Celtics

Kyrie Irving unplugged on Celtics' 'young guys,' approach to defending Hornets' Kemba Walker

Kyrie Irving unplugged on Celtics' 'young guys,' approach to defending Hornets' Kemba Walker

Kyrie Irving didn’t say much following Boston’s 124-117 loss at Charlotte. 

But on Saturday, Irving delivered a stinging rebuke of his teammates as well as a not-so-subtle dig at the coaching staff in their approach to defending Charlotte All-Star Kemba Walker. 

“The game was over in the beginning of the fourth quarter,” Irving told reporters. “We took our foot off the gas pedal; it got to a five-point game, momentum shifted from there.”

He was then asked what does the team talk about following a game like this, one in which the Celtics had an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter only to allow the Hornets to close out the game with a 30-5 run. 

“Being more mature down the stretch,” Irving said. 

To see Boston lose a game in this fashion isn’t all that surprising when you consider one of the stronger character traits of this team is their ability to let huge leads go to the point where they eventually result in a loss. 

Remember, this is the same Celtics team that blew a 28-point lead AT HOME to the Los Angeles Clippers which came right after blowing another double-digit lead at home to the other Los Angeles team, the Lakers. 

But that’s in the past, something that has little impact on the present … until you have games like the one we saw Saturday night when it seems the mental toughness that should be developing in losing games just isn’t there. 

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As Irving pointed out, the Celtics were playing the Hornets without some key players in the lineup. 

Al Horford was resting his sore knee while Aron Baynes (foot) and Gordon Hayward (concussion protocol) were out with injuries

Replacing Horford in the starting lineup was rookie Robert Williams III, but he left shortly before the half after taking a hard spill to the floor. He was unable to return after team officials determined he had suffered a lower back contusion. 

“Judge us when we have our full lineup,” Irving said. “But obviously when we come out and play like this with a bunch of young guys down the stretch, figuring things out … things are bound to happen but there’s no excuses.”

The difference-maker in the game was the play of Charlotte’s Kemba Walker who tallied a near triple-double with 36 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

Marcus Smart would have been the primary defender on him, but Smart was on the bench after committing a series of offensive fouls. 

And while Jayson Tatum’s length does him well when it comes to defense, Walker’s ball-handling and ability to create space off the dribble was too much for Tatum and the Celtics to handle with Walker tallying 18 of his 36 points in the fourth. 

“It’s one-on-one,” Irving said. “Down the stretch, I try to come in and help as much as possible. We should have probably trapped him more like every other team does in the league but we didn’t. He torches us every time we play them so it’s no surprise.”

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Enes Kanter lays out saddening circumstance he has with Turkish government

Enes Kanter lays out saddening circumstance he has with Turkish government

Enes Kanter is a known critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his feud with his home country's government has yielded several hardships for the Celtics' new big man. 

Most recently, Kanter was confronted by two Turkish-speaking men outside a local mosque while he was with teammate Tacko Fall. Kanter called it a "crazy and scary" situation and later contacted the FBI and other law enforcement officials to ensure his safety moving forward. 

On Monday night, Kanter tweeted an overview of everything he and his family have had to endure at the hands of the Turkish government. 

Kanter has the support of Massachusetts State Senator Ed MarkeyCongressman Joe Kennedy III and gave a speech about freedom and human rights and in front of the Massachusetts State Senate. 

So while Kanter claims his home country suppresses free speech, he is free to speak however much he wants while in the United States. 

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ESPN ranks the Celtics 15th in their annual NBA League Pass Rankings

ESPN ranks the Celtics 15th in their annual NBA League Pass Rankings

Most basketball junkies have already mapped out which teams they'll try to watch outside of their own on NBA League Pass this season, and ESPN's annual League Pass rankings give us a good reference to make our decisions off of. 

Last season, the Celtics had sky-high expectations after making it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals without Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward. Zach Lowe had them ranked No. 2 behind just the Sixers.

Philly remains at the top spot this year after stealing Al Horford from the Celtics and is a serious contender for the NBA title. The Celtics, after losing Horford, Irving, Terry Rozier, Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris, are considered a tier below their division rival and suffered a steep drop to 15th in this year's League Pass Rankings. 

An excerpt from Lowe's take on this year's Celtics:

Boston drops 13 spots despite replacing a frowny-faced philosopher-point guard (Kyrie Irving) with a rough stylistic equivalent in Kemba Walker -- owner of the league's nastiest in-and-out dribble. The combined departures -- Al Horford's subtle brilliance, Marcus Morris' toughness, Terry Rozier's long 2s, Guerschon Yabusele's ass -- cannot inflict this much damage on Boston's watchability.
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There is hope Boston can settle into a watchability zone between this ranking and last season's. The chemistry presumably isn't toxic now. Gordon Hayward should be closer to Utah form. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are hungry. One or both could make All-Star pushes; Tatum looks to be attacking the rim more already. His reclining, willowy midrangers are basketball grace notes, analytics be damned.

The Celtics were nearly unwatchable last season as inconsistent play and off-court drama defined the undoing of a masterclass rebuild by Danny Ainge. With a fresh start and a brand new point guard in Kemba Walker, the Celtics should be one of the more fun teams to watch when it's all said and done. 

The main concern for this year's team is on the defensive end of the floor without ample replacements for Horford and Baynes. However, Boston has been the league's top defensive unit in the preseason and earned some praise from Larry Nance Jr

Obviously, it's just preseason and there's only so much you can take from it. If the Celtics can prove to be a top-10 defense to couple with what should be an excellent offensive attack led by Walker and three incredibly talented wings, they'll move up more than just some League Pass Rankings. 

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