Celtics

Celtics-Hornets preview: Trying to build chemistry while staying healthy

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Celtics-Hornets preview: Trying to build chemistry while staying healthy

BOSTON – When it comes to the preseason, teams play with three goals in mind.

Stay healthy, get better as they inch towards the opener and if possible, win games.

But if the basketball gods only give them one to choose from, it would be a unanimous vote for good health.

Tonight’s game between Boston and Charlotte features two teams that to varying degrees, have felt the sting of the preseason injury bug.

Boston’s Aron Baynes suffered a knee injury in Boston’s 113-96 win over Philadelphia that wouldn’t allow him to return in the second half. He is questionable for tonight’s game.

Meanwhile, Charlotte’s Nicolas Batum has an elbow injury that will keep him out for at least six weeks.

While coaches are sensitive to losing key players to injuries, there’s a clear understanding that there’s no time to dwell on what happened or who is not available. 

Despite the shortened preseason schedule, the Boston Celtics have a pretty good feel for how their rotation will play out when the regular season starts.

Based on the first three preseason games, the Big Three – Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford – will start, along with Jaylen Brown. The fifth starter is named Vanilla Ice.

In fact, don’t be surprised if you see Gordon Hayward or Kyrie Irving on the floor for the bulk of most games.

For that to happen, it means that both players will have to work on not only meshing their games with the starting group but also with key role players off the bench.

“You want to play the game the same,” Hayward said. “The personnel changes a little bit; you’re trying to help guys maximize their strengths. You have to be conscious of that when different guys come in, or when you’re with a different group, knowing what those guys like to do.”

KEY MATCHUP

Kyrie Irving vs Kemba Walker

The two All-Star guards have been going at each other for years, which tends to bring out the best in each player. While neither player is expected to see a ton of minutes, look for Walker to be a bit more aggressive scoring the ball with Nicolas Batum (elbow) out for at least another six weeks. 

KEY STORYLINE

 If Marcus Morris makes his debut for the Celtics tonight, will he be in the starting lineup? And if so, how long will he play?

"QUOTE, UNQUOTE"

 “He is without a doubt extremely competitive and extremely driven. He’s been like that from Day One. Even when you drafted him, you knew that … everybody says everybody is that, but he’s really driven and really competitive. So that’s been – that’s been his … I think he leads authentically that way.” – Celtics head coach Brad Stevens on Terry Rozier.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BEST OF BST PODCAST: Celtics can't get it done without Kyrie

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BEST OF BST PODCAST: Celtics can't get it done without Kyrie

0:41 - With Kyrie Irving out with shoulder soreness the Celtics looked like a shell of themselves, losing to the 76ers, 89-80. A. Sherrod Blakely joins Michael Holley and D.J. Bean from the TD Garden to break down the loss.

7:43 - Tom Brady is injured! This is not a drill! Brady missed practice on Thursday and remains a question mark for the AFC Championship Game. Tom Giles, Jeff Howe, D.J. Bean and Tom Curran discuss the severity of the injury.

15:09 - Dave Dombrowski’s plan for the upcoming season - or lack of one - has continued to confuse everyone, though he made it clear that he’s not waiting for next year’s huge free agent class. Michael Holley, Tom Giles and Tom Curran react to Dealin’ Dave’s comments on the situation.

LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HERE

Kyrie Irving: Sitting out with shoulder injury 'just precautionary'

Kyrie Irving: Sitting out with shoulder injury 'just precautionary'

BOSTON – Kyrie Irving has long since understood the balancing act he must walk between embracing the moment while being mindful of the big picture. 

That’s why the decision to sit out Boston’s 89-80 loss to Philadelphia was one that, while certainly didn’t do Boston any favors against the Sixers on Thursday, it does provide him some much-needed downtime to rest his sore left shoulder.

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

The good news is that tests taken on the shoulder show no structural damage. And with the way the schedule is shaping up now, Irving will have plenty of time to rest and be ready to play when the Celtics return to the floor on Sunday to host the Orlando Magic. 

“Just precautionary stuff, making sure everything's alright from a strength perspective,” was how Irving described the injury. “Obviously a few days will put me where I need to be. And we'll just see what goes on for Sunday's game, but you know it's nothing too crazy, just giving me a little discomfort over the last few weeks and I've just been playing through it doing what's best in terms of preparing best for every single game. I thought it was best just to get a few tests and make sure everything's alright so, everything's cool.”

Irving said the tests came back negative which is a huge positive for the Celtics and Irving who was selected as an NBA all-star starter for next month’s game. 

As far as how it happened, Irving said there was no specific event or play in which he suffered a blow to the shoulder or anything like that. 

“Gradual soreness” is how Irving described the injury.  “You know, kinda going into my shot, driving left, just not feeling as confident as I would like to be and just thought it would be best just to take a day or two to get it evaluated, meet with our medical staff, meet with our strength conditioning coach and strengthen it up and then hopefully go on Sunday.”

The Celtics (34-12) have now lost two of the three games they played this season without Irving. It is a small sample size, but there’s no denying the impact that a healthy Irving has on this roster when it comes to impacting winning. 

“First off, I just had to make sure some of the major parts of my shoulder just weren't damaged,” said Irving who added, “And then at this point it's just a strength program and doing what's best with that.” 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE