Celtics Believe They Have What It Takes To Win in Orlando
BOSTON – Whatever is needed from the NBA’s eventual champion at the season restart at Walt Disney World, the Boston Celtics believe they have it.
While Gordon Hayward acknowledged Friday afternoon that “it’s hard to speculate, because I haven’t been involved in anything like this,” he and teammate Brad Wanamaker did just that.
They discussed a list of characteristics which they believe will be key to success in the unique and fan-less environment they’ll play within in Orlando. That list is: defense, versatility, self-produced energy, and the love of the game.
Boston, fortunately, is in a great place in all four of those categories.
First is defense, where the Celtics rank fourth in the league in defensive rating, behind only the Milwaukee Bucks, the Toronto Raptors and the Los Angeles Lakers. Hayward and Wanamaker both believe defense is what will carry teams to victories while they and their players work the kinks out at the offensive end of the floor.
“There’s going to be a huge emphasis on defense, because without a doubt, I think the offense might be further behind,” said Hayward. “Just as far as, we haven’t played, we haven’t played together, we haven’t been with each other. And usually it takes a season to get your groove going by where the end of the year you know exactly the plays that work really well, kinda where you’re gonna get your shots. You have this great rhythm that you get into, this zone that you get into.”
Without any knowledge of Hayward’s comments, Wanamaker later in the afternoon supported Hayward’s theory while discussing defense.
“It’s going to be very important,” he said. “Just being off of basketball for so long, you can’t count on shots to fall in right away. It’s getting used to game play and getting the game legs under you. So defense is going to be key.”
One element of Boston’s team that should assist with its ability to defend at a high level, according to Hayward, is its versatility.
Ten of Boston’s 17 players are 6-foot-6 or taller, including quite possibly the most versatile stable of wings in the league with Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum, who are backed up by Semi Ojeleye. That group doesn’t even include the mention of All-Defensive First Teamer Marcus Smart, who is 6-foot-3 but can defend any position on the court at a high level.
Boston’s defense has played at a high level all season long, and its roster makeup should do nothing but support its goal of carrying that trend over to Orlando in spite of the condensed schedule.
The next topic which was discussed Friday was that of playing in a fan-less environment. For Boston, it will no longer have the advantage of playing in front of the greatest home crowd in the league. It will instead need to create its own energy to feed off of, as Wanamaker knows all too well.
Wanamaker stated Friday that he has played in multiple fan-less environments, including during career in Europe, as well as in high school. As one would expect, it’s a very unique experience.
“It was definitely different,” he said. “Couldn’t get hyped for certain plays as you usually get. The energy was different in the crowd; it’s your own energy you have to bring.”
That last piece of information, in Wanamaker’s eyes, is what plays right into Boston’s hands thanks to the presence of Smart, Grant Williams and other energy-givers on the roster.
“It’s self-motivation, in a way, because you don’t have fans to get you going on like a highlight play or something,” Wanamaker said. “So it’s like you really have to be strong within the team, and I think we have a good team here, and I think we’ve got a good bond. So I think that will be to our advantage.”
Wanamaker then elaborated on the strong bond this Celtics team has maintained since it came together for the first time in training camp back in September.
“It’s very, very unique,” he said. “We all cheer for each other. We all want each other to do well, whether we’re playing the bulk minutes that night or somebody else. As you’ve seen throughout the season, we’re constantly cheering each other on or giving each other advice throughout the game. So that’s special to have within a team.”
What is also special is the love these Celtics players have for the game, and Kemba Walker is at the front of that line. Walker’s pure love for the game may be greater than any other player in the league. He eats, sleeps and breathes basketball. It’s the core of his life. Multiple teammates of his aren’t too far behind him in that sense.
That should bode well for the C’s as they attempt to win an 18th world championship in this unique setup in Orlando.
“I think it comes down to the love of basketball at the end of the day,” said Wanamaker. “If you really love the game of basketball, once you get out there, I don’t think (the lack of) fans will play a big part.”
At this point, the keys to success in Orlando are purely speculative, as Hayward made sure to mention. But if games within the NBA bubble unfold as the Celtics expect, their defense, versatility, self-produced energy and love for the game may very well carry them to where they want to go.