Heading into Sunday’s game against the Houston Rockets (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC), the Celtics (38-25) sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, two games behind the Philadelphia 76ers for fourth and home-court advantage in the first round. “I really have a lot of hope for these guys,” Grousbeck said. “I give us a chance. I don’t think anybody wants to play us in the playoffs. I really do think, after 16 years in the league, that these guys still have a chance.”
Count Boston Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck among those disappointed with the team's performance of late. Speaking Saturday at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Grousbeck said the Celtics just finished the "worst February" he can remember since taking over the team in 2002. The Celtics were 5-6 last month, including a finishing stretch where they lost four straight games.
Grousbeck acknowledged that the Celtics aren't necessarily worried about finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference, adding that the team as constructed has "the capability of getting to the Finals." "We also have the capability of losing in the first round," Grousbeck said, according to Boston.com. "We have a very, very good set of opponents in the East, all of whom have beaten us in the last month."
Jay King: Jaylen Brown said he’s looking at the struggles “optimistically.” “I look at it as a good opportunity to come out and play hard, play Celtics basketball, to prove that I love the game and I’m here to play.”
Jay King: Marcus Morris on his tweet last night expressing confidence: “I don’t tweet a lot at all. And I really meant it. We’re gonna get this shit together. We’re gonna have a better attitude. We owe each other to play better, man.”
Chris Forsberg: Marcus Morris, unprompted, held court at shootaround this morning. Pinned blame on himself for part of Boston’s struggles. Said he wants to be a better leader. “Bring some soul back to this shit, man."
Reporter: “What’s your confidence level in the team going forward?” Irving: “What do you mean? What kind of question is that?” Reporter: “A legitimate one.” Irving “Nah. Next question.”
Apparently their head coach concurs. Brad Stevens was asked directly Wednesday on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Zolak & Bertrand" if there's a "chemistry issue" on the Celtics and seemed to confirm as much. "As I've said many times, in our locker room I think we have a bunch of well-intentioned guys. I really do," Stevens said. "But there's been no question that ever since the start of the year, being able to play well together has been off and on. It hasn't been as good as it can be or needs to be."
Marcus said that you guys aren’t playing together. Is that a fair diagnosis? Irving: “It’s Marcus’ opinion. I respect it.” Q. Is it yours? Irving: (Silence.)
"What are the main ingredients to those collapses? Not being together," Smart said. "And that's it. We're just not together. Plain and simple. That's it. Because if we were together, that wouldn't happen. We're all talking and linking up, but like I said, it's something we're going through, and it's something we're going to have to continue to work at and figure it out."
"This is real," the coach said. "The reality is that we're taking a lot of shortcuts and not being as solid as we have been in the past in the last two games. I thought we were really good against Milwaukee. So, it's not like we don't know what we need to do, but for whatever reason, we've taken too many shortcuts. You can't do that against any team. Certainly tonight, they exposed us and played great."
Kyrie Irving was no different than the rest of the Celtics who reacted to Marcus Morris’ harsh criticism of the team following a home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers a week ago. “There was some truth into [Morris’ comments],” said Irving, who has missed the past two games - both Celtics wins - following Morris’ comments and spoke on the matter for the first time Saturday. “We obviously understand we have a lot of talent in our locker room,” Irving said. “So, it’s been a lot to manage. We’ve come out pretty successful. Obviously, not as successful as we would like to be.”
Marcus Morris missed the playoffs during five of his first six NBA seasons. He once played on a team that finished the regular season with 25 wins. Now that he sees the best opportunity of his career, he sounds plenty urgent to capitalize on it. “I’ve been in the league eight years. I haven’t been on a team that has a chance to win a championship,” Morris said Monday afternoon. “And I’m on it now. I can smell it, I can taste it. And I just felt like one thing we’re missing is enjoying the game, enjoying this process, and I just spoke on it.”
“The Big Three only got one,” Morris said, “and they had a hell of a team. So that tells you how hard this shit is. As I’m going back and watching different times of them winning, that shit looked like it was a lot of fun. They looked like they really had a fucking ball. They worked their ass off, but they really had a good time playing with each other no matter what was going on off the court. It really looked genuine. It looked like they were enjoying the game.”
Tom Westerholm: Brad Stevens: “One of the things that we say at the very beginning of the year is that we don’t want to be a team quoted as unnamed sources. So if you’re going to say something, you’ve got to put your name next to it. Marcus’ frustrations were obvious and evident."
John Karalis: Brad Stevens: "those are frustrating losses. I was asked this morning at a sponsor event, like, when do you let go of those losses? When I die they’ll be gone. Those piss you off. And if it doesn’t you’re not in a good place. That’s why I don’t care what Marcus said."
Adam Himmelsbach: Brad Stevens with a fair take on fun: "When you lose big leads and you’re getting booed--rightfully so--off the court, it’s not like, ‘Hey, man, that was awesome.’ That sucks. It’s not fun. So, whatever. Like, play well."
Jay King: Marcus Morris on how his teammates responded to his comments: “For the most part they agreed.” Said the media caught him at a right time when he was hot.
Brian Robb: Al Horford on Celtics' chemistry: "I do feel like when we're playing like we need to play, our team clicks great. We just need to stick together. It's frustrating for us, we don't want to be losing. We're going to figure it out."
Chris Forsberg: Al Horford said the team addressed Marcus Morris’ comments this morning and are moving on. Al said the two LA losses were bad but will make the team better in the long run.
Jay King: Stevens said Morris said a lot of stuff you can’t really argue over the last two games. Stevens wants the Celtics to own their comments, not speak anonymously. Said it’s “fun as hell” when teams always play super connected. Said Celtics like each other and have good intentions.
Gary Washburn: The #Celtics locker room issues aren't that big of a surprise to some NBA folks I talked to today. The consensus is that the players aren't necessarily beefing but they aren't that close. It's like they are trying to coexist politely, and it's not working.
Jay King: Marcus Morris said when he looks at the Celtics he sees a bunch of individuals. Said he sees everyone else having fun around the league, they don’t have fun. “It hasn’t been fun for a long time.” Marcus Morris: "I watch all these other teams around the league and guys are up on the bench ... they’re enjoying everything, and they’re playing together and they’re playing to win. And when I look at us I just see a bunch of individuals.”
“The goal has to be to win,” Morris said. “Bottom line. We’ve gotta play to win. That’s sacrificing playing hard, that’s sacrificing being a better teammate, that’s sacrificing whatever it is. We have to put it to the side. No one’s getting traded. The trade deadline’s over. We’re competing for a championship. And that’s how we’ve gotta approach these games. Win, lose or draw, man. We’re going to lose games, but we don’t have no attitude, we don’t have no toughness, we ain’t having fun. It’s been a long season.”
Scott Souza: #Celtics coach Brad Stevens on Kyrie Irving's postgame comments Wednesday: I thought the way that I read his comments the other night was there was a lot of reflection back on what he said, and a lot of accountability, and a lot of talk about how hard it is to be a leader.
Chris Forsberg: More Brad on Kyrie: “Leadership starts with what you do on the court -- he was pretty damn good on Wednesday night -- and then it’s how you serve your teammates and then everything else is what it is. Everything else follows suits from those two things."
"[Jaylen] was right. I gotta do the right things and not point fingers at individuals and really realize what we can do as group, despite when we go on the road or the mishaps we may have. I've been there to the championship. I've tasted it. But I can't expect that they're gonna get it. I'm just really working on my patience and just coming to helping these guys realize that we can do it against the best teams; but in order to be that championship-level team, we gotta do that every single day to help our team prove to not just the Raptors or Golden State that we can play with them, but we gotta prove it to every team that we can really play with them."
Jay King: Kyrie Irving said he did a poor job with his public comments. “I should have kept it in-house. ... I can’t do it publicly like that.”
Monday was the gift and curse, Irving’s words coming to life. Nonchalant play against a Nets team that played harder and with more conviction led to the lopsided score and chants of “Kyrie’s leaving!” from a confident Barclays Center crowd. “Kyrie said a lot after the last game and it was probably stuff that people didn’t want to hear,” Terry Rozier III told Yahoo Sports. “But it’s showing.”
Clearly, he’s not afraid of his words being drowned out over the course of 82 games. He’s craved this moment and this level of influence. His teammates are taking heed, saying his words were encouraging about the comeback Monday, which saw the Celtics cut the lead to seven with a minute remaining. “It’s the truth,” Celtics second-year forward Jayson Tatum said. “He knows what it takes to win a championship and most of us don’t. Sometimes you have to be brutally honest in this profession to get the best out of one another. It came from a good place.”
