How Greg Monroe is acclimating to Celtics' system

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How Greg Monroe is acclimating to Celtics' system

BOSTON – Greg Monroe is a low-post, back-to-the-basket scorer who is a willing passer but doesn’t have the deep, long-range shooting touch that’s becoming more common among today’s NBA big men. 

But the big fella has skills, the kind that should be on display more often as he becomes more familiar with the Boston Celtics' system. 

Tuesday was an important step in that process with Monroe going through his first practice with the Cltics. 

Boston acquired the 6-foot-11 center on Feb. 8, just days after he was bought out by the Phoenix Suns.

“It felt good to practice,” Monroe said. “It was good to get some reps, get some good reps at learning the offense, communicating on defense with the guys game speed but not in a game.”

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Monroe has already appeared in three games for Boston, averaging 4.0 points, 5.0 rebounds in 14.3 minutes per game.

The 6-foot-11 center has been picking up the nuances of the Celtics' system at a pretty good clip, but said getting the offensive stuff down has been the bigger challenge.

“Defensively, it’s pretty easy picking up rotations, communications … the language you use is pretty universal,” Monroe said. “Even if the call may be different, it’s still the same positioning that I’m used to so that’s not really hard.”

It’s still early, but his new teammates like what they have seen thus far. 

“More than anything with Greg, he’s a veteran. He knows what to do," said Boston's Al Horford. "He has a very good feel for the post. For me, I’m going to try and help him defensively and on offense, anything I see that can help our team and help him … but he’s picked up our offense pretty quickly. He’s a very smart player. He’s on top of a lot of things.”

One of the keys to Monroe being on the fast track in learning the Celtics' system, has been assistant coach Jay Larrinaga. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens assigns all players an assistant coach to work with throughout the season. 

“He’s been a huge help,” Monroe said of Larrinaga. “Just getting me up to speed, learning the plays, telling me what certain guys like, what Brad expects of me.”

And those expectations have been pretty clear. 

Stevens wants Monroe to be Monroe, a big man who can score in the post, find teammates if they are open and maybe most important, contribute to the culture of winning which has the Celtics (40-18) firmly entrenched as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. 

And for Monroe, Tuesday’s practice – his first with the team – was a great first step in that process.

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The Celtics are going to beat teams however they want

The Celtics are going to beat teams however they want

If you were to tell me before Tuesday night that the Celtics would get barely anything out of Kyrie Irving and still smoke the 76ers, I'd have been like, "well, yeah."

Then I'd have asked you if you watched the playoffs last season, when they beat the 76ers in five games without Kyrie Irving. 

Then I'd have pointed out that they could have smoked the 76ers even if a couple of their other stars didn't have big offensive nights. I probably would have said the Celtics could get seven points from Kyrie, nine from Al Horford and 10 from Gordon Hayward and still win by 18. I would have called it exactly because I'm a brilliant man. 

I would say they'd do it because one of their other stars would go off and at least a couple guys off the bench would have big nights. And because they'd probably still keep the 76ers under 100 points, as they did in three of four regular-season meetings last season. 


Tuesday's season opener illustrated a lot of things: that the C's and 76ers are rivals the same way the last two people at the bar are in love, that Jaylen Brown is the most photogenic dunker in the league and that Ben Simmons is still allergic to shooting. 

Yet the biggest and most important thing is that the Celtics are indeed deep enough to have different players carry them at different times -- even as players go quiet for a game or two at a time -- and still win games. They'll do it to the mediocre teams in the East, and they'll probably do it to the better teams in the West. Only when they presumably meet the Warriors in the NBA Finals -- and a lot can happen between now and then -- will they actually live and die by all of their players showing out. 

We can talk about that in June, though. For now, let's talk about how Jayson Tatum's 23-point, nine-rebound night probably wasn't an anomaly, and how games like that will afford the Celtics the luxury of bringing along Hayward at whichever pace they'd like. 

Or we can talk about how even with Irving having a dreadful shooting night (8-for-14; 1-for-8 on threes), everyone knows better than to worry about it. Even the most cynical of media figures couldn't fear it being a common occurrence, with it far more likely that Irving will do his normal routine of scoring early, getting everyone involved after and gong for the jugular if needed in the second half. 

Brown made a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2; Tuesday he had a modest performance that was punctuated by a dunk through (?) Joel Embiid. He'll have his nights. So will Al Horford. And the now RFA-to-be Terry Rozier, who had 11 off the bench, as well as Marcus Morris (16 points). 

The list goes on, and with the Celtics depth brings lineup options beyond the obvious starting five of Iriving-Brown-Hayward-Tatum-Horford. Brad Stevens doesn't need the best players in a given matchup to exploit the opposition, but now he has them. 

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Highlights: Tatum leads Celtics past 76ers in season opener

Highlights: Tatum leads Celtics past 76ers in season opener

Highlights from the Celtics 105-87 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in their first game of the 2018-19 NBA season.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.