Kyrie Irving raves about Celtics’ ‘next level’ pickup games
There’s a lot of hype surrounding the 2018-19 Boston Celtics, and rightfully so. Boston went to the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals and was a game away from reaching the NBA Finals. The Celtics accomplished all that without the services of its two best players in the 2018 postseason — superstar point guard Kyrie Irving and All-Star small forward Gordon Hayward.
Irving and Hayward both suffered season-ending injuries during the regular season. Irving underwent knee surgery in April, while Hayward sustained the gruesome left ankle injury on opening night in Cleveland, and missed the entire season.
But Irving and Hayward are back, and the Celtics are the clear favorites to win the East now that LeBron James is out West. The Celtics have been playing pickup games in Boston in advance of the start of training camp next week, and Irving says the games have been very noteworthy.
“Our pickup games are next level,” Irving told Jackie MacMullan of ESPN. “I mean, next level. You can’t believe what we’re doing out there. We can’t wait to get started.”
The Celtics arguably have the second most complete team in the league behind the Golden State Warriors. Their starting lineup will most likely feature Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Al Horford.
Irving, one of the best scorers and ball handlers in the world, averaged 24.4 points and 5.1 assists in 60 games last season before going down with the knee ailment. Hayward is a career 15.6 points per game scorer and, while he is sure to be rusty in the early part of the year after missing the entire 2017-18 season, his addition to the starting lineup will give the Celtics another shooter and playmaker.
The two youngsters, Tatum and Brown, have so much potential and aren’t afraid of the bright lights. In Irving and Hayward’s absence during the 2018 playoffs, Tatum and Brown took their games to another level. Tatum posted 18.5 points per game, shooting 47.1 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from beyond the arc in 19 games, while Brown scored 18.0 points per game and shot 46.6 percent overall and 39.3 percent from 3 in 18 games.
Then there’s the old reliable Al Horford, who continues to be underrated by pundits. The veteran big man is one of the smartest players in the league and produces at a high level on both ends of the court. Horford averaged 12.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game last season.
The Celtics’ bench is lethal as well. Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, and Aron Baynes are all valuable contributors and can be used in different ways by coach Brad Stevens. It’s not hard to see why Kyrie Irving said the pickup games in Boston have been astounding. This Boston roster, top to bottom, is really good.