Who will be Celtics' fifth starter? Day 1 hints at interesting answer

Luke Kornet

The Boston Celtics need a starting center. That's the simple reality with big man Robert Williams expected to miss at least two months while recovering from left knee surgery and Danilo Gallinari out indefinitely with a torn ACL.

Boston has a few different options to fill Time Lord's void -- and one of them was on display Tuesday at the team's first practice of training camp.

Veteran big man Luke Kornet was spotted running alongside Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford on the Celtics' starting unit at the Auerbach Center, per our Chris Forsberg.

This obviously isn't confirmation that Kornet will take the opening tip on Oct. 18 against the Philadelphia 76ers. We're still three weeks from the season opener, and interim head coach Joe Mazzulla has other options to try -- including a pair of "small ball" lineups featuring Grant Williams at the four alongside Horford or a Tatum-Horford frontcourt with Malcolm Brogdon joining Smart in the backcourt.

Celtics Talk: 1-on-1: Jaylen Brown’s motivation-filled summer, plus thoughts from Celtics training camp | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube


But outside two-way signing Mfiondu Kabengele, Kornet is the only traditional center on the roster behind Robert Williams. And we know how Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens feels about Kornet.

Luke Kornet highlight video is Brad Stevens' only liked tweet

Kornet appeared in just 12 games for the Celtics last season, averaging 2.2 points, 2.1 rebounds and 0.7 assists over 7.1 minutes per contest. He's never averaged more than 7.0 points or 17.0 minutes per game over his five-year NBA career, and the C's are his fourth team in the past two seasons.

That's all to say the 27-year-old doesn't exactly fit the profile of a starting center. Then again, he's the tallest player on the roster at 7-foot-2 and was with Boston for its run to the 2022 NBA Finals last season, so at the very least, he's a safer option than Kabengele or a free-agent pickup.

The Celtics open the preseason this Sunday against the Charlotte Hornets, and who joins the Smart-Brown-Tatum-Horford core will be an important storyline to watch. Don't be surprised if Kornet gets the first crack at the job.