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Keith Smith, NBA Writer/Celtics Blog

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb
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May 31, 2023 9:36 pm

Keith Smith, NBA Writer/Celtics Blog

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb

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May 31, 2023 9:36 pm

Keith Smith joins The Zach Gelb Show to talk about what the Celtics must do during the off-season regarding Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Joe Mazzulla and talks about all things general NBA.

Zach Gelb Show
Zach Gelb

Keith Smith does a tremendous job covering the entire NBA for the front office show, and also you can check out the Celtics blog as well. Keith, Zach, you help here. Appreciate the time. How are you? I'm doing well. Thank you for having me.

Well, thanks so much for coming on. I loved your tweets yesterday pointing out how much of an incentive it is for Jalen Brown to stay in Boston. I know that's always known, but when you put the numbers, five years, $290.3 million compared to $4.84.5 if he goes somewhere else, I just don't see a way this offseason where Jalen Brown goes, yeah, I'm going to pass on that money.

I no longer want to be a part of the Boston Celtics. Yeah, he would be the second player to pass up a supermax. The first was Kawhi Leonard, and we all know Kawhi does things very differently than anybody else really kind of ever has.

In the NBA, he kind of operates on his own timelines and in his own way. We haven't seen anybody else start turning down because the attitude, whether or not, in the NBA now is, all right, you know what, I'll take the money, and if I don't like the way things are going a year or two in, I'll ask for a trade down. That's just kind of how the week works now. Do you think people are just too caught up in the moment? I think people forget how young Tatum and Brown are, and we've seen them in so many big games for so many years, and you think by now they would have a championship.

Is that why you think there's been a lot of that discussion in the last 24, 48 hours? I think there's a portion of getting caught up in the moment, but I think there's also this was year kind of six of this core group together for the most part of Brown, Tatum, Marcus Smart, Al Horford, and then a couple of those other guys. Rob Williams has been there for a little while now too, and that's what I think has people saying, yeah, we haven't broken through yet. We got to the finals once, but haven't gotten all the way there. I think now what's happening is it turns into a conversation of, are we ever going to do it? That becomes the fans' number one question. Then you start to look at, I think people are just educated enough to understand that the super tax is coming in the new CBA, and that's going to make it really, really restrictive to build out a team. I think people are looking at that saying, you know what, this may not go exactly the way we want it to.

Keith Smith here with us. When you look at Jalen Brown in that game seven, the turnovers are horrible. He couldn't go to his left. How does he find a way to overcome that in the foreseeable future? Because it's the same issue the last few years with him. Yeah, you got to tighten up the handle, right?

That's the only real way to get there. Tighten up the handle, get a little bit better running, pick and roll, so you're a lot more confident with the ball in your hands and just kind of, you know, make it work that way because that's got to be a skill that you have right now. Jalen Brown is primarily a scorer who can do some playmaking, but he's a guy when he gets the ball in his hands, he's looking to score and that's not a bad thing, right? The league still needs guys who can score and he does it very well and pretty efficiently. So I think what happens though is when you get into the playoffs, especially in a game like that, game seven, where it's clear Jason Tatum was hurting, he wasn't able to do his normal thing, that allowed the Heat to really load to the ball, focus on Jalen Brown, and he just wasn't up to the moment. So that's going to be something he's going to have to kind of own, go back into the lab this offseason and come back a better player next year. How much of this season is on Joe Mazzola from the coaching standpoint?

I mean, some of it, right? It's hard because, you know, there's a huge amount of criticism that's being laid on him and the Celtics. And I get it, it's a disappointing season because they lost to the eight seed and we all thought they were a better team than they were a year ago and they were in the finals.

But to me, there's got to be a little bit of perspective in there. They were one of the final four teams play and they did get all the way back from a 3-0 deficit. And I think, you know, for me, part of that is, all right, coach, how do you get them ready to play in the early games, right? If you hadn't, you know, kind of thrown away a couple of those early games, you win the series and probably six and maybe even five and you're in the finals right now against the Nuggets.

And instead they threw away a couple of those early games and fell apart. So that's going to be something he's got to come back with. I think, you know, people would love to see him come back with an offense that's not so three point heavy because that's been a major challenge for them and something that just people haven't really fully bought into, you know, with this team and this personnel.

