The Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, and New Orleans Pelicans are just waiting for the NBA offices to open on Monday to consummate the three-team deal that will bring Tayshaun Prince, Austin Rivers, and Memphis’s first-round pick in 2015 to the Celtics for Jeff Green, who will go to the Grizzlies.
The deal has been worked out but nothing is official until the league approves. Prince and Quincy Pondexter, who will go to New Orleans, were held out of the Grizzlies’ game with the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night.
Rivers will report to Boston but it is uncertain how long he will be a Celtic. Coincidentally, the Pelicans are in town to face the Celtics Monday night.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is actively seeking a trade partner for Rivers, who is a free agent at season’s end after a difficult two-plus seasons with the Pelicans.
While the Celtics admire his skills and have contemplated acquiring him in the past, the fact Rivers is a impending free agent who would need to be signed to an extension and no longer would be on his rookie contract are the reasons they would want to deal him.
Rivers is a scoring point guard, and the Celtics spent their sixth overall pick investing in point guard Marcus Smart. While Smart has played alongside point guards Evan Turner and Phil Pressey, the organization projects him as a point guard.
The Celtics are willing to accept a second-round pick for Rivers, according to sources, but want nothing in return besides an expiring contract, making a potential deal more difficult. The Celtics will take on Prince’s contract, an expiring $7.7 million deal — it is uncertain whether they would agree to a buyout that would allow him to join a contender this season.
The Celtics are also trying to decide the fate of point guard Jameer Nelson, who has not played the past five games and is expected to spend time on the inactive list. The club could buy out Nelson, but he has a player option for next season that he would mostly likely have to settle with the club.
It is uncertain whether Prince or Rivers will be in Boston on Monday, or eligible to play against the Pelicans.
A learning experience
James Young played six minutes in Saturday’s 109-96 loss to the Toronto Raptors, during which the signature play was James Johnson backing over Young like a dump truck and throwing down a one-handed jam. Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Ainge have said Young, projected to perhaps replace Green as the team’s small forward in coming years, will have to become stronger and more aware defensively.
On Friday against Indiana, Young played seven minutes and made two mistakes on the same defensive play, leading to his exit. Young has talent, as evidenced by his 13-point effort in 17 minutes on Jan. 5 against Charlotte, but he is experiencing constant growing pains.
“There’s a lot of good players and you figure the top seven or eight guys are probably pretty set,” Stevens said of Young’s playing more consistent minutes. “Everything else is going to be a little bit of a we’ll figure it out as a we move forward. He did some good things in his minutes and he got exposed a little bit in his minutes. But I like the way that he approached the game. I like the way he’s working and again, I understand how easy it is to focus on development and the number of minutes he plays in a game because we can all watch it.”
Stevens said he has been impressed with Young’s increased work ethic.
“The biggest key for him is to keep working, keep getting better,” Stevens said. “Don’t get too high or too low, keep being a basketball player and control what you can. I think that anybody that’s that young that has had as much success, it’s not necessarily that you have to develop work ethic but you have to understand how hard it is to be good at this level.
“We saw it a couple of times out there physically [against Toronto]. Part of it is, he’ll continue to get in the weight room and get stronger. But he’s a young kid and I’m encouraged by him, no question about it, and we think he’s going to be really good.
“At the same time I’m also realistic that he’s 19 and he’s still got a lot of room to grow.”
Smart answers the bell
It’s been a strong seven-game stretch for Smart, who is averaging 8.8 points and 3.2 assists over that span. He is also 13 for 29 from the 3-point line, which is encouraging considering he shot 23.8 percent from beyond the arc in November. Smart said he is being more selective with his shot.
“I’m taking better shots, less contested shots,” he said. “I’ve just been in the gym every day when I can get there and just working on my shot.”
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.