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.”
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.
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?
“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.