Celtics

Bean: I no longer enjoy the Markelle Fultz jokes

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Bean: I no longer enjoy the Markelle Fultz jokes

I have jokingly called Markelle Fultz “trash” maybe a zillion times. As a newcomer to basketball Twitter, it’s just been a practice in making up for lost time. 

[You see, basketball Twitter is an absolutely magical place. You just say a bunch of nonsense but everyone understands that you’re either exaggerating for effect or just being absurd altogether. Basketball Twitter doesn’t take itself seriously in the slightest. Basketball Twitter just loves its sport and has fun. Take a damn note or 50, hockey Twitter.]

But the sad thing is that calling Fultz trash, a bust, or whatever else hits too close to the truth right now. And calling a kid a failure only months after he was selected first overall is just mean. Until Fultz gets a little wind under his sails, I’m pulling for him and so should you.

Mainly, I love the Jayson Tatum-vs.-Fultz argument. The Celtics traded out of the first pick to No. 3 in a draft believed to have a clear-cut best player and quite a bit of separation between the top two guys and everyone else. All indications are that if they stayed at No. 1, they would have drafted the guy they took at No. 3 (Tatum), which would have been criticized heavily. Hell, even trading to No. 3 to get Tatum was criticized. 

Naturally, Celtics fans should want Danny Ainge to eventually be proven right. Fultz' promise made that an unlikely result, but that struggle would make up the Tatum-vs.-Fultz rivalry. Right now, however, Ainge has already been proven so right that there really isn’t even a debate. In freaking November. And it’s as much about Fultz’ stock absolutely plummeting as it is about Tatum proving to be one of the Celtics’ best players right out of the gate. 

The hits seemingly don’t stop coming for Fultz, who is still in the midst of an indefinite sabbasketball™ due to a shoulder issue. Questions about Fultz began leading up to the season, when re-worked free throw mechanics made him look like Keith Foulke trying to shoot a basketball on half a bottle of NyQuil. It was ugly and it was bad. 

After four games, all of which saw him come off the bench, and bland numbers (six points a game, 6 of 12 on free throws), Fultz’ agent said the player couldn’t even raise his arms to shoot and shouldn’t be playing. The 76ers then shut him down, saying they’d re-evaluate him in three weeks. Then that date was pushed back again. He hasn't played a game since Oct. 23. 

Two weeks after he was initially shut down, we got this: 

That’s Fultz shooting left-handed, which people typically don’t do when they aren’t lefties. There was initial panic that this marked yet another departure from Fultz’ mechanics, but the team clarified that Fultz was only shooting left-handed because he’s not yet been cleared to shoot with his dominant hand. 

Fultz is likely chalking the whole start to his career up to not being 100 percent. He’d be foolish not to. Yet while Tatum is putting up 20-point games and putting away wins, Fultz and the 76ers are still just trying to get on the same page. Tatum has sprinted far ahead of where anyone could have expected and Fultz has fallen far behind. 

That stinks. If Fultz turns out to be a complete bust, Ainge will deserve all the credit in the world in dodging that bullet. Hell, he already deserves credit for seemingly making the right pick. Yet we’ve got to wait for Fultz to actually look decent before we laugh too hard. Cracking jokes about an OK player is commonplace. Making fun of a bad player is super mean. 

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Paul Pierce says if Celtics learn to sacrifice, they'll win title

Paul Pierce says if Celtics learn to sacrifice, they'll win title

If there's anyone who knows what it takes to be a champion, it's Paul Pierce. So when the Celtics legend speaks, it would be best for the current team's young stars to heed his words.

According to a report from Boston.com, Pierce touched on what this current squad needs to learn if they want to hang the team's eighteenth championship banner from the rafters of TD Garden.

"When you have that type of talent, they're going to have to learn to sacrifice," Pierce said at a charity event in Brookline on Friday morning. "Not everybody is going to be able to accomplish maybe the individual goals they want to accomplish, but the team's greater goal should be all that matters."

The Celtics, who have made the Eastern Conference Finals the past two seasons but were vanquished both times by LeBron James' Cavaliers, saw perhaps their greatest obstacle in competing for a championship disappear when James signed with the Lakers in free agency. With one of the most talented rosters in the NBA, Boston has built a team capable of getting over the hump and winning a title.

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"You have to sacrifice if you are truly committed to winning a championship," Pierce added. "They're going to win a lot of games, but unless they sacrifice--because we know they're going to be better than probably what their numbers show--if they can sacrifice they'll win a championship this year. Because the talent is definitely there."

If there is one player on the current roster who can show that championship mentality to young stars like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, it's Kyrie Irving. However, much of the talk surrounding Irving, who won a championship with the Cavaliers in 2016, this offseason has been about him potentially leaving Boston after the season in free agency.

"Kyrie is a competitor," Pierce said. "He's won a championship. He knows -- if they win again he'll get whatever contract he wants. He's an extraordinary talent and he knows that winning trumps everything. If you win, everybody wins."

The Celtics start their quest for their eighteenth title on October 16 when they host Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Watch: Gordon Hayward dunks over defender

Watch: Gordon Hayward dunks over defender

Gordon Hayward's return from his ankle injury seems to be as close to complete as it could before training camp. 

In a video posted by his trainer Jason Smeathers, Hayward can be found blowing by a defender off the dribble and dunking on him with two hands. 

Soon, the defender will hopefully be someone like Ben Simmons or Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Hayward's recovery has been well documented, giving Celtics fans a constant progress report of where their star forward was in his path back to the TD Garden floor. 

There have been questions surrounding Hayward's return to a team that made it to Game 7 of the conference finals without him, but there was never gaps in information regarding his recovery.

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