So those are things that they're going to have to figure out and try to get better with. The other thing too, Keith Smith, is if people are going to say, get rid of Joe Mazzola, who are you bringing in? Like Doc Rivers is not, you know, coming on back to Boston. And at this point, kind of the luster is worn off on Doc Rivers.

If you're going to tell me Monty Williams, like his team's the last two years failed in the big moments as well. So I don't see the coach out there. It's like, okay, I have to have right now to shove Joe Mazzola out the door. Yeah, that's, I mean, that's the fan stuff that, you know, signs when it's fired the coach or trade the player and it's like, okay, for who, like who, who do you want to come back in? And it's usually either some, you know, ridiculously, you know, unrealistic name or that's just, I don't know, just not this guy. And that, you know, to me is okay.

I get it right. That's part of the fandom and you know, or, you know, they fire back at guys like me with, I don't know, you tell me that's your job to do. And I'm, you know, kind of, I'm not the one, you know, campaigning for, you know, player to be traded or the guy to be fired.

So, you know, it's, it's in a spot now where I think a lot of people would have liked Nick nurse to maybe get a look. I think, you know, self-expanded scene, his teams give the Celtics trouble over the last five years. And you know that, but now he's off the board. So the reality is had they lost in four and gotten swept. And if it was an embarrassing game for like it wasn't embarrassing game three, I think you might've seen more momentum to say, all right, this fell apart in the worst possible way. We got to move off. But the fact that Joe Missoula got them to fight back, he did get it to a game seven. They laid an egg in game seven, but I think a lot of, uh, you know, people in charge, you know, look at and say, man, it's eight and got hurt 26 seconds into the game.

And you know, the heat made everything and we couldn't buy one. They're there. I think they're going to move into our, we extended this guy for a reason when we made him a full-time head coach mid season. We're not moving on right now. They're, they're just not going to pay somebody to not coach the team.

I liked that you brought up Nick nurse. What did you make of, of the Sixers higher? Cause I kind of view it. I liked the higher, but this team in terms of the roster construction fills a lot of work to do. Yeah.

And that's kind of where I'm at. You know, I think, you know, people went too crazy with the whole, I don't know, Nick nurse like small lineups where everybody can switch. I mean, he did when he didn't have a center, but when he had a center and Marcus all, they won a championship and they didn't play switch everything defense. So I think, you know, that we're not going to lock him in a one style and say, that's how he plays.

And that's it. I think for the most part, it's no, he's got some versatility to what he'll do. And you know, I, I'm fairly certain he's a good enough coach to figure out how to use Joel and beads talents without saying, no, go get me a six foot nine guy who can play, you know, three different positions instead of the MVP of the league. But with that said, I mean, he doesn't like guys who don't defend, don't bring effort on that end.

I don't know that James Harden is a perfect fit for this roster. So that's going to be something that's going to have to get figured out. And yeah, there, there are a couple other players that they're going to have to sort through it and figure out how to build the best roster for him. Cause now you've kind of made that long-term commitment. It's likely, you know, very likely a four year deal. That's generally how these deals go. So for at least the next four years, you're kind of saying, all right, we got to give him something. He can win. If you had to guess right now, does James Harden end up going back to Houston with the Rockets? I think so.

And that's not any kind of reporting I'm giving you just reading the tea leaves and reading all the other reports, whenever something pops up, you know, mid season, like this dinner right around Christmas, around the holiday time, when we started first hearing this buzz and then it doesn't go away and it only gets louder and louder and louder and nobody shuts it down with a, Hey, this is not how this is going to go. That to me says there's at least something there. And I think James Harden at this point, I think he is the kind of guy who is, you know what? I want to be where I'm going to be happy. I was happiest in Houston. I'm content to just stay there.

And that's where I would like to be. I'm going to ask you a question. I know the answer to, I know the answer is Tillman Fertitta. So instead of just asking you, why do the Rockets even want him back? Why does Tillman Fertitta they'll want him back?

That's the one that I can't wrap my head around still. Hey, I think they're just impatient now. I think they're looking at it as, Hey, we we've had a couple of really bad years and I want to win and I, I don't want to be doing this rebuilding thing forever. I mean, they moved on from Steven Silas.

I'm not going to say that was the worst decision in the world. The team wasn't really making a lot of progress under him, but they're really only two full years into this rebuild. Cause that first year, the intention wasn't to be a bad team. They still had James Harden. They still had some other guys.

And then when they traded him, they leaned into it over the last two years. But now you're sitting there with a roster that's full of really good, fun, interesting, young talent that I think can grow. And I think he may or Delta is going to do a really good job with that team and getting them ready to play. But I think the Rockets are, you know, up top are, yeah, you know, that's all sounds well and good, but I don't want to wait another two years before we're competing for playoffs spots.

I want to compete now. And I think the belief is, you know, get James Harden in, get the right kind of guys around him because you'll probably trade a handful of those kids in other moves to create, you know, build out your roster around James Harden. I think their feeling is, let's go forward with that. We'll be competitive for playoffs spots longterm.

And you're probably going to get two, three pretty good years out of that, but then I don't know where it goes from there. So it's not a move I would make, but my guess is that's why we're sitting where we're sitting. We talked about Keith Smith, the speculation in regards to James Harden. There's also been a ton of speculation that Bob Myers is going to step away.

We found that out to be true yesterday. How'd you react to it and why do you think the truth is that Bob Myers is leaving the Warriors? I think the truth is he just wants a break. I'm going to take him at his word on that. There's a lot of reporting around that in the days leading up to it.

Mark Stein, I think has been on this for a little while. Myers is just kind of worn out. I think, you know, one of the things that people forget is, you know, when your team, most of the years that he's been there has been other than a couple years when they kind of took their gap years, if you will, that they were competing late into the season. So you're dealing with that. You're also dealing with, all right, this is not the easiest roster to build out. You're starting from a great point, but you've got to get depth. You're really kind of working through that process with those guys. Not a lot of trades to be made, those kinds of things.

So you're kind of stuck in a spot where it's, all right, you know, it's a hard place to, you know, go. Now you started from a great core with Curry and Thompson and Green and Wiggins in that group, but my guess is he's just worn down from the challenges of this job and doing it for, you know, nearly a decade. And I'm guessing he's, you know, I'm going to take some time off and then we'll see in a year or so, you know, what kind of materializes from that. When you get ready for the first game next season, I'll get to the finals in just a second, Keith Smith, but when you get ready for the first game next season, do you think Dame is still with the Portland Trail Blazers?

Yeah, I think so. I think they're going to give it at least one more run of let's try to rebuild around him. I would not be surprised if they either don't make the pick at three or if they're making that pick for somebody else. I think there's a chance they're going to try to cash in on that and get a player in there that they really feel can fit around Damian Lillard and really try to lift them up. I think some teams in the Western Conference are looking at it and saying, hey, the Lakers made a run with a good but flawed roster to the Western Conference finals. I think they're even looking at the Nuggets and saying, hey, this nugget team is good and really good, but they're not, you know, the Warriors, they're not, you know, they'll feel inevitable at the start of each year that we're all playing for seconds.

So why not us? And I think, you know, if you're Portland, you're thinking, oh, we got Damian Lillard, we've got some other nice players. Let's really try to cash in, get at least one, maybe two more guys, fill out our depth a little bit. And that could be us next year making that deep playoff run. And I think they're going to give up one more shot around Damian. I respect Damian's loyalty because that organization has been a dumpster fire.

But if I was him, Keith Smith, I'd be trying everything in my power to wind up with Miami next year. Yeah, I just I don't know how the heat would even remotely begin to make that happen. They don't have the asset to pull that off.

You know, that's the that's I think the challenge right. I've seen people throw that out there and that speculation. I mean, you hear the same thing with the Lakers got to go get them. You know, why don't they make it happen?

Well, we all forget Portland's on the other side. They're not just going to be like, well, hey, anybody take Damian Lillard off our hands and we'll take your, you know, you know, put back a bunch of pieces. Superstar trades don't return the value that people tend to think they're going to. It's pretty rare that you get back the monster package.

It does happen occasionally. Danny Ainge has done quite well with it several times, both with the Celtics and the Jazz now. But for the most part, if you get a little bit of a disappointing package, but you look at teams like Miami, the Lakers, the teams that would really maybe be going in on Damian Lillard, you start to find it kind of hard to find our what do they send it back? That would be enough for the Blazers to feel really good about making that trade.

And it's just not there. You've covered the NBA for a long time. What do you think the biggest storyline is entering these NBA finals that start tomorrow night? I think it's going to be the Miami Heat defense against the Nuggets offense. And especially how do they handle Nikolai Jokic? Ben Adebayo is a wonderful player, but he struggled with Jokic over the years.

