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.
Brad Stevens has said many times that the ability to get along and make the best out of this will give the Celtics a chance to excel in the bubble. Jaylen Brown agrees.
“I think that we’re in a good spot and we have great potential,” Brown said. “We got to continue to develop that every single day. Every practice is important for us, every time we get together, every meeting and every time we watch film is crucial. We are just getting into that mindset is more than anything of just being a great dominant team every single night.”
On the court, Stevens and the Celtics are looking at this as an opportunity to do things that they might not be able to do during a normal training camp. Instead of having to introduce the system to new players, the team can use that time to add new wrinkles.
“It’s given me a chance to go back into some of the old stuff we’ve done in practice before that you just kinda scrap because you don’t have time to do it,” Stevens said. “So that’s been fun from that standpoint.”
Since I started covering the Celtics, one of the more interesting realizations has been the importance of what happens between games.
As a casual fan, I’d watch the games and catch up on articles the next day–or later that night. As a guy who has to write about the team twice a week, regardless of whether they played the night before, and in a context where much of the news about the previous night’s game had already been published, I’ve spent a fair bit of time looking at what goes on between games.
Of course, there’s no substitute for talent. Me and fourteen of my closest friends might be able to get along great between games, but we’d still get our rear ends kicked if we dared step on the court.
But at the same time, if you take two teams of equal ability, the team that plays better is going to be the team that works together better during all the time that lapses between games. And that’s a lot of time, if you stop and think about it. Games are 48 minutes long, and if you figure a good team plays around 100 games a season, that’s 4800 minutes. Divide that by 60 and you get 80 hours. Or two work weeks. Two work weeks of activity that “counts” spread out over a nine month season. The rest of the time with the team is spent in practice, travel, and game prep.
Where I’m going with this is that the talent gap in the NBA isn’t as big as you’d think based on record, and the early returns of the Brad Stevens era were as conclusive a demonstration of this as any–Stevens took a team that started three second round draft picks to the Eastern Conference finals.
To hit a certain level of accomplishment, of course, you need stars. But you need more than just stars, you need an organization that works well. You need guys that stick together even when they’re not playing basketball.
One of the reasons why I was so bullish on the Celtics before the season started was the way the team approached all of the stuff that happens between games.
Page 2: Where everybody’s excited about the bench
As I was typing the paragraphs above, I got to thinking about the Al Horford-Kyrie Irving-Terry Rozier departures over the summer of 2019, barely a year ago, and holy crap does that seem like that happened in a different time, to a different team.
But, with the departure of Terry Rozier–and the frequent insertion of Marcus Smart into the starting lineup as a Jack-of-all-trades injury sub (credit to the C’s flexibility here: Smart got the bulk of Gordon Hayward’s starts when he was out with an injured hand–as Tatum and Brown just shifted up a position) there were legit questions about the Celtics bench. If Smart was pulling a starting assignment (which he did in 39 of the 53 games he played), Enes Kanter had more NBA experience (8 years) than the rest of the bench rotation combined.
And Robert Williams’ injury didn’t help matters.
Fortunately, there’s good buzz around the rookies these days
Though Tremont Waters is in the latter stages of concussion protocol, fellow rookies Grant Williams, Romeo Langford, Carsen Edwards, Tacko Fall and Javonte Green have apparently had a bubble-sized impact.
“As far as just pretty impressed, I’ll go with Romeo and Carsen,” Robert Williams said after Monday’s practice. “And, as far as the second group, you got that chip on your back, on your shoulder, when you’re playing against the first group.
“So you always want to bring it. I feel like maybe in previous practices, before the season ended, the second group would be getting down on themselves and just stop competing,” he said. “But, now, we’re fighting back. Lot of trash talk, makes it more competitive. Like I said, the second group is just starting to show more effort.”
“Our guys have done a good job thus far in practice,” Brad Stevens said after the team’s Monday night practice. “I think the most encouraging thing has been the play of our second unit, per se, would be what I’m really excited about. I think guys have made the right strides to be really impactful.”
Robert Williams singled out Romeo Langford and Carsen Edwards after practice, saying he’s noticed “more aggressiveness, more realizing what they’re capable of.” Williams will get his chance too. He says his hip is healthy now, which could give Stevens a backup center option when the matchups don’t favor Enes Kanter.
Danny Ainge didn’t make any moves to strengthen the C’s bench at the trade deadline, and the team also stayed out of the buyout market. These were not universally popular moves, but Ainge is paid to think about more than just this season.
It’s like this: You want the players to be focused on the next game, you want the coach to be focused on the season as a whole, and you want the GM to be thinking about this season, the next season and the one after that.
Put another way: The players need to be focused on winning the next game, Stevens needs to be focused on winning Banner 18, and Ainge needs to be focused on winning Banner 20.
The C’s, right now, have an incredibly raw bench. That also means that they have a ton of guys at the beginning of their careers under rookie contracts. It is incredibly unlikely that swapping out the 8th or 9th guy in the rotation would be the difference required to win a championship, but by trading out that rookie in the 8th spot for a veteran 8th-stringer, you’re sacrificing a chunk of your future for a few more points from the bench.
And with the team’s newfound focus on chemistry, I think it’s going to be interesting to see how this bench mob grows up together.
The rest of the links
MassLive: Boston Celtics rookies Romeo Langford, Carsen Edwards impressed Robert Williams: ‘I feel like they’ve grown up a lot’ | Can Jayson Tatum stay hot in the bubble? 4 big questions about the budding Boston Celtics star | Boston Celtics’ Tremont Waters suffered concussion, has not yet cleared concussion protocol | Legendary Boston Celtics broadcaster Tommy Heinsohn has been rehabbing ‘past few weeks’ after blood-clotting issue (report) | Boston Celtics’ Kemba Walker’s health will be a key factor in Celtics’ bubble run: 3 big questions
Boston Herald: Celtics Notebook: A sharp training camp