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Questions have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Which Celtic are you most excited to watch next season?
Sam: Kemba Walker. He is arguably the Celtics’ best player. So far, I have only been able to appreciate his greatness from a distance, during those two to three times a season in which he would absolutely carve up Boston’s defense. I don’t think we will be able to fully enjoy Walker’s abilities until we see him dominate day-in and day-out. Honorable mention also goes to Gordon Hayward who, if 100-percent healthy, has the chance to live up to his All-Star potential and $30-million contract.
Chad: Does Tacko with the Red Claws count? Because that’s honestly a top-three option for me. Maybe top-two. I mean, Fab Melo, rest his soul, once had 14 blocks in a game for Maine. Tacko might hit that by halftime in a game. If he’s with the Red Claws this year, they may draw more fans than the Phoenix Suns.
I suppose the conventional choice here should be Walker, because he’s new, he’s an All-Star, he wants to be here, and he doesn’t say some crap like the earth is flat all the time. But I’m going to go with the optimistic option and say Hayward, who will be two years removed from his awful injury and should mesh better with Walker than Irving.
I suspect Jayton Tatum would be a popular choice here, but he’s got a lot to prove when it comes to playing team ball. He too often played like intramural Carmelo Anthony last season, and even a positive Team USA experience wouldn’t be enough to convince me that all necessary lessons have been learned. I think he gets there, but I need to see it in green and white.
Nicole: Robert Williams. Both Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge have singled him out as someone who has put in a lot of work this summer. While that praise may merely be an effort to spread the love, I am curious to see how just how much Williams has improved over the offseason. Perhaps he’ll come back with a mid-range jumper? At the very least, given how raw he looked last season, I expect Williams to exhibit increased comfort and awareness operating on the offensive end. Defensively, he’ll probably lead the team in blocks but will still likely need to curb his instinct to jump at every opportunity. The opening in the frontcourt means playing time is up for grabs, but whether Williams gets more than 12-13 minutes per game will depend on his growth.
Who is the Celtics’ sixth-most important player?
Sam: Unfortunately, the answer is probably Enes Kanter. The Celtics’ five best players are either guards or wings, and there is a striking lack of talent at the big position. Right now, it seems as if Brad will implementing a center-by-committee strategy with Kanter as the first option. I am not a huge fan of this choice. It never worked for the Red Sox bullpen, so I’d prefer if Kanter assume the starting role permanently. I have no doubt that he will grab rebounds and score points in the paint, but he has never been known for his fast feet on defense. If Kanter can be at least serviceable on the defensive end, it will stabilize the rotation and improve the team’s playoff chances.
Chad: Let’s see, there’s Walker, Hayward, Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Kanter in some order, right? It probably has to be Robert Williams then, just because of the void they have in the middle with Al Horford and Aron Baynes gone. He was Javale-level clueless on the pick and roll last year, but Stevens has had nice things to say about the work he put in this summer, and rapid development there would be a huge help.
Nicole: I agree with Sam. Chad probably would, too, if he had counted correctly.
Will Kyrie Irving ever show his face again at TD Garden?
Nicole: Before the schedule was announced, I thought a Celtics-Nets matchup in the season-opener would be the only way to guarantee that Irving returns to TD this year. (After all, the Celtics-Cavs opener in 2017 is his only trip to Cleveland since getting traded.) Alas, the Celtics will start the year by playing the Philadelphia 76ers, so Irving’s first opportunity to come back to Boston will be Nov. 27 and his second will be March 3. I doubt he returns, though. Why would he? And with the rise of load management, he’ll have an easy explanation. If that is indeed the case, I hope the playoff seeding aligns so that the Celtics and Nets face each other in the first round.
Sam: No. I think it is pretty obvious that the spiritual alchemy of TD Garden did not align with Irving’s amorphous energy center. I don’t think it is worth the risk. Certainly not this season.
Chad: Sure. He’ll definitely be here for years to come, right up until the night his No. 11 is raised to the rafters. What, is there something I missed? He left?! WAS THAT COMMERCIAL NOT TRUTHFUL?!
Yeah, he’ll be back, when Durant is riding shotgun a season from now. You won’t get to greet him in the way he deserves this year. I’m more curious what his actually excuses will be for missing the Nets’ visits to the Garden. His knee hurts? (Plausible, actually.) He needs to get a deviated septum repaired before filming an Uncle Drew sequel? (Also plausible.) He has a herd of goats that needs urgent tending? (Nah, he’ll bully Spencer Dinwiddie into doing that for him.) I stand by everything I wrote here. The Nets’ implosion in two years is going to make for some delightful schadenfreude.
Will Al Horford get booed during his return? (Before you say no, remember what happened in Atlanta in 2017.) Also, will he get a tribute video?
Nicole: He’ll probably get booed. Do you I think he should be booed? No. But fans will probably conflate their hatred for the 76ers with their discontent surrounding Horford’s departure and thus boo.
