Celtics

NBA odds: Here's where Celtics stand in latest East title betting lines

NBA odds: Here's where Celtics stand in latest East title betting lines

ESPN's Jalen Rose predicted Thursday the Boston Celtics will win the Eastern Conference when the 2019-20 NBA season resumes later this summer in Florida.

While oddsmakers also like the Celtics' chances of being a tough out in the playoffs, they aren't as high on Boston as Rose.

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DraftKings Sportsbook has unveiled its first betting lines for the 2019-20 Eastern Conference title following the 22-team season return plan the league announced Thursday.

The Celtics are tied with the Toronto Raptors for the second-best odds to win the East at +700.

Here are the latest odds, courtesy of DraftKings:

Milwaukee Bucks: -165
Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors: +700
Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers: +900
Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers: +3300
Orlando Magic: +10000
Washington Wizards: +15000

We know why the Bucks are the favorites. They dominated throughout the season and lead the East standings with a 52-13 record. Milwaukee has excelled at home and on the road, and its best player, superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, has a great chance to win back-to-back league MVP awards.

The Bucks aren't without flaws, though. They are an average 3-point shooting team, and they rank among the worst free-throw shooting clubs. It's also hard to ignore the Bucks' exit from the 2019 playoffs, when they had trouble closing games and lost four straight to the Toronto Raptors after winning the first two matchups of the Eastern Conference Finals.

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The Celtics are a strong value play at +700. They are a well-balanced offensive team with four players -- Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward -- who can get a bucket at any time. Boston's defense also is strong, and we know the group is very well coached by Brad Stevens.

If you're really looking for a wild card, the Indiana Pacers are an interesting team at +3300 odds. Indiana is a hard team to play against with good fundamentals and plenty of depth. Pacers guard Victor Oladipo also has had a few extra months to build up strength in his previously injured knee, which kept him out of the lineup for most of last season and this season. The Pacers will be a tough out regardless of who they play.

The Bucks are the safest bet, but there are several other teams who pose a serious threat to Milwaukee's chances of reaching the NBA Finals. The East is wide open, and that's exciting.

Good news for Celtics: Kemba Walker 'ready to go' after 'needed' break

Good news for Celtics: Kemba Walker 'ready to go' after 'needed' break

Boston Celtics All-Star point guard Kemba Walker admitted he “wasn’t really happy” with the way he was playing before the 2019-20 NBA season paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, but said after a “needed” break that allowed him to rest a bothersome knee, he’s eager to get back on the court with his teammates for the Orlando restart.

Walker declared himself, “ready to go,” after using the downtime to heal a knee that hindered him over the final six weeks of play.

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“[The break was] super important for me. I really, really needed to get that break,” said Walker. "It definitely helped me get back to myself and start to feel comfortable on my knee. It was a very unfortunate time but it was in my best interests for sure. So I’m pretty comfortable with the way the schedule is and I’m just going to keep on taking care of myself. That’s really all I can do, so I’m just going to stay on top of things and take it day by day.”

Walker earned his All-Star nod by averaging 22 points per game while shooting 38.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc through the end of January. A sore knee first forced him to sit out on January 18 but sidelined him for two longer stretches — and nine total games — in February. Walker averaged just 16.8 points while shooting 31.7 percent overall and 31.3 percent beyond the 3-point arc in his final eight games before the season paused.

Some of Walker’s struggles were masked by Jayson Tatum’s ascension. But the Celtics know they need a healthy Walker to reach their loftiest goals in Orlando.

"I’m definitely ready to try and expand my game to higher levels so we can just be a better team,” said Walker. "Especially the way I ended the season, I wasn’t really happy with the way I was playing. So I’m excited.”

Walker admitted he’s still trying to get back into game shape. But the downtime allowed him to really examine how he can best help the Celtics.

“I’m a lot more comfortable, especially realizing the change and everything that went down during the season, the ups and downs,” said Walker. "I’m definitely more comfortable with my teammates. We’ve been talking all quarantine. I got a chance to watch a lot of games over the quarantine, so, yeah, I think I’m more comfortable. I’m ready to go.

"We're pretty excited. I know everyone is just excited to see each other. From Day 1, honestly, with this team, our vibe and our chemistry was already there for a very long time. That first day anybody had seen anyone, it was like we were with each other yesterday, you know? It's that kind of team we have. We're just so close and we're just looking forward to going out there and just handling our business.”

Walker said he’s not particularly concerned about the recent COVID spike in Florida and believes the NBA will do everything to ensure player safety. As for worries about being stuck inside the bubble for a particularly lengthy stretch if the Celtics embark on a long playoff run, Walker dismissed that while noting, “All I do is stay in the house anyways, so there's nothing wrong with me staying in a [hotel] room.”

Added Walker: "I'm actually looking forward to it just because I'm ready to play basketball.”

2020 NBA restart: No Celtics have opted out of Orlando, Brad Stevens says

2020 NBA restart: No Celtics have opted out of Orlando, Brad Stevens says

The Boston Celtics plan on being fully operational in Orlando later this month.

None of Brad Stevens' players have informed him they won't play in the NBA's restarted 2019-20 season, the Celtics head coach confirmed Wednesday in a video conference with reporters.

Stevens also confirmed no Celtics players or staffers have tested positive for COVID-19 since the NBA began testing in early June.

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Players still can opt out of the NBA "bubble" at any point before or during the eight-game "seeding" round, which for Boston begins July 31 with a game against the Milwaukee Bucks. But July 1 was the NBA's imposed deadline for players to opt out to allow teams to sign replacement players, and it appears that deadline will pass with the Celtics' roster intact.

Several players from the other 21 bubble teams have decided not to play, including Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans, Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley and Brooklyn Nets big man DeAndre Jordan.

Many players have concerns about their personal health and the health of their families as they travel to Florida, which has seen a spike in positive COVID-19 cases over the last few weeks.

Yet those concerns aren't driving away any Celtics players, many of whom have been working out in Boston during the NBA's hiatus and appear on board with the league's restart plan.