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.
Brad Stevens is a scientist who now has all of his chemicals to mix.
Brad Stevens is a carpenter who now has the crosscut saw and hammer he’s been missing.
Brad Stevens is a basketball coach who now has all the players with whom he was designing schemes during this past offseason.
The Celtics welcomed Al Horford and Jae Crowder back from injury in Saturday night’s 94-92 road win over the Pistons, and while those two had started the first three games of the year together, they’d never been in a rotation with Kelly Olynyk, who missed the season’s first six in the final stages of recovery from shoulder surgery last May.
Now Stevens gets to act on all his plans.
The next step for the Celtics is improving chemistry and getting accustomed to the various lineups with Horford and Crowder.
“Being on the side like this, seeing the team have its ups and downs, really makes you lock in as a player and appreciate a lot more the process and playing and building, because we’re building something here,” Horford said. “I think there was a lot of good things. We still have to find ways to take pressure off Isaiah in any way that we can, and we all just have to keep working together. That’s what it’s all about, making the game easier for him, for everybody. We just have to keep moving the ball.”
Just in case you didn’t realize it, Saturday night’s win was the first time that Horford and Smart played together in a regular season game. Marcus had missed the first three of the season and Al missed games four through 12. But the duo were perfect partners when they combined to get the crucial offensive rebound and game-winning putback.
That was the type of play we expected when Horford was added to last season’s 48-win team. No, everything is not suddenly golden now, but didn’t it feel good to get a clutch win over a Detroit team that had won five straight at home? With the entire roster now pretty much healthy, we can stop wringing our hands and instead start to see if this Celtics squad produces as predicted.
On Page 2: One more look at the difference Horford makes
While Crowder’s return from the injury list was a welcomed relief, Horford’s presence was the most impactful. Here’s a look again at the key plays he made in the final seconds, plus a couple of related thoughts.
Al Horford gets the go-ahead putback then stuffs Baynes on the other end to seal the W pic.twitter.com/PtThVyjTnT
— Kyle George (@kyoo) November 20, 2016
Think he makes a difference?
2016-17 Celtics (Pre + Reg season)
Horford on the court: +101 (206 min)
Horford off the court: -69 (754 min)
— Sean Grande (@SeanGrandePBP) November 20, 2016
Great win vs the Pistons. Happy to be back playing!!!! Go Celtics ☘️☘️☘️☘️
— Al Horford (@Al_Horford) November 20, 2016
And, finally: College scouting 101
If you’re a reasonably attentive NBA fan, you’ve probably heard dozens of writers or fans remind you that this June’s draft has the deepest pool of freshmen talent we’ve ever seen in the one-and-done era. It’s become a talking point for any NBA conversation about the future. “This year’s draft class” is something to casually reference to signal that you pay attention.
Now it’s time to actually watch this draft class play. College basketball season begins all over the country this week, and the festivities really get going in New York tonight. Michigan State will face off with Kentucky at 7, and we get Duke-Kansas afterward. As an NBA fan and a lifelong draft nerd, I’m so ready. There is talent everywhere. The top of the draft is still mostly in flux, and over the next few months, names I vaguely recognize from scouting services will turn into real humans who inspire passionate basketball opinions from coast to coast. It’s wonderful.
With that in mind, here are some players for NBA fans to follow this year, along with some quick notes I’ve gleaned from following this class through draft experts and highlight clips for the past few years.
Sports Illustrated – The 13 College Freshmen Every NBA Fan Should Watch
The Nets are currently 4-9 with four straight losses, and even if they don’t end up with the worst record (and if Ainge doesn’t trade the pick), the Cs will apparently be in line to draft someone significant. If you don’t watch much college basketball, check out this list to start thinking of who might look good in green. (But really, Danny – trade the pick.)
The Rest of the Links: