Enes Kanter inspired as Celtics organization rallies together to drive change

Enes Kanter inspired as Celtics organization rallies together to drive change

Enes Kanter said he’s proud to be a member of the Boston Celtics after watching the way that every level of the organization has responded this week while trying to combat racial injustices.

Kanter was one of at least four teammates to participate in peaceful protests last weekend and said the Celtics held a powerful Zoom meeting Wednesday where players, coaches, and ownership all expressed a desire to drive change.

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“This is not about white against black. This is about all of us, everyone against racism. Just to make this clear,” said Kanter, who made a 20-hour drive from Chicago to join peaceful protests in Boston on Sunday. "I just came to my city, to be with my people. I got inspired a lot.

"I got inspired a lot by Jaylen Brown. It just shows how good of a leader he is … what kind of character he has. Not just him but Marcus Smart and, not many people talked about it, but Vincent [Poirier] went out there. We had a conversation [Wednesday] night and, [Thursday], so many players texted me and said, ‘Hey are we going [to protest] again?’ That shows a lot about what kind of teammates we have. You’re proud to be a Celtic, man.”

Kanter said that Wednesday’s Zoom meeting featured impassioned conversation that included owner Wyc Grousbeck, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, coach Brad Stevens and his staff, and players.

“You could see why this is like one of the best organizations in the league. You can see the leaders,” said Kanter. “It was just amazing to see from the older guys to the younger guys, from the rookies to the owners, the coaches, everyone stepped up and said, ‘What can we do? What should we do to bring more awareness?’"

In the aftermath, Ainge posted a message on Twitter noting, “I’m so proud to be associated with [Celtics players] in our shared quest for positive change.” On Thursday, both Grousbeck and Stevens posted video messages on social media with a goal of driving change.

"I saw [Thursday] that Wyc posted a video out there and I’m like, ‘This is my owner, man. That’s my owner.’ You’re just proud to be a Celtic,” said Kanter. "We have 30 [NBA] teams, right? How many owners stepped up? I see [Mavericks owner Marc] Cuban and Wyc, that’s it. I have not seen anyone stepping up and talking about this.”

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Stevens said earlier this week that he labored over a letter to players last weekend trying to express his desire to help them in their quest for change.

"Your coach is your leader, right? Coming from him, it definitely meant a lot to all of us,” said Kanter. "Brad’s a special guy, man. Brad makes a difference. This is like a big family and Brad is obviously like the dad, I would say. I look at my teammates like my brothers and Brad is like the dad. It’s a huge big family.

Everyone cares about each other, everyone respects each other. I’m learning a lot from Brad. I’m learning about being a good leader, being a good person, and that’s what makes him different, man. The whole world knows he’s a good coach. He’s a very smart coach, he knows the game of basketball. But the difference is his character. He cares about the world. He cares about the players, not just on the court but off the court, too.

Kanter, who has spent recent years passionately fighting for human rights in his native Turkey, said his conversations with teammates this week have left him emotional.

"I know what it’s like to fight for freedom and justice,” said Kanter. "There’s only one race and it’s the human race. I’ve said this before in many many interviews: It doesn’t matter what your religion is, what your skin color is, what your race is, whatever you are — the most important thing in life is leaving your differences on the table and trying to find what we have in common.

"I learned a lot this week. I learned a lot from Jaylen, I learned a lot from Celtics … We need to fight for each other, we need to fight for good.”

2020 NBA restart: Celtics' three-game scrimmage schedule in Orlando revealed

2020 NBA restart: Celtics' three-game scrimmage schedule in Orlando revealed

By this time three weeks from now, the Boston Celtics will be back on the court playing other NBA teams.

The Celtics' first game of the 2020 NBA season restart isn't until July 31, but they'll start warming up a week earlier with three scrimmage games at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla.

