Kemba Walker's ideal playoff format if the NBA makes changes

Kemba Walker's ideal playoff format if the NBA makes changes

BOSTON — Like every other professional sports league that's had its season put on standby because of the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA has been spitballing ideas of what its season would look like if and when play resumes. 

There has been some talk about a 16-team, win-or-go-home format, something that would certainly get a number of players to get behind it ... including Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker. 

For Walker and the Celtics, such a format would be an ideal way to go for a number of reasons. 

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First and foremost, such a format minimizes the importance of having a deep, statistically impactful bench — which the Celtics don’t have.

It also tends to play into the strengths of Boston’s head coach Brad Stevens as well as Walker. 

A big part of Stevens being the Celtics head coach stems from the success he had in the NCAA Tournament at Butler University, a mid-major school Stevens led to a pair of NCAA championship runner-up finishes. 

One of those oh-so-close championship losses came in 2011 at the hands of UConn, as Walker's strong tournament run propelled the Huskies to the school’s third NCAA championship. 

So it’s no surprise Walker would not have an issue if the league decided to ditch its current format and went with one that more closely resembled what we see during the NCAA Tournament. 

“I guess I wouldn’t mind it,” Walker told NBC Sports Boston. “I love to hoop. At this point it doesn’t really matter because of the way things went and suddenly the season just got postponed.”

The Celtics were in Milwaukee on March 11, preparing to play the Bucks the following night when word spread that Utah’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, which led to the league postponing the remainder of this season almost immediately afterwards. 

As far as an NCAA Tournament-style postseason for the NBA, Walker added, “It would be fun. It would be different.”

Especially if it ended with Banner No. 18 for the Celtics. 

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Brad Stevens, NBA coaches have 'power and platform to affect change and will use it'

Brad Stevens, NBA coaches have 'power and platform to affect change and will use it'

NBA players have been the most outspoken group of professional athletes when it comes to raising awareness following the killing of George Floyd by ex-police officer Derek Chauvin last week.

Their voices and their platforms — while helpful — won’t be enough. 

They need allies and the league’s head coaches are ready to do their part in bringing about systemic change. The National Basketball Coaches Association has formed a committee on racial injustice and reform.

“We have the power and platform to affect change, and we will use it,” the group said via statement. 

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Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said all 30 NBA coaches were on a call recently.

“One thing that I heard from a number of coaches, as white coaches we have a lot of responsibility here,” Stevens said. 

Like the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, bringing about the kind of wide-ranging, systemic change that so many are now championing can’t be done by one person or one group. 

“We may not be able to know the depth of the pain of colleagues that are black or players that are black, our assistants that are black, but we have a responsibility to not only be empathetic but also help drive change,” Stevens said. “You saw in the coaches association statement; you saw in the Celtics statement. We have all been in these conversations before. And you’re moved to drive change and sometimes actionable steps lead to what you think is progress but this sure doesn’t look like progress."

Stevens added, “What we need to do is play our part and make sure we’re part of long-term, sustainable change.”

Brad Stevens praises Celtics' Jaylen Brown: 'He's a special leader'

Brad Stevens praises Celtics' Jaylen Brown: 'He's a special leader'

Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens offered staunch support for his players who peacefully protested racial injustices this past weekend and notably had the highest praise for Jaylen Brown, who made a 15-hour drive to his native Georgia to lead a protest in Atlanta.

"Jaylen’s greatest impact, as good as he is at basketball, won’t be in basketball,” said Stevens. "He’s a special guy, he’s a special leader. He’s smart but he has courage.

"He’s got a lot of great stuff to him, and I think we recognize that when we drafted him but I think that he has been even more unbelievable every day, every year. I’ve always personally really enjoyed listening to him and talking to him about things outside of basketball. He told me he was going down there on Thursday and, obviously, I certainly am not surprised by him taking a leadership role. That’s who he is.”

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Brown made the long drive, and then, with a Celtics cap on his head, megaphone in hand, and an “I Can’t Breathe” sign, peacefully led a march through Atlanta. Later, in a social media livestream, he noted, "Being a celebrity, being an NBA player, don't exclude me from no conversation at all. … We're raising awareness for some of the injustices that we've been seeing. It's not OK.”

Celtics teammates Marcus Smart, Vincent Poirier, and Enes Kanter all joined peaceful protests on Sunday in Boston. Stevens supported all of their efforts.

"I think it’s been great,” said Stevens. "I think, in paying attention from afar but also having individual conversations with everybody on our team and knowing, obviously, what’s happened has been appalling and been brutal and been hurtful and painful. I’ve said this many times, I think the NBA is amazing. I think our players are amazing. We’re lucky that we have such great people representing us with the Celtics. I can’t say enough good things.

Later Stevens added, "I couldn't be more proud to be in the NBA, to be with the Celtics and to be surrounded by the people I get to go to work with every day. All that they do, not only in front of the camera's eyes, but all that they do to lead for what's right is really impressive. I'm just honored to be a part of that team of those guys. We do talk about the idea of real leadership, right?

A lot of people can be followed and sometimes, people mislead and divide and do things in their own self-interests. The real leaders unite people and are doing things to simply promote what is right. I think that our guys are amazing in that regard and I think that extends throughout the players and coaches all across the league. It's a real inspiring group to be around.