Celtics

Celtics Spotlight: What would define a successful first season in green for Kemba Walker?

Celtics Spotlight: What would define a successful first season in green for Kemba Walker?

The Kemba Walker era in Boston will officially begin later this month, a period of time full of promise and potential for both Walker as well as the Celtics.

He has a four-year deal worth more than $140 million and has won over his teammates and coaching staff alike. And he’s a hell of a player who is coming off a season in which he was named to the All-NBA Third Team.

When it became clear that Kyrie Irving’s days in Boston were numbered, there was not a clear path anyone could find at that moment that could have made fans actually feel better about the team’s prospects going forward. But with the play of Boston’s young core of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown continuing to show growth as well as the newcomers through the draft and free agency, the Celtics have a roster built to contend with some of the better teams in the East.

But their success ultimately comes back to how good Walker is, both in terms of his play as well as his leadership. 

It's a successful season for Walker if ...

Boston finishes among the top two or three teams in the Eastern Conference. To do so would mean Walker played at a level comparable or better to what he has done in past years. It would also bode well for the Celtics’ future with Walker at the helm. He signed a four-year, $140.8 million deal with Boston this summer. Delivering a top-3 finish and putting up numbers comparable or better than what he normally does, is an absolute win-win for both Walker and the Celtics. 

It's a disappointing season for Walker if ...

The Celtics season resembles past seasons for Walker while playing in Charlotte. In eight seasons, the Walker-led Hornets made the playoffs twice and failed to get out of the first round in both instances, which isn’t all that shocking considering they were the lower seed. Boston should finish with home-court advantage at least through the first round of the playoffs this year. And remember, he’s joining a Celtics team that has gotten out of the first round each of the last three seasons, something only Golden State and Houston can also lay claim to among NBA teams. Joining a team with that kind of pedigree, one in which most of the principal pieces to that period of success are still around, should make the path towards continuing that round of postseason success more likely than not to continue. But if the Celtics fail to get out of the first round and the usual finger-pointing begins when a team fails to live up to the expectations of many, chances are high that Walker will get a good portion of the blame pie. 

2019-2020 Outlook

Walker will be named to the NBA’s Eastern Conference All-Star team for the fourth consecutive year, playing a pivotal role in the Celtics remaining firmly in the hunt for the best record in the Eastern Conference up until the latter portion of the season. Boston’s success in recent years has been fueled in large part by the team’s point guards having career-like seasons, whether it was scoring (Isaiah Thomas) or shooting efficiency (Kyrie Irving). But what will really stand out about Walker will be his assist numbers, which should reach career-high proportions. He has never averaged more than 6.1 assists per game. But with more scoring talent around him and an increased desire to get his teammates involved, better assist numbers will be part of the “new” Kemba Walker.  

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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 a known 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 MarkeyCongressman Joe Kennedy III and gave a speech about freedom and human rights and 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 while 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.
...
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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