Fairly small sample size. They only play a couple of times a season. But we're going to get a real good sense of, you know, where is Bam at? You know, one on one. And they don't have a whole lot to throw at Jokic otherwise.

I think so. If I had any one coach that I needed to say, hey, we have a whole bunch of different stuff planned, it would be our exposure. And if I had any one group of players that I think could morph from defense to defense to defense, it would be this Miami Heat team.

They're really good at just switching in. And I think exposure is going to have, you know, Plan A, B, C, D, E and F ready to go. And it's going to be all right. You know, we're going to do this for a little while because the one thing you can't do with Jokic, you can't just show him the same look over and over and over again because he's going to figure it out.

And then he's going to just pick you apart. And that's going to be the interesting chess match there of, you know, how do they defend that team? Can they get it slowed down enough where these games can be kind of rock fights? Because unless the Heat really believe all of a sudden they're the greatest shooting team in the history of the NBA, that they need to get these games played a little slower and a little lower score to have a real chance here. I've been back and forth Denver in five or Denver in six. The only reason why I haven't been adamant on Denver in five is I feel like that's a little disrespectful to Miami just with the things that you pointed out, which Eric Spulcher could do.

What's the official prediction for Keith Smith on the finals? Yeah, I'm going Denver in seven. There's a couple reasons for that. One is these are the chances the last seven meaningful NBA games for a few months. And I want to get right. So I get a little melancholy this time of year because it's been all the good stuff going away for a little bit with the NBA. So so I want as many as I can get.

But also, you know, I look back. Miami is supposed to lose in four or five to the Bucks. They won. They're supposed to lose in six or seven of the Knicks. They won. They're supposed to lose in four or five to the Celtics and they won. I don't think they're going to win again, but I think they really are going to make Denver work for it. And at the end, I think the Nuggets will pull it out. But, you know, I'm going I'm going to get some seven. By the way, just two more things before we let you run.

We're on a bunch of stations right now in the state of Wisconsin. What did you make of the Adrian Griffin hire for the Bucks? If it makes you honest, happy, then it makes me happy if I'm a Bucks fan. You know, he seemed to be engaged in that process and that's that's huge, right? And I think Adrian Griffin is one of those guys who he's been waiting for this spot for a while.

He's been, you know, kind of on that path of, you know, we see this with assistance. They interview for years and years and years and I finally get their shot and some of them do quite well. So I think there's a good pick up. And who do you think ends up getting the Suns job?

Yeah, it was a little tougher. I think it's probably going to be Kevin Young, who's one of their assistants. Seems like he has a lot of momentum there. But, you know, the fact that Frank Vogel is a guy who has built really good teams when he has a defensive big to build around, I think they're looking at saying, hey, maybe he can get the most out of DeAndre Ayton by making him a defender, rebounder.

We've got the offense to figure it out and go. I think he's in the mix. And then Doc Rivers just, you know, he's the kind of guy that was the kind of team that he generally tends to do pretty well with.

And I'm a veteran team that's ready to win and he can do pretty good. The question I wonder is, you know, it's Chris Paul ready to do that again. You know, another run with with Doc, but they haven't had a good amount of success together with the Clippers.

So I, you know, we'll see. But I think it's going to probably be Kevin Young. My biggest concern about Doc Rivers is you look at the last two jobs. There was a lot of things said, you know, reportedly with Kawhi and then also Paul George about trying to keep them accountable while he was there. Then you heard similar things with James Harden. I wonder when you have a star like Durant, if Durant and Doc Rivers could get on the same page. Yeah, we'd find out real quick, I think. You know, I think they'd probably be a pretty good mutual respect there to start off with. But Doc's a little old school where it is, you know, hey, you're going to listen. And I think sometimes the players now are, eh, it's the Players League. Like the days of the coach being the most important person in the organization.

Those are pretty, pretty far gone now. You know, and I think there's a good chance that they would butt heads. Make sure you check out the front office show. Also Celtics blog as well. He's Keith Smith. Keith really appreciate the insight. I appreciate it. Thank you for having me. There you go. Keith Smith joining us on the Zach Gilb show on CBS Sports Radio. We will take a time out. We react to a lot of things that were just said right there when we come on back in five minutes.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-31 23:00:33 / 2023-05-31 23:10:03 / 10

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