Celtics

MacMullan: The Celtics 'force feeding' Gordon Hayward was the start of their chemistry issues

MacMullan: The Celtics 'force feeding' Gordon Hayward was the start of their chemistry issues

Kyrie Irving's leadership? Young players not accepting their reduced roles? Not trading for Kawhi Leonard?

Everyone has their take on what really gave the Celtics the most problems during the 2018-19 season, and Jackie MacMullan shared her thoughts on Arbella Early Edition Tuesday night. She cited Brad Stevens 'force feeding' Gordon Hayward to help him come back from his gruesome ankle injury as what started the Celtics' chemistry issues that seemingly plagued the team all year long. 

"You hate to pick on Gordon Hayward because he was coming back from injury and he was doing the best he could, but I really think that’s where it started," she said. "They were force feeding him on his teammates, Brad [Stevens] knew Gordon well, he wanted to get his confidence back.

"I would contend that Brad Stevens would have done that for any player on that roster that had a catastrophic injury, he would want to fill him with that same confidence, but that’s not what happened," MacMullan continued. "He gave the benefit of the doubt over and over to a player that wasn’t ready, to a guy who had history with him, and it rankled that locker room, and it bothered that locker room."

The younger players on the Celtics roster didn't have much of a chance to get a glimpse of how good Hayward was before he fractured his ankle five minutes into his Celtics debut. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown stepped up in a huge way to help Irving lead the Celtics to the second seed in the East, and when Irving was lost for the season just a month before the playoffs began, Brown, Tatum and Terry Rozier went on a run to Game 7of the Eastern Conference Finals. 

It doesn't matter who you are, taking a back seat to someone you think you've shown you're at least at the same level as is difficult to do. And as MacMullan explains, it can lead to conclusions about the motives of someone like Stevens who's calling the shots. 

"I think [the other players] drew conclusions that probably weren’t even fair or accurate, but it doesn’t matter," she said. "If you feel that way, then it’s real."

Now the Celtics are tasked with picking up the pieces from the aftermath of a disaster season. Irving is likely gone, and now it looks like Al Horford is going to sign elsewhere once free agency begins on June 30. 

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Kemba Walker's first challenge in Boston: Leading this Celtics team back on track

Kemba Walker's first challenge in Boston: Leading this Celtics team back on track

The Kemba Walker Era begins, in earnest, on Wednesday afternoon when the Celtics formally introduce their latest maximum-contract signing at the Auerbach Center.

Walker won’t inherit quite the same burden of expectations that some of Boston’s previous big-ticket splurges did upon their arrival. When Al Horford and Gordon Hayward signed on — the latter’s entry coupled with the offseason acquisition of Kyrie Irving — the Celtics’ ceiling raised a bit and the team was perceived closer to title contention.

Walker arrives to a somewhat flawed roster, one that still doesn’t feel quite set even after a busy summer. There are question marks in the frontcourt with the departure of Horford, Aron Baynes, and Marcus Morris, and the team’s younger players must reassert themselves.

The more immediate pressure on Walker is leadership. As the Celtics attempt to wash the bitter taste of last season out of their mouths, Walker must prove he is the palette cleanser. And while those that have spent time around Walker have gushed about his by-example leadership, his biggest task might essentially be doing what Irving couldn’t last season: Getting the best out of those around him.

Walker is no stranger to being the face of a franchise. That’s been his role the better part of the past eight seasons in Charlotte. In Boston, the three-time All-Star will face a harsher spotlight, but one that will also bathe him in affection if he is to get the most out of his new teammates.

By all accounts, Walker is eager for the challenge. In the goodbye he penned to Charlotte, he was emphatic about a desire to show that he is a winner. In an arena with 17 banners, there’s always a pressure to compete — regardless of the varying heft of expectations — and the quickest path to endearment is simply winning.

What Walker says at Wednesday’s introduction will set the tone for his tenure as the new face of the franchise. That’s a spotlight he should be able and willing to share if Hayward reverts to his old form, or if Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown make the leaps that many have been waiting for. Walker can expedite all of that, both with his play and his words.

Jim Calhoun, Walker’s college coach at the University of Connecticut, was emphatic that Walker would make his teammates better. After the Celtics emerged as frontrunners for Walker last month, Calhoun gushed about the way he could lead.

"I think the big thing is that he makes Tatum, he makes Brown, he helps Gordon Hayward come back. He makes a lot of terrific players be exceptional players,” said Calhoun. "There are very few guys you're going to get in basketball -- not only are they really good, but they make others better both psychologically, winning-wise … He's a special talent who can make other players better.”

Added Calhoun: "He brings special things to his teammates. Trust me, I was always amazed at how much his teammates loved him and followed him.”

Walker will be quizzed Wednesday about his leadership. He’ll be asked for his opinions on his new teammates. There is no reason to think he won’t say all the right things and, soon, he’ll get the chance to prove he means them.

A year ago, Celtics fans were clamoring for nothing short of a trip to the Finals. Now, it feels like most would sacrifice some wins for a spike in likability. Expectations can surge again if the Celtics show potential on the court but, right now, Celtics fans yearn for a team they can simply wrap their arms around (hence the lovefest that enveloped the spunky summer league squad in Vegas).

Walker can start the healing process from last season on Wednesday. After two stars exited, he can emphasize his desire to be here. He can express excitement about the potential of this group, while noting all the things he plans to do to help the Celtics reach it.

Walker formally receives the leadership baton on Wednesday and he needs to be ready to run with it.

 

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Celtics join FaceApp craze with hilarious photos of 'old' players

Celtics join FaceApp craze with hilarious photos of 'old' players

Who needs Uncle Drew, anyway?

If you're on social media, then your feed most likely has been filled with hilarious (and kind of disturbing) FaceApp photos of aged celebrities and athletes. The Celtics decided to get in on the action by using the "old age" filter on a few C's players, and well, here were the results. . .

Jaylen Brown's photo was so good that Jayson Tatum couldn't help but send it along to his 22-year-old teammate.

Of course, we had to properly celebrate #TackoTuesday with a FaceApp photo of our own:

And lastly, just in case you were wondering how Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will look in roughly 30 years from now, it appears he'll resemble... Brett Favre?

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