Basketball is FINALLY back. For Boston fans who have spent not only this summer, but all of last season, daydreaming about their roster at full strength, this day is super sweet. It’s not a meaningful game, but it does matter. Just getting a chance to get more of a feel to what on paper is the best roster in the Eastern Conference is exciting. With that being said, Boston has a team full of youth that can still use this time to show what they have improved on this summer.
On the other side, Coach James Borrego of the Hornets has already said that the only solidified starter on the team is Kemba Walker which means the Celtics will be going against a roster full of guys that will be fighting for a rotation spot. Also, the Hornets have been reportedly been playing with a 12-second clock which implies that they’re putting an emphasis on playing with a faster pace despite already being in top 10 in pace last season. Obviously, that doesn’t change the plan going into the match up tonight, but it does mean that the Celtics could be in store for a worthy first test. Let’s get into some things to watch for tonight.
1. Irving-Hayward back court?
We all know the Boston Celtics starting five at this stage (Irving, Brown, Tatum, Hayward, Horford). It will be interesting to see how the dynamics play are within the teams offense. We’re all expecting a free-flowing, spaced out offense, but during an interview Kyrie Irving actually referred to Hayward as a “two-guard” which is interesting because most see Hayward as a wing. Stevens has said time and time again that he de-emphasizes the traditional positions, but players still have roles and it’ll be interesting to see if both Irving and Hayward take turns bringing up the ball and running the offense. Last season, Hayward had gotten some time as being the primary initiator in the second unit, but it will be interesting to see if he also gets to take over some of those roles in the first unit.
2. New Semi?
This will be game one of Semi Ojeleye’s first test of showing that he can live up to the “3-and-D” role he was projected to have coming out of the draft. Ojeleye shot 34.6% from the field which included 32% from three on low attempts. Defensively, he’s regarded well by everyone but Stevens also says that he was looking for Ojeleye to “get into” offensive plays now. Generally, individual defense is a balance of shadowing and dictating. Shadowing is the ability to stay in front and mirror the offensive player. Dictating is getting into the offensive players air space and forcing him to what your defense wants. Ojeleye was great at shadowing, but as the competition got stronger we saw a tentativeness to impose his will on the offensive player which led to him getting beat a few times. I think this adjustment comes with comfortability with understanding the defense and having experience, so Ojeleye should be able to do this much more frequently this year. However, shooting will be the swing skill that keeps him on the bench or forces him on the court.
3. Rookie debut for Brad Wanamaker
Wanamaker is only a rookie to this league, but the 28-year-old will be getting his first taste of playing in the big leagues this season. With Marcus Smart out for personal reasons tonight, Wanamaker may be in store for a bigger role then anticipated which bodes well for a guy that will have to fight to get into the back end of the rotation. I wrote extended thoughts about Wanamaker here, but the Cliff Notes version is tonight we’ll be looking to see how versatile his defense can be against a Hornets team that will be looking to throw a lot of wings on the court to match Boston. I’m also going to be watching how Stevens sees his role offensively as well. In Barcelona, he played as the primary ball-handler, but could also move off-ball, however his bread and butter was playing out of the PnR. Will he get those same opportunities tonight?
4. #MookMagic or #IsoMook?
This will be a theme all year, but something to watch for tonight will see Morris’ mindset coming into tonight. Last preseason he pressed a lot trying to make up for lost time, but coming into the system after a healthy off-season and some familiarity with his teammates it will be interesting to see if he plays within the offense more. I talked about the two spectrums of Morris here, but essentially what I'm looking for is to see whether Morris will go into his isolation package or stays true to the offense where I think his value becomes starter quality.
5. Kyrie Irving vs. Kemba Walker
There isn’t any overarching theme here. These are just two of my favorite players and every time they go against each other it’s worth the ticket admission. I still think about this game often:
We won’t get it to this degree tonight considering Stevens has already said he doesn’t anticipate anyone playing more than 20 minutes tonight, but we’ll get some moments.
6. BONUS: Send me videos please!
About a year ago, I was too busy to take my significant other to restaurant week and she made me promise that next year we were going to go “no matter what.” Fast-forward to now, and guess when she books our date... yup. So I'm not going to be able to watch the game live but that doesn’t mean I don’t want your takes! I’m @Kungu_NBA on twitter and I am sending this humble requests in hopes that you will send me videos throughout the night.
Basketball is back!