Tyreke Evans

Celtics-Grizzlies Preview: C's hope to continue rolling in right direction

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Celtics-Grizzlies Preview: C's hope to continue rolling in right direction

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics are back to playing well at both ends of the floor, coming out of the all-star break with back-to-back road wins.

The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the worst teams in the NBA this season, no longer a team trying to be the top squad in the West.

Instead, they’re more concerned with trying to land the top pick in June’s NBA draft.

You hear the calls from coaches and players all the time about how the focus has to be on playing teams and not their records.

That mantra will be put to the test tonight when the Celtics (42-19) host the struggling Grizzlies (18-40).

There’s no question the Celtics are playing better basketball now in comparison to what we saw prior to the all-star break when they lost three straight and four of five.

But before fans get too excited about the two games, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens offers up a sobering reminder that this Boston team is indeed a work in progress that despite their impressive record, has a lot of room for growth.

“We’re not in it for two games,” Stevens said. “We’re in it for the last 23 so we just have to keep adding to and building on.”

While there’s incentive to win every night, the Celtics should have even more motivation considering a victory could potentially put them back atop the Eastern Conference standings.

Boston (42-19) comes into tonight’s game trailing Toronto (41-17) by a half game with a Celtics win and a Raptors loss to Detroit putting the Celtics back atop the East.

Meanwhile, they face a Memphis team that’s no longer about that Grit-and-Grind brand of basketball that made them a playoff team each of the last seven seasons.

Today, they are in the infancy stages of rebuilding which gives you some sense as to why wins have been few and far between for them this season as they come into tonight's game having lost nine straight.

 And when it comes to road games against the East, Memphis’ struggles are just as pronounced with the Grizzlies losing all nine road games this season they have played against Eastern Conference teams.

Making matters worse for the Memphis is one of their top players Tyreke Evans who was expected to be shipped out prior to the NBA trade deadline, is still with the team and currently has a rib injury.

He is considered questionable for tonight’s game.

Memphis forward Chandler Parsons did not play at Miami on Saturday due to an illness, and he too is questionable for tonight’s game.

The one bright spot for Memphis' roster is the return of Marc Gasol tonight.

The Grizzlies center did not play (rest) on Saturday. However, he is expected to go tonight.

That’s not a good thing for Boston, all too familiar with how dominant the 7-foot big man can be.

When these two met on Dec. 16, Boston came away with a 102-93 win but not before Gasol dropped 30 points and 10 rebounds on them.

Regardless of what Memphis is doing or what the Celtics have done in the last two games, Boston’s focus has to remain on continued growth.

That’s why Kyrie Irving refuses to make a big fuss about the Celtics having won their first two games following the all-star break.

“It’s only two games,” Irving told NBC Sports Boston following the Celtics’ win at New York on Saturday. “But we understand that in order to really get detailed about how we want to accomplish our big-picture, whatever that may be, we have to find consistency every single game and carry-over.

Irving added, “that’s the biggest thing for a young and developing team like we have. And as one of the leaders on the team, it’s my job to demand that every single night.”

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BEST OF BST PODCAST: Will Josh McDaniels take over after Bill Belichick retires?

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BEST OF BST PODCAST: Will Josh McDaniels take over after Bill Belichick retires?

Will Josh McDaniels take over after Bill Belichick retires?

0:41 - Albert Breer joins BST to discuss how much damage Josh McDaniels has done to his reputation by standing up the Colts and the likelihood McDaniels succeeds Bill Belichick.

6:44 - A. Sherrod Blakely talks about the possibility of the Celtics trading Marcus Smart, and if Boston could acquire Tyreke Evans from the Memphis Grizzlies. 

12:02 - Michael Holley, Kyle Draper, Tom Giles, and Rob “Hardy” Poole discuss the Red Sox standing pat with their 5-year, $125 million offer with J.D. Martinez.

16:32 - Joe Haggerty joins BST to talk about the Bruins staying red hot as they get a win over the Rangers and keep moving closer to the top spot in the conference.

Celtics' focus shifts to Evans with Williams off the table

Celtics' focus shifts to Evans with Williams off the table

WASHINGTON – While one potential trade target of the Boston Celtics is off the market, another one remains very much in play. 

Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams has reportedly agreed to a three-year extension to remain with the Clippers.

MORE - Celtics humbled by Raptors in lopsided loss

Boston was among several teams to inquire about the 6-foot-1 guard’s availability leading up to Thursday’s 3 p.m. EST trade deadline. 

Williams, a Sixth Man of the Year award winner in 2015, has had a borderline all-star type season, averaging a career-high 23.3 points per game along with 5.3 assists. 

Memphis wing Tyreke Evans remains in play for the Celtics who are one of the front-runners for the 28-year-old Evans.

Memphis has made no secret about wanting a trade package for Evans that would include a first-round pick, something teams – the Celtics included – have been reluctant to do thus far. 

The Grizzlies have already shut down Evans from playing, to ensure he remains healthy leading up to the trade deadline. 

In addition to Boston, Philadelphia, Denver and Miami are viewed as the front-runners for him.

While this has been a rough season for the Grizzlies who record-wise (18-35) are one of the NBA’s worst teams, Evans has actually had one of his best seasons as a pro. 

The former Rookie of the Year award winner is averaging 19.3 points per game, shooting 45.8 percent from the field and a shade under 40 percent (39.2 percent to be exact) from 3-point range. 

Evans’ versatility as a scorer and ball-handler, combined with his strong 6-foot-6 frame and experience in the NBA, has made him a player that could certainly strengthen a Celtics bench that’s already going to be stronger once the trade deadline passes. 

Veteran center Greg Monroe came to terms on a one-year deal worth $5 million with Boston that will become official sometime shortly after the trade deadline passes tomorrow afternoon. 

NBC Sports Boston learned that Monroe arrived in Washington, D.C. Wednesday morning which is where the Celtics will play the Washington Wizards tomorrow night. 

Monroe’s deal could be completed prior to the game, but that’s still no guarantee that he’ll be in uniform for Boston’s game against the Wizards. 

MORE ON NBCSPORTSBOSTON.COM

There have also been reports that the Celtics are interested in trading Marcus Smart, with the latest rumor involving the Denver Nuggets. 

Boston would reportedly want a package that included a first-round pick in return, but NBC Sports Boston has been told that even that might not be enough to pry Smart out of Boston. 

“This time of year, everybody’s asking price is too high,” said a league executive. “That’s what GMs are supposed to do; ask for the world. But I don’t see them moving (Smart). I just think at the end of the day, he’s more valuable to the Celtics as a player who can really help them get to the NBA Finals this year, than whatever first-round pick they might be offered that’ll probably have some type of protections on it. I think they’ll keep him.”

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