Celtics

Celtics' Kemba Walker embracing, thriving in Team USA leadership role

Celtics' Kemba Walker embracing, thriving in Team USA leadership role

BOSTON — When the Boston Celtics start training camp, playing for a new team won’t be the only significant change for Kemba Walker. 

The 29-year-old Walker joins a fractured franchise, one in which individual agendas a year ago got in the way of winning. 

And the result was an underwhelming season that played a role in several key players leaving to play elsewhere. 

Those departures have left a huge void in terms of leadership, a void that Walker seemingly takes steps towards fulfilling every day. 

Walker continues to hone his leadership chops with the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team, a team that comprises three of his fellow Celtics teammates — Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum.

One of the more telling signs for Celtics fans that things just might work out from a leadership standpoint with Walker, is him already acknowledging that his youthful teammates have in many ways already come of age when it comes to being an NBA player. 

“They’re just some really good young dudes and I just enjoy being around them,” Walker told NBA.com. “And the age difference is really crazy to me. J.T. (Tatum) is like 21 and J.B. (Brown) is 22 and Marcus (Smart) is 25. And I’m 29 and feeling like, wow, this is cool. It sounds crazy. I remember when I was 21 in this league. I was a rookie and just trying to figure it all out. And these guys are young vets already. Like I said, it’s crazy."

Walker’s understanding of where they are in the NBA pecking order and a clear respect for that status, will go far this season as the Celtics look to regain the chemistry we had seen in previous Brad Stevens-coached teams. 

As important as it is for Walker to learn how to play with his soon-to-be-new teammates in Boston, they too must adapt to his brand of basketball, which has led to him being a three-time All-Star in addition to being named to the All-NBA Third Team last season. 

Walker has shown himself to be an elite scorer in the NBA, but it has been his play at the other end of the floor that has caught Smart’s attention. 

“For me, I’ve noticed that Kemba can really play defense when he wants to do it,” Smart said with a chuckle. “You know it’s tough, when you see how much energy he had to exert on the offensive end (in Charlotte), but he’s actually a really good defensive player, especially at his size. He can play defense and you didn’t really see that or notice that because he had so much of a load on him offensively that it was probably harder for him to do that.”

Indeed, the change of scenery will afford Walker to do a number of things on a bigger stage now; among them … his leadership.

Click here for a printable 2019-20 Celtics schedule>>>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Handicapping the NBA's Eastern Conference before the 2019-20 season

Handicapping the NBA's Eastern Conference before the 2019-20 season

The Eastern Conference hasn't been easy to figure out in recent seasons, as the conference has seen some massive power shifts in each of the past two offseasons.

During the 2018 offseason, LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Los Angeles Lakers. The ensuing move left the Cavaliers as a bottom dweller in the conference while teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, and the Toronto Raptors rose to the top. Meanwhile, the star-studded and deep Boston Celtics failed to live up to lofty expectations.

Now, the Raptors don't look as strong despite winning the 2019 NBA title. They lost Kawhi Leonard and their potential fall has created another opening atop the Eastern Conference. Will teams like the 76ers and Bucks step up into the No. 1 spot? And can a new-look Celtics squad rise up once again? The East will be unpredictable, but here's a look at the state of the conference ahead of the 2019-20 campaign.

Click here for Chris Forsberg and A. Sherrod Blakely's Eastern Conference expectations>>>

Boston trims roster, Javonte Green appears to win final spot

Boston trims roster, Javonte Green appears to win final spot

The Boston Celtics waived Max Strus, Kaiser Gates, and Yante Maten on Saturday, trimming their roster to the regular-season limit of 17.

With the moves, summer league standout Javonte Green appears to have clinched the team’s 15th roster spot. Gates and Maten will have a chance to latch on with the Maine Red Claws as affiliated players after they clear waivers.

The Celtics signed Strus to a 2-way deal after he went undrafted then promoted him to the 15-man roster earlier this week on a partially guaranteed deal. That opened a 2-way slot to sign 7-foot-7 Tacko Fall.

Strus played well late in the exhibition slate and made 5 of his 12 3-point attempts overall. The combination of Fall’s potential and his popularity forced the team to maneuver. With help from his springy hops, Green made 16 of his 20 shots in the preseason and showed an ability to be an aggressive perimeter defender, helping him edge Strus in the competition for the final spot on the parent roster.

The Celtics open the regular season on Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

FORSBERG: What does Pascal Siakam's deal mean for Jaylen Brown?>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.