LAS VEGAS — Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he’s intrigued by the unique skill sets each of the big men on this year's roster brings, but admitted the departure of Al Horford will force the Celtics to alter their typical approach this season.
In the aftermath of Horford’s departure to Philadelphia, the Celtics signed Enes Kanter, re-signed Daniel Theis, and imported French big man Daniel Poirier. Boston also drafted Grant Williams and is hoping that second-year big man Robert Williams is ready for an increased role. Summer league standout Tacko Fall desires to muscle his 7-foot-7 frame into the Celtics’ final available roster spot at camp.
“That center position for us is going to be — each of those guys brings a unique versatility to us. And we’re going to lean on all of them,” Stevens told NBC Sports Boston at Team USA training camp this week. Listen to the full interview on this week’s Celtics Talk Podcast.
"So that will be a fun group because it’s not like maybe we’ve had in the past where you have a guy like Horford, who you play through at the 3-point line so much. And you’ve got to play through other guys in different ways.”
Kanter can be an offensive force with a focus on cleaning up the glass, but has to show he can be a consistent defensive presence. Theis is a floor-stretching big but has to get more stout when tasked with jousting with behemoths like Joel Embiid. Robert Williams is a rim runner with freakish athletic talents but he can’t just lean on his shot-blocking abilities on the defensive end. Grant Williams is undersized, but has a high basketball IQ and could give you a bit of what you lost in Horford’s departure, at least in terms of a facilitator in the high post.
Then there’s 7-foot Poirier. He’s an international man of mystery at this point but Stevens offered a hands-on scouting report.
"I worked out Vincent a few times when he was here in his travels, just upon signing the contract and, as we were recruiting him to come, spent some time with him,” said Stevens. "Good athlete, plays way above the rim on his rolls.”
A couple other highlights from Stevens’ chat:
* Where art thou Romeo?: Stevens offered an update on rookie Romeo Langford, Boston’s top pick in June’s draft who sat out summer league while rehabbing from thumb surgery. "He’s doing great. I don’t know if he’s 110 percent cleared to play. Obviously they’re just doing individuals and small groups, that’s all we’re allowed to do at this time of the year. As far as being cleared to play 5-on-5, I have no idea if he’s there yet or not. But he looks like he’s close if he’s not.”
* Chemistry lesson?: Much of the hype with four Celtics at Team USA at training camp has centered on Boston’s ability to generate a bit of chemistry before they even huddle for training camp. "I think there is a little bit of that. But we have 11 other guys on our team,” said Stevens. "We’ll see how that all shakes itself out once our team comes together but more so just for these guys to be playing. This is — all over the world, people are preparing for next year’s NBA season and I can’t imagine a better environment than having to compete and play with these guys here.”
* Catching his breath: Stevens sounds energized about the upcoming season but is relishing the quieter months. "I’ve been back in Boston, right after the summer league, came right back and I had a blast. The guys that are there, it’s not like the season where you’re working seven days a week and 80 hours a week. Now, you get a chance to take a deep breath, kinda get your vision for next year. This is fun. This is a fun way to kick off August. And [the Stevens family will] get away for a week but every day’s a vacation for our guys. And there’s nothing better for [Stevens’ son, Brady] than coming to these [Team USA practices].”
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