Celtics

Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

cp-1-spark-celtics-thanksgiving.jpg

Celtics' cup has runneth over so far this season

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics are no different than the rest of us. They have a lot to be thankful for.
 
There’s the usual good health, family and friends. But they have a few more things to be thankful for, as well.
 
So as you take a brief time-out today from the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, here’s a look at five things the Celtics are thankful for this season.


 
KYRIE IRVING
 
The Celtics have had some solid players in recent years, but the addition of Kyrie Irving was a game-changer. He provides Boston with an unmistakable superstar who has a proven track record of success on all levels -- he's won an NBA championship and an Olympic Gold medal, and is also a four-time All-Star. Did I mention he’s just 25 years old?


 
AL HORFORD
 
His numbers will never adequately measure the impact Horford has had on the Celtics. The big plus with Horford was him simply agreeing to be a Celtic. For years this franchise has been built on the success of developing draft picks or trading for talented players. But rarely have they had the financial flexibility or, to be frank, the kind of appeal to free agents to go out and acquire a proven All-Star like Al Horford. His arrival has enhanced an already-established winning culture, one that has become a player on the free agency market ever since.


 
DANNY AINGE
 
Other than Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti, it’s hard to imagine another front office executive having as good an offseason as Ainge. He rolled the dice to go down two spots in last June’s NBA draft, and wound up with arguably the most NBA-ready player (Jayson Tatum) among those selected in last June’s NBA draft. (Remember, the likely rookie-of-the-year Ben Simmons did not play last year after Philadelphia drafted him with the top overall pick in 2016.) The free-agent pickups of Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis and Shane Larkin have all had moments where they carried the team to victory. Even second-round picks like Semi Ojeleye and two-way players like Jabari Bird have contributed to wins this season. Fans may not like some of Ainge’s decisions in the moment but he deserves a lot of credit for the team we see today, one that has played at a level few envisioned they'd reach this quickly.


 
BRAD STEVENS
 
And to think, the Big Three (Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford) Boston was planning to build around this season has played less than five minutes together. Stevens has been pushing all the right buttons, putting guys in unexpected positions to succeed with a cast that’s long on talent and well, well short on experience. Boston’s first win of the season came at Philadelphia, a game in which the Celtics played six different rookies. It’s not unusual for teams to use first-year players frequently, but for a team that was built to contend for a championship? That’s highly unusual. The biggest thing is despite the lack of experience on the floor, Stevens hasn’t allowed them to use that as a reason to fail. Instead, Stevens has had them lean heavily on film study and the wisdom of veterans, as well as empowered them to have a “next-man-up” mindset with one goal regardless of what they are tasked with doing: Get it done. No excuses.


 
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
 
Boston has spent most of this season atop the NBA standings, fueled in large part by a 15-game winning streak -- the longest of the Brad Stevens era and the fifth-longest ever by a Celtics team. But within that winning streak, there have been some noticeable areas of concern (i.e., bench scoring) that have made games more challenging. And that's what makes these Celtics so scary to the rest of the league. If they’re beating teams consistently now, how much better will they be when the offense catches up or, at a minimum, gains some ground on what has been an impressive stretch of play defensively? That’s why as good as this first full month of the season has been, there's reason to believe they’ll only get better. The Celtiheircs have seen  share of adversity. They've played without their All-Stars. They have fought back from double-digit deficits to emerge victorious. This is a young squad, but battle-tested already. Because of all that, they have a certain level of confidence that regardless of the situation, regardless of the score, they feel they will find a pathway to success. And that, Celtics Nation, is something to be thankful for.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE


 

Hayward 'attacking the process' but still no timetable for return

Hayward 'attacking the process' but still no timetable for return

BOSTON — Gordon Hayward took yet another step forward in his recovery from a dislocated left ankle injury.

He has now been given the green light to not have to wear a walking boot.

"I feel alright I guess, as well as I could," Hayward told reporters earlier today. "I'm out of the boot right now so that's good, slowly getting better.

MORE:

Hayward added, "for now I'm done with the boot. Depending on how things go, I could be back in the boot so we'll see."

While all agree it is progress, there is still no timetable for when - if at all - he will return this season.

Hayward suffered the injury in the season-opener at Cleveland when he landed awkwardly attempting to catch a lob pass in the first quarter.

“He’s had good days, some not so good days,” his agent Mark Bartelstein told NBC Sports Boston. “But he’s attacking the process, focusing on getting better from one day to the next.”

Bartelstein understands every step Hayward takes in his recovery, will be seen by some as a step toward his return to action this season.

Bartelstein reiterated there has been no talk of Hayward returning this season.

“We’re not going to put a limit or cap on Gordon’s progress,” Bartelstein said. “But at the same time, we’re not gonna put a number or date for him to come back, either. Like I said, he’s attacking the process of getting healthier, trying to get better from one day to the next.”

The Celtics have been cautiously optimistic about Hayward’s progress, consistently stating that they have no plans for him to join the team this season.

As much progress as Hayward appears to be making, it’s still unlikely he will heal in time to play this season.

Boston received a disabled players exception for Hayward’s injury that is worth $8.4 million which is the largest DPE in NBA history. They have until March 10, 2018 to use it.

One of the factors contributing to them getting it was a set of independent doctors who determined that it was unlikely Hayward would return to playing by June 15, 2018.

That means for Hayward to be ready in time for the playoffs, he would have to be at least two months ahead of schedule.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Hayward gives his walking boot the boot as recovery progresses

Hayward gives his walking boot the boot as recovery progresses

Look who's out of his walking boot?

Gordon Hayward visited the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston on Wednesday and looked to be moving around pretty well without the walking boot he's had on following surgery for the gruesome injury he suffered five minutes into his Celtics debut.

The Celtics have been saying the timetable for Hayward's return hasn't changed. They haven't been expecting him to return this season but he sure seems to be progressing in his recovery.