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Sunday basketball notes

The Celtics are applying to host the NBA All-Star Game, and they’re likely targeting 2026

The NBA would prefer more cities apply to host All-Star Weekend.Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

After months of preparing and gathering local support, the Celtics will apply to host their first All-Star Game since 1964.

According to an NBA source, the Celtics will file an application with the hopes of targeting 2026, with the showcase normally scheduled for the third weekend in February.

Celtics brass have targeted an All-Star Game for the past few years and have spent considerable time gauging the interest of the city and also garnering commitments from local venues to host events surrounding the game.

Unbelievably, Boston has gone nearly 60 years without an NBA All-Star Game, mostly a byproduct of tepid interest within the city and among the team’s ownership groups.


The NBA would welcome an All-Star Game in Boston. What’s more, the league would prefer more cities apply to host what has become one of professional sports’ most popular weekends.

With the Celtics in championship contention the past few years, featuring cornerstone players in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Wyc Grousbeck-led ownership group began considering an application a few years ago.

Mayor Michelle Wu has been supportive of an All-Star application, but the process is arduous, with the Celtics having to find open dates for places such as the Hynes Convention Center to host events, as well as arenas other than TD Garden for events such as the celebrity game and a G-League regular-season game.

The 2023 All-Star Game will take place next month in Salt Lake City, then the Pacers will host the 2024 game. The NBA has not announced an All-Star location for 2025.

“I encourage that application from Boston,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in June. “It’s a wonderful city. There was a period, maybe it seems 10-plus years ago, where it became disfavored to have All-Star Games for whatever reason, and now they are back. I’ve got a long list of NBA cities that would like to have All-Star — it’s not even a game anymore, it’s not even a weekend, it’s a week of activities. We’re thrilled to be in Utah. It’s not just Salt Lake City next year but it’s Utah; it’s the Salt Lake City environs. They push it out to the skiing and hiking in the mountains and everything else.


“For us, we only have that as our neutral-site event, meaning where the league can host guests from around the world and has lots of tickets. It’s a great opportunity for us, and also just we love it as a week to shine the world’s attention on basketball.”

With the development of the Seaport in recent years, as well as additional hotel space and the transformation of TD Garden, the Celtics feel comfortable enough to invite the basketball world to Boston. The approval of their application is likely a formality.


Legend Moore officially retires

Maya Moore (center) has long been focused on more than basketball, and she's officially calling it a career.NINA ROBINSON/NYT

Maya Moore hadn’t played professional basketball in five years. She had more important things on the agenda, such as the campaign to free Jonathan Irons from a 50-year prison sentence in 2020.

Irons had served 22 years of that sentence before Moore postponed her WNBA career to help the campaign to overturn his conviction. Irons was freed and eventually married Moore, and they now have a son, Moore has become an author and social activist, leaving basketball behind.

But she had never officially retired from the Minnesota Lynx, with whom she spent eight seasons after a remarkable career at the University of Connecticut. She finally decided to retire this past week, offering reflections on years as one of the best players in the world before she had a higher calling.


“I couldn’t have written this story like this,” she said. “This is unexpected, but at the same time it’s been really thoughtful and planned and prepared. When I was playing, I always tried to bring energy. I always tried to bring light and joy and an intensity. I hope people saw me as someone who gave all she had. And somebody who looked beyond the craft I pursued and tried to value people. Someone that never gave up, not giving up on a person or just persisting through the grind of every year. I tried to finish the things I said yes to.”

Moore won four WNBA championships with the Lynx, was a six-time All-Star, and the 2014 league MVP before leaving the sport in her prime at age 28. She said she never seriously considered returning to basketball.

“These last four years was just so focused on what I was doing at home and doing with Jonathan and my community that I didn’t really wrestle with a desire to switch that pace up, but it was very hard at times to kind of accept missing my teammates,” she said. “Our chemistry was just awesome. I missed that more than anything. I was very focused on trying to be well, have a good rhythm. I felt such a sense of purpose in the direction I was heading.”



Hammering out new agreement

The NBA has some major decisions in the coming months. The league and players’ union need to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement. The league is flourishing so much financially — with the recent Bulls-Pistons game in France, several countries vying for in-season games, and likely expansion to 32 teams before the end of the decade — that there is no chance for labor strife.

It’s a matter of commissioner Adam Silver and Players Association executive director Tamika Tremaglio hammering out issues such as a potential midseason tournament, a shorter regular season, more restrictions on load management, and players missing games because of minor injuries and rest.

Silver would like to eliminate the one-and-done rule, but it will require approval from the union. And it won’t be an easy decision for the NBPA. Will allowing high school prospects into the draft take jobs away from NBA veterans? Could the NBA develop more G-League teams with high school players who may not be ready for the NBA but have no interest in attending one year of college?

The league came to one solution on that issue by forming the G-League Ignite, which pays players who finished high school a salary to play a year in the G-League before entering the draft.

“I’ve said on previous occasions, when I first became commissioner in 2014, I actually thought minimum age is 19, we should raise it, given some of the developmental issues around our players,” Silver said this past week. “I think then as time went on and college basketball began to change for various reasons, and now including [name, image, and likeness] deals and other issues in the US, and also the NCAA put together a commission led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.


“She then formally came to the league and the Players Association. Remember, we can only make a change jointly by agreement. She said, on behalf of college basketball, we believe the sport of basketball and college basketball will be better off if you change the minimum age to 18 from 19.”

High school players haven’t been allowed to play in the NBA since 2005, but the league dynamic has changed and there are more options for high school seniors, including the opportunity to make money in college through NIL.

Adam Silver has plenty of work to do with the NBPA to reach a new collective bargaining agreement.Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

“We, the NBA, have proposed to our Players Association that we lower the age from 19 to 18. I’ll let them speak for themselves, but that’s on the table in collective bargaining right now,” Silver said. “On balance, I’ve come to think that’s the right approach. Interestingly, we were talking about the international players before, a very different development system outside of the United States. But when I’ve had the opportunity to meet with some of the players we were referencing before, some of the truly great international players, they chuckle when we’re talking about 19 versus 18 because many of them were professionals when they were 14. It’s just a very different system.”

But is there such a thing as too young to play in the NBA? The league and union instituted the one-and-done rule because so many prospects not named LeBron James or Kobe Bryant were making a mistake by taking that substantial leap from high school to the NBA. Eventually, many notable college coaches began complaining about the one-and-done rule because they worked to recruit high-level prospects, who would be on campus for no more than six months.

“I’m at the point where I think that it’s perfectly appropriate for young talent, and we see this, of course, in European soccer, to be participating in academies and other programs where they’re also getting education,” Silver said. “But there’s a recognition that these young folks have extraordinary opportunity and that they should be focused in a very singular way on their potential to become professionals at a very high level. That’s why I think, although there’s negatives to it, too, I think we’d be better off going to 18 at this point.”

Silver has to be ecstatic that the league is experiencing a scoring boom, with 50-point games becoming a weekly occurrence, including Jayson Tatum’s 51-point outburst last Monday The NBA has become better because of the recent flood of international prospects such as Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, with another generational player on his way in 7-foot-4-inch French center Victor Wembanyama.

“For me, a fan, the talent level is just off the charts, and that has a lot to do with what we’re seeing,” Silver said. “Of course, the enormous increase in 3-point shooting is going to lead to more scoring, too, especially when these guys, even the big men, shoot 3-point shots as well as they do.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a case that defense is not being focused on as it once was. I’ve been around the league long enough to remember when the claim was guys played no defense at all, and so there’s a fair amount of defense played.”

There have been complaints over the last decade that the game has become less physical, every hard foul being reviewed for a flagrant, and players such as Embiid, James Harden, and Luka Doncic able to constantly reach the free throw line on touch fouls.

“I would say in the league, sometimes this distinguishes us from other leagues, we’re not traditionalists in that we’re afraid to make changes,” Silver said. “I think the fans are telling us, and responding with record ratings, that the game is as exciting as ever. But we’re not afraid to reexamine it. Generally, we don’t make rule changes mid-course or during a season. But we sit down at the end of the season, we look at all the data, and we’ll assess it.

“But it’s interesting, four of the top five scorers are international players, and these great shooters are coming from everywhere now. We want a multifaceted game. I hear some of the criticism of we want it to be all 3-point shooting. For those who have been covering the league for a long time, I remember people were saying it’s all about dunking and guys can’t shoot. Now it’s they shoot too well, it should be more of an inside game. We’ll keep looking at it.”

Silver suggested the NBA could eventually combine with FIBA to make standard basketball rules. Of course, in international competition, players are allowed to knock the ball away from the rim without fear of goaltending being called, while “take fouls” are considered common fouls. The NBA worked reduce take fouls by giving the fouled team a free throw and the ball.

“What always comes up when we’re having basketball meetings outside of the United States is more that we can do with our federation, with FIBA, to create common rules around the world,” Silver said. “They’re essentially the same rules. But I think that’s also something that we can do a better job on, making it completely uniform, so whether you’re picking up a ball in Paris or New York or Mumbai, it’s the exact same game. All those things relate to an ongoing examination of how to improve the game.”


What will the Raptors do with Fred VanVleet?Abbie Parr/Associated Press

The Raptors are in the unenviable position of having to decide what to do with cornerstone Fred VanVleet, who will be a free agent this summer. The Raptors were expected to compete for one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference, coming off a playoff appearance last season and returning everyone from that team. Injuries have crippled the Raptors, as has the inconsistent play of second-year forward Scottie Barnes and the team’s general lack of good shooting. Toronto is 21st in the NBA in offense, 29th in field goal percentage, and 28th in 3-point percentage. The Raptors could attempt to add shooters, but they are 14 games behind the first-place Celtics and six games below .500. The Raptors signed former Warriors swingman Otto Porter to help with defense and shooting, but he underwent season-ending foot surgery after playing just eight games. Toronto will be a team to watch come the trade deadline because it could move two or three rotation players, including VanVleet … Another quality player became available this past week when veteran big man Serge Ibaka agreed to stay home while the Bucks try to facilitate a trade. Ibaka is in the final year of his contract and was unhappy with his role in Milwaukee. He was once one of the game’s top perimeter defenders and shot blockers, but at age 33 he could serve as a backup center with the ability to shoot 3-pointers. With and Brook Lopez, the Bucks didn’t have a need for another big man, squeezing Ibaka out of the rotation. The Celtics could be in line for another big man but may not have enough minutes for Ibaka’s liking. He wants to play for a contender … The Cam Reddish experiment appears to be over in New York. The former first-round pick from Duke has been dangled in trade talks and there appears to be a mystery as to why two teams would give up on an athletic swingman who just turned 23. Reddish’s playing time has been inconsistent under coach Tom Thibodeau, and he was benched on Dec. 4 and hasn’t played since. Reddish is still on his rookie deal and would be a restricted free agent this summer. The Knicks also have benched veteran Derrick Rose, who hasn’t played since Dec. 31. The Knicks have a $15.5 million option on Rose for next season.

Gary Washburn is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at gary.washburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.