Celtics

Ainge: Mixed emotions as Irving and Hayward watch teammates

Ainge: Mixed emotions as Irving and Hayward watch teammates

BOSTON – The Celtics have been consistently praised for their ability to win despite not having two of their best players - All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.

Still, as Danny Ainge pointed out this morning on 98.5 the Sports Hub's "Toucher and Rich" show, simulcast on NBC Sports Boston, the team’s success has been a bittersweet experience for those two players unable to participate in the postseason due to injuries.

“It’s hard on those guys,” Ainge said. “This is why they wanted to come to Boston, what’s going on now and they don’t get to be a part of it.”

Hayward suffered a season-ending left ankle injury just five minutes into the season-opener in Cleveland.

Irving, who was traded from Cleveland last summer, had his season end when a minor procedure on his left knee revealed an infection. It required an additional procedure to remove the screws from his 2015 surgery to repair his fractured left kneecap.

Both certainly want to be out there, but Ainge said they're happy for the team’s success even if they can’t be on the floor playing with them.

“They are excited for this young group of guys [and] Al Horford, they're excited for all those guys,” Ainge said. “All I can do is think about how good we’ll be with them. Because those guys are good and our depth will be great. It’ll be a lot of fun.”

Some other highlights from Ainge’s interview:

· Shane Larkin, who has been out with a left shoulder injury suffered in the second-round series against Philadelphia, is unlikely to play in this series but may heal in enough time to play if the Celtics advance to the NBA Finals. “We’re taking it week by week now,” Ainge said. “We’re not counting on him coming back but I’ll leave the door open a little bit for him to come back another series, if we get that far.”

· On the amount of attention coach Brad Stevens gets relative to the players and whether that’s a concern. “There is a danger in that,” Ainge said. “But because the players know Brad and know his humility and they know he’s not seeking that, I don’t think there’s any issues with that. Brad does get a lot of attention. There’s not a coach in the NBA that I wouldn’t trade Brad for. He’s the best and we love him. But the players are playing great. So, I do think the players deserve the credit. Brad’s a terrific coach but the NBA is a player’s game.”

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Karl-Anthony Towns dealing with wrist injury, will miss game vs. Celtics

Karl-Anthony Towns dealing with wrist injury, will miss game vs. Celtics

It doesn't look like the Boston Celtics will have to face Karl-Anthony Towns coming out of the All-Star break.

The Celtics are taking on the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Friday night, their first night back after eight days off. The Timberwolves will be without Towns for that contest as he deals with a left wrist injury.

Towns didn't practice on Wednesday as a result of the injury. And per The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski, Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said Towns would miss games with the injury.

While the team hasn't officially confirmed that he's out, Friday's game is the Wolves' first back from the All-Star break. So, if Towns is set to miss multiple games, as Saunders implied, he will be out Friday.

Towns has averaged 26.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.4 asissts, and 1.2 blocks per game for Minnesota this season. Despite his success, the Wolves have logged just a 16-37 record and have the second-worst record in the West, ahead of only the lowly Golden State Warriors. 

The Celtics will be happy not to face Towns. Over the course of eight career games against the C's, Towns is averaging 21.9 points and 14.8 rebounds per game. And though Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter have outperformed expectations this year, they may have had trouble guarding the talented big man.

This Friday is Jayson Tatum Day here at NBC Sports Boston. Be sure to check out our exclusive content around Tatum throughout the day, both online and on the broadcast of Celtics-Timberwolves, which begins Friday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 8 p.m. You can also stream it on the MyTeams App.

Joe Harris calls Jayson Tatum Team USA's 'best player' from 2019 FIBA World Cup

Joe Harris calls Jayson Tatum Team USA's 'best player' from 2019 FIBA World Cup

The Boston Celtics had a prominent presence on Team USA during the summer of 2019. The squad that competed for the FIBA World Cup title featured four members of the Celtics: Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart.

While the team lost early in the tournament and snapped a historically-long undefeated streak for Team USA via an exhibition loss to Australia, the group did have some nice moments. And it's worth noting that one Team USA player thought a Celtics player shined brightest of all during the tournament.

As Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Harris explained, he thought Tatum was the best of the bunch for the USA squad.

“I thought Jayson was probably the best player on our team this summer,” said Harris at NBA's All-Star weekend, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic. “Obviously there were a lot of talented guys there. Unfortunately he got hurt halfway through our trip, but he was leading us in a lot of different areas. It wasn’t this huge statistical thing, I think it was more the presence that he had. What I saw, what he brought every day to practice. It was one of those things where he is super young, but he didn’t act like it, he didn’t play like it, and I could’ve told you this summer that he’d have a pretty good chance to be here today as an All-Star.”

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Tatum only played in two games for Team USA after suffering a sprained ankle, but he did average 24.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. That closely mirrors the 22.4 points and 6.9 boards that he has averaged so far during the 2019-20 season, his first All-Star campaign. And Tatum only playing in the two wins, not the two losses, is notable as well.

But Harris' point about Tatum having a presence and playing beyond his years may be even more important. If he can continue to develop, keep that presence about him and emerge as a leader, there's no telling what his ceiling could be.

Tatum will look to continue his hot play of late following the All-Star break. And no matter what happens with the C's, it seems that Tatum is tracking toward becoming a star player at the NBA level.

And his peers, like Harris, are recognizing that.

This Friday is Jayson Tatum Day here at NBC Sports Boston. Be sure to check out our exclusive content around Tatum throughout the day, both online and on the broadcast of Celtics-Timberwolves, which begins Friday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 8 p.m. You can also stream it on the MyTeams App.