Celtics

Trade deadline looms over Celtics-Wizards matchup

Trade deadline looms over Celtics-Wizards matchup

WASHINGTON -- It hasn’t even been nine months since the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards waged a wickedly contested, high-intensity battle in the playoffs that left us all wanting more of that good stuff in the regular season.

But the nasty vitriol spewed by both teams in the best-of-seven playoff series that went the distance isn’t there anymore.

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Boston’s roster looks nothing like the one that the Wizards despised in the playoffs.

And Washington, while still among the better teams in the East, has been slowed by injuries and inconsistent play, with seemingly more questions being raised (are they better without John Wall?) of late than solutions discovered.

Oh, did we mention the NBA trade deadline will come and go just hours before tip-off tonight, which means this rivalry might have a few new players in the mix soon?

We already know there will be at least one new face on the Celtics’ roster -- Greg Monroe.

The former Georgetown standout agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with the Celtics shortly after he came to terms on a buyout with the Phoenix Suns.

NBC Sports Boston reported that Monroe was on a flight to Washington, D.C. early Wednesday morning to meet up with his new team.

The Celtics didn’t sign the 6-foot-11 center immediately because they wanted to stay as flexible as possible up until the trade deadline, with their two primary targets being Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams and the Memphis Grizzlies’ Tyreke Evans.

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Williams came to terms on a three-year, $24 million extension with the Clippers on Wednesday which pretty much sealed his return to the Clippers – neither side makes that kind of deal with the intent on parting ways less than 24 hours later.

Evans remains in play with several teams expressing interest in the 6-foot-6 wing. Boston and Philadelphia are considered the front-runners, with Miami and Denver also under serious consideration.

The implication of a possible trade getting done is the dominant theme heading into tonight’s game, a game that has tremendous value for both teams.

Boston (39-16) has had a relatively slim lead in the East for weeks now, and it’s down to just one game after the Toronto Raptors rocked the Celtics 111-91 in Toronto on Tuesday night.

And in facing the Wizards, Boston is looking to avenge a 111-103 Christmas Day home loss to Washington.

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Meanwhile, the Wizards (31-23) will try and continue their surprisingly strong play in the absence of John Wall, who is out for at least another five weeks after undergoing knee surgery on Jan. 31.

Boston knows the Wizards will be without Wall, who was named an NBA All-Star for the fifth straight season.

But their concerns lie from within, even more so after Tuesday’s humbling defeat at Toronto.

“We got our butts kicked by a really good team who physically overwhelmed us from a speed and physicality standpoint,” said coach Brad Stevens following the loss to the Raptors. “We need to do a better job … the one thing you never do as a coach is chalk it up to one of those nights. Maybe you do at the end of the year when you look back at the whole season. We have to compete at a better level physically.”

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Report: Knicks given slight edge over Celtics as Kyrie's free-agent destination

Report: Knicks given slight edge over Celtics as Kyrie's free-agent destination

Those pesky Kyrie-to-the-Knicks rumors have been around even before Yahoo's Chris Mannix mentioned the Celtics were "scared" of Kyrie Irving heading there next summer. They picked up steam this week with another report of The Big Apple as a destination for Irving and Jimmy Butler to join forces.

Now, ESPN's NBA Forecast Panel gives the Knicks a slight edge over the Celtics to land Irving, 46.9 percent to  43.8 percent.

Here's part of the panel's explanation on ESPN's "The Jump": 

It would take some salary-cap machinations for New York to lure Irving to play close to where he grew up in West Orange, N.J. They would likely have to risk losing Kristaps Porzingis in free agency next summer by not giving him a big-money extension this season. 

There's also a potential pursuit of Kevin Durant in free agency next summer as the Knicks - playoff-less since 2013 and title-less for 45 years - make another attempt to spend their way back to relevance. 

Irving has made it clear he's not going to cost himself millions by signing an extension with the C's this season ("Contractually, financially, it just doesn’t make any sense”) and is headed to free agency, so, with training camp more than a month away, get used to a season full of questions about his future. And expect the Knicks speculation to heat up before the four C's-Knicks games (Oct. 20 and Feb. 6 in New York and Nov. 21 and Dec. 6 in Boston). 

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Danny Ainge has got the jokes...aimed at Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown

Danny Ainge has got the jokes...aimed at Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown

Danny Ainge was busy on Twitter late last night poking a little fun at a couple of his players.

Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations, wondered where the defense was in a video of "Scary" Terry Rozier playing in a pickup game with Wizards guard John Wall and other NBAers. 

A little good-natured payback for Rozier's FaceTime interruption of Ainge's drafting of Robert Williams back in June?

A few minutes before his Rozier tweet, Ainge saw a video tweeted by Cal athletic director Jim Knowlton of Jaylen Brown showing his skills on the piano at the Berkeley campus' Sproul Plaza. Brown spent a year at Cal before being drafted by Boston in 2016.

Ainge couldn't resist a jab at Brown's ball-handling skills. 

So, Celtics players, post those Twitter videos at your own risk because the boss is watching.

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