Here's Boston's three-game scrimmage schedule in the bubble:

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Friday, July 24
Celtics vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (5 p.m. ET)

Sunday, July 26
Celtics vs. Phoenix Suns (1:30 p.m. ET)

Tuesday, July 28
Celtics vs. Houston Rockets (8 p.m. ET)

The C's face three Western Conference opponents who aren't on their eight-game "seeding round" slate. Their final tune-up against James Harden, Russell Westbrook and the Rockets should be entertaining, although it's possible each team's starters play limited minutes as squads shake off the rust.

The NBA plans to release "potential" broadcast details at a later date, so it's unclear whether any of these games will be televised.

The Celtics began official practices July 1 and are set to travel to Orlando between July 7 and 9, where they'll join 21 other teams in the "bubble." Boston is the current No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and could be a legitimate championship contender.

Check out the Celtics' eight-game seeding schedule below:

Gordon Hayward recalls rollercoaster Celtics tenure, three years after signing

Gordon Hayward recalls rollercoaster Celtics tenure, three years after signing

It was three years ago that the fireworks that Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck had previously talked about (and we absolutely loved to talk about over and over and over again), actually came to fruition for the Celtics. 

That's when Boston did what no Celtics team under Danny Ainge’s watch had ever done. 

They went out and signed an All-Star free agent, then-27-year-old Gordon Hayward, who was still in his prime as a player. 

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“I can’t believe it’s been three years already, to be honest,” Hayward said during a teleconference call with reporters on Friday. “A lot has happened for me, for my family.”

It is impossible to look at the Hayward narrative in Boston without delving into the gruesome left leg injury he suffered just five minutes into this first game as a Boston Celtic. 

Once he was cleared to resume playing, there was the usual rust associated with a long layover. But more than the time off, Hayward had hurdles to clear beyond being physically able to return to play. 

For most of his career, Hayward leaned on his basketball instincts when it came to making plays at both ends of the floor. 

The injury changed that. 

Hayward had developed the kind of muscle memory with his game that allowed him to ascend to an All-Star level while in Utah, with play that on many nights looked seemingly effortless. The injury, which sidelined him for the rest of the 2017-2018 season, forced him to work at bridging the divide that now existed between his mind and body as far as what he was capable of doing on the court.

It wasn’t all that surprising that it led to mixed results, with Hayward looking like the best player on the floor some nights and then inexplicably struggling against inferior competition the next. 

And just like fans at times would become frustrated with his inconsistent play, Hayward wasn’t enjoying this rollercoaster of emotions fueled by his up-and-down play either. 

The 6-foot-8 forward has spent his entire basketball career working to strengthen his body to withstand the physical rigors that come with being a slashing, attacking-the-rim wing who can also make teams pay for sagging off him with a mid-range game that can extend beyond the 3-point line. 

But the injury forced Hayward to really work at strengthening his mind, something that he quickly acknowledged as being the biggest takeaway from his time thus far in Boston. 

“For sure I hit a low during my injury,” Hayward said. “And had to work more than ever on that mental side, more than I ever had in my basketball career on that mental side. That’s for sure something that takes work.”

The topic of mental health among professional athletes has gained significant traction in recent years as a discussion which professional players such as Hayward are far more comfortable addressing publicly. 

“For sure the mental side is where I’ve grown,” he said.

And that growth has Hayward in arguably the best position he has been in as a Celtic. 

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While he was initially brought in to be either the team’s go-to guy or next in line, Hayward has effectively settled into more of a jack-of-all-trades role, allowing him to make an impact of significance without necessarily having to carry the team on a night-in, night-out basis. 

He’s averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists this season, his best numbers in those categories since becoming a Celtic. 

Just as impressive has been his efficiency — he's shooting 50.2 percent from the field and 39.2 percent from 3-point range this season.

And while he’ll be the first to tell you that his time in Boston has indeed been a rollercoaster of sorts, he has no regrets about his decision to become a Celtic which reunited him with his college coach at Butler, Brad Stevens.

“It’s been some great moments for sure,” Hayward said of his time in Boston. “Obviously some not-great moments with the injury and everything but some great moments. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”