A. Sherrod Blakely does a month-by-month examination of the Celtics' schedule for the upcoming season: The easy stretches, the rough spots, and everything in between. Plus, a printable schedule for fans to download. Click here.
Jaylen Brown certainly doesn't lack confidence heading into the 2018-19 NBA season.
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Appearing on Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum's "Pull Up" podcast, Brown guaranteed the Celtics will be battling for a chance at a title in the 2019 NBA Finals.
"Oh, we're getting to the Finals," Brown said. "No question about it."
For most players, guaranteeing a playoff berth let alone a Finals berth is a bold move. But for Brown, it isn't hard to understand why the third-year Celtics forward is so optimistic about his team's chances.
Boston made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals without Gordon Hayward for the entire season, and without Kyrie Irving for all of the playoffs. Assuming the C's are at full strength this time around, and with LeBron James finally being out of the East, there aren't many reasons to bet against them.
As highly projected as the Celtics are entering the new campaign, Brown makes it clear that expectations don't matter. What matters, is execution.
"At the end of the day it doesn't matter if we're the favorites in the East or we're predicted to win 10 games in the East," Brown said. "We've got to come out and play. It's simple."
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Brad Stevens was on this week's episode of Chris Mannix's podcast and acknowledged that the Celtics are super deep; as he put it, they've got “eight, nine, maybe 10 guys that are starters.”
While Boston's five best players is a rather obvious group, eight/nine/10 is more than five and sports observers really like exploring stuff that doesn't necessarily need to be explored.
Which brings us to today, when Celtics Blog tweeted out a post titled, "Should Al Horford come off the bench this year?"
After I recovered from my what-the-hell-could-possibly-lead-you-to-ask-such-a-dumb-question attack, I read the post. It wasn't bad, and as is often the case, the piece (written by Alex Kungu) was deeper than its headline suggested.
Kungu wasn't necessarily advocating for Horford to be a bench player. He was taking a lot of factors into consideration -- Horford preferring to not play the five, the size of other centers, the desire to keep a star player fresh, etc. -- and weighing whether they could sway Stevens to go away from the team's obvious starting five.
It's a fair question to ask, even if the answer is obvious. It's also the type of question that could be run into the ground as we get bored with how stacked the Celtics are. Stevens will pretty much be able to do whatever he wants with this group, so it's fun enough to keep ourselves busy by conjuring up off-the-wall ideas as to what that may be.
Here's what it should be: A starting five of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford. Take out one of the forwards and slide Aron Baynes in against bigger teams. Easy peasy. No overthinking needed. We want to, though.
There are factions that want to see either Tatum or Hayward come off the bench. You can see where they're coming from because either one of those guys leading a second unit is hilarious. It would speak to the embarrassment of riches that the Celtics have; a group far deeper and far better than any other in the East.
Is that necessary? No. The Celtics can still beat the hell out of teams with a loaded starting group and secondary contributions from Terry Rozier and the Marcuses.
Boston's starting five probably won't be the same every night, but when they need to go balls to the wall, you can imagine which five will be out there. It will be the all-world point guard (Kyrie), the emerging star third-year shooting guard (Brown), one of the best young small forwards in the game (Tatum), an All-Star forward (Hayward) and a five-time All-Star (Horford).
“It’s about trying to be the best that we can be collectively. If we all do what we do to the best of our ability, it’ll benefit everybody individually," Stevens said on Mannix's podcast. "You only get so many chances to be a part of a special group. We’re pretty fortunate to be in this position, so we need to take advantage of it.”
Stevens will. Before he does, we'll probably talk ourselves in circles.