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.
For the past week, the Red’s Army writers have offered their predictions for this season in traditional categories such as number of wins, team MVP and how the season will end. But what the hell, here are a few more – actually, 18 predictions in search of Banner 18 – of other developments to expect over the next nine months.
What follows assumes there will be no major trades or catastrophic injuries. And I promise these are not hot takes.
- The preseason worries will go away.
After watching the Celtics drop their second straight to the Cavs, and being frustrated that they can’t beat that friggin’ team even in preseason, I declared myself Officially Concerned. That’s what happens when you have high expectations that aren’t being met. Then I saw that the Warriors were also 1-3 in this preseason, so I’ve taken some deep breaths, calmed down, and will remain optimistic for the real games.
- Al Horford will continue to be the most misunderstood player in the league.
The veteran has been here two years, and both times the Celtics have reached the conference finals. He’s a top defender, a leader, someone who produces more when the playoffs start. His value is largely intangible, which is evident to most of those who watch him every night. But the haters fixate on his contract because he’s not a 20/10 guy, and they’re not going to change.
- Marcus Smart will be the second-most misunderstood, partly of his own doing.
Smart famously “adds value” despite being one of the worst shooters in the NBA. He’s another one that you have to watch play every night to appreciate. He doesn’t help himself when he takes early-clock threes, or flops, or punches glass, or risks suspension by flipping out in a preseason game. (Imagine if Tatum and Rozier hadn’t held him back, or if they’d been hurt in the process?) More than almost anyone, Marcus plays on the edge. The hope is that he doesn’t fall off.
- Gordon Hayward will take a long time to get back to his old self, but he will.
Remember last spring when many of us thought Hayward might return for the playoffs? Haha, we were delusional. Now, based on no knowledge at all, I’d be relieved if he starts to regain his athleticism by Thanksgiving. Or Christmas. Beyond that: time to worry.
- The team depth will be a factor.
God forbid they again be the Hospital Celtics, but it’s a long season and people will miss games for injury or rest. The good thing is that there are no worries if guys farther down the depth chart have to play.
- Terry Rozier will be spectacular.
T-Rozzay was one of those guys who had to play more last year, and he proved he’s a starter in the league. Even with Kyrie back on the court, Terry will get ample minutes and will have supreme confidence. He’s headed for a big payday, even if it’s not here, and I believe he’ll play so well this season as to guarantee it.
- Get ready to see 35 three-point attempts per night.
Two seasons ago, the Cs attempted 33.4 threes per game, and last season they actually shot fewer, 30.4 per game. But based on the evolution of the league, and the fact that they’re pretty good at it (37.7% made last season), I believe Boston will rely on the triples even more heavily. Tatum, Horford, Kyrie, Jaylen and Rozier were all above 38% last season. Adding Hayward (career 36.8%) will also help. Spreading the floor with this caliber of shooters will open the lane for Boston’s slashers. You can win a lot of games with open threes, paint points and free throws.
- The Celtics will have three All-Stars, but maybe not who you think.
The pick here is Kyrie, Horford and (drum roll) Jayson Tatum. Yes, I’ve totally bought in to the anticipation that Taco Jay is about to be all-world.
- Robert Williams will be this year’s fan favorite.
Don’t expect him to get much playing time, but a few outrageous dunks in garbage time will make him a star beyond Weird Celtics Twitter (which has already adopted him as “Timelord.”)
- An end-of-the-bench guy will do something awesome, and we will overreact.
Remember the night James Young got hot and scored 13 points? Yeah, that was exciting … until the next game. And it never happened again.
- Boston will win a regular season game in Toronto.
Considering that the Celts and Raptors might battle for first place in their division, it’s important to note that the Cs have been losers in 10 of their last 11 visits to Canada. The single win was in April 2015 in overtime on a putback at the buzzer by Marcus Smart, who is the only current Celtic remaining from that roster. They play there this season on October 19 and February 26 and, dammit, they will win one of those. I’m calling it for the second visit. All I know is, I’m sick of losing in Toronto.
- The Celtics will lose two or three games where we say “HOW?”
Last season, Atlanta and Orlando were each a pitiful 8-33 on the road, yet they both beat the Celtics on the Garden parquet. And they did so with relative ease. Unfortunately, I spent good money on tickets to witness both of those disasters, and I’m still wondering, “What the hell happened?”
- The Celtics will win at least two games in the final second or at the buzzer.
With Brad the ATO Master and a roster full of clutch shooters, this is inevitable.
- The East will be tougher than people think.
I’m not buying the conventional wisdom that all the talent is in the West. Toronto with Kawhi and Lowry, Philly with so many young stars, and Milwaukee (my dark horse big threat to Eastern supremacy) with the monster that is Giannis – these are talented opponents. The main difference between the conferences is that the West has more potential playoff teams than the East.
- LeBron in L.A. will be more annoying than ever.
As we know, the league already worships the Lakers (they were on national TV some 30 times last season even though it was their fifth straight year missing the playoffs). And now they’re led by probably the most-hyped player of all time. They haven’t even played a real game, but we’re already seeing stuff like this.
- We’ll get very tired, very quickly, of the national TV announcers.
Speaking of national TV, the Celtics are scheduled to appear on the networks 27 times (10 ESPN, five ABC, 12 TNT). That doesn’t count a dozen games on NBATV. It’s great that the Cs are worthy of the attention, but often it prevents Mike and Tommy (or Scal) from being on my broadcast. Does anyone enjoy hearing Mark and Jeff talk trash over the game that’s right in front of them? Do we really need Chuck’s halftime nonsense? How about the extra-long TV timeouts? No, no and no.
- Joel Embiid will become the new villain for Boston fans.
With LeBron gone to the west, someone who talks a lot and trolls on Twitter has to take over. No one is better suited than the Sixers’ big man, who already started being annoying during the playoffs.
- Finally, whoever loses to the Celtics in the playoffs won’t believe it.
Asked if Milwaukee felt a sense of pride pushing the No. 2 seed Celtics to seven games, Antetokounmpo instead expressed disappointment.
“We thought we were the better team, but unfortunately we cannot move to the second round. It was a good series, but we thought we were the better team,” he said.
On Page 2: No drama
These Celtics are, very intentionally, boring. Drama is typically handled behind closed doors and the team works hard to ensure that players keep the focus on team goals instead of individual agendas.
This is not a team short on opinions, particularly not with the likes of Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, Irving, or Rozier. This is a confident group that isn’t afraid to tell you as much.
And yet players rarely veer off course, following the example set from the highest level.
NBC Sports Boston: Drama-free Celtics keep focus on title quest
And, finally… Not even a snack?
Have to wonder if the Celtics’ training staff signed off on this plan, or even knew about it. Fasting doesn’t sound wise when you need energy – although (and I can’t document this) I recall Larry Bird once wanting to lose weight during the season. His method, he said, was to simply stop eating.
In Jaylen’s case, perhaps he simply wanted to be “hangry” and have his opponent suffer the consequences.
The Rest of the Links:
NBC Sports Boston: Celtics plan to ease Gordon Hayward into full playing time | Brad Stevens and Marcus Morris mic’d up at Celtics practice (video)
Metrowest Daily News: Celtics coach Brad Stevens has many options at his disposal when crafting lineup