The Celtics traded guard Jabari Bird and cash to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for a heavily-protected second-round pick, according to a league source. This was mostly a cost-cutting move by the Celtics that will free up a roster spot, and it ends a brief but tumultuous tenure in Boston for Bird, who is still facing domestic violence charges from his September arrest.
The move will reduce Boston’s luxury tax bill, and even if the Hawks waive Bird, as expected, both teams would receive financial gains from the move.
Bird, the 56th pick of the 2017 draft, signed a two-way contract with the Celtics as a rookie in 2017 before signing a two-year deal with the team following his strong summer league showing last summer. But in September, Bird was arrested and charged with domestic assault and battery, strangulation, and kidnapping for an incident involving his then girlfriend.
He has been away from the team since his arrest and has had several court hearings since then, but no trial date has been set. Last month, Bird pleaded not guilty to two new charges of witness intimidation and threatening to commit a crime. Bird has another court hearing scheduled next Wednesday.
The Celtics will now be able to explore the buyout market in the coming weeks. Boston does not have an obvious need and dispersing playing time is already challenging enough, so it might be difficult for them to find a true difference maker.
But the Celtics could look to sign a player to a two-year deal using their mid-level exception, and that contract could ultimately help them for salary-matching purposes if they were able to acquire Anthony Davis from the Pelicans this summer.
Coach Brad Stevens said he did not anticipate the Celtics making any large moves on Thursday.
“The blood pressure was never really all that up,” he quipped.
He said the team is eager to now move forward as currently constructed,
“We like our group,” he said. “We have the whole time. We weren’t perfect early, we aren’t now, but we are progressing, so that’s really encouraging.”
The Celtics’ primary competitors in the East all made notable moves this week. The 76ers added Tobias Harris, James Ennis, and Jonathon Simmons; the Raptors acquired Marc Gasol; and the Bucks added Nikola Mirotic.
“Those teams were already really good,” Stevens said, “and the assumption is they will only benefit from those moves, so it will be quite a challenge.”
Garnett in the house
Former Celtics forward Kevin Garnett attended Thursday’s game against the Lakers. He was wearing a No. 9 Rajon Rondo Celtics jersey, and before the game he chatted with Rondo, who now plays for the Lakers. The two were even accompanied by former Lakers forward Metta World Peace, who wore his own No. 37 Lakers jersey.
LeBron looking ahead?
On Thursday night, TNT televised the All-Star draft involving team captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. And James did plenty to stoke the coals regarding his possible hopes for this summer, as he selected a slew of soon-to-be free agents with his early selections, including Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving.
James picked Warriors forward Kevin Durant first, followed by Irving and Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard. All three are in line to be free agents this summer. After James picked James Harden with his last pick from the pool of starters, he drafted Davis as his first pick from the pool of reserves.
The Lakers unsuccessfully attempted to acquire Davis prior to Thursday’s trade deadline, setting up a potential showdown between the Celtics and Lakers as they try to pry Davis from the Pelicans this summer.