A 12 months in the past presently, the Celtics had been a crew within the midst of turmoil after the sudden departure of Ime Udoka simply days earlier than coaching camp started. They received via that early adversity to make one other playoff run deep into the spring, however a championship finally remained out of attain.
There isn’t almost as a lot drama following the Celtics as they start camp this week, however nonetheless loads of inquiries to reply as they embark on one other title pursuit. Here are 5 storylines to observe:
1. Malcolm Brogdon’s standing
It’s been an fascinating offseason for Malcolm Brogdon. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year had a disappointing finish to his season, when he suffered a partial tendon tear in his proper elbow/forearm throughout the Eastern Conference Finals, which made him a non-factor within the sequence. Weeks later, it regarded just like the guard was en path to Los Angeles within the Kristaps Porzingis commerce earlier than the deal fell aside, reportedly as a result of there have been considerations over Brogdon’s medicals. The Celtics pivoted and traded Marcus Smart as an alternative to accumulate Porzingis.
But there have been apparently some emotions damage within the course of. In July, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla acknowledged there was some therapeutic to do with Brogdon.
“The organization has had a few conversations,” Mazzulla stated. “I think anytime you are in a situation like that and you are in a relationship, you just have to take some small steps into it. There is a healing process, there is a listening process and to see where we are at and where we have to get to. We’ve had some conversations as an organization but at the same time, we understand that the situation that it was and as the healing process goes on, we will move forward as well as you can.”
Now, as camp begins, one of many greatest query marks is Brogdon’s standing – each bodily and mentally. He reportedly selected to not have surgical procedure on his arm, and Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens informed the Globe final week that he’ll be totally wholesome and prepared for the beginning of camp. But what about his mindset? ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne reported final week that any unhealthy emotions Brogdon has towards the Celtics are extra to do with the group’s dealing with of his harm than being concerned in commerce discussions. Whatever the case, there will likely be extra readability about Brogdon’s scenario when he speaks at media day on Monday.
2. Kristaps Porzingis’ first camp
This week – with camp starting main into subsequent Sunday’s first preseason recreation in opposition to the 76ers – will present a primary take a look at Porzingis’ match with the Celtics. The expectation is that the massive man, who missed the FIBA World Cup with Latvia on account of plantar fasciitis in his proper foot, will likely be wholesome for camp this week. He has been understanding on the Celtics’ follow facility, as seen via pictures and clips on the crew’s social media accounts, and appears like he’s transferring properly, however will they be easing him in throughout camp?
Porzingis’ well being will likely be a storyline all season after he’s had some hassle staying on the courtroom all through his profession. But assuming he’s a full-go for the beginning of camp, the primary practices and preseason video games will give an thought on how the Celtics plan to make the most of him. Offensively, they view him as a dynamic game-changer together with his capacity to area the ground and relieve stress off Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, whereas serving to them play extra double-big lineups that they’ve thrived in over current years.
3. Who would be the ultimate starter?
As camp begins, it’s anticipated that Tatum, Brown, Porzingis and Derrick White will make up 4 of the 5 starters for the Celtics. Mazzulla confirmed this summer time that White would be the place to begin guard, and the opposite three converse for themselves. That leaves a giant choice to be made – will or not it’s Robert Williams or Al Horford because the fifth starter?
Horford has began each recreation he’s performed in with the Celtics over his two stints (5 seasons), so a departure from that will be a major change to the norm. There’s a sure consolation degree with him in that beginning lineup subsequent to Tatum and Brown, he’s spoken previously about his choice to be within the beginning unit and he’s earned that proper as a trusted and revered veteran within the locker room. But he’s 37, and he’s logged a number of miles over the past two seasons after two deep playoff runs. Could he be more practical in a bench function?
Williams, in the meantime, accepted a bench function when he returned from knee surgical procedure restoration final season however was by no means fairly himself persistently. His return to the beginning lineup within the playoffs in opposition to the 76ers flipped that sequence, and his presence was a giant purpose for the Celtics’ run to the NBA Finals in 2022. Williams is getting into this camp totally wholesome and primed for a giant bounce-back 12 months, and his inclusion within the beginning lineup might assist the Celtics lock in defensively.
There are robust instances to be made for each Horford and Williams to start out, and Mazzulla will probably use the preseason to judge that call. Ultimately, each will in all probability see time within the beginning lineup all through the season. Horford is prone to sit out the second recreation of back-to-backs once more, and Porzingis and Williams aren’t prone to play full common seasons both given their historical past. Each double-big lineup mixture is prone to be a great one, although, and the strongest one will emerge.
4. A management shift
For the primary time in almost a decade, the Celtics will likely be with out Marcus Smart after they traded the franchise cornerstone in June. In addition to his manufacturing on the courtroom, particularly his protection, it eliminated the strongest and loudest voice from the Celtics locker room.
“You’re just not going to replace that, so it’s not worth even thinking about that,” Mazzulla stated of Smart’s impression on and off the ground.
Still, whereas sure points of Smart’s recreation and management are irreplaceable, there stays a management void that can require some to lift their voices. While Horford stays one of many crew’s strongest leaders, the departure of Smart is a chance for Tatum and Brown, each getting into their primes, to cement themselves because the leaders of the Celtics. There’s extra duty on their shoulders now as they appear to cause them to a championship.
“Any time you lose something, it’s an opportunity for others to grow in those areas, and so I think it’s just a good opportunity for our roster now to just develop that identity, to grow in communication,” Mazzulla stated this summer time. “But like I said, some of the things (Smart is) able to do, you’re not going to replace it. It’s just a matter of the guys who are on our team, how can we maximize them and get the best out of them.”
5. Evaluating the roster
There are a number of new faces for the Celtics to get acquainted with on this coaching camp as Mazzulla evaluates their match and his totally different rotations. Oshae Brissett, Svi Mykhailiuk, Dalano Banton, Lamar Stevens and rookie Jordan Walsh all arrive at their first Celtics camp seeking to carve out a job.
While Grant Williams was fazed out of the rotation over the second half of final season, his departure opens up loads of alternative within the rotation that might particularly use some depth behind Tatum and Brown. Brissett’s dimension and defensive versatility ought to give him a path to taking part in time. Can Walsh, who had a powerful summer time league, use his defensive capacity to earn a spot, or will the Celtics decide to ship him to Maine to get constant taking part in time and improvement?
Payton Pritchard would be the greatest beneficiary of Smart’s departure after his frustrations grew final season with a scarcity of taking part in time. Can he reap the benefits of his alternative in a contract 12 months? And Sam Hauser, after his first full season within the NBA, enters a giant camp. Can the sharpshooter’s protection enhance sufficient to cement a spot within the rotation?