Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Today, we got all your media day coverage digested down into neat little tidbits, with—for a change—hardly any commentary from yours truly.
Let’s start with Kemba Walker:
“This is my ninth Media Day and my first one with a new organization so it’s just different,” Walker said while wearing his green Celtics uniform for the first time in public. “I just feel like the new kid in school… I think there’s a lot of emotions just just all in one.”
Walker, who enjoyed just two winning seasons in Charlotte, is in a new city playing for a team with a much different history.
“That’s one thing about Kemba,” Smart said. “His whole life, just like every last one of us here, we always had to fight to get where we are and get where we’re going. When you have a competitor and a guy like that, who is willing to come in and know that and not just come in here and think he deserves it because he was an All-Star and everything like that, that just helps these younger guys — myself included — cause we see it and it makes us want to go out there and give everything we have for him.”
John’s point about Kemba playing for a team that only had two winning seasons out of nine is a reminder that organizational goals vary dramatically around the league: The sense I get from MJ is that he’s taking ownership lessons from Jerry Reinsdorf. It’s about spending the bare minimum required to turn a profit whilst maintaining a veneer of competence and effort.
Marcus Smart’s getting older
“Right now, for me, I’m trying to grow as a player… taking those precautions,” he said after getting hurt. “Last year, or two or three years ago, I probably would have still been out there trying to fight through it. It’s nothing serious so we just want to make sure it doesn’t turn into anything serious.”
For all that has made Smart the cult figure he is, he lacked a certain level of maturity that kept his notorious emotions in check. When he nearly ended his playing career because he punched a picture frame, Brad Stevens said he was disappointed, adding Smart is “a very passionate person and didn’t handle his emotions correctly.” Since then, Smart has learned a few things about himself.
Now he’s putting those lessons to use. Finding that balance of passion and control; that happy medium between fighting through bumps and bruises versus putting himself at risk for more serious injuries.
I’m pleased to see Smart with a growing degree of self-awareness. The Celtics need Smart to have his fire under control. Marcus Smart leading by example only works as long as he’s not taking swings at J.R. Smith—or hotel picture frames.
The Boston Celtics forward struggled to find consistency in his first full season since suffering his catastrophic ankle injury in 2017. Much of those struggles, Hayward has admitted, were due to a lack of confidence.
“I am excited. I think health-wise, I think mentally I feel a lot better going into this year,” Hayward said. “Not only just because I was able to train and kind of build some confidence that way. I think confidence comes from repetition more than anything and practice and the reps. But also just having a year with the guys. Getting a chance to be acclimated to the team and kind of the system that we’re in and that type of stuff too. So definitely feel a lot better and certainly excited about this year.”
Given that there were Celtics fans speculating that Hayward might be cleared to return to the team during the 2018 playoffs, I think the past year has been an object lesson in how long it takes guys to recover from serious injuries. Much of the muted expectations for this year’s Celtics season seems to stem from a belief that Hayward will perform at more or less his 2018/19 season averages, which discounts the progress he made over the course of the season.
When you go, in a split second, from being one of the best players in the world to being unable to walk, the psychological impact of that is going to be as long lasting as the physical impact—if not longer.
Jaylen Brown’s not worried about his next contract
“To be honest, I haven’t put too much thought into it,” Brown said. “I’m not losing any sleep over it. I think stuff like that will end up working itself out in the end or however. So I’m just focused on this season and playing basketball. I think that’s my number one emphasis, and let the chips fall where they may.”
On Friday, I noted that there were basically two kinds of players when it comes to contract years. Guys like Terry Rozier, who want to shine in order to maximize their next payday, and guys like Marcus Smart, who are going to play the way they always have and let the money take care of itself. Jaylen has placed himself squarely in the Smart bin; now we just need him to live up to those words.
Jayson Tatum is focused on improving his shot selection
So what is Tatum focused on going into his third season on the offensive end?
“I think we just have to emphasize trying to get the best shot every time down the floor, play a little bit faster and just try to get great looks for everybody, no matter who it is,” Tatum said. “Trying to get the best shot every time down the floor and we’ll be successful.”
Okay, but for Tatum personally?
“Getting to the basket much more,” Tatum said, emphasizing “much.” “Shoot more threes. Threes and layups. And free throws. If you want to be a great scorer in this league, you have to get to the line. Free throws is super important. Getting to the basket and that opens up the rest of the game. Threes are worth more than twos.”
I think the regression in Tatum’s second year is somewhat understandable, in the context that he got through most of his rookie year with an element of surprise. He was decidedly better than expected, and I think he didn’t realize that his second year would find defenses more focused on forcing him to take bad shots. And, showing the growing pains of a young player, he settled for shots that defenses were perfectly willing to give him: contested mid-range shots.
Enes Kanter’s looking forward to joining the WWE
“I’m going to join the WWE when I’m done playing basketball,” Kanter said. “We were in New York and Madison Square Garden, they hate the Celtics of course. So I asked if we can do something like that and he said let’s go. So I had the blue suit on, they were Knicks fans, and I showed a Celtics jersey and they booed.”
Why does he like the WWE?
“Because I couldn’t play while I was in college,” Kanter said. “Shout out to the NCAA rules, terrible NCAA rules. It was just a hobby of mine.”
But perhaps most importantly, Kanter answered — not for the first time — a question about the No. 11, which was formerly worn by Kyrie Irving. When Irving was in Boston, the former Celtics star made a Nike commercial in which he claimed he wanted to be the reason no one ever wore the number again. Kanter referenced that commercial with a big grin at his introductory press conference in July when he told reporters he chose the No. 11 was because he wanted to be the reason no one else would ever wear it.
There is a somewhat vocal segment of basketball fans who can’t stand Enes Kanter. Honestly, I don’t get it. I mean, spending ten hours in a car with him on a road trip might get exhausting, but I mean, we’re not talking about a Ersan Ilyasova type, whose sneaky dirty play has become a calling card.
Daniel Theis is ready to shoot more threes
In his second year of NBA action, Theis showed an improved ability from deep, shooting 38.8 percent on 67 attempts. He’s hoping to increase volume in the upcoming campaign, while also keeping the accuracy the same. “I worked a lot this summer on my shot to get deep range,” Theis said Monday at Celtics media day. “So hopefully the percentage stays the same even when I take more shots. Ultimately my goal is to just be consistent from 3-point and just also be able to take attack off the dribble.”
The Celtics have an International House of Pancakes situation at center—and none of the guys is head and shoulders above the rest. Of course, solid defense is always going to earn you minutes from Brad Stevens, but if Theis becomes a credible threat from deep, so much the better. Despite the number of big men that have developed long-range games, it still seems that most centers hate guarding the perimeter, so a big that can (1) draw a defender out into an uncomfortable position that (2) also opens up the lane, is a valuable commodity.
Semi Ojeleye is ready for a fresh start
“Honestly, the atmosphere this whole preseason has been great,” Ojeleye said. “Just positive, I feel like it’s a lot lighter, I feel like we are really cherishing this fresh start that we’re having, just looking forward to really being together. Being together, being a team and just leaning on one another.”
The common denominator of many of the Celtics’ issues last season appeared to be Kyrie Irving, who since has admitted he didn’t always handle things well last season. At this juncture, a fresh start seems like it was the right thing for both sides.
Looking forward to a ‘fresh start’ was a common theme during media day, and while Kyrie Irving’s mea culpa last Friday, coupled with is decision to leave Boston after committing to the team, has made him a figure of derision, let’s not forget that Terry Rozier went through the entire season in a fog of self-delusion, insisting that Brad Stevens—who benched the highest paid player on the team, and a guy he coached in college—was playing favorites.
Tremont Waters feels at home
Romeo Langford is ready to go
The Celtics’ first-round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft had been dealing with a thumb injury suffered last fall. He got surgery right after his college season ended, then rehabbed it through the summer, missing summer league as a result.
But during media day Monday, Langford indicated he is 100 percent.
“My hand is 100 percent, I don’t feel any pain with it,” Langford said. “It’s been a real good adjustment coming back from it, also working out now with no restrictions. I feel like I’m getting better every day this summer, getting back to being ready for training camp.
“I feel a lot more confident, just being able to play without anything on my thumb. I was worried about something being on my hand while I’m shooting, but now I’m feeling back to normal. It feels a lot more normal now.”
I’m curious to see how Romeo Langford develops over the season. He’s yet another medium sized wing, but he has the length and weight required to play up a size, guarding taller players. Honestly, anything he can do on offense will just be a bonus at this point—he’s backing up Hayward and Tatum, who figure to be Boston’s key contributors on offense. Like Jaylen Brown’s rookie year, Langford can earn playing time by being ready to defend anyone, anywhere.
Carsen Edwards is still learning
“I’m just still learning, really,” Edwards said. “Just trying to learn, trying to settle in with the sets, the terms, everything that they use here in this organization on the floor. Just being here, the more time I’m here and around those guys that know it, I feel like it will help a lot. So just in the time I’ve been here, in the short span, I’ve learned a lot of just the terms and the sets and everything they use here. And I’m just trying to be my best.”
While Edwards is, theoretically, starting the season behind Brad Wanamaker, I wouldn’t be surprised if, by the end of the season, Edwards has leapfrogged him. Edwards looks to be a prototypical ‘specialist’—a guy with a certain set of very specific skills. In this case, I could see Stevens tapping Edwards to give the offense a scoring boost off the bench, even if he never quite makes it into the 8 or 9 man rotation.
Grant Williams wants you to have a nice day
“I feel that my personality will bring out a lot in the locker room this year, not just smiles but also competitive edge are also going to help me on the court,” Williams said. “I’m a guy that likes to bring energy, both positive energy and also supportive energy for guys who not only make a big play but also guys who need a pick-me-up that day.”
Grant seems to be the poster-child for the Celtics’ bid to remake the team with a more positive vibe. Williams is not going to be playing a lot this season (probably), so it’s going to be on him to help the team primarily by delivering that “supportive energy”.
Vincent Poirier likes to do the dirty jobs
“I’m a team player, I like to play for the team,” Poirier said in his thick French accent. “I like to put good screens for sure … I like to do the dirty jobs. Take some rebounds, block shots, run the floor, put good screens for everybody. That’s my contributions for this team.”
NESN speculated that Poirier has a chance to be a fan favorite.
I’m pretty sure the minute he sets a screen that sends a pint-sized guard flying, he’ll become a folk hero—albeit perhaps not on the scale of a Tacko Fall
Tacko Fall is still huge
“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better, especially at understanding the game and the way they play in the NBA,” Fall said. “The coaches have really done a great job trusting me with that and I really made a good choice in staying here all summer. Even being around some of the guys and watching them has really helped me.”
Fall notably pointed out Enes Kanter as someone who’s had an impact on his time around the Celtics so far this summer.
“Enes is the type of person that I always want to be around because he has such a positive aura around him and is such a great person with the biggest heart,” he added
I feel like Tacko Fall is pretty much a lock to land the Celtics’ 15th roster spot. I mean, you look at the guys who have been in that spot over the past few years, and there’s no reason not to take a chance on a guy who, like Edwards, could end up being a first rate specialist, even if he’s never quite good enough to make the rotation on a championship caliber team.