Celtics

Former teammate tells Enes Kanter one NBA All-Star not eager to return

Former teammate tells Enes Kanter one NBA All-Star not eager to return

Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter believes that most NBA players are eager for the season to restart this summer, but said he’s been told by a former teammate that at least one All-Star-caliber player in the Eastern Conference is leery of returning until a vaccine exists to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

“A lot of the players, especially on our [Celtics] team, yes, they do want to get back. They're itching to go out there and play basketball,” Kanter said on this week’s “The Enes Kanter Show” on the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

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"This is my ninth year in the league, I have so many friends on different teams, right? I was actually talking to one of my friends and he said — I’m not going to tell who or which team — but he said, ‘There's so many guys on our team, they're not going to play.' They’re actually in the Eastern Conference, they’re in a playoff spot, and they’re like superstars. Like, if I tell you who it is, you’d go crazy. 

I just can’t tell you who that is. But they said, ‘Hey, we're not going to play.’ … Until they find a vaccine, until they find a cure, they’re not going to play.

Kanter didn’t reference whether if it was a former or current All-Star and he has deep ties throughout the league after stops with the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks, Portland Trail Blazers, and Celtics. It’s also important to note that it’s secondhand information and might not definitively reflect whether that concerned star's feelings have changed more recently.

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The NBA is still discussing potential return-to-action plans and has not formally outlined a restart plan or how it plans to ensure player safety, something that might diminish any concerns a player might have about a resumption in play. The NBA acknowledged last week that it had started exploratory talks with Disney World about a possible bubble scenario in Orlando. 

What it does suggest is that at least a small percentage of NBA players have concerns about the health risks involved with a restart amid this pandemic. Kanter said that, if what he is being told is true, the names would surprise fans.

"I was shocked, though, by the players that didn’t want to play,” said Kanter. "If they don’t play, like, wow, those people are like All-Star players.”

2020 NBA Restart: How would Celtics fare in playoff series vs. Pacers?

2020 NBA Restart: How would Celtics fare in playoff series vs. Pacers?

The Pacers might have been an unsavory first-round matchup for any of the East’s top seeds. Then Victor Oladipo surprisingly opted out of the restart and, suddenly, a matchup with the Pacers seems far less daunting.

Yes, Indiana still has talent, especially if Malcolm Brogdon can get back to full health, especially after contracting COVID-19 during the break. A Pacers team that ranked 17th in offensive rating and 13th in net rating before the season paused remains a vulnerable foe, especially without Oladipo’s offensive talents.

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For Indiana, still stung by watching Paul George shuffle off to LA, Oladipo’s decision leaves the team pondering an uncertain future, particularly with Oladipo set to be a free agent after the 2020-2021 season.

The Pacers split two meetings with Boston this season, with Brogdon keying a December victory while Oladipo was still rehabbing. The Celtics, though, withstood Oladipo’s best performance of his brief comeback while emerging with a win in Indiana right before the season paused in early March.

The Pacers are not devoid of talent, leaning heavy on a frontcourt of first-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. But the absence of Oladipo puts pressure on players like T.J. Warren and Brogdon to shoulder the offensive burden. Suddenly it feels a lot like last year’s playoff team that Boston swept out of the playoffs in the opening round.

The Pacers had the seventh best defense in the league before the break, but they simply don’t have the offensive firepower to hang with the East’s top dogs in a seven-game series. Coach Nate McMillan did a commendable job keeping his team competitive, especially without Oladipo and Brogdon. But the team simply doesn’t have the horses to truly contend in the restart without Oladipo.

The bigger question for Indiana is what the future looks like and, after he opted out to the restart, it’s fair to wonder if Oladipo is eager to be in Indiana deep into the future.

PREDICTIONS FOR CELTICS-PACERS PLAYOFF SERIES

Chris Forsberg: It’s hard to see how this wouldn’t be a 2019 replay if the Celtics and Pacers meet up in Round 1. The Oladipo-less Pacers simply don’t have the top-end talent to hang with with the East elite. Indiana’s size has rarely bothered Boston.

The Pacers are the most agreeable foe for the East’s No. 3 seed and the only question would be whether Indiana could steal a game in a series. Boston might even get some added motivation in a matchup given the Indiana connections for players like Gordon Hayward, Romeo Langford, and Carsen Edwards. 

Prediction: Celtics in 4 games

A. Sherrod Blakely: Indiana's style of play will make this a hard-fought series regardless of who suits up or sits out for the Pacers. But without Victor Oladipo, Boston's edge in overall talent will be too much for the scrappy Pacers to overcome. 

Prediciton: Celtics in 6 games

DJ Bean: The Pacers really could have been a dark horse in the East, but with no Oladipo, I can safely say a Celtics-Pacers series would be the least scared I've ever been in my life. C's would sweep them again. 

Prediction: Celtics in 4 games

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Celtics 'thrilled' for new Duke women's head coach Kara Lawson

Celtics 'thrilled' for new Duke women's head coach Kara Lawson

The Boston Celtics are sad to see Kara Lawson go, but ecstatic to see her begin a new chapter as head coach of the Duke University women's basketball program.

Lawson, who joined the C's prior to this season and became the first female assistant coach in franchise history, was officially welcomed aboard by Duke on Saturday. Former Duke star Jayson Tatum promptly congratulated her on the exciting opportunity, and several C's followed suit after their practice Sunday.

"We’re thrilled for her," said head coach Brad Stevens. "I don’t want to take away from her press conference tomorrow before she gets more of a chance to talk about it. I can’t say enough about what a terrific person, terrific coach, she’ll be a great fit at Duke with their incredible tradition.

"She’s really excited. We actually went on a walk – Kara, [Stevens’ wife] Tracy and I – a couple of months ago. And we were talking about what she’d be interested in the future, and being the head coach at Duke was one of the things that came up. So it’s really cool that she’s getting a chance to do that. She’ll be terrific."

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Even after just one season, Lawson has made a tremendous impact on Boston's players. Celtics big man Robert Williams opened up about how Lawson was a positive influence both on and off the court.

"Kara is always known for putting a smile on players' faces," Williams said. "She stays in your ear, even though she may not be your personal coach she always keeps asking how I'm doing and if there's anything I need to talk about, so I feel like Duke is going to get a great head coach. We're going to miss her. We don't want her to go, but it's on to bigger and better opportunities."

Smart echoed Williams' sentiments, calling Lawson a "friend" and someone he had a connection with since she was hired by the Celtics last summer.

"When Kara first got here, actually, and this is why our bond has been strong, she had the option to work with anybody. Brad gave her the option to choose who she wanted to work with, and the first person she chose with me," said Smart. "When she told Brad the reason why, she just liked the way I play my whole game. So that really hit home for me and it meant a lot. And like I said our relationship just built amongst that and she became more than just my shooting coach, she became a longtime friend and somebody I know I can talk to if I ever need advice.”

Lawson starred as a player at the University of Tennessee and went on to have 13 successful seasons in the WNBA. She served as an NBA and WNBA analyst for ESPN before joining the Celtics' coaching staff.

If what the C's had to say about Lawson is any indication, there's no doubt she will do great things for Duke as it aims to make its way back into the NCAA Tournament.