The Boston Celtics held a media availability on Wednesday featuring head coach Brad Stevens and point guard Kemba Walker. Wednesday was the first day for players to be in the facility on a mandatory basis. Both Stevens and Walker talked about restarting the season and touched on a few other topics as well.
When asked where the Celtics are at as a team and what it’s going to be like in a unique situation at Walt Disney World, Stevens seemed upbeat saying “A lot of guys have been in Boston for a good majority of the hiatus. We’ve seen almost everybody through the voluntary workouts. Guys look good. They look good physically. They’ve worked hard to prepare as well as they can. This is going to be a super unique situation and whoever wins it is going to earn it. You’ve got to find joy. We want to make an impact on and off the court. There’s a lot of things that we’re talking about heading into this, really new season. In a lot of ways, it’s a new season. That’s the way we’re looking at it.”
Stevens mentioned several times that Celtics players are in good physical shape and that the next few weeks before games start are about getting them back into basketball shape.
Stevens said this second training camp is important. “Those first couple of weeks of practice are important to get our legs underneath us. For us, if we’re not able to pressure the ball, we won’t have a long stay. That’s a huge aspect for us.”
As it is the news of the day around the NBA, Stevens was asked if any Celtics players have tested positive for coronavirus since players had to return to the facility in recent days. Stevens shared that no member of the Celtics travel party for Walt Disney World has tested positive. In addition, Stevens shared that no members of the Celtics have voluntarily opted out of playing when the season restarts later this month.
Getting the team playoff-ready seems to be Stevens’ major focus. He stressed that the eight Seeding Games the team will play are important, but that his focus is on being ready when the playoffs start in mid-August: “We want to be at our best on August 17. We’ve got two weeks, a couple of scrimmages and then 8 seeding games. The Seeding Games are important, but the most important time is August 17. That’s kind of our day that we have in mind. It’s important to be able to play our best then. We have enough time to be at our best then. During these practices, we’ll go two hard days, then a day where we’ll back off. We have to be ready to go every other day when we start. That’s where our focus is. I’m happy with where our guys are individually. Now it’s about getting back together as a team.”
Stevens talked about how he thinks the teams that will go the deepest into the season will be the ones who can find joy in the process of the restart, have grit and stay together. When asked about the role of veterans like Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart have in keeping the Celtics focused, Stevens said “We do that with all our players all the time. Both Kemba and Marcus’ voices carry a long way. But some of our young players carry the room as well, Jaylen and Jayson and others. We lean on everybody.”
Lastly, Stevens talked about the difficulty of putting together team’s travel party for Walt Disney World. Each team is limited to a 35-person travel party. Half of that is taken up by 17 players. That means making difficult decisions as far as other team personnel. Stevens said “That stinks. We’ve tried to identify being as efficient as we can be. We’ve also tried to identify who can be excellent remotely. Hopefully, as teams are eliminated, we can bring on additional staff. Everybody deserves to go. Everyone at Disney will take on different tasks. We’ve also got some new video and projects we can take on because folks will be watching from afar. But I do hope we’ll be able to add people the longer we’re there.”
The most evident takeaway from Kemba Walker’s time at the podium is how excited he is to get back to playing basketball. Several times, Walker mentioned be excited to see his teammates and get back to doing what he does as a basketball player.
Walker said that despite suffering from asthma in the past that he didn’t consider sitting out of the restart: “That was a long time ago, when I was a kid. I haven’t really been worried. I didn’t consider sitting out at all.”
When asked how his knee is feeling, after having issues throughout the season, Walker smiled “It was super important for me. I really, really needed that break. It helped me get back to myself and comfortable with my knee. I’m excited and ready to go.”
During the quarantine process, Walker’s housemate was Celtics rookie Grant Williams. Walker said it was great to have Williams around: “We had a great time. We got really close living together. He’s not hard to live with it. Grant likes his alone time. We had a great time.”
But getting back to the rest of his teammates is clearly a great relief to Walker: “Everyone is excited to see each other. From Day 1 with this team, our vibe and chemistry were there. We’re looking forward to going out there and handling our business. We’re excited for sure.”
Walker closed his availability by talking about recently signed New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton. The two were drafted in the same year in North Carolina by the Charlotte Hornets and the Carolina Panthers. Walker said: “It’s crazy that we’re both in Boston. I’m happy for him. I know the fans are going to love him a lot.”
There will be more media availability throughout the coming days, as the Celtics ramp up for the season restarting at Walt Disney World. Stay tuned to CelticsBlog for all the latest news and notes!