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.
Without many established players, the Celtics bench has been strong so far. In fact, every player on the roster but one (sorry, Abdel Nader) currently owns a positive net rating. The team knew what it would receive from Marcus Smart, but Terry Rozier — who struggled at times last season before emerging in the playoffs — has been a regular bright spot; Shane Larkin toppled the Philadelphia 76ers with a mighty fourth quarter; Daniel Theis has been a rim-running, high-rebounding source of energy; and Semi Ojeleye has shown off enough defensive chops for Stevens to buzz about the SMU product’s potential at that end of the floor.
The latter two players, both rookies, have done enough to compete for minutes when veteran Marcus Morris returns from an injured knee. The rotation could get a little crowded, but that’s a good problem for Stevens to have, especially considering the amount of youth on his roster. Though it’s still early, the Celtics appear to have done well to sign Theis to a two-year minimum deal and draft Ojeleye in the second round. If nothing else, they will always provide defense and energy.
In returning just four players from last year’s 53-win team, the Celtics were assumedly sacrificing their depth for high-level talent at the top of the roster. This made sense to most Celtics’ fans and is an understandable trade-off when a team is trying to win with star players (the Warriors start Zaza Pachulia). The last time the Celtics traded depth for stars, they banked on veterans like James Posey and Eddie House who were willing to come to Boston at less than market value in order to try and win a championship. They also hoped that a few young roster holdovers — chiefly Leon Powe and Tony Allen, as well as a second rounder who dropped a bit lower than expected — Glen Big Baby Davis (who’s mounting a comeback) would make contributions. Collectively, that bench crew did enough to buttress the efforts of a top-heavy team and we all know how that season ended.
The Celtics aren’t as star-studded as that 07-08 team was, especially now without Gordon Hayward (more on him in a minute), but depth, which many thought was sacrificed to gain stars, seems as though it could be a season long strength. This Celtics team has what that 07-08 team could only dream of– high lottery pick players like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum who are already becoming more than just depth pieces. But it’s also seen leaps from a few young roster holdovers– Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. Semi Ojeleye is a second rounder who dropped a bit lower than expected (and he’s in way better shape than Big Baby ever was). And then they seem to have hit the international jackpot in bringing over Daniel Theis, who is completely content playing to his strengths of rebounding, hustling for second-chance points, and using his length to play bothersome defense.
We’ve played almost 10% of the season, so while I want to drop the SMALL SAMPLE SIZE warning, there are some things here that should remain constant. Yes, guys like Theis and Semi will invariably struggle this season, but they’re also going to continue to acclimate to the pro game, and there’s no doubting the coaching they’re receiving. I made the point about Theis already, but what’s been so refreshing, and promising to see is that the members of this bench crew all seem to clearly understand their roles and are content to play them.
Not sure about all of you, but the way the bench has played has often made me forget that the Cs get to bring a starter-level player back into the fold, perhaps by the weekend, in Marcus Morris. The narrative before the season was, “some of these guys who aren’t ready for legit minutes are going to be a part of this rotation.” 8 games in and that’s shifted to, “how’s Brad going to find minutes for these guys?”
It’s early, but amid all of the storylines, the evolution of the bench and its depth may be the biggest.
On page 2, Gordon Hayward reflects on opening night
Immediately, I knew something was off, but when I landed, it wasn’t a huge amount of pain. I rolled over and saw my foot, and it was pointed in completely the wrong direction. My first thought was, “Oh. This isn’t good. There’s something very wrong here.” I felt a sense of panic come over me and signaled to the ref, “Hey, look at this. You’ve got to stop the game.” And still, it didn’t seem like it was hurting that much.
Then all of a sudden, it came.
It was like once my brain figured out what had happened, I was hit with shots of pain. The training staff came running over to me super fast, but however long it was—three seconds, five seconds—I just remember sitting there, looking at my foot the wrong way, and it felt like an eternity. Dr. Rosneck, the Cavaliers doctor, braced me as he explained that they wanted to try and pop my ankle back into place. I held on, and the moment they did it, there was just a massive shot of pain, probably the most pain I’ve ever felt in my life.
At that point, the medical staff started to load me onto the cart. My leg was still throbbing, and my mind was all over the place. I remember LeBron coming over. I know I talked to Kyrie and a bunch of my teammates and coaches. All of them were wishing me well and praying for me, I think. Everything was a blur. It was when the trainers were carting me off that I was just hit with this wave of emotion. All I could think was that it’s all over. I did all this work. I moved to a new team. And now this happens.
What is this going to do to me? Am I going to be able to come back? To play again? Am I done? Is my career over?
What do I do now?
Facebook — In an instant
If you haven’t read Gordon Hayward’s reflection on his injury that he posted yesterday, take 15 minutes and do so. He chronicles the play that led to his fall, his initial reactions (above) and all that has transpired since. My biggest takeaways:
- Isaiah Thomas is a class act all the way. IT was already in the locker room when Hayward was wheeled off the court, stayed with Hayward and said a prayer for him. The two were never teammates as planned, but there’s no love lost at all.
- Hayward’s successful surgery was almost complicated by some cartilage that showed up on a scan. He went into the surgery unsure of whether or not that cartilage would be a big deal and woke up without a doctor by his side, still not knowing whether or not the cartilage had complicated things.
- This has been highlighted by many already, but Hayward states he will not be playing this season. I take him at his word, but it’s also possible that he doesn’t want to drum up false hope and establish an expectation for a return date.
- 2-year-olds are cute and hilarious.
And finally, my favorite basketball-related tweet from last night that isn’t Kyrie-related
If you haven’t read this Aaron Gordon thread, go ahead and start your day off laughing as hysterically as I did.
The rest of the links: