Celtics

SI's Top 100 list highlights the Celtics depth

SI's Top 100 list highlights the Celtics depth

 

 

The Sports Illustrated’s list of the Top 100 players in the NBA is a great discussion starter for those of us who are anxiously awaiting the start of the regular season.

Phoenix guard Devin Booker, one of the best pure scorers in the game, coming in (only) at No. 50?

Toronto backup Fred VanVleet (No. 94) ranked ahead of Dirk Nowitzki (No. 96)?

While there’s plenty of debate about where players are stacked on the list, the one thing that is clear.

The NBA is in great shape talent-wise for many years to come, with several players just a few years into their careers on the list.

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And one of the teams with lots of on-the-rise-talent is the Boston Celtics, who have six players on the Top-100 list (and they really should have had a seventh with Marcus Smart).

But none of the six Celtics will be in the top-10, with the highest ranked player being Al Horford (No. 16) who came in one spot ahead of teammate Kyrie Irving (No. 17).

The only team that will have that many players when the list is completely revealed, is Golden State which currently has four players on the list.

SI’s Top 10 has yet to be revealed, but it’s a given that both Steph Curry and Kevin Durant will be there. Others likely in the top 10 include Houston’s James Harden and Chris Paul; Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James; Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo; Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid; Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook; New Orleans’ Anthony Davis; and Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler.

The idea that the Warriors would have so many players on the list, is no surprise.

They’re the two-time defending NBA champions, having taken home the Larry O’Brien trophy in three of the last four seasons with the same core primarily intact aside from the addition of Durant two years ago.

He helps.

Golden State is the standard by which all teams in the NBA are measured against, the blueprint for what every team is trying to build.

And as you look across the NBA landscape, no one right now has done a better job of building themselves in the mirror image of the Warriors than the Celtics.

Boston has added elite scoring power with trading for Irving and signing Gordon Hayward who despite missing all but five minutes of last season, came in at No. 25 on the list. Boston has the game’s ultimate glue-guy in Horford. There’s young depth on the rise such as Jayson Tatum (No. 39), Jaylen Brown (No. 47) and Terry Rozier (No. 82) who all cracked the Top 100 list.

It is that kind of elite, well-respected depth that gives Boston and its fans every reason to be optimistic that they can get to the NBA Finals and hold their own against the basketball juggernaut known as the Golden State Warriors.

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Celtics shutting down Horford (knee) for a few games

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AP Photo

Celtics shutting down Horford (knee) for a few games

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Boston Celtics are shutting down big man Al Horford for a few games with a goal of strengthening a bothersome left knee that’s limited his availability recently.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Horford is dealing with patellofemoral pain syndrome and the team is hoping to give him some extended rest in hopes of strengthening the knee and preventing the issue from lingering deep into the season.

"Al’s going to be out probably a few games, just to kinda get this thing feeling a lot better,” Stevens said Wednesday morning at the team’s shootaround on the campus of Georgetown University. “He’s going to be out a little bit but not too long, and just to strengthen and get feeling a lot better. A little bit similar to [Marcus] Morris last year and make sure that he feels great instead of going back and forth like this.”

Horford admitted to seeing the bigger picture in downshifting now in hopes of having him upright when the games matter most later in the year.

“This is something that I don't think any of us want it to linger or continue, and I think that, as much as I want to be on the floor, I do see the big picture,” said Horford. "So this is the time to do it.”

What will he doing during the downtime?

"Just a lot of, besides the soft tissue, a lot of strength work and just really diving into that,” said Horford. “Obviously, we've got a great staff, and that's like the first step until I start getting on the court and doing more things.”

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The good bit of injury news for the Celtics is that Kyrie Irving said his shoulder is fine and he will be back in the starting lineup against the Wizards after sitting out Monday’s win over the Pelicans.

“Feel good,” said Irving. "Just to give it a day of rest. … I think we have a few days off coming off this three-game span that we have, but it’s not too often you get a day to just rest, so, I’ll take it.”

Irving said he had no further imaging on his shoulder and simply took the time to rest after tweaking the AC joint in his right shoulder last week against the Knicks.

A six-game winning streak might have made it easier to give the likes of Irving and Horford rest, but the Celtics are getting chomped on by the injury bug at the moment. Neither Gordon Hayward (illness) nor Guerschon Yabusele (ankle) made the trip to DC, while Aron Baynes (ankle) was going to go through shootaround Wednesday to gauge if he could return to action.

If Baynes is out, the Celtics are mighty shorthanded up front and will continue to lean heavy on Daniel Theis and Robert Williams.

"Well we don’t have a lot of depth at the 5 if Baynes can’t play,” said Stevens. "Baynes is going through our workout and we’ll see. But I’d say that he’s, at the very best, questionable. We do not have a lot of depth there but we have two good players in Daniel and Rob that can fill minutes. Obviously having three guys out at that position is pretty unique.”

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Kyrie Irving's tough love approach with Jaylen Brown seems to be working

Kyrie Irving's tough love approach with Jaylen Brown seems to be working

Kyrie Irving is just 26 years old. But with seven full seasons, an NBA title and experience with LeBron James under his belt, he considers himself a leader.

And he's taking that role seriously to help a struggling young Boston Celtics star turn things around.

ESPN's Jackie MacMullan published an insightful column Wednesday about Jaylen Brown, who struggled mightily early in the 2018-19 season but has turned things around in a huge way lately.

The highlight of that column: Irving candidly describing how he's pushing Brown to improve his game.

"I have such high expectations for a guy like Jaylen, knowing how smart he is off the court, knowing his intellect, how he likes to be challenged," Irving told MacMullan. "On the court, you just know there's so much more for him. You can see how much better he can get.

"I don't think Jaylen has ever been challenged in this way. When you're challenged sometimes, and you've been only doing it for three years, you can question a lot of things. You question yourself, and your confidence wavers because everything you've been doing up to this point has worked. You're used to doing little things to get you out of a rut, but suddenly that's not happening."

That's the situation Brown found himself in early in the season, when he ranked 417th out of 430 players in ESPN's Real Plus-Minus Ratings, per MacMullan.

But Irving has continued to ride the third-year guard to help him snap out of that rut.

"I think he deserves that," Irving said. "In my career, I've had the opportunity to play with another great player (James) who demands greatness out of you every single day. That comes with certain expectations. Sometimes you don't know exactly what those expectations are until you experience them. And that's what Jaylen is dealing with now.

" ... The beautiful thing about Jaylen is he's smart enough to figure this out. He's in a transitional year."

Brown appears to be turning the corner since returning from a back injury. But if he slips at all, it sounds like Irving will be right there to keep him honest.

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