Boston Celtics Introduce Kemba Walker

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Kemba, Grant, Carsen, Tacko, and more as we empty the notebook from Las Vegas

With one of the wildest summers in NBA history mostly behind us, as well as NBA Summer League, it’s time to empty out the notebook on all we learned in Las Vegas. Most of these are quotes from team executives, coaches, and players. Some are observations. You can tell the difference if there are “…” or not. Let’s empty out the notebook!

Offseason Overall

· Team executive on the culture/atmosphere from last year: “It was never as bad as some make it out to be, but it was never as good as some of the reports either. Look, we had a lot of egos to manage and it didn’t work the way we hoped for. The young guys earned everything the prior year. The vets came back expecting to step right back in. We’ll have better balance and fit this year.”

· On adding Kemba Walker: “He wanted to be in Boston and we’re beyond excited to have him. This guy never misses time. Loves being in the gym. Embraces the kids. It’s a perfect fit.”

· On losing Al Horford: “Huge. I mean what else could I say? He and Marcus (Smart) did everything for us defensively. It’s a big loss on that end. Offensively, we’ll figure it out easier, but we’re going to miss Al’s screening and passing a lot. But Brad (Stevens) is already at work tweaking the schemes for the new guys.”

· More on Horford: “We wanted to keep him. Thought we would keep him. But he got an offer we weren’t comfortable with trying to match. It’s hard to lose Al, especially in the division, but building a roster is about this year and all the other years after. We were ready to make a bunch of moves to allow us to re-sign Al, but that number wasn’t a number we could do.”

· Celtics coach on maybe taking a step back: “As a coach, I can’t think that way. It’s always about moving forward. That’s how Brad (Stevens) pushes us. Can’t change what happened, but learn from it and move forward. We’ve still got a ton of talent on this team and everyone should be excited for what’s to come.”

· Team executive on the big additions: “(Enes) Kanter can score and rebound. We’ll get the most out of that. We think he can even stretch his range out a bit. We’ll see. (Vincent) Poirier is a guy we’ve had eyes for a while. He was at Summer League a couple of years back and caught our eye with the way he moved for his size. He’s got the potential to be a big time defender and rebounder. We’ll be different than with Al (Horford), but still good.”

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The Rookies

· Team executive on the draft as a whole: “We accomplished more than most. We got one of the higher rated prospects who got hurt and had a rough freshman year (Romeo Langford). Then we got a guy everyone loved in Grant (Williams). He inexplicably dropped just like Robert Williams did and we win for that. Carsen (Edwards) had a first round grade for us and we paid him accordingly! (laughs) And Tremont (Waters) is going to be really good as a point guard in the league. He’s so quick and competitive. And we got some extra picks down the line too.”

· Celtics coach on Romeo Langford: “He moves so easily. It looks casual, but it isn’t. He’s just smooth. His shot looks as good as it could for someone shooting with ping-pong paddles on! (laughs) We’re excited to have him ready to go for camp and really throw him in. Our wing group is going to be very competitive this year.”

· On Grant Williams: “Everyone loves Marcus (Smart), right? Because he’s a dog, right? Grant is a bigger Marcus. He just gets after it. He made a bunch of plays here in Vegas that a rookie shouldn’t be able to read. He’s smart and plays hard. That’s a combo that gets guys minutes right away.”

· Observations on Grant Williams: Easy to see he knows how to play. He’s strong without sacrificing quickness for his position. He’ll push his way into the rotation early on. It’s a big of a weird comp, but he’s like a quicker Jared Sullinger.

· On Carsen Edwards: “That’s a classic Danny (Ainge) pick. He loves those undersized guards who have a heart as big as this gym. Carsen is a killer. He’s strong too. We wanted to sit him a game out here and he looked at us like we took his world away. It will take a bit for him to adjust to the NBA, but we’ve got another good guard coming.”

· Observations on Carsen Edwards: He’s got that little move all small guards need to create space. He gets a shoulder (truly a shoulder and not his arm) into the defender and steps back. He’s strong when driving. I didn’t see him get stripped once. Not a pure point guard by any means, but Boston has had a lot of luck with guys who are pure lead guards. Defensively he’s competitive, but his size hurts him there. Probably need to match him with good defenders around him.

· On Tremont Waters: “So, I love Carsen (Edwards), but man I love Tremont. This guy might be the most competitive guy in the entire draft. He knows he’s small and got to fight, but he’s gonna take what he can get and create more for himself. He knows how to play the point. He’s a guy Brad (Stevens) will love having because he can change the pace of a game. And, sad as the circumstances were, you saw this kid’s character when he chose to play it out in Vegas after losing his dad. He’ll be beloved in Boston before long.”

· Observations on Tremont Waters: He’s so quick. Reminds you some of Shane Larkin, but a better playmaker and shooter, where Larkin was a better pure scorer and at getting to the rim. Waters challenges guys defensively too. You can’t be casual with the ball around him. He’ll fight his way past his reported Two-Way deal as quickly as he can.

