Celtics

Aaron Harrison on Kemba Walker: 'Everybody is going to love Kemba here'

Aaron Harrison on Kemba Walker: 'Everybody is going to love Kemba here'

BOSTON — Aaron Harrison spent his first two seasons in the NBA playing alongside Kemba Walker with the Charlotte Hornets and raved about the leader that Boston is getting after the sides agreed to a four-yer, $141 million contract on Sunday night.

"Everybody is going to love Kemba here,” said Harrison, who latched on with the Hornets after going undrafted in 2015. A veteran of three NBA seasons, Harrison is playing for Boston’s summer squad with hopes of making it back to the league after spending last season overseas in Turkey.

"He’s a great leader. Everybody wants to be around him. He’s just a good dude to be around.”

Harrison raved about the way Walker carried himself, even early in his pro career with Charlotte.

"He’s probably one of the best people in the NBA that I’ve been around, for sure,” said Harrison. "He’s the most humble guy. I was a rookie and he took great care of me. He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever met.”

How might Walker interact with younger teammates? Can Walker nurture them and help them develop?

"He’s not going to blame anyone,” said Harrison. "He’s not going to blame anyone else. He’ll take the blame himself, he’ll take responsibility for himself, and he will help guys but he’s not going to blame anyone."

Celtics rookie Grant Williams, a Charlotte native who watched Walker with the Hornets growing up, said he saw Walker at the facility on Sunday and raved about what he can bring to the team.

"You see how he plays off the pick and roll. You see how dynamic of a point guard he is,” said Williams. "It’s really exciting to see him play. I grew up in Charlotte so I was there watching him and he practiced at my high school [Providence Day School] a couple times.

"So just seeing how talented of a guard he is putting the ball in the basket and seeing him play with guys that really love to play the game and play the game the right way here would be even more exciting. So I’m excited to get to the first practice.”

On a roster with a bunch of fresh-faced rookies, Harrison is a bit of an outlier. He’s still only 24 but he’s looking to earn a spot back in the NBA.

"I know Coach [Brad] Stevens likes smart players and player with skill so I think that’s what I bring to the table. I feel like I’m going to get a good opportunity,” said Harrison, who said the Celtics reached out a couple months ago about the possibility of playing for their summer squad. 

"It’s a huge goal [to get back to the NBA]. I think I’ve matured now and I know I’m talented enough to play in the league, I just had to figure it out, and I think I have figured it out. Just gotta get the right opportunity and I thought this was the best case for me. Just gonna go out, play well, and do what I can with my minutes.”

What’s the biggest change in Harrison’s game since his last NBA experience  with the Mavericks in 2018?

“Confidence," said Harrison. "I’m just confident that I can play with anybody, against anybody. And do well. It’s just about the opportunity and taking advantage of the opportunity when it comes.”

Early winners & losers from NBA free agency>>>>

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Celtics content to win ugly as Gordon Hayward-less stretch begins

Celtics content to win ugly as Gordon Hayward-less stretch begins

BOSTON — The Boston Celtics were the embodiment of “winning ugly” following Monday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks.

At one end of the team’s locker room, Kemba Walker and his still-sore neck — the one that forced him out of the final minutes of regulation after his scoring outburst helped Boston separate for a 116-106 triumph — struggled to locate his cell phone, and a handful of staffers were summonsed for a mini search party. A couple stalls down, a trainer dabbed at a small gash on Jaylen Brown’s forehead. Nearby, Jayson Tatum lounged in his chair and could only laugh while licking his emotional wounds from a historically bad 1-for-18 shooting night. 

At the front of the room, in front of a pack of cameras and microphones, Marcus Smart publicly declared that he’d like to stop being kicked in the groin during NBA games.

Yup, it wasn’t pretty -- and often painful. But on the same night that Gordon Hayward went under the knife to repair the fractured hand that will sideline him until Christmas, the Celtics got a little taste of how things are probably going to be the next 19 games.

Fortunately for Boston, all ended well. A locker room attendant found Walker’s cell phone hiding under a towel, Brown downplayed the head wound, Tatum trekked to the Auerbach Center for some late-night shooting, and Smart shrugged off his bruises while noting, “It's nothing new for me.”

Ultimately, it’s the Celtics kicking the rest of the league below the belt. Boston won its eighth straight game to move to an NBA-best 8-1 overall. These Celtics keep finding ways to win games even when they don’t play the crispest basketball.

