Jared Weiss: The Boston Celtics are hiring former Tufts…

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January 19, 2020 | 9:19 pm UTC Update
And now here we are, with the Sixers charging headlong toward the playoffs, ready to make good on what head coach Brett Brown has proclaimed is a championship-caliber team. This is new territory for Brown, who was hired as coach seven years ago, just when the team embarked on an epic intentional collapse — dubbed “The Process” — in order to position itself near the head of the worst-goes-first line in the drafting of the best college players. The team set records for losing over four years, and Brown, all along, stood behind this method, often talking about his players as if helping them become men might be his real job. Was Nerlens Noel, a center the team drafted in the early days of the Process, engaged in timeouts? Was he helping teammates off the floor? How was he comporting himself on planes when the team went on the road? At the end of 2014, when Embiid was proving to be high-maintenance as he rehabbed a broken foot, Brown said this: “Joel Embiid has a good heart. At the end of the day, he has a good heart. I don’t throw that sentence out lightly. That needs to be the criteria of everybody in here.”
Meanwhile, Brown’s approach hasn’t changed. He talks up his best players, never criticizing them publicly. And to this point, it’s worked, obviously: Embiid and Simmons, 25 and 23 years old, are All Stars. But they still have a big piece of themselves to overcome, or to unlock. They still need to grow up. Which gives Brown, who started out in Philly with all the room in the world, a dilemma: Suddenly, he has very little time. Sixers owner Josh Harris has a history of listening to the noise of fans and media, plenty of whom think the team’s head coach should stop babying his two stars and force-feed their growth, given that they’re being paid tens of millions a year and we’re so close to that championship.
IT MIGHT SEEM, then, a bit strange that Brett Brown talks a lot about toughness as central to what he’s all about, though it’s not by accident. “Philly tough, Philly strong” was the banner phrase of an early-season team promo featuring the coach’s voice. Talking toughness is a part of getting his team to play in a certain style, but for Brown, it’s also been a natural way of connecting to the city, of molding a certain persona. “You become a spokesperson and mouthpiece of the owners and players,” Brown says. “I am quite calculated on what I want to talk about.” It helps his standing here, too.
But Brown, who’s 58, does come by toughness, in his own way, naturally. He grew up in seaside Maine towns where his father coached basketball. His father’s father made a living taking wealthy businessmen from New York and Boston and Montreal to fish or hunt moose and bear in Northern Maine. And his father — Brett’s great-grandfather — had a job as a railroad switchman, changing the tracks to direct trains either to Quebec or Montreal. “He had to shovel snow off the tracks and remove dead animals, too,” Brown says. “Which could be anything.”
January 19, 2020 | 7:24 pm UTC Update
January 19, 2020 | 6:26 pm UTC Update

Curry already looks ready to play in his post-practice sessions. Judging by his shooting, his broken left hand looks healed. He is no longer wearing the brace. But he hasn’t played since Oct. 30. Saturday was his 40th game missed since the injury. By the All-Star break, Curry will have missed 51 games — the most he’s missed in a season since he missed 40 games in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season when he severely sprained his right ankle.
Last week, I passed along how the Pacers were informed that Domantas Sabonis could not hurt his left knee anymore but would have to play through pain in the meantime. Many were upset with that strategy and wanted to see Sabonis take it easy. We’ve seen other guys play through injuries, and it often leads to something else, sometimes something worse. So I went to Sabonis to get the full story. Many players hate discussing injuries; they’d rather talk about almost anything else. Sabonis, though, opened up and shared what he had learned.
Storyline: Domantas Sabonis Injury
“I’ve been told it’s a bone bruise, so there’s swelling in the bone that all doctors say it can’t get worse unless you get hit in that same spot,” he said. Sabonis was evaluated by the team doctor, and then his representatives also had him checked out by two additional specialists, which is normal. And all three doctors were in agreement: It’s simply a bone bruise and he’s not subject to additional risk by continuing to play on it.
“It’s the same thing if I get hit in my healthy knee,” Sabonis said, pointing to his right knee. “There’s the same chance. It’s not a muscle or anything, so by doing more stuff, you can’t technically get it worse.” Sabonis tried the rest thing. He strategically didn’t do much on it for three days. He didn’t practice before their game in Chicago on Jan. 10 and didn’t play in the game, and the team had the following day off. “Not even ice helps it,” he said. “You can’t really put anything on it. It just has to heal.”
January 19, 2020 | 5:27 pm UTC Update

