Breaking down the Boston Celtics' 2019-20 regular season schedule

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Breaking down the Boston Celtics' 2019-20 regular season schedule

The Boston Celtics will be tested out of the gates with a road-heavy slate featuring many of the league’s marquee teams early in the 2019-20 season.

Boston plays five of its first nine games, and 10 of its first 16 overall, away from home, including its season-opener in Philadelphia on Oct. 23. That initial stretch of road games also features Kemba Walker’s first trip back to Charlotte on Nov. 7.

Boston embarks on a season-long five-game road trip out west in mid-November that starts with a visit to Golden State’s new arena on Nov. 15 and also features tilts with the Kings, Suns, new-look Clippers, and Nuggets.

A second west coast road trip occurs coming out of the All-Star break, highlighted by a Sunday afternoon showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 23. The schedule eases a bit late in the year (though there is another four-game road trip in late March). Over the final seven weeks of the regular season, Boston will play only nine road games in a 23-game span. Boston plays five of its final eight games at home in April.

All of which seems to suggest that, if Boston can weather the early storm, it will be positioned to build momentum later in the year. But the challenges are bountiful out of the gates for a team that stumbled to a 10-10 start last season. That tough start might have contributed to the frustrations that quickly mounted and lingered much of the year.

Boston plays some of its top East rivals early in the year, starting with Philadelphia on opening night before Toronto visits for Boston’s home-opener on Oct. 25. The Milwaukee Bucks come to TD Garden on Oct. 30.

Boston has only one stretch with more than one day off in the month of November, with a two-day break coming after it returns from that five-game west coast trip. December is more forgiving with five instances of two-plus days of rest.

Kyrie Irving's first game back in Boston should be the night before Thanksgiving on Nov. 27. Even if Irving doesn’t make the trip — he only made one return to Cleveland during his time in Boston, the 2016-17 opener — Boston visits the Nets for a matinee on Nov. 29.

Al Horford returns to Boston on Dec. 12., and Terry Rozier's first game back at TD Garden following his preseason visit will be Dec 22. Aron Baynes comes back on Jan. 18.

The Celtics play 12 sets of back-to-backs, only three of which conclude at home. What’s more, only nine of the 24 back-to-back games overall are in Boston, adding a layer of difficulty to those sets.

A few more notable dates: Boston plays a New Year’s Eve matinee in Charlotte. The Lakers make their lone visit to Boston on Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 20). No. 1 pick Zion Williamson makes his lone appearance in Boston on Jan. 11. Boston has a rare Super Bowl Sunday off (Feb. 2). The Clippers, featuring summer additions Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, visit the game before the All-Star break (Feb. 13).

The Celtics are scheduled for 25 national TV appearances including a couple of Saturday night games in Boston against the 76ers (Feb. 1) and the Russell Westbrook-adding Rockets (Feb. 29). Sunday matinees on ABC include Boston’s trip to play the Lakers (Feb. 23) and a visit from the Bucks (April 5).

Be sure to tune in to NBC Sports Boston's Celtics Schedule Release Special at 8:00 p.m., presented by Ace Ticket.

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Celtics 'thrilled' for new Duke women's head coach Kara Lawson

Celtics 'thrilled' for new Duke women's head coach Kara Lawson

The Boston Celtics are sad to see Kara Lawson go, but ecstatic to see her begin a new chapter as head coach of the Duke University women's basketball program.

Lawson, who joined the C's prior to this season and became the first female assistant coach in franchise history, was officially welcomed aboard by Duke on Saturday. Former Duke star Jayson Tatum promptly congratulated her on the exciting opportunity, and several C's followed suit after their practice Sunday.

"We’re thrilled for her," said head coach Brad Stevens. "I don’t want to take away from her press conference tomorrow before she gets more of a chance to talk about it. I can’t say enough about what a terrific person, terrific coach, she’ll be a great fit at Duke with their incredible tradition.

"She’s really excited. We actually went on a walk – Kara, [Stevens’ wife] Tracy and I – a couple of months ago. And we were talking about what she’d be interested in the future, and being the head coach at Duke was one of the things that came up. So it’s really cool that she’s getting a chance to do that. She’ll be terrific."

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Even after just one season, Lawson has made a tremendous impact on Boston's players. Celtics big man Robert Williams opened up about how Lawson was a positive influence both on and off the court.

"Kara is always known for putting a smile on players' faces," Williams said. "She stays in your ear, even though she may not be your personal coach she always keeps asking how I'm doing and if there's anything I need to talk about, so I feel like Duke is going to get a great head coach. We're going to miss her. We don't want her to go, but it's on to bigger and better opportunities."

Smart echoed Williams' sentiments, calling Lawson a "friend" and someone he had a connection with since she was hired by the Celtics last summer.

"When Kara first got here, actually, and this is why our bond has been strong, she had the option to work with anybody. Brad gave her the option to choose who she wanted to work with, and the first person she chose with me," said Smart. "When she told Brad the reason why, she just liked the way I play my whole game. So that really hit home for me and it meant a lot. And like I said our relationship just built amongst that and she became more than just my shooting coach, she became a longtime friend and somebody I know I can talk to if I ever need advice.”

Lawson starred as a player at the University of Tennessee and went on to have 13 successful seasons in the WNBA. She served as an NBA and WNBA analyst for ESPN before joining the Celtics' coaching staff.

If what the C's had to say about Lawson is any indication, there's no doubt she will do great things for Duke as it aims to make its way back into the NCAA Tournament.

Kemba Walker held out of Celtics' first 'hard practice'

Kemba Walker held out of Celtics' first 'hard practice'

The Boston Celtics' plan to ease Kemba Walker back into the flow of things was on full display Sunday as Walker (knee) was held out for all of the team’s first "hard practice" since the team entered the Orlando Bubble as part of the NBA's return to play.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said this is part of the team’s plan of progression in working Walker back into being at his best physically for the playoffs, so that the stop-and-start state of his play won’t be the case by the time Boston gets to the postseason.

Walker has been among the most durable players in the NBA for years.

But this season, the 30-year-old has missed 16 games, most of which were due to left knee soreness. To put that in perspective, Walker missed just four games the four previous seasons combined.

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Without Walker, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens liked a lot of what he saw on Sunday in what was the team’s first hard practice. 

“Guys really got after it,” Stevens said.

He anticipates another hard practice on Monday with a day off on Tuesday. 

Walker is in the first year of a four-year, $141 million deal he signed after spending his first eight NBA seasons in Charlotte. 

This season, he is Boston’s No. 2 scorer with a 21.2 points per game average along with dishing out 4.9 assists while grabbing 4.1 rebounds.