The Boston Celtics tip off training camp in seven days.
While informal workouts have been happening inside the Auerbach Center for a couple weeks now -- with small glimpses popping up on the team’s social media -- the Celtics will huddle for their first official practice when camp begins Tuesday morning.
Player and coaches will congregate en masse one time before that with Monday’s Media Day. The multimedia car wash is not typically one of players' favorite days, but it does thrust them into uniform and in front of microphones to talk about the upcoming season.
You’ll be able to stream some of the Media Day happenings over on our YouTube channel. Here are four of the storylines that intrigue us most on Monday:
1. How is Jaylen Brown feeling after dancing in Kevin Durant rumors?
At the height of the Kevin Durant rumors, Jaylen Brown posted videos of him doing some wild underwater workouts in California. Was he able to hold his breath long enough to ignore all the noise at the surface?
Grant Williams suggested that Brown will come back with a chip on his shoulder after having to hear his name in trade rumors yet again, but we haven’t heard Brown vocalize his thoughts on the month of breathless speculation and Boston’s potential interest in a blockbuster deal.
We’ve heard Brad Stevens and Ime Udoka stress that they maintained communication with Brown while Durant rumors dominated the August doldrums. Having been in this position before, does Brown shrug it all off? Do these spins through the rumor mill impact his long-term desire to be in Boston?
Once Brown addresses what didn’t happen, we can quickly shift our to attention to the more tangible, like what Brown worked on this summer. Rarely does an offseason pass without Brown coming back with something new in his toolbox.
2. Who's raising eyebrows heading into training camp?
It’s dangerous to read too much into offseason workouts -- and especially Instagram summer hype videos -- but typically there’s a palpable buzz around the players that have made noticeable strides.
Last year, we found it notable how much coaches and teammates were gushing about Al Horford. Remember, Horford was coming off a stint in Oklahoma City where he got shut down to rest his knees and it wasn’t a slam dunk he’d be in Boston's starting lineup (shoutout to that one preseason game that Juancho Hernangomez started). By the early days of camp, it was evident that Horford had found a bit of a fountain of youth and that he was going to be a big part of Boston’s success.
Along the same lines, there was some buzz around Grant Williams and he made notable strides before emerging as one of Boston’s most reliable bench pieces.
Who gets the buzz this year? Is Sam Hauser ready to take the minutes left from Danilo Gallinari’s injury? Is Payton Pritchard going to bust through a playing time logjam with his improvements? We’re ready for some hype trains to leave the station.
3. How is Robert Williams' knee feeling?
It will have been just over 100 days since Game 6 of the NBA Finals when the Celtics huddle next week. Everyone on the roster needed those 3-plus months of downtime, but especially Robert Williams, who rushed back from a meniscus tear to aid Boston’s playoff journey.
News on Tuesday that Time Lord is out 4-6 weeks after an additional knee procedure isn't what we wanted to hear.
Williams didn’t always look like himself after getting back on the court less than a month following the tear, but extended rest should have him back to his springy self. Williams had played in 61 of Boston’s 75 games before the knee injury and, while it’s fair to suggest the Celtics must tread cautiously given his injury history, it says something that he was as reliable as he was last year and then fought through pain to play in the postseason.
Even when he hasn’t been fully healthy, Williams has been a game-changer for Boston when he’s on the court. He has a real chance to compete for Defensive Player of the Year and -- while acknowledging our continued Time Lord bias -- we can’t help but wonder if he could be an All-Star candidate if Boston starts the season strong.
4. What is the team's mindset as the journey starts anew?
There’s roughly 265 days between Media Day and the end of the NBA Finals. That’s a lot of time, especially when you’re a team that can’t stop thinking about being a few minutes away from a 3-1 Finals lead. Sometimes teams endure a bit of a championship stage hangover. It’s hard to motivate yourself to get back on the treadmill for another 109-game slog when all you’re thinking about is getting back to the Finals.
The best teams find a way to embrace the journey. Our mind races back to the 2008-09 Celtics, who had every reason to let off the accelerator after raising Banner 17 in 2008. That team was a pure wrecking ball early in the next campaign. That group started the year 27-2 and set the tone in the quest for a repeat (something that might have happened if Kevin Garnett didn’t get injured).
So how does this young team respond to having to hit the reset button? How do these Celtics start the year knowing the East is even better than it was a year ago? What is their mindset knowing there’s a target on their backs? How eager are they to hit the ground running after their slow start last year might have contributed to running out of steam late?
Monday is the day we start getting some answers.