Questions for CelticsBlog’s mailbag ranged from the restart of the NBA season to what Boston should do in the offseason. We got so many great questions, that we’re going to break this up into two separate Q&As. Part one will focus on the return to play this season and a couple of general questions. Part two will be about the Celtics upcoming offseason.
Q: Any update on Kemba Walker’s knee?
A: Nothing official has been said by the team. There also hasn’t been any footage of Walker working out that I’m aware of. The closest thing we got was Grant Williams, who is staying with Walker, saying they’ve been working out together. At the time of the season’s suspension, the Celtics were prepared to deal with Walker’s knee soreness for the rest of the season. If he needed rest days, he was going to get them.
This time off could go one of two ways. The rest could have done the trick and Walker could be healthy and ready to go. On the flip side, Bojan Bogdanovic of the Utah Jazz was playing through a wrist injury when the season shut down. When he ramped up after the pause, the pain was too much. That’s something Boston will be watching with Walker.
Finally, the compressed schedule to finish this season might be tough for Walker, if the knee soreness is still there, or if it returns. Expect the Celtics to be very cautious with him the rest of the way.
Q: Could a team that’s not going to Orlando cut a player (e.g., Vince Carter) now and, if so, might that player be part of any pool of eligible break-glass-in-case-of-emergency players in Orlando?
A: No. The only players who will be eligible as free agents are those who were waived prior to the season being paused. Anyone waived now will not be eligible when the season restarts.
Q: How fluid do you think the starting lineup will be?
A: I think Brad Stevens has his preferred starting group when everyone is healthy and available. That lineup is Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Daniel Theis. Marcus Smart is the team’s “sixth starter”, or “stretch 6” as he dubbed himself. He’ll play plenty, but if everyone is healthy, Stevens will open with the versatile group he’s used when healthy this season.
What’s more interesting is: who closes games? Smart is almost always a part of the closing lineup. My guess is it will be dependent on what the team needs for that given game. And that the Celtics will do some offense/defense subbing down the stretch of games, as well.
Q: Can they really start next season December 1? It sounds like the NBPA is resistant to starting again so soon after the 2019-2020 playoffs end. So, who is for it and why? Are the owners really committed to trying to revert back to the old schedule after next season?
A: Can they? Sure. Will they? Probably not. When that timeline was floated, the NBPA immediately pushed back. And they should have. My guess is we see a mid-December start (something between December 15 and December 20) for 2020-21. The season will likely finish a bit later than usual, likely in early-July. That means they’ll increase back-to-back games and four-in-five days. There isn’t a way to do that without compressing the schedule a good amount.
There are a few reasons the NBA is committed to getting back to the regular schedule. The first is that any sort of long-term or permanent change would have to be negotiated with the NBPA. Many players have pushed back, as they enjoy having their summers off.
There are also issues with the Regional Sports Network contracts. 22 NBA teams share an RSN with an MLB team. When there are a couple of weeks of overlap in early-April, they work around it fairly easily. There are a ton of day baseball games and extra days off in the early part of the season. When you start talking about months of overlap, there are many challenges to get around. And neither league, nor their teams, has any reason to budge at all for the either.
Lastly, for this coming year, the NBA is giving some consideration to the Olympics. The NBA doesn’t want to go head-to-head with the Olympics. They would like to have NBA players available to play for the gold, and the Olympics is a TV ratings monster. That’s not a battle the NBA wants to deal with.
Q: Why is there a big discrepancy between Jaylen Brown’s play and advanced stats?
A: This is a great question. I’m not sure there is an easy answer either. Brown’s counting and percentages are both solid. I think when you look at the advanced stats, he’s lower-rated than many would think. Part of that is that his individual defensive numbers fall off a bit. That probably comes from Brown regularly guarding the opponent’s best offensive player when he’s in the game, especially when Marcus Smart isn’t in the game.
Overall, I would say not to get too caught up in worrying about it. He’s improved on a lot of his weaknesses, and is continuing to do so. I think more often than not, the eye-test and the traditional stats match up with Brown, and that’s always a positive.
Q: What have you seen that you liked from Romeo Langford this season?
A: Two things stand out with Langford’s rookie year. First is his defense. He was far better than I thought he would be as a defender. His on-ball defense was very good. He showed good quickness and good strength defending perimeter players. He was also good as a help defender. He’s got great athletic ability and timing to challenge shots inside. Where he needs work is when he’s off the ball. He gets caught ball-watching a bit, and that allowed his man to get easy buckets. And he wasn’t always in the right places, or making the right rotations. That’s something all young players need to improve on.
The other thing that stood out was Langford’s competitiveness right out of the gate. For a guy who missed his entire summer, and then had injuries early in his rookie season, he wasn’t tentative when he finally got his chance. He went right at opponents on both ends of the floor. That’s a great sign for his future development.