Clippers out west and fighting back after Kemba Walker’s injury scare in Denver.

The next few weeks will tell us a lot more about this year’s team and its resiliency. A rematch with the Nuggets looms Friday night and then a challenging Indiana-Philadelphia back-to-back highlights next week’s schedule. A visit to Toronto awaits on Christmas day.

Boston could soon be back at full strength, with Gordon Hayward seemingly trending toward an early return as he rehabs from a left hand fracture. Jaylen Brown has been so good in his absence that the only question is whether there are enough shots to go around for four star-caliber players the way Walker, Hayward, Brown, and Jayson Tatum have all performed this season.

That visit from Philadelphia could help answer the question of whether Boston truly needs to make a move for another big, the sort that could engage in hand-to-hand combat with the likes of Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Games against Indiana and Toronto will tell us if Boston is definitely a top-tier team in the East or part of the pack trying to get on Milwaukee’s level.

But even with the question marks that remain, the outlook is a lot rosier than it was a year ago through 20 games. Last year’s Celtics squad actually played their best ball after that 10-10 start, performing so well in the stretch that followed that Danny Ainge kept the roster intact the rest of the season.

The next few weeks will tell us if Ainge needs to make any changes for this year’s squad. We’ll get a better idea of where this team stands. And, maybe most importantly, we’ll see just how long these positive vibes can persist fr the 2019-20 Celtics.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Nuggets, which tips off Friday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

How Tremont Waters, Vincent Poirier fared for Maine Red Claws vs. Wisconsin Herd

How Tremont Waters, Vincent Poirier fared for Maine Red Claws vs. Wisconsin Herd

Tacko Fall (knee) remains out for the Maine Red Claws, and Romeo Langford suffered another ankle injury, so that put Tremont Waters and Vincent Poirier in the spotlight on Thursday.

Waters has been sensational to begin his tenure in Maine. So good, in fact, that he earned NBA G League Player of the Month honors for November. 

For Poirier, Thursday night marked his first game playing alongside Waters with the Red Claws.

Here's how the two Celtics rookies performed in the 123-118 loss:

TREMONT WATERS

Waters filled the stat sheet again with a double-double as he notched 13 points (5-for-15 shooting) and 10 assists. The Celtics' No. 51 overall pick in this year's NBA Draft knocked down 3 of his 9 3-point attempts.

VINCENT POIRIER

Poirier made an instant impact in his first game in a Red Claws uniform. The Frenchman contributed 14 points while going 6-for-9 from the field and bringing down nine boards.

Next, the Red Claws will take on the Delaware Blue Coats on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. You can tune in to that matchup right here on NBC Sports Boston.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Kings, which tips off today 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.