Basketball has become “fun” again for the Celtics, which Kyrie Irving sees as the main explanation for the team’s recent success, relays Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Boston, which entered the season as the Eastern Conference favorite, has now won seven in a row after a 10-10 start and Irving believes the team just needed to get through a transition period.
“New group. New environment. New things to figure out,” he explained. “Expectations you have for what you want to be and how you want to win. We expected things to come easy. That’s being part of a team environment. Even the best teams had to go through trials of figuring out what they look like every day.”
Big things were expected from the Celtics with both Irving and Gordon Hayward healthy to start the season. However, some of the younger players who helped the team reach the conference finals last season had to adjust to new roles. Coach Brad Stevens appears to have found a winning combination with Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford joining Irving in the starting lineup and Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier as the top reserves.
“Terry and Gordon and Jaylen are starters in this league,” Irving said. “That’s not a prototypical second unit.”
There’s more today from Boston:
- Brown agrees with that assessment, even as he struggles through a difficult season, writes ESPN’s Jackie MacMullen. For now, he’s trying to adjust to his new bench role. “People are throwing out all these numbers, these stats, and they are saying this, saying that,” Brown said. “I have unwavering faith in my ability, and I believe our coaching staff does, too. If anyone can handle this, I can. I’ve been through a lot in my short life. I’ll be all right.”
- Even though his shooting remains erratic, the Celtics don’t have any regrets about the four-year, $52MM deal they gave Smart over the summer, according to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. The versatile guard is hitting just .385 from the field and .301 from 3-point range, but his contributions in other areas overshadow his shooting woes. “You know, he’s a bulldog,” Morris said of his teammate. “He’s been doing that since he’s been in the NBA. Even when I was on a different team, he was doing the same thing. He continues to do it. He’s a guy that you love to have on your team.”
- Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston examines the Celtics’ stockpile of potential first-rounders for next year and notes that surprising starts by the Kings, Grizzlies and Clippers may decrease the expected value of those picks.