“I don’t think we’ve all been on a team like this,” Rozier told Yahoo. “Young guys who can play, guys who did things in their career, the group that was together last year, then you bring Kyrie and Hayward back, it’s a lot with it.” When asked if the roster was too talented, Rozier didn’t back down. “Too talented, yeah. Too talented.”
On Monday, Irving seemed to walk his comments back a little bit. But he reiterated that the Celtics' opportunity to win is what keeps him edgy whenever it feels like Boston isn’t playing to its potential. “When you win, you want to taste it again," Irving said. "I never want to come from a place where I don’t want to sound like or maybe feel like I don’t want to win a championship. Sometimes I may come off and say things, never to question my teammates in public like that ever again, but I just want to win so bad. I came from a place where I asked for a trade and I come in here and believe in this organization, and I want these young guys to be successful. In order to do that we’ve all got to be on the same page and have that mindset that, a championship or nothing, and that can get the best of me at times.”
At some point, the Celtics need to get off the roller coaster. “Yeah, you get to a point where you have great games, good games,” Marcus Smart told the Herald as he slumped against a wall that led out of the visitors’ dressing room, in Orlando. “And then you turn around and have a game like this, and, you know, it’s hard. It’s frustrating. It’s monotonous and real, real, real repetitive right now, and something’s got to change to stop that. We’ve got to get better as a team. We’ve got to close out games better. We can’t let guys play like All-Stars and beat us on their own. That’s how it’s been for us all year. I don’t know what to tell you. We’re going to keep getting our butts kicked and keep getting beat if we don’t change it. That’s all I can say.”
The close proximity of highs and lows is wearing on the Celts. “Obviously, man, we’ve got to get it together,” said Marcus Morris. “You know, we show a lot of signs of greatness, and then we take a step back. It’s still a long season. Forty games left. If we keep chipping at it, keep getting better, you know, the best is yet to come, I think. I mean, man we up and down. But we’re still staying positive and I still think we’ll turn it around and start getting better.”
Hayward offered a verbal shrug. “It’s definitely a little frustrating,” he said. “Puzzling is a good word. I think we’re trying to figure it out. We have stretches where we’re really, really good and really tough. And then we have other stretches where we’re not at all. We’ve got to be able to be consistent. I’ve got to be able to be consistent. Especially on the road. We haven’t been nearly as good on the road.”
Boston fell 105-103 in Orlando on Saturday night. On the Celtics' final possession, Irving did not touch the ball, and Jayson Tatum missed a tough baseline jumper at the buzzer that would have tied the game. Irving appeared frustrated with Gordon Hayward, who inbounded the ball on the play. When asked about his on-court reaction, Irving was terse: "Next question. J.T. got a good look, so let's move on."
When he expanded on the Celtics' overall state, though, Irving had plenty to say. A team that most expected to be one of the league's best is currently 25-17 and in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. To Irving, the team's struggles boil down to one thing. "Experience," he said. "We're lacking it, and because of that we have a lot of learning to do." Irving later added: "The young guys don’t know what it takes to be a championship level team. What it takes every day. And if they think it is hard now, what do they think it will be like when we’re trying to get to the Finals?"
He added later: “What’s the big picture? What are we doing here? These are things I don’t think some of my teammates have faced of just every single day. It’s not easy to be great. So the things you’re doing, that you’ve done your entire career of being able to coast by in certain situations and you’ve gotten away with your youth and stuff like that, being on a championship ball club, you can’t get away with that.”
"We're better than most teams in this league," Irving said. "It's just going out and proving it every single night and demanding it and actually showing it. So until we do that every single night and realize our depth is a positive, and all the wishes and could-haves and should-have-done-that, once that goes out the window, then we’ll be better. But until then, we’re going to keep having these ups and downs."
Adam Himmelsbach: Kyrie is sitting at his locker just staring straight ahead. Hasn’t showered yet. Most of the other players have already dressed and left.
Chris Mannix: Al Horford: "We play hard at times. I don't know if we play hard enough all the time."
Long after that play, long after his teammates had departed the locker room, Irving did not really want to expand on his clear frustration with the game’s end. Earlier, Hayward acknowledged it for him. “I think he would have liked for me to pass it to Al and have him cut off of it,” Hayward said. “You know, it was late clock, and we’ve worked on that play before and I’ve seen [Tatum] hit that in practice countless times, so I felt like it was a good shot.”
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he is not concerned about the minor altercation involving Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown in the second quarter of Boston’s loss to the Heat Thursday. The incident occurred during a timeout with 7 minutes 12 seconds left in the second quarter. In a video posted on Instagram by a fan who was sitting behind Boston’s bench, Morris is seen shoving Brown with two hands. Brown did not react, and teammates quickly got between them before the situation escalated further. “It’s two good kids that are competitive,” Ainge said by phone from Boston Friday. “They both want the same thing. Emotions happen in games, and I’m not worried about it.”
During a timeout at 7:12 of the second quarter, video posted on social media by a fan sitting behind the Celts’ bench showed Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris quarreling. When the talk appeared to get more heated and they got closer, Marcus Smart stepped between the two and Morris shoved Brown as they were being separated.
Ainge was well aware of the situation when speaking with the Herald today. “I honestly didn’t think anything of it,” the club’s president of basketball operations said in a phone conversation. “I like Marcus’ and Jaylen’s character and personalities and feistiness, and, like, I just think nothing of something like this. It’s something where those things happen to best friends even. Heck, I remember those things happening to (Rajon) Rondo and Perk (Kendrick Perkins). You know, they’re best buddies, but it’s just the heat of the battle, and I didn’t have a second thought about it.”
Ainge clearly was not a fan of Brown being lax getting back on defense, and neither, it seems, is Brad Stevens, who removed him from the game. Brown did not return until the last 37 seconds of the third quarter, though Stevens said that was because the group on the floor was engineering a comeback. Brown played just 13:50. “Everybody has those moments, and those are way more of a concern,” said Ainge is the defensive lapse. “But I know that my coach calls guys out on those things and shows them on film and manages those things really well.”
“Truth is, I’m not necessarily playing the minutes that I want, the role that I want, that selfishly I would want for myself,” Celtics star Kyrie Irving said last Friday. “And that all goes on the back burner in terms of being patient with what I have to do to grow as a leader of this team and help these other young guys to be more prepared for what they will encounter as they get older in this league and then what we’re going through right now.”
The incident did not get personal, according to witnesses. Irving and Stevens are known to have a close relationship, which Irving has credited as part of the reason he has committed long-term to Boston. It is not unusual for a star player and his team to have these types of blow-ups, but it needed to occur and came during a notable turning point early in this Celtics season.
The Boston Celtics kept the locker room closed for 36 minutes following Friday night's 120-107 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at TD Garden, holding a team meeting to clear the air after losing a third straight game. "Much needed," Celtics guard Kyrie Irving said of the discussion. "Much needed.
The most pointed criticisms of the team's recent play -- and the reasoning behind the meeting -- came from Irving, who repeatedly cited a lack of "cohesion" and said that there has been "some selfish play" among his teammates. "At this point it comes down to cohesion, being able to trust the pass, trust what we have going on out there," Irving said. "Obviously some selfish play out there where ... we have some really talented guys, but we're better as a team sharing the basketball. And, if it's late in the shot clock, that's when we start shooting our iso plays, as opposed to if we have nothing in transition shooting with 16 or 17 on the clock, or shooting a fadeaway, something like that.
With a .500 record 18 games into the season, Smart was in no mood for any more “it’s still early” talk. “It’s the same old song,” he said in a quiet, matter-of-fact tone. “You know, it gets annoying. I don’t even know what to say at this point. You’ve already done heard it. I’m tired of talking about it. I don’t know.”
“I am,” he said, “but we’ve got to stop sugarcoating things. That’s the problem. We’ve got to stop sugarcoating it. We’ve just got to call it what it is. We’re playing like punks; that’s just what it is. “It’s not everybody. You’ve got guys out there that are playing and playing hard. That’s some, but we don’t have all five guys at the same time. So teams are going to continue to whup us.”
“It’s us not playing hard,” he said. “It has nothing to do with being tentative, because obviously you see guys jacking up shots, so it can’t be us being tentative. “You know, at some point when a guy scores on you repeatedly -- a team busts on you repeatedly -- eventually you’re going to get tired of it hopefully. But that’s not the case with us. We’re OK with getting down 20 or getting down early or letting teams get hot, letting teams feel comfortable.”
Jeff Goodman: Brad Stevens on the defense: "We stunk, but they had a lot to do with that." Stevens said he's not concerned with the fight of his team.
Bill Doyle: Celtics embarrassed by Cavs, 121-99, in warm-up to Paul Pierce's No. 34 retirement ceremony. Some boos at the end. LeBron and Kyrie embrace.