Jazz extend Royce O'Neale

Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale has agreed to a four-year, $36 million contract extension, agents Ty Sullivan and Steven Heumann of CAA Sports told ESPN. O’Neale plans to sign the deal on Sunday, the agents said. Although he could’ve become a restricted free agent this summer, O’Neale and his reps negotiated a long-term deal that keeps him with the franchise that signed him out of Europe in 2017.
For what it’s worth, the Rockets weren’t depressed following the loss — not like Westbrook would ever let it get to that point. “Nobody put their head down in here,” Westbrook said. “If I see it, I’ll go grab it myself and put their head up. It’s no reason to put your head down. We’re all blessed to have an amazing job, to be able to support our families and to go out and play basketball — something that we all love to do. There’s no reason you should ever walk out of here with your head down. I’m obviously disappointed [with] the loss, but we got bigger things in life that’s bigger than a basketball game.”
LaMelo Ball has shut it down for good in Australia with a foot injury, but still should be a top-three pick in June’s draft. According to a source, the Knicks never got a chance to see the 6-foot-7 forward play live Down Under. Brass had plotted the trip for this month. In Ball’s last two games in the Australian National Basketball League in late November, he struck for consecutive triple-doubles. Par for the course. Maybe it won’t matter. There’s no guarantee president Steve Mills or general manager Scott Perry will make the Knicks’ lottery selection in June. To their credit, Mills and Perry have assembled six first-round picks in the next four drafts.
Houston Rockets power forward PJ Tucker has rarely gone the custom-painted route, though he still managed to catch Kevin Durant by surprise with yet another colorful, themed recent pair. Originally designed by one of the founding members of the Taiwanese sneaker message board Kenlu.net, the “Orange Tree” KD IV was a creation on NIKEiD with just a handful of pairs made. Tucker somehow got his hands on a pair nearly eight years later, of course. “We’ve been friends for years and I’ve always loved his sneakers,” Tucker said of Durant. “Our friendship is deeper than anything, but the sneaker aspect is unbelievable.” “Dog I’m about to ban you from wearing my shoes,” Durant joked on Instagram. “They might as well be your joints now.”
January 19, 2020 | 2:27 pm UTC Update
Guard Kemba Walker sat out Saturday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns with a sore left knee. Walker, who was listed as questionable by the Boston Celtics, didn’t participate in shootaround and underwent an MRI on his knee after telling the team Friday night that he had knee soreness, according to Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Kemba got ahold of our doctors last night and said he had some knee soreness,” Stevens said. “[He] went and got an MRI today, [and it] didn’t show anything structurally wrong, but he’s very sore.”
Storyline: Kemba Walker Injury
January 19, 2020 | 6:54 am UTC Update

Hawks an option for Montrezl Harrell?

If the Clippers don’t believe they can win with a 6’7″ center, especially one hoping for what is believed to be a $20 million-per-season payday, then they risk losing Harrell as a free agent. (Multiple executives believe the Atlanta Hawks could be a summer destination.) Los Angeles would have his rights and the ability to sign-and-trade him to another team, but that’s a move entirely dependent on Harrell’s participation.
This rumor is part of a storyline: 12 more rumors
Another possibility for Harkless and considerations, one NBA source suggested, could be Thaddeus Young of the Chicago Bulls, who has $34.6 million of his $40.6 million guaranteed through the 2021-22 season. “They could go after Drummond, but if they’re sending out Zubac, Harkless and filler [like Rodney McGruder], they still have the issue that they’re not going to play Drummond with Harrell,” the Eastern Conference executive said.

Clippers eyeing Aron Baynes?

“They take up the same space on the court. The Clippers simply don’t play them together,” the Eastern Conference executive said. “Montrezl is getting 29 minutes a game, so even if the Clippers added on another center, where would those minutes come? They would need a floor-spacer.” In part, that’s why the Clippers have had their eye on Aron Baynes of the Phoenix Suns (17-24), though they are still looking to make a playoff push, just two games behind the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies (20-22). Baynes is a strong, experienced defender who can space the floor. Giving up Zubac for Baynes could make sense if the Clippers reinvest in Harrell, but would the Suns have any interest in Zubac’s four-year, $28.5 million deal as a backup for Deandre Ayton?
This rumor is part of a storyline: 10 more rumors
I don’t have any data to immediately quantify this, but I can say with certainty that LeBron has never spoken less frequently to reporters than he has this season. I’m going to leave last year to the side because he missed a career-high 27 games. He’s healthy this season, just not nearly as available. I’m not criticizing him for this, it’s simply true. Between the Lakers’ lack of practices and shootarounds, and LeBron’s being more willing to share the spotlight with veteran teammates, we’re just hearing less from him on a daily basis than ever before.
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