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.
We got our first taste of what basketball inside the bubble will be like yesterday, with multiple scrimmages being played to help players get back into game-shape. The Celtics scrimmage the Thunder tomorrow at 5:00pm. As the anticipation and excitement mounts, a question arises about a long playoff run: Who could be the X-factor that takes this team to the next level?
We could take the easy route and simply say that Tatum, Brown, or Walker needs to consistently bring their A-game night in and night out. But this Celtics team has a lot of depth now that it’s *knock on wood* healthy. There are a few members of this team that could really make an impact in Orlando.
One is Gordon Hayward. While this is a relatively obvious one as well, Gordon is presumably the healthiest he’s been since the beginning of the year.
Hayward returned in December, then regained form in January. In his final 30 games before the season suspension, he averaged 17.7 points, 48.8 percent shooting, and 40.5 percent from the 3-point line. Only nagging injuries prevented an even better Hayward.
Not to mention that despite being away from his pregnant wife and three daughters, Gordon has been able to do whatever he wants inside the bubble. And while video games don’t necessarily translate to basketball skills, Gordon having time to hit the sticks could bode well for the Celtics:
How about a rookie? The Celtics boast a top-5 defense this season, largely in part to Brad Stevens’ system and great individual efforts from defensive stalwarts like Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown. But before the NBA break, we saw a bit more of rookie Romeo Langford, and what he can do on the defensive end of the floor. And for a relatively soft-spoken kid, he is extremely confident in his abilities.
“They can try me; a lot of people try me,” Langford told NBC Sports Boston following the win. “It’s just funny to me. Because I know what I can do defensively.”
So does Stevens, who went almost exclusively with Langford after Jaylen Brown fouled out of the game. And when teams tried to go directly at Langford, Stevens didn’t adjust but instead allowed Langford the freedom and opportunity to hold his own.
The player who could really prove to be the Celtics’ secret weapon however is Robert Williams. The 22-year-old has been dealing with persistent hip bursitis this year, but now says he is 100% healthy. Not only does he use his bounce to guard the rim at the defensive end, but lives above the rim on the offensive side of the floor as well.
Vertical spacing is about the airspace above the paint, and the Time Lord rules what used to be the Celtics’ no-fly zone. Lobs to Williams are comically easy. His massive alley-oop slams against the Spurs were some of the most electric plays of the season. But he is more than a one-dimensional lob threat. Williams has a catch radius that makes Gronk look human and has shown a good feel for how to catch the high ball, come down with it in traffic and make the right play.
Only time will tell which Celtic steps up when the team needs him most, but it is nevertheless exciting knowing the Celtics have this kind of depth.
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