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.
Team USA had no problems exploiting their advantages over Spain, handling their first taste of international competition in the lead-up to the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China with a 90-81 exhibition victory at Honda Center.
Donovan Mitchell led all U.S. scorers with 13 points, and Kemba Walker added 11 points, six rebounds and eight assists.
It wasn’t a 30-point rout that has been the program’s norm in recent gold medal winning efforts in World Cup and Olympic competitions. But it was a solid start to the Gregg Popovich era as the longtime San Antonio Spurs coach takes over after Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski led the program back to dominance.
Yes, last night was a good one for the USA men, and in particular for the four Boston Celtics on the roster.
Heading into the game, that roster was down to 14 players after PJ Tucker withdrew from the squad due to a sprained ankle suffered in practice Thursday. The group must be trimmed to 12 before the FIBA World Cup starts August 31 in China, but first…
All 14 remaining players will be going to Australia. Team USA will spend a week and a half in Melbourne and Sydney training and playing exhibitions against the Australian and Canadian national teams. Gregg Popovich told reporters after the game that all 14 players will make the trip because that was the fair thing to do.
This might give some extra motivation to those at risk of being cut, because that’s a long way to fly, only to be told “sorry.”
Based on last night’s results, all four Celtics seem likely to stick. The USA (no. 1 in the FIBA world rankings) took an early double-digit lead against Spain (ranked no. 2) and never looked back.
- Kemba was the only Celtic who started, and he was on the floor for 22:29 of the 40 minutes in FIBA play. He also finished the game. His 11/6/8 included 4 of 7 shooting.
- Despite not starting, Jayson Tatum had 21:57 of playing time (third highest) and finished with 11/5/4. More significantly, he took over in the closing minutes when Spain was threatening a comeback. The 21-year-old facilitated the offense, dished off two sweet assists, and swished a corner three that iced the game.
- Walker and Tatum have always been locks to go to China; Jaylen Brown is not. He was effective offensively against Spain, scoring 9 points (4 of 5 FGs, including making his only three) in just 9:47 on the floor. Unfortunately, he proved he can give up a backdoor layup not just in the NBA, but in international competition, too. Still, it’s hard to see Jaylen being cut.
- Marcus Smart didn’t suit up, as he continued to recover from a strained calf, but in a sideline interview he sure sounded like someone who’s made the team.
Enjoy some Celtics/USA highlights.
On Page 2: O captain, my captain
Smart is indeed the smart choice when it comes to looking for leadership on this Celtics team.
And that leadership needs to be more than just talked about and embraced by his teammates.
It needs to become official; and by official, I mean Smart being named a team captain.
Arguably the most storied franchise in NBA history, the Celtics have not had a team captain since Rajon Rondo in 2014 – the longest stretch without a captain in franchise history.
Only 18 players in franchise history have been bestowed with the title.
NBC Sports Boston: Blakely: Smart should be captain of the Celtics
Brad Stevens has resisted naming a captain in an effort to give everyone an equal stake in the team. However, as A. Sherrod states so well, it’s time for Brad to see the light and give the honor to Smart. He’s certainly earned it.
Last season, the Celtics had a pseudo leader, and the older veterans failed to correct the chemistry problems. All those guys are gone now. The Celtics don’t really have a “face of the franchise” anymore – but Smart could be it, and he will be for sure if he gets the “C” next to his name.
And, finally… The fun continues
He’s a Celtics rookie helping some special kids have a great amusement park day. And at 7′, 7″, Tacko Fall is the tallest guy they’ll ever meet. So, you should have seen him fold himself into the Canobie Lake Park rides in Salem, New Hampshire. The important thing is, he did it for the kids, and they loved it.
Joining Celtics center Tacko Fall was forward Grant Williams and guard Carsen Edwards, all rookies. The day was organized by the Celtics Shamrock Foundation to give some special kids a special day.
The group of about 50 children are either in foster care or have been adopted out of foster care.
You probably remember the iconic Kelly Olynyk images… no, not from Wizards Game 7… the ones of the big goofball flying down the water flume ride, long hair waving in the breeze, surrounded by happy kids. We saw those every summer, and it always looked like Kelly was having more fun than anyone.
Kelly is long gone, of course, but the Celtics continue to have their new young guys out there in the community, giving kids an experience they’ll never forget.
The Rest of the Links: