Celtics

30 teams in 30 days: Can Wall, Wizards take the next step?

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30 teams in 30 days: Can Wall, Wizards take the next step?

The Washington Wizards were among the big spenders this offseason, choosing to reward its own rather than try and lure high-level talent from other franchises. 

That’s why despite having a team that on paper should be among the best in the East this season, you hear little about the Wizards being among the best in the Eastern Conference with most of the talk centering around Cleveland and Boston.

Now that’s understandable considering they were the last two teams standing last season in the East, and the two were involved in arguably the biggest offseason trade having just completed a four-player swap centered around Kyrie Irving coming to Boston while Isaiah Thomas was headed to Cleveland. 

While both Cleveland and Boston have tremendous talent, the one concern for both is chemistry – something the Wizards have down to a science now. 

By matching the four-year, $106 million offer sheet Brooklyn presented to Otto Porter Jr., Washington returns its starting five from a year ago as well as eight of its top nine players. 

And remember, they finished the second half of the season with a 27-14 record which ranked among the best records in the NBA over the final 41 games of the season.

That kind of success plus a strong showing in the playoffs, is reason enough for the Wizards to believe that they can pick up where they left off last season and be one of the top teams in the East. 

Leading that charge will be Wall, who seems to be overlooked at times when talking about the best point guards in the NBA despite being a four-time all-star. 

The Wizards certainly showed him lots of love with a four-year, $170 million extension that will take effect beginning in 2019.

Wall, who averaged a double-double of 23.1 points and 10.7 assists per game last season, believes he’s more than just one of the better playmakers in the NBA.

“I’m the best two-way point guard in the league,” he told Ballislife.com following a workout at the University of Miami this summer that included teammate Kelly Oubre Jr. as well as Cleveland’s LeBron James.

And while James and the Cavs are the standard all teams in the East are measured against, Wall is confident in himself as well as his teammates that their time to be among the elite teams in the East, is now.

“He’s LeBron James; that’s big brother to me,” Wall said. “But I’m working out with anybody like that, him, Kevin Durant or whoever I’m with, I want to be better than them because whenever I step on the court I feel I’m the best player, no matter who you are. That’s just my mindset.”

 Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Tim Frazier (New Orleans); Jodie Meeks (Orlando); Mike Scott (Atlanta).

Key losses: Bojan Bogdanovic (Indiana).

Rookies of note: None.

Expectations: 51-31 (First in the Central Division, 3rd in the East)

Gordon Hayward already back on the court and draining threes

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Gordon Hayward already back on the court and draining threes

Gordon Hayward had just about the most horrific debut any player could imagine.

We won't get into the details again, but it left many wondering the Celtics would even recover emotionally to compete in the East.

Now it's clear they are more than prepared to make some noise in the playoffs.

The most important recovery is Hayward's and tonight fans scrolled through social media to see encouraging progress.

Still can’t beat me... 🤷🏻‍♀️

A post shared by Robyn Hayward (@robynmhayward) on

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Irving: Struggling Celtics must 'weather the storm'

Irving: Struggling Celtics must 'weather the storm'

BOSTON – While it’s too soon to hit the panic button on the Boston Celtics’ season, Sunday’s 103-95 loss to Orlando is disturbing on multiple fronts. 

For starters, the Magic (14-32) have been in the NBA basement most of the season, so for them to see the light towards victory, on the road nonetheless, against the Celtics is bothersome for the Green Team. 

MORE - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from C's-Magic

Boston came into Sunday’s game with an impressive 17-3 record against teams with a sub-.500 record.

Making matters even worst, it was Boston’s third straight loss – a first for the Celtics this season - with all three defeats coming at the TD Garden. 

Celtics big man Al Horford said the team needs a “Fight for our lives’” mentality heading into Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers. 

While no one wants to lose game, having to overcome some hurdles along the journey isn’t always a bad thing.

“Gotta have some adversity,” said Kyrie Irving who led all scorers with 40 points - the second time he has reached the 40-point plateau this season (47 points, Nov. 20 at Dallas). “We need it as a team. There’s a lot more adversity down the road. You have to be able to weather the storm no matter what.”

Aside from Gordon Hayward’s dislocated ankle injury in the season-opener, dropping three straight is probably the biggest adversity the Celtics have had this season. 

And this latest setback came against an Orlando franchise that the Celtics have absolutely owned at home. 

Prior to Sunday’s loss, Boston had not lost to the Magic at home since Feb. 7, 2010 with 14 straight wins.

"We didn't underestimate them," said Boston's Jaylen Brown who had 17 points. "They've been playing a lot better than they've been playing all year."

Al Horford echoed similar sentiments.

“You can’t underestimate any team,” Horford said. “I don’t think we necessarily did, but we need to have that sense of urgency like we started the game and be able to hold that throughout the game. That’s important.”

So is making the most of transition scoring opportunities which was an area of play in which the Celtics struggled mightily all game. 

Boston wound up with six, fast-break points on just 3-for-9 shooting. 

“We had some transition opportunities that we didn’t covert,” acknowledged Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. 

Failing to capitalize on those easy scoring opportunities came back to hurt Boston and in hindsight, proved to be one of the key differences in the game’s outcome. 

“Whether you’re doing things at an optimum level as you would like, that’s part of the game of learning one another,” Irving said. “Being able to figure out how to respond from that. Us as a group, we’ve come together in the last four months, five months, it’s new. We need to hit something like this in order for us to grow. It’s part of the game; part of being on a team, part of being a professional. Any team, any environment, you have to have stuff like this where you have to figure it out.”

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