Celtics shift travel plans, give players a chance to attend Kobe Bryant memorial
The Celtics have pushed back their departing flight from Los Angeles on Feb. 24 so that players and staff will have the option to attend the memorial service for late Lakers star Kobe Bryant at Staples Center that morning.
The Celtics will face the Lakers at 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 23 and originally were scheduled to depart Los Angeles around noon the following day. But after it was announced that Bryant and his daughter Gianna — who died in a Jan. 26 helicopter crash that took the lives of seven others as well — would be honored on Feb. 24, the Celtics shifted their plans.
Travel and equipment manager John Connor got the charter flight to Portland, Ore., moved back to later that afternoon.
“I knew we’d have a number of guys that might want to go to the memorial,” coach Brad Stevens said. “It’ll be completely up to them, but we wanted to give us that flexibility and that option. Staff and players will all be able to go if they want to.”
When Celtics forward Jayson Tatum was a child, Bryant was his idol. Then when Tatum’s NBA career sprouted, Bryant became a mentor.
“I’m really glad I’ll have an opportunity to go to the memorial,” Tatum said. “It’ll be nice to be there. I’m sure there will be a lot of people there showing their support, and I’m glad I can be one of them.”
The service, which is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., is expected to be relatively brief, because the Clippers will play host to the Grizzlies at Staples Center that night.
The Clippers, who come to TD Garden Thursday night, acquired former Celtics forward Marcus Morris prior to last Thursday’s trade deadline in a three-team deal with the Knicks and Wizards. Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who played alongside Morris for two seasons in Boston, said he believes it will be a good match for both sides.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Smart said. “They got a really good player going to a really good team. He’s definitely going to be a factor for them in their success. We’ve seen what he can do and what he’s done for us.
“He was playing well in New York and now he’s on a team that’s a contender. He’s going to come in and be that same person he’s always been, bringing that aggression and that extra energy to help that team.”
Morris has started in both of the games he has played for the Clippers, averaging 11.5 points and 4.5 rebounds. In Tuesday’s loss to the 76ers, he displayed the fiery side that Boston fans are familiar with, as he and Philadelphia star Joel Embiid received technical fouls for getting into a brief shoving match.
“They added another scorer, and another guy who’s not scared of the battle, the moment, the competition,” Smart said. “He’s going to help them a lot.
“Obviously he’s like family to us here. When he left, it was hard. But he’s getting a good opportunity on a really good team. So we’re happy for him. Can’t wait to play him on Thursday.”
The Clippers also acquired former Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas in that three-team deal, but he was waived.
Despite a surprising push in fan voting, Celtics two-way contract player Tacko Fall will not be playing in Sunday’s All-Star Game. But he will be a part of the weekend in Chicago. Fall will join Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, Wizards forward Davis Bertans, and Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen in coaching the Basketball Without Borders Global Camp. The camp will feature 64 of the top high school-age boys and girls players from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe.