December 6, 2023


It’s early, however these Celtics seem like constructed to contend for Banner 18 if they will keep wholesome.

Celtics heart Kristaps Porzingis is proving to be a dominating defensive presence within the paint.

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After three video games and three victories within the season, Celtics followers ought to have however three requests of their reworked and reloaded staff:

1. Keep wholesome.

2. Simply keep wholesome.

3. Please keep wholesome.

With 3.7 % of the schedule performed, the reality is already apparent, inspiring, and simply barely nerve-wracking. The Celtics are constructed to win the elusive Banner 18 this season. Their core — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kristaps Porzingis, Jrue Vacation, Derrick White, and Al Horford — is essentially the most gifted and well-rounded prime six within the league.

Extra importantly, they match. This isn’t like, say, the 2018-19 Celtics, who had a half-dozen gamers that thought they have been the star of the film.

Tatum is the professional Most Useful Participant candidate who doesn’t get sufficient credit score for a way he comes again annually with a brand new trick in his bag. He has been ruthless this season in searching mismatches and systematically destroying smaller gamers within the put up. He’s developed a pleasant two-man rapport with Porzingis, and his elevated muscle mass has not affected his shot (he’s at 55.4 % from the sphere and 37 % from 3-point land).

Brown is the Scorer, capital S. He’s not as properly rounded as Tatum, although he performs with the arrogance of somebody who believes he’s the very best participant on the courtroom. His work ethic, like Tatum’s, is past query, and after a disjointed efficiency within the opener in opposition to the Knicks, he has been a half-step from unstoppable since. Brown scored 27 factors within the first half Monday in opposition to the hapless Wizards, flattening 7 3-pointers. I’ve puzzled whether or not he might be — how will we put this? — extra selective when his shot isn’t falling. If he can resist attempting to dribble by double-teams — and maybe belief that the ball will come again to him when he passes it — the second-team All-NBA choice can get to a fair increased degree of effectivity and excellence.

When watching Porzingas function — whether or not flicking an easy 3-pointer or destroying some overwhelmed “undersized” 6-foot-9-inch defender within the put up — I discover myself having the identical response time and again: This isn’t honest. Somebody so tall shouldn’t be so polished. I feel Monday’s sequence, when he swatted Jordan Poole’s informal 3-point try, then hustled down and wrecked 6-6 Corey Kispert within the paint, might need been essentially the most pleasant Porzingis second to date. He does have some bother defending quickness — hey, Bam Adebayo is a troublesome matchup for almost anybody — and given his historical past of damage, I think all of us cringe when he jumps in site visitors just a bit lower than we did when Robert Williams III did the identical. Porzingis has to remain wholesome as a result of he has unlocked so many potentialities on this offense, and by all accounts is a terrific man who’s past thrilled to be right here. I want to observe this all season, proper by the summer season.

I’m going to say Jrue Vacation in tandem with White for one purpose: they’re already copacetic, complementary backcourt companions who seem like they’ve been enjoying collectively for a half-dozen years somewhat than three video games. My favourite play of the season occurred late in opposition to the Warmth within the season’s second recreation, when Vacation bounded over Adebayo for a rebound, gave the ball to Tatum, and acquired it again, pushed it arduous (Tommy Heinsohn would have been thrilled), noticed White within the nook, faked rapidly to Porzingis within the put up to look off the protection, then fired a strike to White, who buried the nook three.

Each play relentless protection (I really like how Joe Mazzulla sometimes has been unleashing a full-court press). Each are versatile, high-end gamers who don’t want to attain to have a significant influence on the sport — however can rating in bunches when referred to as upon. Vacation’s knack for making a play when the Celtics want one goes to attract a variety of Dennis Johnson comparisons. I adored Marcus Sensible. Perhaps you probably did too. However with Vacation and White — whose exclusion from ESPN’s prime 100 gamers needed to have been on goal to generate consideration — within the backcourt, it’s not a coincidence that the chaos has been tremendously lowered. It’s OK to confess it now: the Celtics weren’t getting over the hump with Sensible. He by no means curbed his erraticism. Brad Stevens did a tough factor to make his staff higher.

As for the bench, it’s a piece in progress. However I imagine those that are involved about it are likely to overlook that Horford counts as a reserve, and that’s a heck of an individual to have as the primary member of the second unit. Sam Hauser wants to begin making open pictures, and the identical goes for Payton Pritchard, who stays finest at creating his personal shot somewhat than these for others. However a few of these gamers will emerge. I like Oshae Brissett and Lamar Stevens as live-wire vitality guys. And the Celtics have extra assets than different contenders to herald assist.

Only a hunch, however I think wheeler-and-dealer Stevens might be keen to commerce picks for depth. His strikes have created a delight of a staff, one whose subsequent recreation is now all the time a trigger for anticipation. We all know what nice groups seem like round right here. If this one can keep wholesome, we all know precisely what is feasible.