NEWARK, Del. -- A New Englander, Sixers head coach Brett Brown grew up following all the Boston pro teams. Though he liked the Knicks’ teams from the 1970s with Earl Monroe and Walt Frazier and the Sixers’ clubs with Dr. J, Andrew Toney and Doug Collins, the Celtics were the team to watch in Southern Maine.
“With my background, you couldn't help but not feel different,” Brown said.
And like the Sixers, the Celtics have broken up the veteran pieces from the team and gone into a massive rebuilding mode. That includes hiring new coaches. Perhaps the most surprising ire of the offseason was when the Celtics lured 37-year-old Brad Stevens away from Butler University to coach the team.
It was a big-time coup for the Celtics, Brown says, and not just because Stevens was able to take tiny Butler to two straight NCAA Championship games. Stevens’ coaching style might be a perfect fit for the NBA, the Sixers’ coach says.
“I think it was a great hire,” Brown said. “I think it was a gutsy, clever hire. You understand it -- it’s not so much his success at Butler as it is his offense. His offense could translate to the NBA easily. It was a gutsy, clever hire.”
Stevens will have his work cut out for him. Like the Sixers, the Celtics are loaded with young players. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were dealt to Brooklyn and point guard Rajon Rondo is still recovering from a torn ACL. Expect both teams to take their lumps this year.
The Bulls are apparently still after Jahlil Okafor.
Chicago has continued its trade push for the Sixers’ big man, according to a report Wednesday night by The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.
In early February, the Bulls inquired about Okafor, according to a report by CSNChicago.com.
With Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline nearing, the clock is ticking on the Sixers’ possible trade of Okafor, who “will get moved” by the mandatory cutoff date, according to NBA.com’s David Aldridge on Tuesday.
The Sixers already have one trade nearly completed. They are currently finalizing a deal that will send Ersan Ilyasova to the Atlanta Hawks, a league source confirmed to CSNPhilly.com Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato on Wednesday night (see story).
With Okafor, aside from the Bulls, other teams have reportedly expressed interest in the second-year center, including the Pacers, Blazers and Pelicans (who are expected to be out of the running after landing DeMarcus Cousins).
Okafor is averaging 11.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in 23 minutes per game this season over 38 contests. Last season, he played 53 games (48 starts) as a rookie and averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds.
The 21-year-old has taken all the trade buzz in stride.
“Trade rumors are something that’s going to be part of my life probably for as long as I’m in the NBA," Okafor said on Feb. 4 after the Bulls’ reported interest originally surfaced. "I’ve been hearing it since I’ve been in the NBA about me being traded. I just try to focus on what I can. That’s being here on this team and trying to help this team win.”
The Sixers are trading a frontcourt player before the deadline … just not the one people expected.
The Sixers are finalizing a trade to send Ersan Ilyasova to the Atlanta Hawks for center Tiago Splitter and two second-round picks, a league source confirmed to CSNPhilly.com Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato.
The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news.
Ilyasova was acquired along with a conditional first-round pick from Oklahoma City on Nov. 1 for Jerami Grant. The 29-year-old, who is a free agent at the end of the season, has averaged 14.3 points and 5.9 rebounds this season.
However, he has struggled offensively lately, shooting just 35.7 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from three-point range over the last 10 games.
“I am not going to say it’s just because of free agency,” said Ilyasova, who has now been traded five times in 20 months after spending the first seven NBA seasons of his career in Milwaukee. “You have 82 games, you can’t play perfect. Sometimes you have good games and bad games.
The move also allows Sixers Dario Saric to receive even more playing time and experience as the team heads into the final 26 games of the regular season. Saric has shown steady improvement all season long. The rookie has averaged 16.0 points on 44.0 percent shooting with 6.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists in nine games during February.
Splitter has missed the entire season with hip and calf injuries. A league source tells Camerato that the Sixers have not yet determined whether the Sixers will keep Splitter or waive him. The veteran's contract expires after this season.
While Ilyasova is the first Sixers domino to fall at the deadline, he may not be the last. League sources also tell Wojnarowski that the Chicago Bulls have "continued to push on a trade" for Jahlil Okafor.