Tatum became only the ninth player in NBA history to put up at least 18 shots in a regular season game and make only one (Mike Newlin’s 1-for-22 performance for Houston in 1973 remains the not-so gold standard for single-field goal nights). But even without Hayward and despite only getting five points in 35 minutes from Tatum, the Celtics found a way to stiff-arm the Mavericks when it mattered most.

They can thank Walker, who shrugged off a quiet first half (5 points on 2-of-6 shooting) before erupting for 24 second-half points on 7-of-11 shooting. 

That included a pair of crunch-time 3-pointers as part of a 10-point fourth quarter in which Walker did all his damage over just 3:39 before colliding with Luka Doncic and suffering what Brad Stevens termed “whiplash.” Walker hit a trio of triples in a 70-second span as Boston pushed its lead to seven before the injury that left trainers working on his neck on the sideline.

Walker, who entered the night fifth in the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring, had struggled in crunch time (games within five points, final five minutes) this season. He was a mere 2-of-11 shooting overall (18.2 percent) in crunch-time scenarios but produced a familiar Kardiac Kemba outburst.

"I missed a lot early but my shot felt good all night,” said Walker. "I was just missing and then, in the fourth quarter, it’s just, naturally, the competitive nature just comes out and trying to do what I can to put the ball in the basket.”

Brown, coming off his 30-point outburst in San Antonio, put together another encouraging night by putting up 25 points and 11 rebounds. By the end of the night, Doncic, a player that looks a lot like a future MVP, said of Brown: "He deserves the contract he got. He's a great player and he's a two-way player. He can play really good defense and really good offense. He's a great pick up by the Celtics.”

Brown said that, with Hayward out, the Celtics aren’t looking for style points.

"That’s what it’s about: Find ways to win, regardless,” said Brown. "The older we get as we go through this process — we’re getting older, me, [Tatum], guys that have been here, Smart. We know how to win, so we’ve just got to continue to do that and I think today was a good example of that.”

Like Brown, many Celtics did a little extra on Monday night. Smart took on the challenge (yet again) of guarding a big in Kristaps Porzingis and helped limit the unicorn to four points on 1-of-11 shooting. Daniel Theis played through a right pinky dislocation to finish plus-27 in 22 minutes. The bench struggled to maintain leads but Robert Williams, Grant Williams, Javonte Green, and Brad Wanamaker all had good moments. Enes Kanter played his first game at the Garden after missing the last seven with a bruised knee.

The Celtics are 8-1. It’s an unsustainable pace, particularly without Hayward, and yet this team honestly feels like it hasn’t come close to playing its best basketball, and certainly not for anywhere near 48 minutes. 

But it’s content to just keep winning ugly.

"We’re just playing, we’re not even worried about the record right now,” said Walker. "It’s a great record, don’t get it twisted. I’m loving it. We’re all loving it, that we’re able to win these games. We’re playing well. I honestly feel like we still have so much growth as a group and we know that as a group, which is really special to me.”

A. Sherrod Blakely's takeaways from Celtics' win over Mavericks>>>

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Marcus Smart looking 'to figure out a solution' after taking another shot to the groin

Marcus Smart looking 'to figure out a solution' after taking another shot to the groin

So far this season, Marcus Smart has been playing some of the toughest defense in the NBA. But it has come at a cost.

Smart has been taking some shots where it hurts, and Monday night was no exception. Against the Dallas Mavericks, Smart got kicked in the groin and went down in pain.

After the game, Smart had a lighthearted press conference where he said he needs to find a solution to that rather specific problem (via the Celtics on NBC Sports Boston Twitter account).

"[Taking a beating is] nothing new for me," Smart said. "I've been taking a beating my whole life. But I don't know what it is. I keep getting kicked in the groin. I don't know what it is about that. We've got to figure out a solution to stop that. I'm used to it. It's what I do, and I pride myself on that."

Part of the reason that Smart has taken so many shots is that he's guarding players much bigger than him. Against the Mavericks, Smart (6-foot-4) played a critical role in guarding the 7-foot-2 Kristaps Porzingis and was part of the reason the team held him to just four points on 1-of-11 shooting. 

Smart is one of the toughest guys in the league, so he won't complain much about taking some shots. But if he does keep guarding big-men amid the Celtics' shortage of effective bigs, he'll have to find a way to avoid getting hit down there too much.

A. Sherrod Blakely's takeaways from Celtics' win over Mavericks>>>

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