We already began to see the emergence of the Celtics’ youth in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown early on this season. Then Rozier and Smart added some fuel to the fire, with Rozier carrying it into his three starts at point guard. But during that three-game span without Irving and others, the young Celtics really got a chance to show everyone what they could do.
Banged Up and Short-handed
The Celtics had to go three games without some key players:
- Kyrie Irving sat out all three games with a sore quad; he probably could have played against the Trailblazers but with Toronto right after, pretty sure the plan was to conserve energy.
- Marcus Smart continues to sit out with a self-inflicted hand injury. I heard the stitches are out, but they are being cautious.
- Marcus Morris had a nasty fall against the Knicks. He missed the next two games with a sore hip.
- Shane Larkin sat out with a sore knee and wasn’t available for the Hawks and Trailblazer games.
Although they only had to face the Knicks, Hawks and Trailblazers, the Cs had fans worried about how the games would play out.
Developing Celtics’ Youth: How are They Doing It?
Time and time again, the Cs youth had been inconsistent with their efforts on both sides of the ball. But this time, they proved that they can hold their own. They went 3-0 in those games, and here’s my take on how:
- building up minutes : It used to frustrate me that coach didn’t play the young guys more, but now I’m seeing the bigger picture. I’ve compared it to teaching someone how to ride a bike. The minimal minutes to start out are the training wheels — but Brad Stevens has finally removed them. The guys are adapting to the pace, gaining more awareness and building confidence —10-20 minutes at a time.
- coaching : Stevens is so good at helping his guys utilize their strengths. Nader and Ojeleye can knock down the perimeter shots when encouraged; Theis can get the basket if he’s fed the ball in the paint; Tatum is encouraged to use his length and athleticism not just on offense, but on defense as well. Brad’s expectations for his guys are realistic, which takes the pressure off. A lot of rookies in the league don’t have that luxury.
- leadership/confidence : the youth on this team knows how fortunate they are to be able to play with (young) vets like Irving and Horford. They also know how fortunate they are to play for Brad, who is quite young and probably easier to communicate with. But in general, having the supportive foundation that they have really helps. If you watch, you can see that these guys play hard for each other. The trust and confidence they have in one another makes it easier to handle business on the court. Why do you think they’re still rated #1 in defensive efficiency?
Other people may have more technical explanations for this emergence of the Celtics’ youth. But really, sometimes it’s just that simple.
Cover image courtesy of MassLive.com