BOSTON — Fresh off sweeping the season series against his former team, Celtics guard Kemba Walker huddled his teammates back in Boston for a New Year’s Eve celebration aimed at forging more chemistry within his new squad.
After a couple of smiled-filled photo-booth snapshots of reveling players landed on social media, rookie Romeo Langford detailed Thursday how Walker organized the group outing as Celtics players welcomed 2020 after flying home from an afternoon win in Charlotte.
"Kemba. Kemba set it up. It was his idea, his party,” said Langford. "He wanted all of us to be able to end the year on a good note, help us out with team bonding.”
Maybe we’ve already made too much about the good vibes emanating from the 2019-20 Celtics, and there’s an insatiable desire to compare the mood around this team to last year’s frustration-filled bunch. But even in a vacuum, it’s not hard to appreciate just how much these players seem to genuinely enjoy each other.
In the snapshots, “veterans” like Semi Ojeleye, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown are happily mingling with rookies like Langford, Vincent Poirier, and Tacko Fall. In the middle of all the chaos is Walker.
Langford said having accessible veterans has eased his early days as a pro.
"It’s been real nice. It makes the transition into the NBA a lot easier to have a nice, supporting cast and guys like that welcome you with open arms from the jump,” said 20-year-old Langford, the 14th overall pick in June’s draft. "It’s been real easy.
"I feel the good vibes. Definitely. From top to bottom, everybody gels, everybody works together well. It’s not like you can only go talk to one person on the team, or one other vet. You can go talk to anybody you want and they’ll help you out with something. And it translates on the court because we all trust each other and have great chemistry.”
Walker forged some early chemistry with new teammates Brown, Tatum, and Marcus Smart when the quartet joined forces on Team USA during this summer’s FIBA tournament in China. Walker opened his doors to teammates on Thanksgiving Day in New York when his mother cooked a holiday dinner after the Celtics traveled there in advance of a Black Friday tilt with Brooklyn.
The Celtics are 23-8 and owned the third-best record in basketball entering Thursday’s action. Injuries have forced the Celtics to lean on much of their roster throughout the early part of the season.
The schedule ramps up in the new calendar year with 23 games over the next 42 days starting with Friday’s visit from the Atlanta Hawks. Boston has three back-to-backs over the next 13 days, including second-night trips to Chicago, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. New Year’s Day was the last time the Celtics will have more than a single off-day between games until the All-Star break.
The Celtics took advantage with Walker’s group outing. Now the focus shifts from team-building to leaning on each other over the busy six weeks ahead and this team will need help from its entire roster to maintain the good vibes that have been obvious since the season began.
Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Hawks, which tips off Friday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike and Tommy have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.