Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
This summer’s dynamic change to the Celtics roster considered, leadership roles are there for the taking.
And after emerging as a major locker room force in his first year with the team, Al Horford is now a team elder in several ways beyond being the oldest Celtic.
“I’ve always really respected Al for every reason, but the No. 1 thing is whenever he talks, it’s worth listening to,” coach Brad Stevens said at training camp yesterday. “He really has a way about him that he picks his words carefully, he picks his times to speak carefully. I haven’t seen a change in personality or anything like this, he hasn’t turned all of a sudden into this person who’s talking 24 hours a day. But clearly when he speaks, everybody listens.”
Part of the job involves breaking in his two new fellow stars, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
“For me, it’s to make sure that I make the game easy for (Irving) and Gordon,” Horford said. “Then, it’s to learn tendencies, right? What they want to do, how they are playing, and I’m going to play around that. And I’ll make adjustments. I’ve always been able to do that and that’s something that I’ll be looking to do. I just think that leadership, you lead day by day. Every day you lead by example and also you’re making sure that we’re holding each other accountable.
The Celtics probably won’t dust off the “C” designation for the first time since 2014, when it was used as a somewhat hollow vote of confidence for soon-to-be-departed Rajon Rondo, but with such comprehensive roster turnover coming into this season, one has to wonder who the leader will be?
A few flaws in this line of questioning: One, there’s no section in some dusty-ass rule book that sits in a glass case in Springfield that requires an NBA team to pick an unquestioned leader or captain. Two, because of that, picking a “leader” is subjective and therefore pointless.
Screw it. I’m picking one anyways.
And I’m selecting Al Horford. It’s funny, while Horford was acclimating and adjusting with the Celtics for much of last season, it also felt like he was hesitant to really take the reins and lead– at least to this fan’s naked eye. I believe part of that was due to the absolute tour de force that was Isaiah Thomas. Not at all blaming IT, but when you have a player on that type of a run, commanding that much adoration, everyone else kind of takes a back seat.
But part of paying Horford max money was bringing in Horford the veteran presence. On Atlanta’s talented teams, Horford was the anchor, even if he wasn’t the flashiest or most talented. He knew what it meant to be a Hawk (basically it means playing in front of a half empty stadium with crowd noise pumped in through the speakers) and guys followed his lead.
I’m sure they did last year in Boston, too, but seeing as it was a new home and there was already a King of the Fourth commanding everyone’s attention, I don’t think Horford could grasp that team leader role. I think he does this year, though. He won’t be the team’s “best” player, but he just so happens to be the third most tenured Celtic. He’s been through battles and leads by example.
Not sure how one really measures it, but get ready to look back on this season, regardless of outcome, and reflect on how Al Horford (not Kyrie, or Gordon, or Marcus) was the team’s compass, anchor, heartbeat… hell, whatever dumb metaphor you want to use.
On page 2, There are expectations for Jayson Tatum
The poise Tatum exhibits gives off the vibe some things just come easy to him. That’s not fair to the amount of work he has put in to polish all his skills, but the youngster doesn’t seem rattled by much. Since he entered the Celtics organization, one figure after another has echoed praise for Tatum’s advanced mindset. The latest was Al Horford, who called Tatum “as ready as I’ve seen any rookie.”
Added Horford: “He comes into a unique situation being such a high pick and coming to a team like us where, if he was going to a bottom team, I think we would all agree that he’d be playing a lot of minutes. So he has a different situation, a different challenge but I feel like he’s taking it well and, for him, it’s got to be a day-by-day thing of making sure that he gets better.”
Ever since Tatum took the court for his first Summer League game and began turning heads, the expectations have sky-rocketed and remained consistent. Off-season polls slapped Tatum with the label, “Most Likely to Succeed,” Paul Pierce said Tatum reminds him of a better version of himself, and now as we inch closer to the season, Tatum’s teammates are already beginning to rave about him. Kyrie Irving called him a “bad man” and now Horford says his readiness as a rook is almost incomparable.
While he won’t get the minutes that his classmates Fultz and Ball will get in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, Tatum’s contributions will matter far more in Boston, even if in fewer minutes. The Cs are counting on Tatum as a key cog in their second unit. The Celtics sacrificed depth for top-end talent this off-season, and they did so banking on guys like Tatum growing quickly.
There will be ups and downs like there are for any rookie, but the Celtics’ overall success will hinge on his rapid development.
And finally, where would you put the Cs in pre-season power rankings?
7 — Boston Celtics
In Brad We Trust. That’s the reason to think this will all come together for the Celtics, because otherwise, while they’re loaded with terrific talent, the questions about fit, continuity and adapting to changing personnel are valid. Brad Stevens has to make it all come together. That said, if they get a leap from Jaylen Brown or a strong rookie campaign from Jayson Tatum, there’s too much talent to keep them from the ranks of the elite, at least by the end of the season.
CBSSports — NBA Pre-Season Power Rankings
Matt Moore, heralded needler of Celtics fans, is sure to get some angry comments from Bostonians after he put the Toronto Raptors one spot ahead in his pre-season power rankings.
These things don’t really matter, but it’s interesting to get a sense of where national writers view the Celtics at the onset of the season.
I think anywhere between 5-7 makes sense to me, with either 2 or 3 in the East making sense.
The rest of the links: