Celtics-Hornets preview: Boston will keep looking to next man up

Celtics-Hornets preview: Boston will keep looking to next man up

BOSTON -- When Gordon Hayward (ankle) went down, it took the Boston Celtics (10-2) about 24 hours to get from under the storm clouds of disappointment, and see his absence for what it was -- an opportunity for others to step up. 

That next-man-up mantra has become the identity of this team, a team that comes into tonight’s game against the Charlotte Hornets having won 10 straight which has them sitting atop the NBA standings. 

Their advancement in the face of adversity has been the talk of the NBA this season, and could be potentially be put to the test once again tonight against the Hornets. 

Jayson Tatum suffered a right ankle injury in the first half of Boston’s 107-96 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. X-Rays that night came back negative. Ditto for the MRI test Tatum had taken on Thursday. 


Still, his status for tonight’s game is questionable. 

But one thing that’s not up for debate is the resiliency that this Celtics team has shown all season. 

So the idea that they might be short a starter, doesn’t faze them . .. at all. 

“Everybody has been stepping up,” Terry Rozier III told NBC Sports Boston. “I feel like everybody has been ready and everybody has been holding each other accountable to be ready. From the coaches on down, everybody just buying in.”

They have played all but the first five minutes of the season without Hayward.

Marcus Morris (left ankle) missed the first eight games, and still hasn’t been given the green light to play in back-to-back games even with minutes restrictions still in place.

Al Horford is in the NBA’s concussion protocol program following a blow to the head in Boston’s 110-107 win at Atlanta earlier this week. He has already been ruled out for tonight’s game, with his return still up in the air.

“I don’t think this is as bad as the concussion he had last year,” Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show, on Thursday. “But listen, with a concussion you have to be really cautious. The symptoms got a little worse over the course of a couple days.”

Charlotte (5-6) has had an up-and-down start to the season in part because the Hornets have had their own injury-related issues and off-the-floor personal matters to deal with. 

However, things are starting to turn up for the Hornets who are expected to welcome Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back to the lineup tonight. He had missed the Hornets’ last three games reportedly with an “excused personal absence.”

Although he’s not expected to play tonight, Charlotte’s Nicolas Batum is also near a return to action after tearing a ligament in his left elbow on Oct. 4. 

In their absence, the Hornets have leaned on former UConn guard Jeremy Lamb as well as a pair of rookies in Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon. 

While Clifford likes a lot of what the young players have done thus far, he’s looking forward to having veteran core guys around so that all of them, the young and more experienced players, can settle into the roles required for success.

“We’ve got to get to our (planned playing) groups; we’re 11 games in,” Clifford told the Charlotte Observer. “It will take some time. But when they get back, they’re going to start.”

The same is true for Boston’s veteran players, although head coach Brad Stevens has repeatedly said that there will be a certain amount of fluidity to his starting lineup based upon matchups. 

“I’ve gone into every season thinking that’s a reasonable thing to do,” Stevens said. 


Anything is Podable Episode Four: Building the Roster

Anything is Podable Episode Four: Building the Roster

Even with three All-Stars in Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, Danny Ainge and the Celtics knew that, in order to win a championship, the team needed a strong supporting cast of role players.

Episode Four of NBC Sports Boston’s “Anything is Podable” takes a look at how Ainge constructed the rest of the roster and how one word, “ubuntu,” set the tone for a memorable season.

Giving the team a shooter off the bench, as well as another veteran presence in the locker room, Eddie House was perfect for the 2008 Celtics.

“I remember going to a practice when he was a young player,” said Ainge regarding House. “Just watching him shoot, and shoot, and just amazed at what a great shooter this kid was.”

“I saw him have his 56 and 60 back-to-back point games in the Pac-10 and it was amazing.”

Long a fan of House, Ainge went out and got his guy, but he wasn’t finished yet.

James Posey, a veteran wing who had experience both starting and coming off the bench, was nearing a deal with the Nets, but one call changed everything.

“I actually told my agent, I’ll just go to New Jersey,” said Posey. “Then Eddie House called me.”

House convinced Posey to spurn the Nets in favor of the Celtics, giving Boston another veteran off the pine.

With the roster taking shape, what the team needed now was an identity.


Mentioned to Doc Rivers at a trustee meeting at Marquette University, the word that means “I am who I am because of you,” became the team’s mantra.

“I looked this word up and I spent, no exaggeration, hours and days on this word,” said Rivers. “Everything about the word epitomized what we had to be.”

Ubuntu was the rallying cry of the 2008 Celtics and it all started with a Board of Trustees meeting at Marquette.

Anything is Podable is a ten-part series diving into the story of the 2008 Celtics and their championship season, with exclusive, never-before-heard interviews with team executives, former players, and media members.

Narrated by Kyle Draper, it’s the perfect way for Celtics fans to pass time this offseason and get excited for 2018-19, a season in which the Celtics have as good a chance at raising their 18th championship banner as they’ve had since that magical 2008 season.

Fans can subscribe to the podcast through the link below and check out the other nine episodes for a look at this exclusive series.

Report: Knicks given slight edge over Celtics as Kyrie's free-agent destination

Report: Knicks given slight edge over Celtics as Kyrie's free-agent destination

Those pesky Kyrie-to-the-Knicks rumors have been around even before Yahoo's Chris Mannix mentioned the Celtics were "scared" of Kyrie Irving heading there next summer. They picked up steam this week with another report of The Big Apple as a destination for Irving and Jimmy Butler to join forces.

Now, ESPN's NBA Forecast Panel gives the Knicks a slight edge over the Celtics to land Irving, 46.9 percent to  43.8 percent.

Here's part of the panel's explanation on ESPN's "The Jump": 

It would take some salary-cap machinations for New York to lure Irving to play close to where he grew up in West Orange, N.J. They would likely have to risk losing Kristaps Porzingis in free agency next summer by not giving him a big-money extension this season. 

There's also a potential pursuit of Kevin Durant in free agency next summer as the Knicks - playoff-less since 2013 and title-less for 45 years - make another attempt to spend their way back to relevance. 

Irving has made it clear he's not going to cost himself millions by signing an extension with the C's this season ("Contractually, financially, it just doesn’t make any sense”) and is headed to free agency, so, with training camp more than a month away, get used to a season full of questions about his future. And expect the Knicks speculation to heat up before the four C's-Knicks games (Oct. 20 and Feb. 6 in New York and Nov. 21 and Dec. 6 in Boston).