The Celtics’ first preseason game against the Charlotte Hornets confirmed a lot of what we already knew. This team is a blast to watch. There are glaring issues in the front court, and some smaller things to patch up before the regular season starts, but there are more positives than negatives. Of course, it’s the preseason, but here are three things I’d like to see more of in October:
1. Kemba Walker taking charge
Taking over as a point guard in Boston might have the steepest learning curve of any role. As many of the returning players looked comfortable in their first game back in the Garden, Walker had an awkward moment that reminded me of one of the team’s key weaknesses from last year.
Having the ball in the corner with 10 seconds left on the shot clock and no off-ball movement isn’t great. The Celtics offense is notorious for moments like these and they often end in a desperate three-point attempt instead of a turnover. Kemba’s killer stepback is about the only way out of this situation, which is something I assume he’ll attempt more as he gets comfortable. My initial impression is that Kemba is unselfish almost to a fault, which makes him a great fit on this team, but also a victim to an already indecisive offense.
What I liked most from Walker is initiating his offense early in the shot clock, like he does here:
This is exactly the offense we’ve been waiting for. Urgent, but without panic.
2. Jaylen Brown facing forward and changing speeds
Jaylen made it clear in his FIBA minutes that he was going to drive to the basket more. This is great, except for the obvious issue that his handles can get a little sloppy. For example:
Let’s compare that to this:
The hesitation move before the drive is nice, but what I really like is how much he slowed himself at the end while the defender flew by. This is purely speculation, but plays like this look instinctive while his turnovers look almost premeditated. Jaylen seems like an over-thinker, which is why he might try to do too much on one possession: spinning, pump faking, and falling away, each move digging a deeper hole than the last.
Here’s what it looks like when both Jaylen and Kemba are grooving on offense:
Five Celtics touching the ball in a span of 10 seconds to create an open shot is what the ‘everybody eats’ offense should encompass; nobody is running down the court after this play feeling like they might have ‘missed out’ on a shot attempt. Ball movement empowers everybody - not just the scorer.
3. Vincent Poirier sliding his feet
My Cousin Vinny looked pretty good with the youths in his six minutes of playing time. It was a welcome sight after I made myself look silly with this:
Rob Williams starting lineup tonight. I demand it— Scaremy Stevens (@Taco_Haus) October 6, 2019
THANK YOU VERY MUCH— Scaremy Stevens (@Taco_Haus) October 6, 2019
Minutes at center are extremely available right now and Vince’s ability to slide his feet around could move him up the depth chart pretty quickly. Watch him here:
Earlier in the game, the Celtics got absolutely shredded by drives to the rim. Vince stepping up twice on one possession is great, especially against Willy Hernangomez, who always seems to give the Celtics problems. Here’s another:
SLIDING! POSITIONING!— John Karalis (@RedsArmy_John) October 7, 2019
This is rim protection. This is what I keep talking about with Rob Williams. Slide... cut guys off... this is just as important as blocked shot.
So far, Poirier has defended 3 drives w/his positioning & all have been stops pic.twitter.com/yoZqtciv0o
Six minutes of playing time isn’t much to work with, but it was easily some of the best interior defense of the game. I expect that we’ll see more of him in Friday’s game.