Celtics

Celtics Question of the Day: Will Wilcox be the most improved?

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Celtics Question of the Day: Will Wilcox be the most improved?

When the season ends for the Boston Celtics and there's no victory parade down Causeway Street, there's a sense among all the returners that an opportunity was lost.

That disappointment serves as the fuel to ignite players to push themselves harder, longer during the offseason.

When that happens, it doesn't take too long for the transformation to manifest itself onto the floor.

Boston returns a handful of players from last season who all come into the 2012-2013 season with that goal -- to be a better player -- in mind.

But when you look at the players from last season who are returning, no player seems more poised for a significant improvement than Chris Wilcox.

It's not often that you look at a roster like the C's and point to a journeyman (Boston is the fifth NBA franchise he has played for) as being poised for a strong bounce-back season.

But Wilcox's situation is, to say the least, unique.

When he signed with Boston prior to last season, many were surprised that the Celtics gave the 30-year-old the mid-level exception which was worth about 3 million when he was viewed by some NBA teams as a minimum-salaried player.

It didn't help that Wilcox struggled early on with both his play and injuries, opening the door for then-26-year-old rookie Greg Stiemsma to play more minutes.

Stiemsma, a free agent this summer, signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves after a strong season with the C's in which he averaged 2.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and team-leading 1.6 blocks per game.

Eventually Wilcox found his niche with the C's, establishing himself as a viable big man option off the bench.

And then came the news.

A routine physical turned up a heart condition that required season-ending surgery.

Not only did the Celtics lose even more depth in the frontcourt which was already thin to begin with, but Wilcox would miss out on making the playoffs for the first time in his NBA career.

And making matters worse, he was developing into the kind of impact big man off the bench that the C's would desperately need in the postseason.

He appeared in 28 regular season games for the C's with four starts.

In those 28 games, he averaged 5.4 points and 4.4 rebounds while playing 17.2 minutes per game.

Upon closer inspection, there was a noticeable spike in his last 14 games in which he averaged 7.2 points and 5.6 rebounds while playing 21.9 minutes. In his first 14 games with the C's, Wilcox averaged just 3.6 points and 3.1 rebounds while playing 12.5 minutes per game.

"I definitely have something to prove this season," Wilcox told CSNNE.com. "I feel as though I have some unfinished business in Boston, for sure."

With his health no longer an issue, the biggest challenge for Wilcox will be to avoid the random (or fluke-like) injuries that sidelined him at times last season prior to his season-ending heart surgery.

His presence, when healthy, helps the C's in so many ways.

He can come off the bench behind Kevin Garnett and provide hustle, energy and some much-needed frontcourt muscle. When you throw in the fact that he's one of the few Celtics veterans who can still play above-the-rim with some consistency, he then becomes an offensive threat on lobs and potential put-back opportunities on misses.

Throw in the fact that he has added motivation having never been to the playoffs, and it adds up to a player who is poised for the kind of breakout season both he and the C's will need.

And that will keep those dreams alive of driving down Causeway Street in late June.

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Gordon Hayward return this season?

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BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Could Gordon Hayward return this season?

0:41 - Kyle Draper, Brain Scalabrine, Tommy Heinsohn, and Mike Gorman break down the Celtics loss to the Cavs and Gordon Hayward’s injury.

4:22 - Tom Curran, Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their reactions to the gruesome injury to Gordon Hayward and how it impacted the game.

9:39 - Dr. Chris Chihlas joins BST to give his medical opinion on Gordon Hayward and if he thinks there is a chance Hayward could return this season. 

13:40 - Chris Mannix and A. Sherrod Blakely discuss what the feeling was like in the arena when Hayward went down but how there is actually a 'cautious optimism' surrounding the injury.

Jayson Tatum flashes potential with double-double debut

Jayson Tatum flashes potential with double-double debut

CLEVELAND – Jayson Tatum has seen plenty of games featuring Cleveland’s LeBron James.

And in the Boston Celtics’ preparation for Tuesday night’s matchup, the 19-year-old rookie had seen plenty of James on film.

But facing him, up close and personal, was something entirely different.

“He’s way bigger than I thought,” Tatum said. “He’s way better than I imagined. That’s the reason why he is who he is.”

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James’ play was among the key factors in Cleveland handing Boston a 102-99 loss on Tuesday night.

But Tatum showed he too has some big-time potential by finishing with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds which included some nifty drives to the basket as well as showing the ability to hold his own on the glass in terms of rebounding the basketball.

The last Celtics rookie to post a double-double on opening night?

That was Larry Bird back in 1980, helping the Celtics to a 114-106 win over the Houston Rockets.

What’s even crazier?

Bird had 14 points and 10 rebounds in that Rockets game, too.

Tatum’s solid performance didn’t seem in the making in the first half when Tatum had missed all five of his shot attempts while tallying just two points.

But as the Celtics mounted their comeback, Tatum’s play was a key to the team’s improved play.

“Just being more relaxed” was how Tatum described his improved play in the second half.

Tatum added, “first half, I think I was nervous and anxious. And then the game slowed down for me. That helped out a lot.”

And the Celtics will need even more from Tatum going forward after Gordon Hayward’s left ankle injury that will keep him sidelined indefinitely.

There was plenty of room for him to improve upon following Tuesday’s game.

But for the most part, head coach Brad Stevens liked what he saw from the rookie.

“Jayson was pretty good,” Stevens said. “He did a pretty good job for a first game. That’s pretty hard to do, to be thrown into this environment, first game and play that well.”

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