Celtics

Doc: 'We can be very, very good'

902965.jpg

Doc: 'We can be very, very good'

BOSTON - Eight preseason games down, an 82-game regular season and a playoff run to go for the Celtics.

In spite of a 3-5 record, often the result of resting players and experimenting with various rotations, coach Doc Rivers has a very optimistic outlook for his team less than two weeks away from Opening Night.

"That I like I team, thats it," he said following the Celtics preseason finale, an 88-79 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. "I do. I like the team. Like I said before, I think we still will have to be a better defensive team consistently to be a great team. And I think theres a lot of growth in our team. So how fast we do it, who knows. Well figure that out as the season goes along. But if we do grow in all the different ways we can play, everyone kind of gets it, I think we can be very, very good."

Rivers has more options on his roster than he has had in years. Rather than a set starting five and clear cut second and third units, Rivers has the flexibility to tinker with different combinations based on opposing matchups. After being forced to insert bench players into the starting lineup due to injuries in recent seasons, he now has multiple options at various positions.

Once Avery Bradley returns after recovering from shoulder surgery, either he or Courtney Lee could start at the two spot (Jason Terry will most likely keep his award-winning role as a sixth man). In the immediate future, Rivers will look at veteran Brandon Bass or rookie Jared Sullinger for the starting power forward role. Both had solid training camps, both give Rivers versatility.

"I do think this is going to be an unusual team in that I dont think well have a starting lineup for most of the year," said Rivers. "I think we may move that one guy around a lot.

Rivers said he didn't discover any surprises throughout training camp, which kicked off in Europe. He praised the play of rookie Kris Joseph -- "I thought he played terrific and we put him in terrible positions" -- and noted Jeff Green's performance after missing last season because of heart surgery.

"Weve got the kind of team, you kind of know what they do," Rivers said.

He believes that could lead to a very promising season.

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

best_of_bst_podcast.jpg

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.”

MORE:

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.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE