Irving on Celtics debut: 'I just can't wait to get back out there'


Irving on Celtics debut: 'I just can't wait to get back out there'

BOSTON -- This time of year, there's a learning curve that all players on all teams must go through -- even Kyrie Irving, one of the more decorated 25-year-olds you'll find in the NBA.

Not only is he dealing with the usual getting-to-know-his-new teammates, but the four-time All-Star is adjusting to a new team, a new coaching philosophy and with it, a fan base that's unlike any other in the NBA.
And while he has only been a Boston Celtic for a few weeks, he has been a quick study as to how to quickly ingratiate himself to the fans.
During a panel hosted by NBC Sports Boston's Abby Chin at the end of Boston's open practice on Sunday, Irving got the crowd going by starting a "Let's Go Cel-tics!" chant.
He and the rest of the Celtics hope to give their fans even more to cheer about tonight as they kick off their preseason slate of games at home against the Charlotte Hornets.
Part of the process of getting ready for the season is understanding that as important as every day can be to improvement, there's a balance that has to be struck between that and not overdoing things.
That's why earlier this week, Irving had a "maintenance" day where he did very little in practice.
While this is a new season, Irving and the Celtics are mindful of the fact that he has been to the NBA Finals each of the last three seasons. Those are the kinds of deep playoff runs that can gradually wear a player down unnecessarily over time.
I asked Irving about whether he's changed his preseason routine to better prepare for playing into late May and June.
"You just get smarter and become more efficient as to what workouts you're doing on a day-to-day basis," Irving said. "My focus level, as high as it is on the floor, it's the same as it is, off. So, just loving my body, giving it what it deserves, giving it great fuel and making sure I'm doing a great job of leading every single day."
There's another benefit to the preseason and it speaks to Irving's efforts to better display his leadership skills, which will be on full display this season with the Celtics.
As impressive as Irving has been throughout his time in the NBA, his ability to make those around him better will be a topic of discussion all season and just as important, a key to Boston having the kind of season so many envision them having.
And those lessons begin tonight.
He acknowledges one of his favorite parts of the preseason is seeing how his first-year teammates handle proven NBA players on opposing teams.
"The preseason is always their first time being around NBA talent for a constant amount of minutes, consistently over the game," Irving said. "Summer League is great, playing against guys in the summer is great, but now you have the sole intent to do everything possible to win a basketball game. So it changes, the dynamics change, the knowledge heightens up a little bit."
And rest assured, folks.
Irving will be ready.
"I just can't wait to get back out there," he says with a smile before adding, "and re-acclimate myself to NBA basketball games."


Theis to play with mask, Stevens 'can’t keep track of all our facial gear'


Theis to play with mask, Stevens 'can’t keep track of all our facial gear'

Despite suffering a broken nose less than 24 hours ago, Daniel Theis is with the Boston Celtics and will be available to play tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies.

“He’s cleared to play,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens, adding that Theis will wear a non-fitted mask tonight if he does see action off Boston’s bench. “It’s not a fitted mask but it’s as close as they could make it.”

Following Boston’s 107-95 loss to Utah on Friday night, Theis was initially not expected to travel with the team. But soon after, it was determined that the 25-year-old rookie would indeed be on the flight to Memphis to potentially play.

Boston’s Kyrie Irving suffered a facial fracture against Charlotte on Nov. 10 and played 13 games with the mask.

More recently, Jaylen Brown missed a game due to right eye irritation and had to wear goggles for three games.

“I can’t keep track of all our facial gear right now,” quipped Stevens. “We’re just glad he (Theis) is OK.”

Stevens said Theis will have to get his nose re-set at some point soon which would result in him likely missing a day or two.

Still, it says a lot about Theis’ willingness to still play despite an injury that for most players, results in them missing a game or two right away.

“It looked like he may have just got hit on the bridge,” Stevens said. “He feels good otherwise, he says.”

While Theis doesn’t put up eye-popping numbers off the Celtics bench, the energy that he tends to play with on a night-in, night-out basis for Boston is important for this team.

“I just want to come in, bring energy, defend, rebound, do whatever to help the team,” Theis recently told NBC Sports Boston. “Whatever to win, I want to do.”


Time for Celtics to shake off the blues in Memphis

Time for Celtics to shake off the blues in Memphis

As the Celtics’ players gathered their belongings and headed out for tonight’s game in Memphis, Gordon Hayward took a seat at his locker stall, the first one you come across when you enter the Celtics’ locker room.


Like most of us trying to make sense of Boston’s 107-95 loss to Utah, Hayward could sense the disappointment among his teammates. 

He offered a few words of encouragement to teammate Semi Ojeleye, whose locker was next to his, soon followed by a few more words for Jaylen Brown whose mindset was already on to the next game tonight at Memphis.

“We’re going to come out, respond, play as hard as we can,” said Brown, who added, “just come out and get a win against Memphis.”

That “on-to-the-next-one” mantra has served Boston well this season and they'll look to continue along those lines against the Grizzlies tonight.

Despite losses in three of their past five, the Celtics (24-7) still have the best record in the East – two games ahead of Cleveland (21-8).

“We got a big one [tonight],” said Terry Rozier. “We just have to pay attention to the details and take care of business.”

Here are under the radar storylines heading into tonight’s game against Memphis.

We have seen these two work in sync with one another for a good chunk of this season, so it was not all that surprising to see both play well against the Jazz. They combined to score 54 of Boston’s 95 points, or 56.8 percent of their scoring. And when it came to setting up teammates, they had 13 of Boston’s 20 assists, or 65 percent. They don’t have to be that dominant tonight, but putting up comparable numbers – and maybe getting one or two players to chip in as well – would go far in Boston getting back on a winning track.

J.B. Bickerstaff became Memphis’ interim head coach after the organization fired David Fizdale after a 7-12 start. Like any interim head coach, he’s trying his best to make a favorable impression so that the "interim" tag will be dropped. So far? Not great. The Grizzlies have lost eight of 10 since Fizdale’s firing in large part because of injuries – which was among the factors that contributed to Fizdale’s struggles. This isn’t Bickerstaff’s first go-around as an NBA head coach. As an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets, he was named the interim coach when Kevin McHale was fired in 2015. Bickerstaff went 37-34 and led the Rockets to the first round of the playoffs where they were eliminated in five games by the Golden State Warriors.

Talent, timing and effort all go hand-in-hand when it comes to rebounding success, with effort being the most critical component. And against the Jazz, Boston just didn’t seem to bring it at any point in the game. And the end result was a 55-31 rebounding advantage for the Jazz. Boston may catch a break tonight against the Grizzlies, who come into tonight’s game with a rebounding percentage of .478 which ranks 27th (out of 30 teams) in the NBA.

Friday night’s game against Utah was yet another underwhelming performance by Boston’s defense. The Celtics had a defensive rating of 109.3.  For the season, the Celtics still have the league’s top defense – barely. Their 100.6 defensive rating is just a smidge better than Oklahoma City (100.7). And once again, Boston might get some relief tonight against a Memphis team that has struggled offensively all season. They come into the game with an offensive rating of 101.4, which ranks 27th in the league.

It’s still too soon to say if Tatum has hit the rough patch all first-year players endure – better known as the rookie wall – but there’s no question his scoring of late has been off. The past three games, Tatum, 19, has scored a total of 26 points, which is the fewest he has scored in a three-game stretch as a pro. The rookie had seven points on 1-for-7 shooting against the Jazz, bringing his shooting numbers in the past three games to a not-so-great 8-for-22 (36.4 percent).