Boston enters the season as the team to beat in the East. They made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season without either Gordon Hayward (out the entire season) or Kyrie Irving (out the end of the season and playoffs, and if those two are healthy Boston adds two All-Stars to a strong core that’s got youth, athleticism, and defends well.
About that healthy question… Boston president Danny Ainge said Irving and Hayward will be going full speed when training camp opens next month, speaking to Chris Forsberg of ESPN.
“I don’t want to hype it up too much, but I’m saying that if our training camp were starting today that they would be here today going full speed,” Ainge said. “It’s not like they need an extra month. I think that they know they have an extra month, so they are sort of pacing themselves. They’re playing as if to build up to that opening day of training camp [Sept. 26]….
“They’ll both be here within the next week or so; by the time Labor Day is over, they will all be playing 5-on-5,” Ainge said of Irving and Hayward. “I think it’s just a matter of, if they’re not playing 5-on-5 now, then it’s only because they want it more of a controlled environment, I guess. They’re doing everything — dunking the basketball off both legs and playing one-on-one live and jumping and cutting and defending. I’m excited for them.”
That should make the rest of the East nervous.
Boston has built a contender, team that’s a mix of veterans and youth, offensive versatility and fierce defenders, a team that should be on top of the East (or close to it) for five years or more. While rumors swirl about the league about Irving’s future — there will be teams lined up to take a run at him in free agency next summer — winning could well be the difference that keeps him in Celtics’ green. Irving is positioned to win titles (and not in the shadow of you know who). It’s hard to picture a better situation for him. (That said, Irving is a different guy, his own guy, and with that is a little less predictable than other stars, meaning no door is closed.)