Celtics

Despite injuries, the Celtics' talent cupboard isn't bare

Despite injuries, the Celtics' talent cupboard isn't bare

BOSTON -- Between now and the playoffs, we’re going to hear a lot about what the Boston Celtics are lacking.

And while they are certainly not as deep a team courtesy of injuries, it’s not like the roster has now become this barren wasteland of woeful talent

In fact, Boston’s revamped core group, one without Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Daniel Theis who all suffered season-ending injuries, and Marcus Smart whose right thumb injury will keep him out for most of the first-round series, is full of players who came into the league with high expectations due to their lofty draft status.

MORE CELTICS

Boston’s current starting five consists of three players taken with the No. 3 pick in their respective draft class -- Al Horford, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

And point guard Terry Rozier was selected with the 16th overall pick, with regulars Marcus Morris and Shane Larkin also being taken in the first round of their respective draft classes.

That’s in part why tonight’s game against Washington is actually an important one for both teams, well aware that there’s a chance they can see each other in the first round of the playoffs, which for the Celtics will begin at the TD Garden next weekend.

“We’re pretty confident,” Rozier told NBC Sports Boston. That’s why these last games are so important. With us being number one in the league in defense, we can get as far as we want to go. We have to tighten up a couple things on offense and stay together. We already hit adversity at its highest level. We already seen so many things. We’re prepared.”

And to know that the bandwagon is getting lighter as they near the playoffs, it only serves as additional motivation.

“No doubt about it,” Al Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “I feel like with this group . . . we’re already fueled, but that gets us going even more.”

MORE CELTICS

But as you look at Boston’s roster, it’s pretty clear that there’s some decent talent.

"Obviously, we have a lot of star power that’s missing just because of the unfortunate circumstances of injuries,” Larkin told NBC Sports Boston. “But we got a lot of guys who can play here. We have a lot of high draft picks, a lot of first round picks. Danny [Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations] did a great job of putting together a roster for situations like this. You never want to have situations happen with the injuries, but we have a lot of guys in here who can step up and play. That’s what we’ve had to do all season, and we’re going to keep doing it until the wheels fall off.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

NBA predictions 2019-20: These five teams will go under Vegas win total

NBA predictions 2019-20: These five teams will go under Vegas win total

Which teams will fall short of expectations this season? Here are five clubs we believe won't hit their over/under win total in Vegas.

Marcus Morris details Kyrie Irving's role in Celtics' chemistry issues

Marcus Morris details Kyrie Irving's role in Celtics' chemistry issues

How disappointing was the 2018-19 season for the Boston Celtics?

Well, we're two days away from the 2019-20 campaign, and former Celtics are still talking about the season that went sideways.

Veteran forward Marcus Morris, who left Boston to join the Knicks in free agency this past summer, was asked recently if he foresees similar chemistry issues arising on a New York squad where minutes could be at a premium.

Morris responded by insisting these Knicks are different than last season's Celtics -- because they don't have Kyrie Irving.

"We don’t have that one guy where it’s like, okay, he’s first,” Morris told the New York Daily News' Stefan Bondy. “It’s a team thing. No knock on Ky, but obviously he’s a superstar, he’s first. Sometimes his emotions were put in front of the team.

"I think here, we’re all transparent with each other. We can all go up to each other and be honest with each other. That’s the biggest thing, when you can go out and speak to your brother."

That certainly sounds like a knock on Irving, who was accused of taking veiled shots at his Celtics teammates -- especially "the young guys" -- in conversations with the media.

Boston's chemistry issues, Morris admitted, were partly caused by circumstance: Injuries to Irving and Gordon Hayward in 2017-18 gave more opportunity to young players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier, who had to take a back seat the following season when the veterans returned.

"Kyrie goes down, we finish the season with a lot of young guys. Everybody knows their role," Morris added. "So when he comes back, it’s hard for everybody to take a step back."

Morris doesn't see a similar situation happening in New York, which doesn't boast a true "star" player. That's ironically thanks to Irving, who along with Kevin Durant spurned the Knicks to join the rival Brooklyn Nets in free agency.

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.