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Joe Mazzulla on Kemba Walker’s signing, the Kornet Kontest, and Sam Hauser’s development

The Celtics head coach spoke to the media ahead of Boston’s game against the Hornets.

Boston Celtics v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics are on night two of a back-to-back, set to take on the Charlotte Hornets for the first time this season. However, both teams are heading into the night with lengthy injury reports.

Robert Williams and Danilo Gallinari remain out, while Al Horford and Jaylen Brown have both been added to the list. Horford is out due to lower back stiffness. He’s sat out on the second night of back-to-backs all season thus far. Mazzulla said that Brown would be a game-time decision, but he’s since been officially ruled out.

Meanwhile, Jayson Tatum is “good to go” with “no restrictions.” He missed the Celtics’ last game against the Washington Wizards due to an ankle sprain.

As for the Hornets, they’ll be missing LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward, Cody Martin, Terry Rozier, and Dennis Smith Jr. for the contest.

Mazzulla was also asked about former Celtics and Hornets guard Kemba Walker before the game, as the veteran inked a deal with the Dallas Mavericks earlier in the day. He and Walker were close during his time in Boston. Mazzulla sang Walker’s praises, saying that he deserves this opportunity “as a person and a player.”

“Very excited. Really happy for him. I know he’s been working hard. He’s a great person, more than basketball. He deserves it as a person and a player.”

Walker spent two seasons in Boston before being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder two summers ago in a deal for Al Horford. He made one All-Star game as a Celtic and helped them reach the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2020 NBA Playoffs.

With Horford out, Luke Kornet should be expected to earn ample minutes against Charlotte. Mazzulla was asked about his patented “Kornet Kontest.” He said that it “messes with” opposing shooters but that “guys are getting better at attacking it.” Players are learning how to pump fake and drive past Kornet when he jumps, so Mazzulla said that Kornet needs to get better at perfecting the move in order to eliminate those issues.

Sam Hauser could also see extra playing time against the Hornets with Brown sidelined. Before the game, Mazzulla spoke about Hauser’s emergence this year, praising his ability to play without the ball. He said that Hauser “generates closeouts and random situations that allow” the Celtics to attack gaps in the defense.

Having Hauser on the roster has become a great luxury for the Celtics, who have been attempting to find shooting to play around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. I wrote about his impact this season and how he’s been able to fill the role Boston has been searching for.

When asked about whether or not he saw this sort of potential in Hauser during his rookie year, he said that “when you have a player who you know can make shots, he’s got to work.” However, he also noted that it’s easier to build a system around that player to help them become successful.

The Celtics tip-off against the Hornets at 7:30 p.m. EST.

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