The Team in Green

“We root for the team in the green.”

My daughters know, man. They know. They’re still too young to really get it any more than that, but I feel pretty good about things — just thinking about how far they’ve come in these last couple of years: They know their dad plays for the basketball team in Boston. They know it’s the Celtics. And they know that we always, always root for “the team in green.”

I’ll take it. And all jokes aside, it’s the sort of thing that reminds me of how far I’ve come myself over these last couple of years. There was the injury in Year One, which we definitely don’t need to rehash in this article — that was as tough as it gets. And then there was last season, which was also extremely tough in its own way. And we don’t need to rehash that here, either, but I’ll just leave it like this: No one signs with the Celtics to get bounced in Round 2, you know what I mean?

That’s life in the league for you, though. I mean — that’s life for you, period. Things don’t always happen in a straight line. There’s usually going to be a zig here, a zag there, that catches you by surprise. And then it’s on you to adapt. And I feel like that’s the story of our group here in Boston. You had this team of All-Stars, and experts picking us to go to the Finals right off the bat….. and things didn’t go as planned. But I think where a lot of organizations might have let that get to them, we’ve really done the opposite — and managed to keep this thing heading in the right direction.

No one signs with the Celtics to get bounced in Round 2, you know what I mean?

And now we’re heading into this season with a team that I feel has a chance to be pretty special.

Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

It all starts with Kemba, of course. Man…. I think he’s listed at like 6′ 1″? But there’s a whole new system coming in where guys are going to be measured without shoes — so it’s going to change up a bunch of the old measurements. And I’m excited for Kemba, in a weird way, because for as amazing as he seems at 6′ 1″….. people should definitely understand and appreciate that he’s even a few inches shorter. Which is to say he’s even that much more amazing of a talent.

And I’ve known what kind of a player Kemba is for a while — just from going against him for all these years. But now seeing him do his thing up-close, as a teammate? I’ve been blown away. The guy can basically get to anywhere on the court, at will. And he finishes with this confidence that’s unreal. Whether it’s some last-second move within a move that he’s adding, or switching up his timing the smallest amount, or using the rim as a shield in all of these creative ways….. it’s hard to explain, but what Kemba is able to do around the basket is unique.

You know how boxing does those pound-for-pound rankings? If the NBA did that, I think you’d see Kemba right there among the very top few guys. And I’m just glad he’s one of our guys now.

What Kemba is able to do around the basket is unique.

Then you have Jayson, who is such a natural scorer it’s crazy. He’s coming at you from all three levels, and by that I mean he can hit it lights-out from three, off the dribble, or spotting up. To be as versatile and as lethal of a scorer as he is at his age….. trust me when I tell you that’s extremely rare. It’s a small list. JT is ready to make a really big leap this year — on both ends of the court. And if you know how good he already is to begin with, then you know that’s saying something.

Then you have Jaylen, and wow….. I’m just so happy Jaylen got his extension done. Because we need him here for a very long time. Jay is one of the best athletes in the entire league, and when he puts his mind to it he can truly be a lockdown defensive player — and I’m talking at multiple positions. That’s what sets his game apart from a lot of the young wings he gets compared to: A lot of guys, maybe they can lock it down at one spot….. and then “hold their own” at another spot or two. But not that many guys have the ability to legitimately play lockdown D at multiple spots on the court — against bigs and point guards alike. (And while we’re here, let me say this: Anyone expecting us to “fall off” this year defensively? They might be in for a little shock.)

And then you have Marcus, our fourth guy who played for Team USA this summer — and I’ll tell you what: If you’re thinking to yourself, just from looking at his stat line or whatever, that Marcus doesn’t really belong on Team USA? Then you must never have played basketball with him. Because when I think of what Marcus brings to the table for us, it really is such an incredible package of things: It’s the way he was seemingly born clutch. It’s the way he handles all the “little” aspects of the game — quick outlets, hockey assists, flare screens. It’s the way he keeps growing as a decision maker, and as a disruptor, and as a scorer, and as a leader. But most of all, what Marcus brings is he’s that teammate everyone thinks about and goes, you know, Man — I LOVE playing with that guy. You don’t win a medal without a player like that….. and you definitely don’t win a ring.

Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

And that’s just our core of young vets. But if you look at the other additions that our front office has made over these last summers, via the draft and via free agency and everything, I’d say there’s even more to be excited about. I’m actually tempted to go full Basketball Nerd on you here, and run through ’em all. You know what?? It’s my article. 

Let’s do the whole squad:

Enes: Maybe the best offensive rebounder in the WORLD, and probably already the biggest fan favorite on our roster. It’s easy to see why he played such a major role in Portland’s run last year — I think he can make that sort of an impact here, and then some.

Carsen: If you watched any Summer League, then you know. But if you didn’t I’ll clue you in: Carsen? That dude is going to be scoring a lot of points in this league….. for a long time. He’s insanely quick, and yet somehow has no fear — with the body control of a 10-year vet. I love that we made this pick. Kid is a stud.

Grant: One of the best young players I’ve seen at answering this simple (but for a lot of guys not so simple) question: What does the team need from me, right now? Grant’s skills speak for themselves, no doubt. But he also reads the game like such a pro, and is constantly making those team-first sacrifices. He’s huge for us.

Rob: Unlimited potential. Already a pretty dominant rim-roller and shot-blocker. Not too many bigs Rob’s age can combine his timing and his physical gifts. If he puts it all together, he’s going to be a beast.

Romeo: He’s been injured a bit this preseason, but I played a lot with Romeo in the summer — and he really impressed me. I knew how dangerous he could be as a slasher, but didn’t know he was so far along with the rest of his game. Reading pick-and-rolls, reading help-side defense….. he’s already starting to master those nuances. You don’t see that a lot with rookies.

Tremont: I love his vision. Tremont might not be the biggest guy on the court, but he sees things two or three steps ahead of everyone else — which will get you pretty far in this league. It always helps to be smart, and Tremont is as smart as they come.

Tacko: Here’s the thing with Tacko: People see his size, and they see the way crowds respond to him….. and I think, just off of that, there’s kind of a tendency to view him as almost this, like, “novelty attraction.” You know what I mean? But I’ll tell you what — after seeing him in practice firsthand: Tacko is legit. Absolutely 10000% legit. Like, when he gets to his spot?? He’s a problem. It’s that simple. There’s nobody in the entire league who is going to be able to stop Tacko when he gets to his spot. Now, is he going to be able to get there consistently?? That’s something he’s going to have to work hard on. Guys still take advantage of his frame way too often, and get underneath him. But from what I’ve seen, he has the drive to figure it out. Honestly, the way he’s not only come along as a player, but also embraced his popularity and all of that….. I respect it a lot. That takes some serious, next-level maturity. Tacko’s earned everything he gets.

Then you add Daniel, you add Semi, you add Vincent, you add Javonte, and you add Brad to the mix?? Man….. you go up and down our roster and it’s hard not to get real excited. We’ve got exactly what you hope for in this league: a deep and balanced team — full of talented guys who just love to play basketball.

Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

And then last but hopefully not least, I’ll give you the scouting report on Gordon Hayward this season: He’s ready.

That’s it — that’s the whole report.

I’m just flat-out ready. I’m ready to do this, you know??? Being another year removed from the injury, I was able to get in a full summer of practice — and that was so big, in terms of finding my game and getting it back to where I want it to be. A lot of people don’t realize what a difference it is — the rehab process vs. actual practice. But for me it’s just meant everything. It’s meant real reps. It’s meant real confidence. It’s meant attacking the game from both ends. It’s meant entering the season in peak condition, both physically and mentally. It’s meant getting to work with the guys, and thinking team-first, and coming into my own as a leader. 

I’ll give you the scouting report on Gordon Hayward this season: He’s ready.

And it’s also meant knowing when to put down the laptop and let our results do the talking — which is why I’m going to end this right here.

Celtics fans: Thanks for all of the support you’ve given me, nonstop, over these last two years. It wasn’t always the easiest time, obviously. But knowing that you had my back, and knowing that you still had faith in my ability to get healthy, and to play up to my potential….. that you still had faith in our ability to win championships together….. it helped me in ways I can’t even describe.

So let’s go have ourselves a season, C’s Nation. We’re about to surprise some people, I think. And we’re about to fight like hell for that 18th banner — I promise.

Now comes the fun part.

Thanks for rooting for the team in green.