Celtics

Celtics Talk Podcast: How motivated is Kemba Walker to bounce back?

Celtics Talk Podcast: How motivated is Kemba Walker to bounce back?

Kemba Walker will have a chip on his shoulder when the 2019-20 NBA season resumes later this month.

The Boston Celtics point guard had a disappointing finish to the campaign prior to it being put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Walker dealt with a nagging knee injury and struggled to put up the consistent numbers he's capable of producing.

That's why the NBA's four-month hiatus could be a blessing in disguise for Walker and the C's when they return to action in Orlando, Fla. The time off gave Walker much-needed time to let his knee recover, and having him at full strength could be the key for Boston as it looks to make a run for Banner No. 18.

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Walker recently explained how much the NBA layoff helped him return to form.

"It was super important for me," said Walker. "I really, really needed that break. It definitely helped me get back to myself and start to feel comfortable on my knee. It was a very unfortunate time but it was in my best interest for sure. So yeah, I'm pretty comfortable with the way the schedule is and I'm just going to keep on taking care of myself. That's really all I can do. So I'm just going to stay on top of things and take it day by day."

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In a brand new episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, A. Sherrod Blakely, Chris Forsberg, and Kyle Draper discussed Walker's importance to the C's going forward and how motivated the 30-year-old will be after his tough finish to the pre-pandemic part of the season.

"When you look at the roster, when you look at their core guys, there's only one guy that was on the load management train near the end of the stoppage of play, and that's Kemba Walker," Blakely said. "He's so important to this team but the thing that I like about Kemba Walker is I think he's embraced the fact that as much as he's had to carry the load this time of year in the few times he's been in the playoffs, he doesn't have to be that guy this time around.

"I think he's going to come in with an edge and an attitude. He did not finish the pre-pandemic stage of the season playing great basketball. He's pissed about that. He knows that there are going to be questions of whether he's really ready for the playoffs because he's never been in a situation like this where there are actual expectations for success. I think we're going to see the best Kemba Walker that we've seen all season."

Forsberg agreed with Blakely's assessment, stressing how imperative it will be to have a healthy Kemba operating at 100 percent when the C's begin the postseason.

"Tatum was so good for the last couple of months that it's easy to forget how bad Kemba was at the finish line there," Forsberg said. "It wasn't by the fault of his own, but he was so good through 46 games and then the knee flared, he had to get those injections, he had to take nine games off and he just wasn't the same player.

"I think we all know if the Celtics are going to have any chance Kemba's got to be at a high level. If he can get back to being anywhere near the guy he was at the start of the season, the one that was setting everybody up, who was shooting 38.8 percent from the 3-point arc. That Kemba's going to be really, really important in the playoffs."

Also in the new episode, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens shared his mindset heading into the "bubble," whether he believes the winner of this year's NBA championship should get an asterisk, and much more.

Check out the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast or watch it on YouTube below.

After Robert Williams' huge night vs. Nets, what's next for Celtics big man?

After Robert Williams' huge night vs. Nets, what's next for Celtics big man?

We suspect a significant spike in attendance at our next Robert Williams Fan Club meeting after Wednesday night’s performance. Please be sure to check the updated seating assignment for all those attempting to re-board the now socially-distanced Timelord hype train.

The 22-year-old Williams offered a firm reminder of his potential by erupting for a career-best 18 points on 7-of-7 shooting with five rebounds, three blocks, two assists, and a steal in a breezy win over the Brooklyn Nets. Williams was plus-21 over nearly 19 minutes of floor time, which included some surprising first-quarter burn.

Our senior leadership committee will be tasked with determining whether this was Williams’ best game of his NBA career. A November 2019 visit to San Antonio (11 points on 5-of-5 shooting, 7 rebounds, 6 blocks) finally has a challenger for that crown.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Raptors, which begins Friday at 8 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

What we saw Wednesday was the sort of performance that escaped Williams in Boston’s three scrimmages. It’s the sort of performance that none of Boston’s younger players have showcased inside the bubble. Williams and the younger players have rarely left coach Brad Stevens with any reason to ponder a more consistent role.

But Wednesday’s performance will make Stevens think a bit harder about what Williams can offer this team moving forward.

We’ll caution membership from getting too excited about the possibilities. Stevens will not overreact to one performance, particularly not against a Nets team that lacked the energy from its upset over the Bucks the night before. Williams must build off this outing if Stevens is to call on him when the games really matter.

To put it another way, we wouldn’t be surprised if Williams played only sparingly against Toronto on Friday night. But given that none of Boston’s youngest players have stated a strong case for increased playing time entering Wednesday’s game, Williams becomes the first one to submit an application that Stevens must consider (and rookie Romeo Langford, with his continued solid wing defense, has done the same).

Williams did typical Williams things. His first six makes were all at the rim, including a pair of alley-oop finishes (most notably a particularly sexy set play in which Gordon Hayward sprung Williams with a backside screen and Marcus Smart delivered a long-distance lob). Williams capped his night with a 20-foot jumper, showcasing newfound range in a late-clock situation.

His blocks were relatively quiet, at least by his volleyball-spike standards. Williams did come rushing with help to swat a Joe Harris offering across the court, then practically leaped over Langford to swat a Dzanan Musa layup attempt.

Williams played with quick hands on the defensive end. He showcased his passing skills with an ability to spray the ball to cutters and open shooters on the perimeter.

But it’s all about building off a big night. Two games after his big performance in San Antonio, Williams experienced ankle soreness and sat out. He never generated momentum, and injuries have been a primary culprit early in his NBA career. Hip issues in December forced him to the sidelines for three months.

Williams says he’s healthy now and he needs to keep making Stevens think. He has to dominate outside of game action, whether that’s putting in extra work on off days or shining in practices.

The potential is so obviously there. It’s why none of us with real estate on Timelord Island are willing to sell our properties. Williams has the potential to be an X-factor in the postseason. Or he might not play at all. It all comes down to whether he shows enough now for Stevens to trust him, especially on the defensive end.

Williams doesn’t have to be perfect like his shooting chart on Wednesday. But he has to be consistent. But if he keeps maximizing his opportunities, more chances will follow.

Celtics put the league, Raptors on notice after shredding the Nets

Celtics put the league, Raptors on notice after shredding the Nets

BOSTON -- It was one of the most dominant performances we have seen from the Boston Celtics all season. 

The team’s 149-115 win over Brooklyn did more than just pad their record which is the third-best in the East now. 

Consider Wednesday’s whacking of the Nets as a warning shot of sorts to the Toronto Raptors who remain ahead of Boston in the standings and will face the Celtics on Friday in one of the more highly-anticipated games inside the Bubble.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Raptors, which begins Friday at 8 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Brown, who had a game-high 21 points on 7-for-13 shooting, summed up where the Celtics’ mindset is right now.

“Making sure we play the game the right way defensively, being a really, really good team, being a (expletive) to beat going into the playoffs,” Brown said. “We figure that out we’ll be alright.”

The execution level the Celtics were playing at most of the game was the kind of carving job you usually see in a butcher’s shop. 

Jumpers.

Lay-ups.

Dunks.

Deflections. 

The Celtics got anything and everything they wanted from Brooklyn, all game long which served as a reminder that Kyrie Irving … or Kevin Durant … or any player of significance was not coming through that door for Brooklyn which was coming off one of the greatest upsets in decades by defeating the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics were looking to put their loss to the Miami Heat behind them as soon as they could. 

Did. They. Ever.

All 13 players on Boston’s active roster saw at least six minutes of court time on Wednesday with each player scoring at least three points.  

While the Celtics can’t anticipate they will have many more - if any - games like this going forward, the way Boston played at both ends of the floor against the Nets was the kind of performance the Celtics would love to build on going forward. 

And the feel-good vibes that come about with a resounding victory, will certainly be put to the ultimate test against a Toronto team that’s one of the deepest, most talented teams in the NBA. 

Here’s a look at some of the standout performers on Wednesday.

Who’s hot

Jaylen Brown: Arguably the best player for the Celtics since the season restart, Brown was once again causing opponents at both ends of the floor. He led all Celtics with 21 points in the blowout win over Brooklyn. 

Jeremiah Martin: He’s making the most of his opportunity to play decent minutes. The former Memphis Tiger guard who is on a two-way contract with the Nets, led all Brooklyn scorers with 20 points in just under 16 minutes of court time. 

Robert Williams III: It was about as flawless a game as you could imagine Robert Williams III playing. He finished with a career-high 18 points while making all seven of his shot attempts to go with five rebounds, two assists and three blocked shots.

Jayson Tatum: Very efficient scoring the ball tonight before finishing with 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting. 

Romeo Langford: He only had four points but his defense in a near-26 minutes of court time along with his passing, made it easier to understand why he had a team-best plus/minus (+27).

Who’s not

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot: My, how quickly things change. After dropping 26 points in Brooklyn’s historic win over the Milwaukee Bucks, TLC was back on earth scoring just four points. 

Brooklyn defense: For years they have taken great pride in being a scrappy bunch. But on Wednesday, somebody dropped the ‘S’ and because of that, the Nets were dropped hard by the Celtics who scored a season-high 149 points.