LAS VEGAS — When Brad Stevens coached the Celtics, he usually took in his team’s Summer League games from an inconspicuous perch in the bleachers. But as president of basketball operations he is the chief evaluator and decision-maker, so his presence is more visible. This week, he has watched the action from a courtside seat, and spent other time working to put the finishing touches on this championship-caliber roster.
At the moment, perhaps the most pressing matter involves an All-Star who is under contract and slated to make $28.5 million next season. But two weeks have passed without forward Jaylen Brown and the Celtics agreeing on a five-year, $295 million super-max contract, even as several other stars have finalized slightly less lucrative five-year extensions.
Late Wednesday night, Stevens stood in the bowels of UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center and said he could not say much about where negotiations with Brown stood, but he certainly did not sound concerned.
“It’s been all good discussion,” Stevens said. “We want Jaylen to be here for a long, long time and we’ve made that clear. We’re looking forward to all sitting down, and we’ve got time here. I probably shouldn’t say anything else, but I feel optimistic.”
Brown spent several days in Las Vegas this week, mostly to hold an annual gift-giving event for NBA rookies. He has not attended any of the Celtics’ Summer League games, but his brother, Quenton, sat with Boston’s brass during the team’s loss to the Wizards on Sunday.
The Celtics have until October to finalize Brown’s deal, and there are no indications that they are offering him less than the max. The delay is likely related to the incentive structure, and perhaps the inclusion of a fifth-year player option like the one fellow All-Star Jayson Tatum received.
The rest of Boston’s roster continues to take shape. On Wednesday, the Celtics officially completed the sign-and-trade that sent forward Grant Williams to the Mavericks on a four-year, $54 million contract. In return, the Celtics received a pair of future second-round picks and rights to a second-round pick swap.
“Obviously, Grant had a good four years with us and did a lot of good things, and obviously every decision we make right now you’ve got to have short and long term in mind,” Stevens said, perhaps a nod to the $40 million luxury-tax hit the Celtics would have taken next season if Williams had been retained. “But he’ll do well. We’re in a unique position obviously where, when we traded, we weren’t going to take much back. But I do think it’ll be a good opportunity for him and it gives us some flexibility here as we move forward. But he did a good job. He’s a hard guy to lose.”
The departure of Williams leaves the Celtics with one open roster spot, and guard Justin Champagnie and center Luke Kornet are on non-guaranteed deals. Stevens said he expects some further roster tweaks this offseason, but gave few hints about their significance.
“I think we’ll try to add, obviously, a little bit,” he said. “I’d like to get a little more depth, maybe on the wing, and then also maybe with a [power forward/small forward] type. I feel pretty good about our bigs. We’ve got a couple two-way [contract openings], so we’ve got some things we’re still very much looking at.”
The Celtics on Wednesday also finalized the two-year, $60 million contract extension with center Kristaps Porzingis, who was acquired from the Wizards in the three-team deal that sent guard Marcus Smart to the Grizzlies.
“I just think we’re fortunate to do that, a guy that can play with either of our bigs and play as the lone big,” Stevens said. “I mean, that’s a big part of what we need to be moving forward, as far as we have a little bit more balance there in that group. He’s a good player and to have him here for a few years is obviously a good thing.”
Before sending Smart to Memphis, the Celtics were close to finalizing a different three-team deal that would have sent guard Malcolm Brogdon to the Clippers instead. But with Porzingis’s deadline to activate his $36 million player option falling on the night of the deal, sources said, the Clippers didn’t have enough time to look into the health of Brogdon, who was hobbled by a forearm strain during the conference finals.
So the Celtics quickly pivoted to Plan B, and Brogdon remained in Boston with some lingering questions about his health. But Stevens said Wednesday that the guard has made progress and will likely avoid surgery.
“He feels good,” Stevens said. “It’s rest and rehab. He’s felt great, so all signs point to resuming basketball activities soon.”
Smart and Williams were two of the Celtics’ biggest leaders and toughest competitors, and their departures figure to leave voids in those areas. Porzingis is the only true veteran Boston has added, and he has never been known as a fiery locker room presence.
Stevens pointed out that 37-year-old big man Al Horford is one of the best leaders he has ever been around, even if his approach tends to be understated.
“And it’ll give other guys the opportunity to step up,” Stevens said. “That’s part of it. When you lose good players, you have to fill that void with whoever you bring in. It also opens up opportunities for others to thrive and grow even more. I think that that’s something we’re looking forward to seeing out of our guys.”