Celtics

Brad Stevens expects full health for start of Celtics training camp

Brad Stevens expects full health for start of Celtics training camp

PLYMOUTH , Mass. — Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he expects the team at full strength when training camp opens next week.

Stevens then immediately searched for wood to knock on while detailing some of the minor maladies that his players are nursing before camp opens on October 1.

Touching on a handful of players, Stevens noted that: 

* Jayson Tatum is “fine,” after suffering a sprained ankle early in FIBA play. “He’s ready to go, from what I've been told,” said Stevens. "I don't know if he will do anything 5-on-5 this week [in open gym] but we anticipate no issues when camp starts next week.”

* Kemba Walker has "been here since he got back,” after sitting out the final game of Team USA play. Added Stevens: "We've seen [Walker] almost every day. Last week, he did a lot less, obviously, because he was just getting worked on, but he was on the court today. I don't think he ended up playing 5-on-5 but he looks good. I think, once the season hits, he will be ready to roll.”

* Romeo Langford “has been fine for about a month,” while recovering from surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right thumb. Langford, Boston’s top pick in this year’s draft, missed summer league while rehabbing.

* Tacko Fall “should be cleared by tomorrow.” Stevens said the camp invitee and roster hopeful twisted his knee in 1-on-1 or 2-on-2 work recently. Added Stevens: "I don’t know if we’ll have him do anything, per se, until he gets on the court next week against live competition.”

Stevens also noted that “a couple of the other guys I heard are going to be back here [Tuesday].” That group likely includes Marcus Smart, who was nursing calf/quad and finger ailments by the end of the World Cup. Said Stevens: "We wanted all those guys to get off their feet. It's not as much the physical — because our guys have been working out here. It's more the travel and the toll of being gone for 39 days. They needed to get away for a minute before they came back to join us.”

Stevens did express excitement about having everyone ready to roll for the start of camp, particularly given the short ramp to the start of regular-season games.

“The preseason is so short with the three weeks now, when you start on the 1st and you play the 23rd,” said Stevens. "It was the same way, each of last couple years, I think. You can’t come to camp, like maybe in the past, where you’d come to camp to get in shape. You gotta be ready to roll. I think it’s one of the benefits of the guys that played overseas because they got a lot of time, and conditioning. 

"Then you just gotta be mentally prepared for the games to be right around the corner. Have a couple warm-up games and practice games to get our legs underneath us and then we go right into the lion’s den early. So it should be a lot of fun. I think our guys are excited to get ready and get after it.”

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Gordon Hayward's return will help Celtics the most in these four areas

Gordon Hayward's return will help Celtics the most in these four areas

BOSTON — With Gordon Hayward set to return possibly as early as Monday night’s game against Cleveland, he’ll be rejoining a squad that’s playing great basketball which has them among the NBA’s top teams.

But here’s the thing. 

Before suffering a fourth metacarpal fracture in his left hand which has been surgically repaired, Hayward and the Celtics were playing the best basketball of any team in the league. 

Can they get back to where they were with Hayward?

If they do, look for Boston to make notable strides in the following areas of play. 

OFFENSIVE OPTIONS

Now keep in mind, even when Hayward was healthy, the Celtics weren’t exactly killin’ the game with a ton of points or red-hot shooting. 

What they did more than anything else was create a pick-your-poison scenario on a game-to-game basis for defenses.

While there’s some element of that still around in his absence, there’s no debate that Hayward’s presence makes Boston a much more dangerous team to defend. 

And upon his return, the Celtics will be even more dangerous, thanks to the emergence of Jaylen Brown, who has been delivering All-Star quality production with Hayward out, along with the solid contributions Boston has been getting all season from Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. 

DEFENSIVE VERSATILITY

The NBA is all about creating mismatches on the floor, so teams with the ability to switch effectively on defense will find success. The return of Hayward gives Boston another body who has the size, strength and mobility to defend multiple positions. 

When he was healthy, the Celtics' defensive rating of 101.5 was the fifth-best mark in the NBA, which was surprising when you consider they lost defensive anchors Al Horford (Philadelphia) and Aron Baynes (Phoenix) in the offseason.

Boston’s defensive rating without Hayward dipped to 104.7, which still ranks seventh in the NBA. 

And while Hayward’s defensive ability has been questioned in the past, his defensive rating of 100.6 stacks up well relative to his teammates. 

WING DEPTH

If you want to win in the NBA, you better have wings — and that’s plural, not singular. And the Celtics have more than their share of talented ones, which is why the return of Hayward is so vital to the team’s overall success. 

Hayward has the ability to do many things on the floor, evident by his stats this season which touch on all the key categories. 

In addition to averaging 18.9 points per game, Hayward is also grabbing 7.1 rebounds to go with 4.1 assists per game.

Those are good numbers for sure. 

But what makes the Celtics so dangerous is they have not one but two others delivering similar production or better from the wing position, in Jayson Tatum (21.2 points, 7.0 rebounds) and Jaylen Brown (20.0 points, 6.9 assists).

STRONGER BENCH

The Celtics’ second unit has taken its share of hits this season because they don’t score as much as some — OK, most — other reserve groups. Of course that’s partly because Boston has one of the highest-scoring starting fives in the NBA, which means limited opportunities for the backups and thus, less points. 

Because of that, it puts a greater premium on their bench players to come in and impact the game at the defensive end of the floor. 

And the return of Gordon Hayward will provide that group some much-needed depth with what will likely be the return of defensive ace Marcus Smart back to that unit which has been solid this season. 

According to hoopsstats.com, Boston has allowed opposing second units to score 33.4 points per game which is the fourth-fewest allowed in the NBA this season.  

That number will likely take a drop with Smart directing that group more than he is currently. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Cavaliers, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Tommy & Mike have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics injury report: Robert Williams ruled out vs. Cavaliers

Celtics injury report: Robert Williams ruled out vs. Cavaliers

The Boston Celtics will be missing some size on their bench for Monday night's game vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Robert Williams has been ruled out with left hip soreness, the team announced Sunday. Rookie Romeo Langford was also ruled out as he continues to recover from the ankle injury he suffered during a game with the Maine Red Claws.

On the bright side for Boston, Gordon Hayward could make his long-awaited return to the court after missing the last month with a fractured left hand.

Hayward originally was slated to return from his injury around Christmas.

The Celtics (16-5) and Cavaliers (5-17) will face off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Monday.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Cavaliers, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Tommy & Mike have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.