Celtics

Kemba Walker honored to represent USA: 'It means the world to me'

Kemba Walker honored to represent USA: 'It means the world to me'

A bunch of star players passed up the chance to represent the United States in this year's FIBA World Cup, but Kemba Walker isn't taking the opportunity for granted.

The Boston Celtics guard, who's pretty much a lock to crack the 12-man roster, makes it clear he's enjoying every moment of his experience with Team USA.

"It means the world to me," Walker said via USA Basketball's website. "This is an honor for me to be a part of this USA team. I’ve always wanted to participate on this level of USA Basketball, and now I’m getting my opportunity, as well as these other guys especially the younger guys.  

"We know a lot of the big-name guys pulled out, but it’s given the younger guys an opportunity to kind of showcase what they have. We’re all so excited to be here. This is something that we’ve all grew up watching, and we all grew up wanting to be a part of. It’s a blessing for us."

While Walker lives out his lifelong dream of playing for Team USA, he also gets to build chemistry with Celtics teammates Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart before the NBA season gets underway. The 29-year-old has lauded the C's young guns throughout the summer.

Following their 90-81 win over Spain, Walker and the rest of Team USA currently are in Australia to prepare for their three remaining exhibition matchups. They'll take on Australia on Aug. 22 and 24, then Canada on Aug. 26.

The USA's first game in China for the 2019 FIBA World Cup will take place on Sept. 1 vs. Czech Republic.

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Celtics' bench power surge just in time with trip out West on the horizon

Celtics' bench power surge just in time with trip out West on the horizon

BOSTON — There has been little to be overly critical about when it comes to the Boston Celtics this season. 

Wednesday’s high-scoring affair with Washington ended with Boston prevailing 140-133, giving them a ninth straight win to improve upon their league-best record of 9-1. 

But the win over the Wizards was different than most this season because of the significant contributions made by the bench, a group that hasn’t been that impactful this season. 

According to Hoopsstats.com, the Celtics bench averages just 27.7 points per game, which ranks 29th (out of 30 teams) in the NBA. 

But against Washington, the second unit outscored their Washington counterparts 40-29, with all six of the Celtics off the bench scoring at least two points.

That was a bit surprising, not only because of Boston’s lack of scoring punch off the bench, but also because bench scoring has been one of the few strengths of the Wizards this season. Washington’s bench averages 43.4 points per game, which ranks sixth in the NBA.  

For Boston to have such a collectively strong game could not have come at a better time with the Celtics heading out for their longest road trip of the season beginning Friday at Golden State. 

Among the backups to step up against Washington was Brad Wanamaker, who had 10 points and five assists in the Celtics' victory. 

He is well aware that the team’s second unit is viewed by some as the team’s weak link. But such talk doesn’t faze him. 

“Ignore the outside noise,” Wanamaker told NBC Sports Boston. “We know what we’re capable of doing in this locker room.”

Part of the challenge for Boston’s bench has been injuries that have forced the Celtics to elevate players on the second unit to starter status. 

Marcus Smart has been called up from the bench and inserted into the starting lineup to replace Gordon Hayward, who will be out for another five or so weeks following surgery to repair a bone fracture in his left hand. 

And Daniel Theis — who has been the team’s primary starter at center — did not play against Washington due to a dislocated finger injury. His primary backup this season, Robert Williams III, was a late scratch Wednesday with a sore ankle. 

That meant Enes Kanter (13 points, nine rebounds) was back in the starting lineup while rookie center Vincent Poirier was eleveated from the end of the bench to be a prominent part of the rotation. 

“It is great to help the team,” Poirier told NBC Sports Boston. “I knew I would play because we had two guys out (Theis and Williams III). I was ready. Ready to help the team and do my best.”

Poirier tallied three points, four rebounds and three assists in addition to setting screens that frequently freed up teammates for great looks at the basket. 

Boston also got a career game from Carsen “Boogie” Edwards, who led all of Boston’s backups with a career-high 18 points. 

“It’s important for nights like this,” Edwards said. “It’s good for games like this when we do get minutes, to try and make the best of them and help the team.”

And that aid will be needed in the coming days as Boston (9-1) puts their league-best record to the test beginning on Friday at Golden State, followed by road games at Sacramento (Nov. 17), Phoenix (Nov. 18), the Los Angeles Clippers (Nov. 20) and finally Denver (Nov. 22).

“We gotta have everybody; it’s gonna be team wins so we’re going to need everybody,” said Jaylen Brown. “So for everybody to stay ready, that’ll be great for us.”

Kemba Walker had similar thoughts on the bench’s impact going forward. 

“It’s about staying ready,” Walker said. “We need our bench, we need those guys to step up and just come in and just do what they can to help us. Of course a lot of attention will be on myself and the rest of the starters, but those guys coming off the bench and come in, they’re gonna be huge for us.”

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Celtics Talk Podcast: Are the Celtics better than we thought? Or will the West be a reality check?

Celtics Talk Podcast: Are the Celtics better than we thought? Or will the West be a reality check?

With the Celtics riding a league-best nine-game win streak, Kyle Draper, Chris Forsberg and A. Sherrod Blakely discuss the key ingredients to Boston's surprising start, the biggest differences between this season and last year, and what lies ahead on the C's road trip against the Western Conference.

1:00 — How surprising is it that the Celtics have the best record in the NBA?

3:15 — How much will this West Coast trip tell us about the Celtics potential?

4:50 — Forsberg explains how Kemba Walker’s ‘got a little I.T. in him in the fourth’

8:00 — What has been the most surprising thing about the Celtics hot start?

10:00 — What is the biggest difference between this season and last season?

13:30 — Draper explains why blaming Kyrie for all the struggles last year isn’t fair

16:30 — Why is the play of Marcus Smart flying under the radar?

19:00 — What record would make this a ‘good’ West Coast trip for the Celtics?

20:30 — Breaking down A. Sherrod Blakely’s NBA Power Rankings

23:00 — Impressions of Isaiah Thomas’ return to Boston, will he ever be close to the same player again?

25:30 — Do the Celtics still NEED a big man?

29:00 — Our crew gives out their ‘My guy!’ of the week awards.

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