Celtics

White III among Celtics who could get minutes thanks to shorter preseason

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White III among Celtics who could get minutes thanks to shorter preseason

BOSTON – Rest will be the dish of the night for the Boston Celtics’ Big Three – Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford – who along with Marcus Morris, will not play in tonight’s preseason matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers.

This means there will be opportunities for Boston’s lesser-known players to get on the floor, something that’s a bit trickier to do this season than past years.

With the NBA focusing on lessening the wear and tear on players in the preseason, most teams play no more than five or six preseason games compared to previous years when most teams play an eight-game preseason slate.

The Celtics (2-0) play tonight and close out the preseason portion of their schedule on Wednesday at Charlotte.

The shorter schedule has meant fewer opportunities for players near the end of the bench or those who are training camp invitees, to show what they can do in games.

Andrew White III, who played at Syracuse University last season, is among the training camp invites hoping to make the most of his opportunity to play potentially as early as tonight.

But even if that doesn’t happen, he feels good about the way the Celtics have approached working with and developing all their players.

“Brad is very detailed in what he wants to do,” White III told NBC Sports Boston. “So you have to be ready at all times. Outside of the designated practice hours, just working, watching tape, going through the offense, just so we’re up to speed with everything.”

Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown explained his approach to dealing with a shorter number of games and its impact on getting a good look at camp invites and some players near the end of the roster.

“It is challenging, but not as challenging as everybody might think,” Brown said.

He added that the players have been together for most of the month of September which has afforded them plenty of time to get a feel for one another, ranging from stars such as Joel Embiid, Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons, to players who are training camp invites.

“We will end of having sort of five real preseason games to make assessments,” Brown said. “The rhythm to my subbing has always been, you play who you really think is going to play during the regular season the first three periods. Then you give the last period to those guys you want to evaluate. That strategy changes a lot as the preseason games become fewer. You want to give your guys real minutes.”

For White III, it remains to be seen how much if at all, he’ll play tonight or in the Celtics’ preseason finale at Charlotte on Wednesday.

But White III is likely to continue developing his game in New England with the team’s Gatorade League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.

“I’ll probably be there,” White III told NBC Sports Boston. “To my knowledge, I’m taking it for what it is and try to learn as much as possible.”

Whether he’s in Boston or Maine, the goal remains the same for White III and all players in training camps this year.

“Wherever I am, it still comes down to producing,” White III said. “And I am confident that I will produce if given the opportunity.”

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What should we expect from Al Horford?

What should we expect from Al Horford?

BOSTON – For most of his time in the NBA, Al Horford is credited for providing the kind of intangibles that factor into winning games.

While that certainly has been a factor in Boston’s success since the four-time All-Star signed as a free agent in 2016, intangibles can only take a player and a team so far.

Those intangibles have to be wrapped around production, something that always seems to be questioned in some capacity when it comes to Horford.

Regardless of where you fall on the Average Al/Awesome Al spectrum, the 6-foot-10 forward will have to be a major performer for the Celtics in certain tangible areas.

So what are those categories?

MINUTES 

Horford was second on the team in minutes played (31.6) last season, but don’t be surprised if he takes the minutes played title this season. Boston has a roster that has a plug-in-and-play feel to it, full of interchangeable pieces that can pretty much fill in whatever gap exists. But as you scan the roster, there really is no one player who can adequately deliver what Horford does on a night-in, night-out basis, even in the short term. Because of that, look for the 32-year-old to become even more vital to the team this season.

REBOUNDING

Although he grabbed a team-leading 7.4 rebounds per game last season, there were nights when Horford’s rebounding numbers left a lot to be desired. But like many statistics, upon closer review, it seems as though Horford’s rebounding isn’t nearly as bad as some might believe it to be. He played in 72 games last season, grabbing at least five rebounds in 61 of those games. He led the team with 15 double-doubles and came within one rebound of a double-double on 10 other occasions.

ASSISTS

Would anyone be shocked if Horford wound up leading the team in assists this season? He averaged 4.7 assists per game last season which trailed teammates Kyrie Irving (5.1) and Marcus Smart (4.8). So the idea of him essentially dishing out one more assist per game this season isn’t a stretch, especially considering his assists ratio (assists per 100 possessions) of 26.6 was tops among Celtics who averaged at least 30 minutes played per game.

THREE-POINT SHOOTING

It’s impressive how far Horford has come with his 3-point game, to the point where he connected on a career-high 42.9 percent of them, which included 97 makes, a career high. Horford’s ability to help space the floor with his long-range shooting will continue to be a weapon for the Celtics. With the return of Gordon Hayward this season along with the team’s younger players being more confident and assertive in their decision-making with added experience, there’s the potential for Horford to get even better looks on 3’s this season which should make him even more efficient offensively than he is now.

Austin Ainge on confidence of Celtics heading into the season

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NBC Sports Boston Photo

Austin Ainge on confidence of Celtics heading into the season

Austin Ainge talks with A. Sherrod Blakely about the confidence the Celtics have heading into the 2018 season, and we discuss what team we think Jimmy Butler will end up on. 

(2:00) Does Jimmy Butler wanting out of Minnesota make him look bad? (6:00) What team does Jimmy Butler end up with?

(11:00) Breaking down ESPN top 100 NBA players list, did they rank the Celtics correctly? (15:00) Would you rather have Jimmy Butler or Gordon Hayward?

(17:00) A. Sherrod Blakely talks with Celtics Director of Player Personnel Austin Ainge.

(17:30) How does Austin think Kyrie irving and Gordon Hayward will fit back in on the Celtics?

(25:00) How important was getting Marcus Smart back with the Celtics? 

(28:00) What are the Celtics thoughts on the 2019 draft?

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