Celtics

Celtics Spotlight: Marcus Smart's defense, leadership keys to stabilize young C's

Celtics Spotlight: Marcus Smart's defense, leadership keys to stabilize young C's

Marcus Smart confidently strutted into Celtics Media Day last month in a shamrock-clad white bathrobe, then routinely used his veteran status to muscle out rookies and shorten his wait to complete his day’s obligations.

Smart is still improbably just 25 years old. But he is undoubtedly a veteran on this fresh-faced Celtics squad. He marvels at how quickly the first six years of his NBA career have flown by and, yet, the 2014 draftee is easily the longest-tenured member of Brad Stevens’ roster.

The Celtics simply want Smart to be himself this season, that crazily-diving-on-the-floor, gleefully-guarding-7-foot-big-men cyclone of constant activity who leads not only with his voice but the all-out way he plays.

It’s a successful season for Smart if… 

… he earns another All-Defense nod, which would be no small feat considering the amount of back-line defensive talent the Celtics lost this summer. Smart is one of the game’s elite defenders — as evidenced by his All-Defense first-team nod last season — and he will be tasked with trying to smother talent of all sizes this season. With Smart, it’s never about the stat line, but if he can spearhead the second-unit offense when Kemba Walker is off the court, set the defensive tone, and provide leadership, then he’ll check all the boxes on his to-do list.

It’s a disappointing season for Smart if… 

… the injury bug tries to chomp on him again. After playing a career-high 80 games last season, Smart tore an oblique in a meaningless late-season tilt and missed the early portion of the playoffs while recovering. It was the second consecutive year that a late-season injury left Smart less than 100 percent in the postseason. Smart will be vital to Boston maintaining a defense that ranks in the top half of the league and they absolutely need him at full strength when the playoffs roll around.

2019-2020 Outlook

A year after earning the role of Kyrie Irving’s preferred backcourt sidekick, Smart could be headed back to the bench. But he’ll likely have an even greater opportunity to impact the team. If Smart can maintain his improved 3-point shooting (36.4 percent a year ago) and use his playmaking to power the second-unit offense, then he might even have an outside shot at Sixth Man of the Year consideration (though it tends to land with a high-scoring bench player). Smart’s leadership will be key in getting the most out of a young roster.

French import Poirier ready to get his hands dirty with C's>>>>

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Enes Kanter lays out saddening circumstance he has with Turkish government

Enes Kanter lays out saddening circumstance he has with Turkish government

Enes Kanter is an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his feud with his home country's government has yielded several hardships for the Celtics' new big man. 

Most recently, Kanter was confronted by two Turkish-speaking men outside a local mosque while he was with teammate Tacko Fall. Kanter called it a "crazy and scary" situation and later contacted the FBI and other law enforcement officials to ensure his safety moving forward. 

On Monday night, Kanter tweeted an overview of everything he and his family have had to endure at the hands of the Turkish government. 

Kanter has the support of Massachusetts State Senator Ed Markey and Congressman Joe Kennedy III and gave a speech about freedom and human rights in front of the Massachusetts State Senate. 

So, while Kanter claims his home country suppresses free speech, he is free to speak however much he wants in the United States. 

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ESPN ranks the Celtics 15th in their annual NBA League Pass Rankings

ESPN ranks the Celtics 15th in their annual NBA League Pass Rankings

Most basketball junkies have already mapped out which teams they'll try to watch outside of their own on NBA League Pass this season, and ESPN's annual League Pass rankings give us a good reference to make our decisions off of. 

Last season, the Celtics had sky-high expectations after making it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals without Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward. Zach Lowe had them ranked No. 2 behind just the Sixers.

Philly remains at the top spot this year after stealing Al Horford from the Celtics and is a serious contender for the NBA title. The Celtics, after losing Horford, Irving, Terry Rozier, Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris, are considered a tier below their division rival and suffered a steep drop to 15th in this year's League Pass Rankings. 

An excerpt from Lowe's take on this year's Celtics:

Boston drops 13 spots despite replacing a frowny-faced philosopher-point guard (Kyrie Irving) with a rough stylistic equivalent in Kemba Walker -- owner of the league's nastiest in-and-out dribble. The combined departures -- Al Horford's subtle brilliance, Marcus Morris' toughness, Terry Rozier's long 2s, Guerschon Yabusele's ass -- cannot inflict this much damage on Boston's watchability.
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There is hope Boston can settle into a watchability zone between this ranking and last season's. The chemistry presumably isn't toxic now. Gordon Hayward should be closer to Utah form. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are hungry. One or both could make All-Star pushes; Tatum looks to be attacking the rim more already. His reclining, willowy midrangers are basketball grace notes, analytics be damned.

The Celtics were nearly unwatchable last season as inconsistent play and off-court drama defined the undoing of a masterclass rebuild by Danny Ainge. With a fresh start and a brand new point guard in Kemba Walker, the Celtics should be one of the more fun teams to watch when it's all said and done. 

The main concern for this year's team is on the defensive end of the floor without ample replacements for Horford and Baynes. However, Boston has been the league's top defensive unit in the preseason and earned some praise from Larry Nance Jr

Obviously, it's just preseason and there's only so much you can take from it. If the Celtics can prove to be a top-10 defense to couple with what should be an excellent offensive attack led by Walker and three incredibly talented wings, they'll move up more than just some League Pass Rankings. 

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