NBA Summer League isn’t as much about the basketball on the court, as it is about everything off the court. Summer League is essentially the NBA’s version of Comic-Con. You don’t get to see the whole movie, but snippets of the movie. It’s about the festival atmosphere and spending time chatting with people all around the NBA. It can be players, coaches, front office folks, agents, media or fans. Often, it is all of the above. It’s truly the only time the entire NBA world is together in one place. You often find yourself having conversations more than watching basketball.
Throughout those conversations you pick up lots and lots of nuggets. Some are interesting, some aren’t. Some make your ears perk up, others make your attention wander. Some stick with you and write them down. Below is a list of the best of the Celtics-related Summer League notebook. Not every comment came from someone with the team. Sometimes they came from those with rival teams or from the countless number of people who float in and out of various NBA circles. Hopefully you’ll find them as interesting as the CelticsBlog team did and they’ll help get you ready for the 2018-19 season.
Part II will publish Monday morning.
1. Everyone you talk to with the team wants Marcus Smart back. No one overlooks how important he is to the Celtics and winning. One team staffer said “We’re all trying to beat the Warriors. To do that, we need Marcus Smart.”
2. The overall excitement for the coming year is off the charts. Lots of “now that we’re healthy...” talk. One thing that stuck was “we could have the most versatile offense in the league. The Warriors and Rockets are great, but we can take you down inside and pound you. They don’t do that.”
3. All reports on Gordon Hayward are that he looks great and should be 100% for training camp. But the team will take it slow with all the vets. They’ll get plenty of time off. It’s a balancing act between getting them time together to get acclimated and making sure they are ready for the season.
4A. Speaking of time off, one staff member told me “we’re going to rest guys a lot more this year. Al (Horford), Kyrie (Irving), Gordon (Hayward), (Marcus) Morris, and (Aron) Baynes are guys we need fresh at the end. We’ve got the depth to sit guys here and there and not miss a beat.”
4B. Continuing on rest: “We’ll steal rest in games whenever we can, too. There is no need to push guys to play much beyond 30 minutes a night with the depth we have.”
5. Asked about if there is too much depth or too many guys who need shots, a staffer said, “that is a real thing. Guys want to play. And guys want shots. Thankfully we have a couple of guys like Al (Horford) and Aron (Baynes), who don’t care if they ever shoot. And the rest of the guys just want to win. It’s something we’ll have to monitor some, but we think we’ll be fine.”
6. On Semi Ojeleye: “He was in over his head last year. We never planned to play him as much as we did. When Gordon (Hayward) went down, it changed our entire plan. He more than held his own on defense, but offense needs work. He had to think his way through things. By the playoffs, it was finally all coming together. He really could have used some time in Maine (with the NBAGL Red Claws).”
7A. On Jabari Bird: “The kid is a competitor. Even more than we thought when we drafted him. Sometimes at Cal (where Bird went to school), he’d get lost in the flow. You wouldn’t really know he was always out there. From Day One with us, he got after it. Our kids see our vets and realize real quick that if they don’t go hard, they won’t stick.”
7B. On Bird and next season: “Well, first we gotta keep him here. That is a goal of ours. We drafted him for a reason, but he’s been even better than we hoped for. Something will get done we hope. If so, we’ll work him when we can. He’s gotta earn it, because there aren’t many minutes up for grabs right now.”
7C. Rival team on Jabari Bird: “I wish we had the cap space to make something happen. He’s got that size you want in wings right now. He’s good now, but he’s only going to get better. The thing you wonder about is: how would be outside of Boston’s bubble? They get their guys to play way up.”
8. On Guerschon Yabusele: “Long way to go, but he’s showing signs. The year in China didn’t do him any good. He developed some really bad habits on defense and with blocking out on the boards. We spent a whole year breaking those. But all that natural ability is still there. Not often you find a guy his size and strength who moves the way he does and can step out and shoot it. He can be a modern 4/5, but he’s gotta fix the defensive issues.”
9A. On Kyrie Irving being unhappy in Boston and jealous of the kids and the attention they got last year: “Ignore that noise about Kyrie not liking it in Boston and about being jealous of the kids and the attention they get. This team is closer than any team I can remember.”
9B. On Kyrie Irving coming back after this season: “That is our hope. We think that is what he wants. But a year is a very long time in the NBA. Lots can change. We understand why he doesn’t want to do an extension now. That is a lot of money to sacrifice. It doesn’t make sense for most guys to sign extensions. That is why you don’t see them do it.”
10. On getting Aron Baynes back: “We’re thrilled. He’s a huge part of what we hope to do. He’s key to defending the better bigs and to giving Al (Horford) a break once and a while. And he wanted to be in Boston. He’s found a home here and loves his teammates, the city, and the fans.”
11A. From a rival exec on Brad Stevens: “I could gush all day. He’s terrific. We have a lot of good coaches, but he’s right up there. You’re never catching his team unprepared to play. You have to beat them. Even when they were bad for a couple of years, you had to work to beat that team. That’s how you can spot a great coach.”
11B. On Brad Stevens and Team USA rumors: “No one thinks Pop is long for that job. Probably one or maybe two cycles, at most. After that, most expect them to talk to Brad (Stevens). He’s got the mix of college and NBA experience they like to have. The question is if he’ll want to do it on top of his commitments with the Celtics. It’s a lot to ask of a guy and he (Stevens) doesn’t do anything halfway.”
12. From a Boston staffer on the East being wide open with LeBron James headed to Los Angeles: “Part of me hates it, because we wanted to beat him. But the reality is that it opens things up a lot. But not just for us. Philly, Toronto, Milwaukee, Indiana, Miami and us are all gonna get after it. The East has gotten better. It’s not going to be a stroll in the park.”