· On Tacko Fall: “The favorite player in Vegas! (laughs) I mean who didn’t love Tacko out here? He’s a worker. He’s got a long way to go to be an NBA player. But he’ll work for it for sure. A year or two in the NBAGL would do him wonders. The biggest thing for Tacko is adding strength. He can do a lot with that size, but he gets moved around too easily. NBA guys will power right through him. And he just needs to learn how to play our game. But he’s worth working with.”

· Team executive on Tacko Fall: “First, he’s a quality person. That stands out above all else. He’s incredibly smart. He might be the smartest person in this gym. (laughs) We’re hoping to be able to keep working with him through camp and beyond. You know that you can’t teach size and he’s got more than anyone we’ve ever seen. That’s worth investing in.”

· Observations on Tacko Fall: He’s huge. Big surprise, right? There was a play during the first game where he got called for a foul guarding a pick and roll. He was upset at himself. Most players will slap the basket stanchion. Happens all the time. Fall slapped the arm that runs from the stanchion to the backboard. It was just a reminder of how big he is. As for his play, he’s got a long way to go. Everything he gets is just his size right now. The good news is that he got better as the week went along. Worth spending more time on his development for sure.

The “Other Guys”

· Team executive on Javonte Green: “I knew some about him, but his athleticism blew me away. He’s clearly an NBA athlete. If he can just defend and run the floor, he can play in our league. We’re hoping to keep him for a longer look.” (Reports are that Boston will bring Green to training camp on a partially guaranteed deal.”

· On Max Strus: “Max can shoot it. That and defense is all we need from him right now. He’s on a Two-Way and that gives us a year to work together to figure it out. If he shoots like he has here (Summer League), he’ll be in the NBA.”

· On Aaron Harrison and Chinanu Onuaku: “They’re both fringe guys, but should be on a roster. It won’t be ours, but if they go the G-League route, we’ll have them on our 10 Day lists. They work hard and do what’s asked. Can’t ask for more than that.”

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Robert Williams

· Celtics coach on Williams’ play in Vegas: “He was good. Not dominant, but good. He was under control as a defender. His rebounding was better than ever. Offense is coming. Work in progress.”

· Team executive on Williams’ development: “We knew he was a project when we drafted him, but a worthy one. Sometimes a project gets tossed early, but Robert is a guy we’ll go the distance with. Word of warning: Don’t put too much on this kid too early. We signed a lot of bigs for a reason.”

Guerschon Yabusele

· Team executive: “We tried, but it just wasn’t there. Out of respect for Guerschon, we waived him early enough to let him find another NBA job. There is still a player in there somewhere, but our roster wasn’t set up for us to be the ones to find that player.”

· Celtics coach: “He works hard. I know people think he’s just fat and all that, but he does really put in the effort. He’s probably too ground-bound for the NBA to play his style. Coachable kid and a great, great dude. We’ll miss his attitude every day.”

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Jayson Tatum

· Team executive on expectations for Tatum in year 3: “To keep getting better. People say he took a step back, but he was in the toughest spot of everyone last year. He didn’t get the touches he got as a rookie. And his bar was ridiculously high. There are very few guys we would even talk about trading Jayson for. That should tell you how high we are on him.”

· Opposing executive on Tatum: “We tried to get him. The price they asked was insane, as it should be. He’s going to be an All-Star. If his numbers were down, it’s only because no 19-year-old had been at that level before. Kemba (Walker) is a great addition and (Gordon) Hayward is going to be better, but Tatum is the franchise in Boston.”

· Celtics coach on Tatum: “He’s in the gym all the time. He’s a worker. We gave him clear things to work on for the summer and we already saw him improving at those things. We need more from him on defensive with Al (Horford) gone. He’s up to it.”

· Celtics coach on Tatum and Walker playing USA Basketball: (Note: this was before Marcus Smart and reportedly Jaylen Brown were added to the USA camp) “It’s great for both of those guys. For Kemba it’s validation of all his hard work to get to this point. For Jayson, it is a chance to compete against some of the best guys in the NBA. He’s going to be tested big time. For us as a team, it’s not exactly ideal because of the timing, but if our guys are chosen, we’ll figure it out.”

Gordon Hayward

· Team executive on Hayward: “When you see him every day over the last two years, you know how much this is killing him. He came to Boston for a reason and that was to win a title. But we saw late last year how good he can be. We think he’ll be back in a big way. Brad (Stevens) has some cool wrinkles on how Hayward will be used this year on both ends of the floor.”

· Celtics coach on Hayward: “Look, the kids are the key. We need Jayson (Tatum) and Jaylen (Brown) to be our dogs. They need to be bad asses. We know Kemba (Walker) is gonna be great. Our bigs are all skilled in different ways. But, Gordon is going to be the dude who unlocks everything. He’s so skilled in all facets of the game. I saw him before we left to come here and he was kicking everyone’s ass in the gym. He wants to prove he’s still that dude.”

· Opposing executive on Hayward: “After it was clear Kyrie (Irving) was leaving, I told our owner that we could maybe grab Hayward for nothing if Boston tore it down. He’s owed a lot of money, but only a couple of years left. We made a call, but it got shut down quickly. I think Danny (Ainge) and Brad (Stevens) know what they have in Hayward for this year and going forward. He’s going to be really good again.”

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Jaylen Brown

· Opposing executive on Brown: “That’s the guy we wanted to steal. Our thought was ‘They have (Jayson) Tatum and (Gordon) Hayward and drafted another wing, maybe they are out on Brown’ and boy were we wrong. The conversation got about as far as the ‘Jay’ sound out of my mouth and they said ‘Neither Jayson or Jaylen are on the table for you’. So, yeah. They love that kid.”

· Celtics coach on Brown’s mindset: “I think last year showed that Jaylen is a guy who will do whatever it takes to win. We had to move him to the bench and he did it. Then he played like a rocket whenever we put him in. He’s a tough kid too. Some guys think he’s ‘too smart’, whatever that means, but he’s tough and a worker.”

· Team executive on Brown’s future: “All-Star. Multiple times. Just like Jayson (Tatum). Everyone loves Kawhi (Leonard) and PG (Paul George) as a wing duo. We think we have our own version growing right here in Boston. It’s gonna take a couple more years, but those guys are stars. And neither has an ego. They just want to play and win.”

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Kemba Walker

· Team executive on what it means to add Walker: “Validation that we are still a good team on the rise. If we were going to be this terrible team, Kemba would not have come. He had plenty of interest elsewhere. He knows how good we can be. And his presence as someone who wants to be in Boston, wants to be in the gym every day, wants to help the kids get better and will do it with a smile, is going to matter. A lot.”

· Celtics coach on Walker: “We can use him in a lot of different ways. He’s gotten really good off the ball. And he’s a competitive defender. I think last year that slipped because that situation was so tough, but he’ll get after it with us. It’s not about collecting talent. Fit matters and this is a perfect fit.

Brad Stevens

· Opposing executive on Stevens’ struggles last year: “Struggled all the way to 48 (actually 49) wins. We should all have such hardship. Stevens isn’t someone you are drafting over 100 players, but no coach is. That was all so silly. But he’s a great coach. And he owns all of it. I don’t know if he has a shred of ego. That team didn’t live up to expectations because the roster crumbled under the weight of their own expectations and the egos in that locker room. The playoffs were a joke, because you could see Stevens call a set and some of the guys flat ignore it. Maybe he should have pulled guys, but he tried all the way to end to get buy-in. Now he can’t coach? Give me a break.”

· Team executive on Stevens’ future in Boston: “Until he tells us otherwise, we plan to have him coaching the Celtics. Last year wasn’t on Brad, even if he’ll tell you it was all on him. It was on all of us. And somehow we still almost won 50 games and won a playoff series. If anything, he coached us to that level.”

· Celtics coach on working for Stevens and last season: “Best boss I’ve had in basketball. He makes you work, but he gives you responsibility. Sometimes I think he misses being a lesser-known guy. He loves the work. Loves being in the gym with the guys. Last season was a mess. It’s hard when you have guys who don’t want to listen and don’t want to sacrifice. And when those same guys are telling everyone they need to listen and sacrifice, you’re kind of lost. Brad isn’t, wasn’t, and will never be the problem.”

· Opposing head coach on Stevens: “I steal stuff from him all the time. Especially SLOB and BLOB ATOs (sideline out of bounds and baseline out of bounds after time out plays), because they are so damn good. He says he steals it, and he does, because we all do. But he puts tweaks. And just when you think you have it figured out, he does something like have the point guard screen for the center to pop for a three. It’s ridiculous. I think he’s best when he was a roster of workers vs a roster of stars. Talent is good, but if it isn’t the right talent, you get sunk. This year he’s got workers. I bet they are considerably better than last year because it all just fits.”

Overall thoughts on the Celtics entering the 2019-20 season

· Opposing head coach on the Celtics this coming year: “They’re not going to be as good on defense. If they are, give (Brad) Stevens Coach of the Year right now. But they’ll be fine on that end. He’ll ask (Enes) Kanter to just drop and they’ll dare his man to shoot. The French kid (Vincent Poirier) will play more when he needs a defender out there. Offensively, I bet they are better. The kids will improve, (Gordon) Hayward will be better, and Kemba (Walker) just fits perfectly. I’ve seen some saying they aren’t a playoff team. That’s stupid.”

· Opposing executive on the Celtics this coming year: “They’re fine. They lost Kyrie (Irving) and bounced back with Kemba (Walker). Is that even a downgrade? I don’t know. For them, after all they went through, probably not. The bigs are a mess, but they’ve got the pieces to go get a big by the trade deadline. We all loved their kids a year ago, now they all stink? Give me a break. And they’ve still got some future picks. Danny (Ainge) will figure it out as they go and will get Brad (Stevens) what he needs.”

· Team executive on expectations: “That’s a dirty word! (laughs) Seriously though, we expect to be a playoff team. No reason we shouldn’t be. Beyond that? I’m not putting that on anyone. Last year got out of control by the time camp opened. We don’t need that again. But this is Boston. Banners or nothing. But I do know, we’ll be a team that fans feel good about rooting for again.”

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