Celtics

Marcus Smart compares Kemba Walker to ex-Celtics teammate Isaiah Thomas

Marcus Smart compares Kemba Walker to ex-Celtics teammate Isaiah Thomas

Kemba Walker has yet to take the court in a Celtics uniform, but he's already is receiving rave reviews from his new teammates.

In fact, the 29-year-old is drawing comparisons to a former beloved Celtic: Isaiah Thomas.

Speaking about Walker on Tuesday with Joe Vardon of The Athletic, the C's longest-tenured player Marcus Smart discussed the similarities he sees between the two point guards.

“We had a little guy like that, similar to that on our team in Isaiah Thomas," Smart told The Athletic. "It’s kind of funny some of those little guys that can score the ball, they have an energy and a motor about them you don’t see very often."

It's a fair comparison to make. The 6-foot-1 Walker has seen his average points per game average increase nearly every season since he was selected by the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft. For two seasons, the 5-foot-9 Thomas was Boston's premier scoring threat.

But at this point in Walker's career, he's more than just a scorer. The UConn product has made it a point to improve on the defensive side of the ball, and Smart -- an NBA All-Defensive First Team member last year -- has taken notice.

“The dude can actually play defense,” Smart told The Athletic. “Guys who score the ball can kinda get that notion that, you know, they’re not really good defenders. Especially him being a little guy, it’s probably harder to play against him because of a lower center of gravity. Plus, he’s feisty. So he’s really good, he’s a really good defender and he plays both ends.

“You didn’t get to really see that a lot from him because he exerted so much energy on the offensive end that he had to take a couple of breaks off on the defensive end, understandably.”

Walker has been putting that energy on display this summer at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, most recently powering Team USA to a win over Brazil with a team-high 16 points.

Celtics fans can look forward to Walker donning the Green and White for the first time in the regular-season opener Oct. 23 vs. the 76ers.

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NBA Rumors: Romeo Langford will be cleared for full basketball activities by start of Celtics training camp

NBA Rumors: Romeo Langford will be cleared for full basketball activities by start of Celtics training camp

With Celtics training camp set to begin on October 1, there is a bit of good news on one of the team's first round rookies. 

According to Keith Smith, Romeo Langford, who missed all of Summer League recovering from thumb surgery, will be cleared for full basketball activities by the start of camp. 

Langford is the youngest of the Celtics first round picks and arguably the player who needed the most reps during Summer League to get ready for his rookie season in the NBA. While those Summer League reps can't be regained, Langford will at least won't have to miss extra time getting acclimated to his new team. 

In early August, Langford told Tom Westerholm that his thumb was "basically" back to normal, but he hadn't participated in any contact activities. So over the past month-and-a-half, Langford has been healthy enough to continue to work on his jump shot, which the Celtics have begun to overhaul with a ping pong paddle

The Celtics will have to deal with a relatively uncertain future following Kyrie Irving and Al Horford's departures and the arrival of Kemba Walker. They'll need to hit on their draft picks in order to build a young core that can either contend with Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart or one that can be exchanged for a superstar talent that will. Having Langford ready to go at the start of training camp is at least a step in the right direction. 

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Countdown to Celtics Camp: Who will be the Celtics' most impactful rookie?

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Countdown to Celtics Camp: Who will be the Celtics' most impactful rookie?

When the Boston Celtics open training camp next month, they will have a whopping eight first-year players on the court. That number will include four drafted rookies, two summer league standouts on camp invitations, an undrafted two-way player, and a European import.

In the fourth installment of our Countdown to Camp series, we asked our NBC Sports Boston panel to pick which of those rookies will have the biggest impact on the Celtics during the 2019-20 season.

Boston drafted four rookies in Romeo Langford (14th overall), Grant Williams (22), Carsen Edwards (33), and Tremont Waters (51). They later signed undrafted swingman Max Strus to one of their two-way deals, while summer league standouts Javonte Green and Tacko Fall are coming to camp with a chance to compete for a final roster spot. The Celtics also signed French 7-footer Vincent Poirier to add another body to their frontcourt.

That’s a lot of youth and inexperience but, then again, only four Celtics players have more than three years of NBA experience overall in Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, and Enes Kanter. Which is to say that there will be plenty of opportunities for younger players to make an immediate impact if they prove themselves ready for immediate minutes.

Typically, you might lean towards the lottery pick but Langford missed all of summer league while rehabbing from thumb surgery and will be playing a bit of catchup when camp opens.

Given Boston’s new-look frontcourt following the departure of Al Horford and Aron Baynes, it would seem a solid bet to suggest that Grant Williams or Poirier might have the clearest path to contributing. As you’ll read below, our panel leaned heavy in that direction and we’d probably be inclined to agree with their pick.

But we could also make the case for Edwards, an elite bucket-getter at the college level who showed at summer league that he’s not bashful about getting up shots. The departure of Terry Rozier could open an opportunity for backup guard minutes and if Edwards can give a little offensive jolt to the second unit, he could carve out minutes.

Scoring against rotation NBA players won’t be as easy as it was against rookies and roster hopefuls at summer league but Edwards can create his own shot, brings some rugged defense, and will have a chance to stake his claim for backcourt minutes.

Abby Chin: Grant Williams

The Celtics need all the help they can get in the frontcourt. The opportunity is there. And I feel like there’s a lot of hype surrounding the smart, versatile, if a little undersized, Tennessee product. I’m expecting big things.

 

A. Sherrod Blakely: Grant Williams

The team's lack of depth and overall uncertainty in the frontcourt means all their bigs, Grant Williams included, will get a chance to play. He won't wow us with his numbers but his basketball savvy will come in handy on some nights and play a role in the Celtics winning more games than most anticipate.

 

Max Lederman: Grant Williams

Williams already has an NBA body (strength wise, at least) and is a smart, winning player. I was also really impressed with his willingness to let the game come to him in summer league, which shows me he'll be fine in whatever role the team asks him to play. He's also a concrete wall setting screens.

Countdown to C's Camp: Awards predictions>>>

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