Celtics

NBA rumors: Should Celtics be interested in a trade for Pacers' Domantas Sabonis?

NBA rumors: Should Celtics be interested in a trade for Pacers' Domantas Sabonis?

An intriguing young big man is reportedly available on the trade market and, given the question marks in the Celtics’ frontcourt entering the 2019-20 season, it begs the question whether Boston should be intrigued.

The Athletic reported Friday that the Pacers have engaged in trade talks involving 23-year-old big man Domantas Sabonis with the sides far apart in negotiations on a rookie extension in advance of Monday’s deadline.

Sabonis’ name was one that Celtics fans repeatedly invoked this summer after the departures of Al Horford and Aron Baynes. The Pacers last season struggled to find ways for Sabonis and center Myles Turner to coexist. Given Boston’s glut of wings, the two sides seemed like potential trade partners.

Now, it appears the Pacers are motivated and Boston still has an obvious need for a frontcourt upgrade entering the season. The trouble in finding a deal: Indiana’s asking price might simply be more than Boston is willing to pay, especially knowing they will have to pay a high price tag to retain the player after the season.

If the Pacers are simply not committed to try and make the Sabonis/Turner combination work then their leverage in the trade market is weakened. The Athletic’s report noted the Pacers’ asking price, however, has been too high.

The Celtics would not be immediately interested in putting Jaylen Brown into a potential package. The team has been engaged in extension negotiations with Brown and is intrigued to see the strides that he makes this season when Brown’s role won’t be as muddy as it was last season.

Maybe their willingness to move Brown — or another wing — will elevate as the season progresses but the team is eager to see how its youngest stars like Brown and Jayson Tatum perform outside the shadows of Kyrie Irving.

Trying to build a trade package that might interest the Pacers without Brown is a bit more daunting. Celtics first-round pick Romeo Langford, an Indiana native who played at Indiana University and was the state’s Mr. Basketball in 2018, would seemingly intrigue the Pacers and makes the money work in a deal. Still, the Pacers would seemingly be seeking an immediate impact player and/or some of Boston’s future first-round picks, which might be more than Boston is willing to pay given the commitment it would take to maintain Sabonis.

Sabonis has no shortage of potential in a bigger role. He averaged 14.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists over just 24.8 minutes per game last season while utilized almost exclusively as a reserve (five starts in 74 appearances). Sabonis is an excellent rebounder, ranking 10th in the NBA in defensive rebound percentage (26.9) and 12th in total rebound percentage (18.4).

Defensively, he’s not quite the Joel Embiid/Giannis Antetokounmpo stopper that the Celtics so clearly need to truly contend in the Eas,t but Indiana’s defensive numbers with Sabonis on the court last season were encouraging. The Pacers limited opponents to 103.8 points per 100 possessions with Sabonis on the floor over 1,811 minutes and that number spiked to 106.1 in the 2,082 minutes that Sabonis was on the bench.

Sabonis’ defensive stats were aided by Turner’s presence as Indiana’s defensive rating dropping to 99.2 in the 434 minutes the duo shared the court. And the more noticeable spike with Sabonis on the court without Turner was on the offensive end as Indiana’s offensive rating shot to 109.4 but it was negated slightly by the defensive rating spiking to 104.

Ultimately, the Pacers might simply be gauging Sabonis’ trade value in advance of the tough decision about how to proceed with their bigs. The Celtics should be intrigued but also do not need to rush into a deal before getting a glimpse of how all their new bigs look at the start of the season.

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Kemba Walker stays ready, even in blowouts, when it matters for the Celtics

Kemba Walker stays ready, even in blowouts, when it matters for the Celtics

BOSTON -- Kemba Walker had every reason to think that his night was over going into the fourth quarter. 

Boston had a commanding lead against a Cleveland Cavaliers squad that’s considered one of the worst teams in the NBA. 

But as the game got a little too close for head coach Brad Stevens’ comfort, he turned to Walker.

And Walker responded with a barrage of 3-pointers that left the Cavs as nothing more than collateral damage in the wake of Boston’s 110-88 win. 

Walker finished with a game-high 22 points which included a trio of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that put the Cavs (5-18) away for good. 

Boston led by as many as 29 points in the second half, only to see that lead down to as little as 14 points in the fourth with seven minutes to play. 

That’s when he called on Walker who came up with one big shot after another. 

And the way Walker responded in the fourth quarter when called upon by Stevens was a reminder of just how important it has become for the best players to be locked in from the opening tip-off to the final horn - even when victory seems all but a given. 

Said Stevens: “I just told the team afterwards, ‘If you want to be special then model after Kemba because Kemba sits over there thinks his night’s done, gets put back into the game, drills three 3’s and ends it.

Stevens added, “Special is not for everybody.”

Having spent his first eight seasons with the Charlotte Hornets, Walker knows exactly what the Cavs were thinking as they steadily chipped away at Boston’s lead.

Understanding the mindset of a team and players on the comeback trail has helped Walker appreciate and embrace the need to always stay on top of his game and ready to go - even when victory seems all but a given. 

Walker understands how a player can lose focus on the game and become relaxed down the stretch in what appears to be a blowout in the making. 

“It’s possible,” Walker says before adding, “But at the end of the day you have to stay engaged through the whole game. You just never know. In this league, 20-point leads go so fast. Teams can score in bunches really fast. You have to stay engaged.”

Which is exactly what he did. 

That not only helped Boston get the victory on Monday, but also served as a great example for the team’s younger players on how to handle themselves when things get sidetracked after going just the way they want them to for most of the game. 

“He set a great example, what he’s done in this league for a very long time,” Tatum said. “That’s why he’s one of the best players in the league.”

And a leader on this team. 

“As one of the leaders I feel I have to stay engaged,” Walker said. “Just like … you never know what to expect.  This league, guys can score so fast and easy. You just never know when teams will come back. It can get a little nerve-racking and Brad felt he had to put me back in. I knew once I got in there, I had to be more aggressive, look for my shot a little more and that’s what I did.”

Blakely's Takeaways: C's home dominance keying hot start>>>

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pacers, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Jaylen Brown on Grant Williams' 3-point woes: 'We were calling him Ben Simmons'

Jaylen Brown on Grant Williams' 3-point woes: 'We were calling him Ben Simmons'

After an 0-for-25 streak to begin his NBA career, Grant Williams finally hit his first 3-pointer on Monday night.

The Boston Celtics rookie has taken his struggles in stride and laughed off nicknames given to him by his teammates throughout the cold spell. The funniest nickname of all, though, was revealed by Jaylen Brown after Monday's win over the Cavaliers.

Blakely's Takeaways: C's home dominance keying hot start

"Yeah, we were calling him Ben Simmons," Brown said.

Hilarious.

Simmons' 3-point shooting woes are well-documented. The Philadelphia 76ers star has only attempted 21 3s in his three-year career and made two of them (2-for-4 this season). So comparing Williams to him definitely was a low blow, but maybe that's the motivation the 21-year-old needed to drain the first of his career and get on a hot streak.

The C's will take on the 76ers at TD Garden on Thursday, so all eyes are sure to be on both Williams and Simmons whenever the young guns are open behind the 3-point line.

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Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pacers, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.