By Kurtis Kendall
The Boston Celtics opened training camp in preparation for the upcoming 2019-20 NBA season.
Excluding summer league, the last time Boston faithful, the fans, saw the Celtics on the court was game 5 of the Milwaukee-Boston second round playoff series. Of course, Boston was eliminated by the Bucks in dominant fashion, led by MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. In the months since, the Celtics have seen their roster shift around, with new faces now sporting the Celtic green.
Kyrie Irving departed in free agency to join the Brooklyn Nets, with the Celtics signing All-Star point guard Kemba Walker to fill the void. Boston also lost a key fixture in Al Horford to the rival 76ers. Role players Marcus Morris, Aaron Baynes, and Terry Rozier left in free agency or were traded away in the offseason.
The fresh new faces added to the team include rookies Tacko Fall, Carsen Edwards, Grant Williams, Romeo Langford, and veteran big man Enes Kanter. They will look to mesh with the team’s multiyear core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.
Over the summer, those core Celtics players represented USA basketball at the FIBA World Cup along with Boston’s Walker. In theory, this allowed some Celtics player to prepare for the season by playing against high-level competition, including various NBA players from other nations. However, Tatum did suffer an ankle injury, playing only two games in the tournament. The USA team was also upset early, losing in the quarter finals to France.
The injury and early exit haven’t brought Tatum down though, as he said at Celtic media day that the ankle feels good and that his goal for the season is to “focus on getting to the basket much more. Shoot more (3-pointers).”
After last year’s disappointing season, Boston is looking to get back to title contender status. The East is without Kawhi Leonard this season, leaving the conference up for the taking for squads like the Bucks, 76ers, Celtics, Pacers and Nets.
Boston has a lot of X-factors headed into this season, the two biggest being Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward. If Tatum can take that next step toward stardom that many expected last year, the Celtics could be in the running for top spot in the Eastern Conference. Hayward’s Celtics career to this point has been unfortunate, but the forward has been getting a lot of offseason praise from coaches and teammates alike.
Hayward himself said in his recent blog post that “I’m ready to be the player I came here to be,” after a full summer spent working with the Celtics coaching staff in Boston.
The Boston Celtics opened preseason play on October 6 vs the Charlotte Hornets, and the regular season will begin on a Wednesday night game on October 23 against the Philadelphia 76ers.