Celtics

Kemba Walker on Team USA: 'Lot of us are happy those guys pulled out'

Kemba Walker on Team USA: 'Lot of us are happy those guys pulled out'

LAS VEGAS — While many of the biggest names in the NBA passed on the opportunity to play for Team USA this summer, Kemba Walker and his Boston Celtics teammates are thrilled to slide into that spotlight.

"I love basketball. I love to play. And what better opportunity to do that than to play for your country?” Walker said Monday after Team USA’s first day of training camp on the campus of UNLV. 

"This is like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of us. I think a lot of us are happy those guys pulled out. This is our chance, this is our chance to get on the big stage and showcase our talents. It’s a chance for us to do something new, to be a new-look team.”

While this version of Team USA lacks the top-tier star power of past teams, it’s an opportunity for some of the more intriguing young talent in the NBA to assert themselves as the future of the game.

“We have a lot of guys that nobody probably even talks about, even knows,” said Marcus Smart. “We’re able to get our faces shown. … USA Basketball, to me, that’s something that’s really important.”

The Celtics have four players on the training camp roster and there’s hope that they’ll comprise one-third of the 12-man roster that will head overseas for the FIBA World Cup. Smart has said that he hopes that players that participate this year will get the opportunity to represent the team at the 2020 Olympics.

“We’re playing for something greater than ourselves,” said Smart. "We’re going against [other countries] that have been playing together for years, and they’ve already built that camaraderie. We’re taking a group of guys that have probably never even played with one another and … [learning to] act like a team, become a team. It’s not easy. But we know we can do it.”

Walker appreciates that players dropping out has opened the opportunity to play with a bunch of his new teammates. He knows how much it means to players like Smart and Jaylen Brown.

“This is USA Basketball, this is a huge achievement,” said Walker. “It’s a huge honor to be a part of this.”

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Joel Embiid embracing challenge of playing Celtics in Boston, loves 'crazy' C's fans

Joel Embiid embracing challenge of playing Celtics in Boston, loves 'crazy' C's fans

Be careful what you wish for, Joel Embiid. 

The Philadelphia 76ers big man is excited to take on the Celtics at TD Garden Thursday, and he isn't shying away from the competition knowing that Boston is 10-0 on its home court. Aside from the competition, though, Embiid had some interesting things to say about C's fans ahead of the second matchup of the season between the two rivals. 

“They’re a great team. They’re third in the East. So it’s going to be a great matchup and I’m sure the fans are going to let us know it,” Embiid said Thursday. “I’m excited to come back here. I love this place. I love playing here. The fans are crazy and I love the way they support the team and how crazy they are. So I’m excited.”

While the 76ers are fourth in the Eastern Conference, TD Garden hasn't been nice to them over the years. In their last 10 meetings in Boston, not including playoffs, the C's hold a 9-1 record against Philly dating back to 2015. Looking at that record, quite frankly, it's hard to imagine that Embiid geniuinely enjoys taking the floor in Boston -- especially considering he and his teammates will be greeted by boos from C's fans. 

However, Embiid did have a solid performance the last time he came into TD Garden, scoring 34 points with 16 rebounds, two assists and two blocks through 40 minutes of action in a 121-114 overtime loss on Christmas in 2018.

If he can string together a similar performance, the 76ers may stand a chance in the fortress that the Garden has become. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-76ers, which tips off Thursday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

NBA Power Rankings: Trade winds are starting to pick up

NBA Power Rankings: Trade winds are starting to pick up

Though we often think about NBA trade rumors closer towards the February trade deadline, there a handful of teams that might be open to moving players they signed this past summer, moves that can be executed after December 15. 

Teams look to strike for a variety of reasons, whether it’s to add a talent that they think can take to another stratosphere in terms of their play, to clear salary cap space going forward, or to add what may be the missing piece for a run at the Larry O’Brien Trophy. 

Much of the talk surrounding the Boston Celtics and what they need to do to get better revolves around the center position. Multiple league sources have indicated the Celtics are open to the idea if a team wants to talk, but they are not aggressively looking to made a trade … yet. 

“You just never really know with Danny,” a league executive told NBC Sports Boston. “A ‘no’ on a deal today, could become a ‘hey, let’s do it’ tomorrow depending on if circumstances play out that make doing a deal a logical, sensible move to make."

And as deals get talked about and eventually completed, it also will impact where teams stack up in our weekly power rankings.

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Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-76ers, which tips off Thursday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.