The Celtics are off to the best start in the East, and even Clippers coach Doc Rivers has noticed how much better the atmosphere surrounding the team has been, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Rivers, whose team hosts the Celtics tonight, attributes the difference to personnel changes.
“Last year you had Gordon (Hayward) and Kyrie (Irving) both coming back from being out,” Rivers said. “Gordon hadn’t played the whole year before, and Kyrie hadn’t played in a while either, so they hadn’t really played together. And they just never could get their traction. The rest of it, I stay out of. I’ll let y’all deal with that.”
Rivers was referring to locker room differences that sabotaged a team that entered the season as a favorite to reach the NBA Finals. He noted that coach Brad Stevens seems much happier on the sidelines this year.
“It’s a great lesson for all of us. Chemistry is so important,” Rivers said. “Chemistry and youth, you know, they had both going at them. They were expecting guys in their second year to just take over, and sometimes that takes a little while. It’s just good to see them playing well now.”
There’s more from Boston:
- The Celtics have been enjoying success with smaller lineups, but that might not work in the playoffs against Joel Embiid and the Sixers or other tall teams like the Bucks and Raptors, states Brian Windhorst of ESPN. A source tells Windhorst that Boston won’t offer its core players in any deal, including Marcus Smart and Hayward, who have been mentioned as trade possibilities before. Outside of their top five, the only players making more than $4MM are centers Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter, which becomes challenging for matching salaries.
- President of basketball operations Danny Ainge addressed the possibility of adding another big man in an interview with Bulpett. “It’s always about who,” Ainge said. “It’s not, like, how tall they are. It’s not like you can just go find any seven-foot guy and put him out there and all of a sudden you’re going to be better. It depends on who that is and whether they’re better than Marcus Smart guarding the center. So I don’t worry so much about that. I mean, obviously we have stars at every other position and we really don’t have stars at our big positions. So everybody thinks that that’s what we need to do, but it all depends on who that is.”
- Roster changes have allowed Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to expand their roles, giving the Celtics two big wings that most teams can’t match up with, observes Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer.
- Celtics fans may not get a chance to welcome Irving back in his first scheduled game in Boston since leaving in free agency, tweets Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Irving missed his third straight game tonight with a shoulder impingement, and Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson refused to speculate if he will be healthy enough for next Wednesday.