Instead of taking a shot, Celtics passed
MILWAUKEE -- It’s hard not to look at Giannis Antetokounmpo’s growth into this other-worldly talent and not play the "what if . . . " game if you're a fan of a team that had a chance to draft him four years ago.
The Celtics were one of those teams. In fact, they actually moved up that year and wound up taking Kelly Olynyk, who now plays for the Miami Heat.
Olynyk hasn’t been a bad player or anything like that, evident by him already ranked among the all-time great 3-point shooters who is at least 7-feet tall. But his accomplishments pale in comparison to Antetokounmpo's.
And the scary part? The Greek Freak's just 22 years old.
His talent has prompted some of the game’s already-established greats like Kevin Durant to chime in about his potential.
"I like long, athletic guys," Durant said on his You Tube channel earlier this month. "That's just who I am. The Greek Freak I think is a force, and I've never seen anything like him. And his ceiling is probably ... he could end up being the best player to ever play if he really wanted to. That's pretty scary to think about. But he's by far my favorite player to watch."
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks.
While Jayson Tatum’s fast start has caught many by surprise, Milwaukee’s Jason Terry saw Tatum on this stage years ago.
The former Celtic recalls seeing a video of Tatum when he was a ninth grader.
“I watched his movements; it was NBA movements,” Terry recalled. “He did everything; one-dribble pull-up, two-dribble pull-up. Yu could just see it. You know when a guy has NBA-type mechanics and movements. And that’s what he had. It was a no-brainer that he was going to be a number one pick.”
Terry would later become friends with Tatum’s stepfather, Marcus Barnes, which led to him following Tatum’s career even closer.
But Terry, in his 19th NBA season, never dreamed he and Tatum would actually play in the league at the same time.
“I thought I would be sitting in the first row watching,” said Terry, adding that it’s similar to when he came into the league and he matched up against veterans like Gary Payton.
“It’s always crazy, but it’s real,” Terry said.
GREEK FREAK’S HISTORICAL START
Giannis Antetokounmpo has a chance to become only the second player in Milwaukee Bucks history to have five straight games of 30 or more points scored. While he is aware of this, it’s not something that he or his coach, Jason Kidd, have given much thought to heading into tonight’s game.
“History is going to always be changed,” Kidd said. “That’s what stats are for. His job is to find a way to win. If you ask him, that’s all he’s worried about. For Giannis, he’s always been a guy that stays in the moment. He doesn’t worry about the records.”
Antetokounmpo added: “I have to keep doing what I’m doing. I have to play hard, help my team win.”
CELTICS FAST START DEFENSIVELY
Despite not having Avery Bradley (who's now in Detroit) and Jae Crowder (Cleveland), the Celtics’ defense hasn’t fallen off a cliff the way some thought it might have. In fact, Boston’s defense has actually gotten off to a better start than last season’s unit which finished 12th in the NBA. While it’s a small sample size, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Celtics are doing a lot of good things defensively to start the season. In addition to ranking among the top teams in rebounding percentage (a major weakness of this team in past years), Boston’s defensive rating of 97.4 ranks sixth in the league, which is a far cry from their bottom-10 status at this point last season.
GETTING OVER .500
The four previous seasons under Brad Stevens have been trying at the start of the season, which is among the many reasons why there was no panic on the part of the Celtics after Gordon Hayward’s season-ending injury and the team’s 0-2 start. Having won its last two games, the Celtics are now in position to actually match the best five-game start to the season under Brad Stevens (they began last season with 3-2 record). The mantra for this team is steady growth, something that’s even more invaluable because of the team’s across-the-board youth. But as we’ve seen, young team or one with veterans, slow starts for Stevens tend to give way for fantastic finishes which in grand scheme of things, is what you want.
IRVING REBOOT 2.0
When LeBron James joined the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, needless to say it meant an adjustment – a big adjustment – for Kyrie Irving.
And now that he’s a Celtic, once again the four-time All-Star finds himself needing to figure out a few things with a team that’s very different than the one he played for the previous season.
After four games, Irving hasn’t exactly set the NBA landscape on fire. But if you look at how he fared to start the 2014 season, it’s clear that what he’s doing now is similar to what he did in Cleveland:
2014: 22.0 points, 3.8 assists, 2.0 rebounds while shooting 40.3 percent. Team record: 1-3.
2017: 20.0 points, 6.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds while shooting 37.5 percent. Team record: 2-2.
The bottom line with Irving is that it’s too soon to say whether the Celtics are better with him. But the team’s success to start the season and the way he has played statistically at the start of a season that begins with significant change are relatively consistent.