The Boston Celtics take on the Milwaukee Bucks tonight at 7:30 in their opening game of the 2020-21 season. Here are three thoughts heading into the game:
1. Honoring Tommy Heinsohn
The Celtics have multiple plans for honoring lost Celtics legend Tommy Heinsohn. They will be wearing the black bands on their uniforms all season long.
Tonight, we honor a Legend. Tommy Heinsohn is the only person that was involved in all 17 Championships.
The 8 banners lowered for tonight’s game have a special significance in Tommy’s legacy (1/2) pic.twitter.com/y4CHk4rqHM
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 23, 2020
The coaches will be wearing pins honoring Heinsohn and his number 15. Some of those pins were also handed out to the media.
Celtics handing out pins to honor Tommy Heinsohn pic.twitter.com/i7TERhBCRG
— John Karalis 🇬🇷 (@RedsArmy_John) December 23, 2020
The reason for the multiple plans is to make sure there’s a tribute to Tommy when fans return as well as to start the season. There will be a moment of silence and a tribute video tonight, but there will be more once fans are allowed in the building.
2. The Celtics have no choice but to play a certain way
Brad Stevens admitted the obvious before the game. The Celtics no longer have any choice but to play a certain way, and that’s for everyone to do a specific job and run the offense through Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
“When you’re young, instead of trying to do everything well, you end up not doing anything well. And so we need our guys to be focused on what they do best and add value around obviously the guys that we’re going to go to,” Stevens said. “With Kemba out, it’s going to put quite a test on each guy because that’s just a little bit more attention they get. And so rather than trying to make up for it with one person, we just need to soar with our strengths. I know you’ve heard me say that. It’s probably getting old hearing me say that. But that’s the way I look at it, that’s the way we need to be. Because to be quite candid, we’re not going to be able to beat the best of the best the other way right now.”
Stevens has talked about efficiency and roles every chance he’s gotten. Walker isn’t coming back any time soon and Gordon Hayward is wearing teal now, so there is no more margin for error. It’s not just on role players to be efficient either.
“That’s something I’m gonna actively work towards; being more efficient, getting great shots instead of settling for good shots,” Tatum said. “And a great shot for our team, it differs from person to person. I think that’s apparent, but just, what’s the best shot for our team in that certain possession, and just being conscious of that, who we have on the floor, at that time. It’s big. It shouldn’t always have to come from the coaching staff. We should just realize, you know, play to our strengths, and it’s gonna be different depending on what five is out there at the time to get the best shot possible that we were working on in practice.”
This team can’t freelance like it used to and feel its way into finding a hot hand. Everyone has a job to do, Tatum is the primary weapon, Brown is the secondary, and everyone else has a specific task aimed at maximizing those two players.
The number one thing to watch tonight is the buy-in for this. Theoretically, this approach makes sense, but the human ego doesn’t always accept an assigned role. There exists a possibility that these delegations could cause issues if (a) people aren’t fully accepting of them or (b) Tatum or Brown feel things aren’t working properly.
I don’t expect this to be a problem, but it’s something to watch for especially as the season wears on.
3. Houston serves as a reminder to not be stupid
The Houston Rockets game was postponed tonight because three of Rockets either tested positive or returned inconclusive COVID-19 tests, four others are now under quarantine because of contact tracing protocols, and James Harden violated the league’s safety protocols by attending a function with more than 15 people.
“Yeah, I mean, I literally just heard that as we were walking in here,” Stevens said. “I know that we’re all over every day doing what we need to do both in the facility and recognizing the responsibility that we all have to each other as a staff, as players, as everybody else. And even the smallest of interactions can threaten that.”
I’ll put it bluntly: What James Harden did was, at best, stupid, and at worst, dangerous. He has reportedly already had COVID-19 and therefore probably believes he’s immune, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still transmit the virus to others.
Whatever led to eight players being unavailable for the Rockets, thus making them unable to field a legal NBA roster, it’s a reminder how careful everyone needs to be to pull this off.
“It’s why we test every day, it’s why we test – right now, we’ve got tests that are point of care and PCR that are 24-hour returns. So we’ve got both of those things going on,” Stevens said. “And at the same time, it shows just how fragile it is. I don’t think that we necessarily needed a reminder because all you have to do is look at the NFL, turn on college basketball, talk to your friends. And it’s everywhere. We’re going to do our very best to avoid it.”