Sam: Al Horford will not get booed in his return to TD Garden because I will not allow it to happen. I promise to track down any individual who even THINKS to boo and give that person a strongly worded reprimand. I think Celtics fans are smart enough to recognize Horford’s significant contribution to the growth of the franchise. Also, with eyes like that, there has to be a tribute video. I imagine a supercut of Horford setting great screens, communicating on defense, and knocking down jump hooks, with intermittent images of him flexing after a big dunk or flinching after a missed free throw.
Chad: I love Al almost as much as Sam loves … well, Al’s eyes, but I’ve got to admit, I’m increasingly torn on how he should be received.
He was a wonderful, winning player here who would have been a fit on any great Celtics team …. BUT he blindsided them in free agency and joined their greatest rival. which is just lousy … BUT who can blame anyone for taking $108 million, especially since he came here as a free agent in the first place and we were cool when he did it to the Hawks … BUT he went from beating Joel Embiid to joining him and that’s not how it is supposed to work …. BUT he once shot 52 percent from 3 in the postseason and did so many things the Celtics needed on a nightly basis with very little fanfare … BUT he was underappreciated by too many Celtics fans, especially those in the utility-infielder-turned-
That’s a lot of buts. It’s complicated. But I think I’ve talked my way into a solution. He gets a huge ovation during introductions and then during the video he deserves, which should run early in the game. And then he gets his ass booed off from then through the rest of his time as a Sixer.
What are the Celtics going to do with the 15th roster spot? Tacko?
Chad: Doesn’t it have to be him at that point? He’s a longggg way from helping in a significant way at the NBA level, but he could be used in a specialized role as a rim-protector, and he’s already a cult favorite on the Brian Scalabrine scale. Tacko is what a 15th man should be — a project that is easy to root for.
Sam: Due to the previously mentioned log-jam at the center position, I do not think that Tacko will end up making the team, which is good news for the fine folks in the mid-coast region of Maine because they should have ample opportunity to see him suit up for the Red Claws. I think it’s more likely that the last roster spot goes to Javonte Green, who the Celtics signed to a partially-guaranteed deal after a solid Summer League performance.
Nicole: I wouldn’t be surprised if Ainge left it open as long as possible. Tacko, Javonte Green, and Tremont Waters (currently on a two-way contract) are the leading candidates as of now, but maybe there will be a surprise free agent signing or something. I’m honestly surprised Chad didn’t mention Joe Johnson.
Who is the best Celtics celebrity fan?
Chad: It’s Donnie Wahlberg, because he’s genuine and legit. He’s the kind of fan who is hangin’ tough — not sorry — through good times and bad. Also, I’m not sure who the other celebrities that go to Celtics games even are, besides Maria Menounos and assorted members of the Patriots defensive backfield. This isn’t exactly the Fabulous Forum in the ’80s.
Sam: I don’t think the Celtics have a true celebrity fan. Sure, Donnie Wahlberg is a good fan, but I don’t consider him much of a celebrity. The main problem is that most celebrity fans, like McLovin or Menunous, don’t actually live in Boston and don’t attend many games. In honor of LeGarrette Blount, the title of best celebrity fan should probably go to another Boston athlete, but there are currently no Patriots or Red Sox players who regularly sit courtside. So, the Celtics best celebrity fan is either Cousin Stizz or Millyz.
Nicole: Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore is lowkey a huge NBA fan and friends with Smart because their agents went to college together. Gilmore, who grew up in South Carolina, was also a big fan of Walker before he even signed in Boston. He’s been spotted courtside at a number of games — both during the regular season and playoffs — so I feel like that suffices. Also, Gilmore’s fandom seems to have more genuine roots than the basic support of “local athlete cheers for other local athlete.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with the latter.)
Not taking into consideration salary cap, contracts, or any rules whatsoever, which player would you like the Celtics to acquire the most?
Chad: Al Horford, dammit all.
Nah, it’s gotta be Giannis, provided that the Brazilian national team isn’t suddenly added to the Eastern Conference. He’s the reigning MVP, and works incredibly hard, still has room to grow, and has a winning personality. Plus, the seven steps he takes on his way to the basket would be much more tolerable when he’s doing it for the team you’re rooting for. Oh, could we ever justify it. “That’s not a travel! That’s a Eurostep followed by the Brazilian shuffle – new move, he just learned that over the summer – followed by the two steps he’s allowed! It’s perfectly legal! Not a travel! He’s a Celtic!”
Nicole: Kawhi Leonard. I always wished the Celtics went after him when he was available last year, but they opted to save the trade assets to pursue Anthony Davis.
Sam: Klay Thompson has been my favorite non-Celtic for a long time. He simultaneously a tremendous goofball and the second-best shooter in the league. The only thing more fun than watching Thompson explode for 30 in a quarter is watching him talk to a New York City reporter about area scaffolding. He is also the only player in the league who consistently makes shots where the net doesn’t move. And his dad Mychal Thompson is one of NBA Twitter’s best follows.
Predict the result of each game on the schedule.
Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Win
Chad: Not bad, Sam, but it’s actually …
Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, Win
Kemba banks in a 3 at the buzzer to win that April 11 game at Miami. Fifty wins. We’re gonna like this season a hell of a lot better than the last one.
Nicole: 53-29. I’ll spare you the win-loss detailing.