Adam Himmelsbach: Horford: “We have to understand teams are coming for us. I felt like we’ve handled it OK throughout the season, but it’s even more evident now, so we have to do a good job of making sure we’re bringing the fire and they’re not bringing it to us.”
Jared Weiss: Al Horford: "In my eyes, I feel like we’re fighting for our lives right now. That has to be our mindset going into Tuesday’s game & we’ll take it a game at a time, focus on Tuesday & make sure we come out with a lot of energy & that we’re able to sustain it throughout the game."
Jared Weiss: Jaylen Brown on Celtics' first 3-game losing streak of the season: "It’s hard to pinpoint a common thread. We just have to play better. We haven’t been playing to our level. Everybody has to step up, including me."
Ainge spoke with Thomas yesterday after the All-Star had questioned Brad Stevens’ substitution pattern in Monday’s loss to the Clippers. It was the second time this season Thomas had let his frustration out in a public fashion, and Ainge defended his coach while trying to make it a learning experience for his star. “Nobody prepares more for a game than Brad,” Ainge told the Herald, “not even Isaiah, who really prepares. Players don’t know what it’s like to coach. I took Isaiah’s comments as frustration. He hates to lose. But good leaders don’t look for blame. It’s easy to lead when things are going well. It’s much more difficult when adversity strikes. And everyone will face adversity. I know Brad is a great coach — even one of the best — but that doesn’t mean he won’t make a mistake, just like great players do. But I know he will learn from his mistakes because he doesn’t look to place blame but looks internally for what he can do to maximize his talent.”
That last comment can be taken as a hint for Thomas. “I talk with Isaiah about becoming a better leader, and I think he can and will develop into one,” said Ainge. “He, too, will learn from this.”
Before the morning session to prepare for meeting with the Warriors on the other side of the bay, Thomas at first joked, “It’s you guys’ fault, man. “Nah,” he went on, “it’s whatever. It happens. I didn’t mean to throw anybody under the bus. That’s not me. I just said how I felt at that time. My job is to just to move on and do my job and don’t make it a distraction, because it’s not. I didn’t do it to throw anybody under the bus. I was frustrated. I thought we should have won the last two games, and that’s just how I felt. I mean, I was always taught to speak my mind. But for the most part, I don’t want to be a distraction. My teammates know that. It’s bigger than how I feel, I guess. I’m just going to move forward and look forward to tonight, and hopefully we can get a win.”
According to Stevens, the way Thomas dealt with things after speaking to the media in L.A. kept it from being an obstacle. “Isaiah reached out to me really quickly,” said the coach. “If it would have been reversed, where I would have had to initiate it, I think that may be an issue. But it wasn’t, so, again, I didn’t lose any sleep over it. I didn’t put much thought into it until it became a deal that everybody was talking about, and, at the point in time, I heard from Isaiah pretty quickly. So I don’t put a lot of stock (into it). I understand the emotions and how high they run at the end of games, win or lose. I have to go out there every day and talk after the game, too, and it’s not an easy thing to do all the time. And so I get it, and I’m OK with the fact that people are going to say some things, and you may have to have that moment where you communicate back and forth. But I don’t put too much stock into it, to be honest.”
Chris Forsberg: Brad Stevens says Crowder wished he hadn't expressed himself like he did. Says Crowder is "all in" on Boston.
Steve Bulpett: Isaiah Thomas admits to Herald he skipped out on media last night because he was afraid of what he might say... Story to be posted soon.
Scott Souza: #Celtics All-Star Isaiah Thomas: We have to get back to being the Celtics team I've been a part of last year and a half.
June 25, 2022 | 5:45 pm EDT Update
Joe Mussatto: Sam Presti on Lu Dort’s team option: “Obviously it’s our plan to exercise that pending anything different.” Significant news. The Thunder could have declined the option to make Dort a restricted free agent.
Rylan Stiles: Chet Holmgren confirms it took nothing to get Darius Bazley to switch his number “at first I got a list of numbers available and 7 wasn’t on there, then I got a list an hour later and 7 was on there.” Bazley is now number 55.
Former Mississippi State forward Garrison Brooks agreed to an Exhibit 10 contract with the New York Knicks as an undrafted free agent. This allows Brooks to compete this for a spot on the team’s regular season roster.
French guard Elie Okobo has signed a deal with the 2022 French League runner-ups AS Monaco with a yearly salary worth 1M euros, according to Eurohoops sources. Earlier on Saturday, Okobo led ASVEL to its third consecutive French Betclic Elite trophy with 20 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds.