Forsberg: Celtics fans should be thankful for new-look Celtics

Forsberg: Celtics fans should be thankful for new-look Celtics

BOSTON — Boston Celtics fans spent much of Wednesday night gleefully needling old friend Kyrie Irving about his absence from his new team’s first game in Boston. Fans loudly inquired about Irving's whereabouts, then switched it up to suggest that Irving is bad at his vocation. As Jayson Tatum would correctly note, "I mean, we all know Kyrie don’t suck.”

True, but since when do fans allow facts to get in the way of a good emotional purging?

Many Boston fans still feel betrayed that Irving would profess his intention to re-sign here and then call an in-season audible to join forces with buddy Kevin Durant in Brooklyn. Some fans remain upset that Irving’s general unhappiness contributed to a disastrous Boston season that fell woefully short of expectations and led to a roster haul far heftier than expected this summer.

Irving telegraphed his plan to avoid this initial return to Boston, sitting out recent games due to a right should impingement. Unfazed, Celtics fans hung signs outside TD Garden suggesting Irving was as cowardly as the Wizard of Oz lion, then 19,156 fans piled into the arena with an assortment of signs that pledged an allegiance to both the team’s new All-Star point guard (Walker) and a new No. 11 in town (Enes Kanter).

Walker erupted for a season-high 39 points — this just five days after he was stretchered off the court in Denver — helping Boston to a 121-110 triumph. That Walker played and Irving did not spoke volumes alone.

But an hour after the game, Irving took to social media and posted a 300-word screed (evidently a shoulder impingement doesn’t impede your typing abilities) in which he suggested sports mean “very very little in the real world” and decried how, “the game isn’t meant to be controlled and shown as a drama.”

Like many of Irving’s postgame ramblings here, it was hard to parse his intensions given the verbose nature of his post. It needed a TL;DR — “I don’t appreciate fans booing me.”

A few minutes before Irving's post to his Instagram story, Jaylen Brown, one of the players who best handled last year’s headaches, might have offered the finest perspective from inside the Celtics’ locker room.

"I think everything worked out for the better for everybody,” said Brown. "I don’t think anybody in Boston should have anything to complain or boo about, to be honest. I think we’re winning, playing good basketball, the Celtics look good, Boston fans should be nothing but happy. I think the energy should shift from that to being more positive.”

He’s not wrong. The Celtics, as an organization, have tried really hard since Irving officially declared his intention to return home in late June to take the high road. Boston players, coach, and front office staff have all been emphatic that not all the blame for last year’s struggles fall on Irving and players like Brown have gone out of their way to make public comments that us shade-craving reporters might have yearned for.

That pattern continued after Wednesday’s game. Brown said he thought the Irving chants were probably “unfair.” Tatum admitted they were odd. Walker said he didn’t pay attention to them.

All the Irving attention took away from another quality victory for a team that’s now 13-4 overall and tied for the fourth-best record in basketball. Walker has been everything that Irving is not, from his perma-grin demeanor to fully embracing the younger players around him, to being all-in on Boston.

The only downside to Irving avoiding the game is that the storyline lingers. It’ll bubble up again Friday in Brooklyn, then it’ll jump up when the Nets return here in March. If Irving doesn’t play in that game it might just fester until 2020 or 2021, whenever Irving gets around to visiting the arena where he previously wanted to hang No. 11.

Heck, closure might never come. Irving doesn’t go back to Cleveland very often. That’s just part of the ultra-talented package. Teams have to sacrifice a little bit of themselves to cater to a star. And he still might leave you despite it all.

Alas, that’s the danger with free agency. The Celtics knew that when they traded for Irving. The two-year dice roll was still worth the pain points that emerged.

Celtics fans got to release some pent-up emotions Wednesday night and it clearly resonated wherever Irving was watching from afar. Both sides should probably just move on. As Brown noted, everybody got what they wanted. Irving is back near his New Jersey roots with one of his best basketball buddies to lend support. The Celtics swapped in another All-NBA guard who is everything that a Boston fan has ever wanted and has the Celtics eyeing a path back to title contention.

With the lessons learned from last season, Brown has elevated his play. Tatum has a better shot profile and more of a killer instinct. Marcus Smart is getting MVP chants, not just for retrieving lodged balls with a mop, but for embodying all that it means to wear the Celtics uniform.

The Kyrie experiment didn’t go exactly to plan. It happens. The Celtics might not be so optimistic about where this team is headed without the lessons learned last season.

Celtics fans have a lot to be thankful for on this holiday. Instead of lingering on the negative of a year ago, they should follow Brown’s advice and celebrate the positives that they have.

And, hey, the Instagram screed is a friendly reminder of what they DON’T have to deal with any more, too.

Blakely: C's and their fans should be thanking Kyrie>>>

Get ready for Celtics-Nets on Friday with Celtics Pregame Live at 11:30 a.m., then Mike & Scal have the call at 12 p.m. on NBC Sports Boston, or you can stream them here through the MyTeams App.

Magic's Mo Bamba gushes about Tacko Fall, who might play in Orlando homecoming

Magic's Mo Bamba gushes about Tacko Fall, who might play in Orlando homecoming

Enes Kanter's injury came at a poor time for the Boston Celtics. But Tacko Fall probably isn't complaining.

The Celtics recalled Fall from the G-League affiliate Maine Red Claws on Friday morning, meaning the 7-foot-5 rookie will be with the team in Orlando for its game against the Magic (after a little detour, per NBA reporter Keith Smith).

Fall knows Orlando well, as he played college basketball at the University of Central Florida, just down the road from the Amway Center.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

He also knows Orlando's tallest player well. Mo Bamba, the Magic's 7-foot big man, became friends with Fall through Fall's former UCF teammate Ibrahim Famouke Doumbia, who is close with Bamba.

Bamba even recommended last summer that Fall work with shooting specialist Drew Hanlen, who has helped the Senegal native become more than just the tallest guy on the court.

Bamba told reporters ahead of Friday's Celtics-Magic game he still keeps in touch with Fall.

"Every now and then, I’ll hit him up and call him or text him and check him and make sure he’s doing all right up there in cold Boston," Bamba said, via OrlandoMagic.com's John Denton.

"He’s just a really good guy. His character speaks loudly for the type of person he is. (The fan reaction he gets) is kind of expected … everyone loves Tacko. Not only is he a big person, but he really does have a big personality. He’s a good guy."

Fall made a brief cameo during Boston's preseason game in Orlando in October, but he may get some actual minutes Friday with Kanter and Robert Williams both sidelined due to injury.

After all, someone needs to match up with the 7-foot Bamba -- and the Amway Center crowd needs something to cheer about.

"I trust him to give us minutes if we need them," Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said of Fall earlier Friday.

"I also know that there'll be plenty of green because we travel well. There'll be Celtics fans cheering for him and some UCF fans. It'll be 100 percent Tacko fans."

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Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Magic, which begins Friday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics vs. Magic odds: Best NBA picks with C's as surprising underdogs

Celtics vs. Magic odds: Best NBA picks with C's as surprising underdogs

The sportsbooks apparently aren't putting much stock into the NBA standings for the Boston Celtics' matchup with the Orlando Magic.

The Celtics are listed as 1.5-point underdogs for Friday's game against the Magic despite Orlando entering with a 21-24 record, nine games behind the 29-14 C's.

Boston won't look like the same team that blew out the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, though. Jayson Tatum and Enes Kanter already have been ruled out with injuries, while Jaylen Brown is questionable as he recovers from a sprained ankle.

Do those injuries give the Magic an edge, or will the Celtics prove the sportsbooks wrong by notching their third consecutive win?

Below are our betting predictions for Celtics-Magic, as well as two NBA locks against the spread.

(All odds provided by WestGate Superbook.)

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic, 7 p.m. ET

Moneyline: The Celtics have lost four of their last five games to Orlando, which may also explain why they're underdogs. But the Magic have dropped three of four, while Boston rolled without Brown on Wednesday night. I'll take the money on the Celtics (+105).

Point Spread: The beauty of these Celtics (+1.5) is that Tatum and Brown's absence just means more opportunities for Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart. Boston has covered in five of its last seven games despite dealing with several injuries and should get the job done here.

Point Total: The over is tempting considering the Celtics are averaging 126 points over their last four games. But they may have to win ugly here against a Magic team that plays at the third-slowest pace in the NBA. Give me the UNDER on the 212.5 point total

Darren's record picking the Celtics' moneyline, point spread and point total: 60-35-1 (62.5% success rate)

NBA Locks of the Night

Memphis Grizzlies (-1) at Detroit Pistons: The Grizzlies had won seven of eight before the Celtics trounced them Wednesday. They get back on track against a Pistons team that's played just one of its last eight games against a team above .500 -- and gone 4-4 in that span.

Denver Nuggets at New Orleans Pelicans (-4): Even if Zion Williamson doesn't hit four 3-pointers, his presence should energize the Pelicans at home against a Nuggets team missing four key rotation players.

Darren's record picking NBA locks against the spread: 32-31-1 (50% success rate)

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Magic, which begins Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.