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.
Admit it. You didn’t believe the Boston Celtics would look this good during the preseason.
You might have been excited about Gordon Hayward, thrilled about Kyrie Irving and optimistic about Jayson Tatum, but you did not expect the Celtics to blitz through their exhibition schedule the way they did. You did not anticipate a brand new team would look so connected. You were not prepared for Skinny Marcus Smart exploding to the rim; Irving, Hayward and Al Horford interacting like long-time teammates; and the youngsters, like Tatum and Jaylen Brown, spicing up a lengthy, athletic defense.
Were the Celtics perfect while going 4-0 against the likes of the Philadelphia 76ers and Charlotte Hornets? Of course not. But considering Boston’s players were mostly strangers a couple of months ago, they were just about as impressive as anyone could have predicted. The Celtics obviously have a load of talent on paper, but the skill level and athleticism jumped out on the court, as did — just as importantly — an obvious commitment to team basketball.
Well, yeah, they look pretty, pretty, pretty good. You could even say they look really good and I’d be right there with you. Beat the Cavs and shock the Warriors good? Let’s slow down. Jay King called us out in the first sentence of this morning’s piece and he’s absolutely right. I didn’t think they’d look this good, this soon, but I’m trying, against all instincts, to temper expectations.
The Celtics have a pretty brutal back-to-back to start the season and could very easily open up 0-2. I’ll be collecting and opining on a very different set of press clippings next Thursday if that’s the case.
But this is all about potential, and instead of having to imagine what the Celtics could look like if things were clicking, we now can say we’ve seen it. It looks like Brad Stevens’ side-to-side halfcourt offense, but with the ball whizzing around even more, and with every single player (in some lineups) a threat to dribble-drive. It looks like Jaylen Brown D’ing up Kemba Walker, staying in front of him and then swatting his shot to end a possession. It looks like a bench mob led by the two-headed guard monster of Skinny Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. And it looks like Boston’s three stars already seeming to be very comfortable sharing the floor with one another.
Screw ESPN’s RPM, this team looks ready to take off. I’m just here to remind you (and myself, trust me) that we could be singing a very different tune a week from now.
On page 2, someone get Kyrie an extra bodyguard for Tuesday
Prior to Wednesday’s preseason finale vs the Hornets, Irving raved about Boston’s liveliness compared to Cleveland’s.
“It’s a really major city. Coming from Cleveland, the Midwest, where the culture is different. And then you move to the East Coast — into Boston — and it’s so real [and] alive. An ongoing, thriving city. Consistently. No matter what hour throughout the night.
“You would go to Cleveland, and it would be at nighttime, and things would be going on, but you just see a vast difference in terms of what the Midwest is — Cleveland — and what Boston is. Boston, I’m driving in and [thinking], ‘I’m really playing in a real, live sports city?’ And a great city.”
Kyrie’s comments just gave the guys who created the Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Videos ammo for their third installment. Irving was lucky that his latest dig on Cleveland didn’t quite make it to Cavs fans– they were too busy bemoaning the Indians latest gag job. But don’t worry, some people in Cleveland have the internet and most can read, so this Kyrie news will get to them by the weekend.
He is going to get booed so, so, so lustily and will probably get hit with so many bottles of Bertman’s Ballpark Mustard left over from what was expected to be a Tribe World Series run, but I think this is how he wants it. Either he’s asking for all of this, or he’s just not really thinking before speaking.
After last night’s game, Irving went so far as to mention how much he loves the ball movement here in Boston, indicating a lack of such movement of the ball with Lebron James in Cleveland. And let’s hope, as Celtics fans, that this remains true, because a motivated, bought-in Kyrie isn’t just good for riling up Cavs fans, but it’s going to be the key lever in ensuring he reaches his potential here.
And does Kyrie know how stars get treated in Real Sports Cities like Boston? Like royalty.
And finally, a great look into the Celtics’ wild summer
While the Celtics had landed maybe the top available free agent of the offseason — at least among players who weren’t slam dunks to return to their teams — they did not immediately have the cap space necessary to sign Hayward to his four-year, $128 million max contract. The league’s other 29 teams started phoning Zarren, looking to see if they could fetch a consolation prize, knowing Boston had to make a tough decision.
Teams phoned inquiring about Bradley, Jae Crowder, Smart and much of Boston’s younger talent. The Celtics didn’t want to rush into a decision and tried to hear out all proposals. The calls were relentless.
Zarren admits now that those three days brought the busiest stretch of calls he has ever had with the Celtics.
As midnight approached in Utah on July 6, Celtics brass were combing through their trade offers and believed they had honed in on the move that made the most sense for the team. According to league sources, Boston was maybe minutes away from picking one of those deals when the Detroit Pistons unexpectedly called, rekindling discussions the two sides had engaged in earlier in the week.
Great look at the Celtics summer from Chris Forsberg, who bounces from Ainge, to Mike Zarren, to Marcus Smart and Al Horford for their viewpoint on the madness. I’m sure he tried to pry what the preferred deal was to move a player before the Pistons called back. If the Bradley to Detroit deal never happens, who knows if the Celtics-Cavs swap occurs. People having been pleading for Celtics fireworks for four years now and they finally got them this off-season. Time to find out if they dazzle the way fireworks often do.