The Boston Celtics find themselves in a familiar situation ahead of their first game of the season.
Starting point guard Kemba Walker is slated to miss some time after he and the team’s medical staff continue to get his knee strong for the season. And when they do clear him to return, he’ll face a similar minutes restriction to that seen in the NBA bubble.
That means the Celtics will have to compensate for his absence, as well as the void left behind in Gordon Hayward’s departure.
Head coach Brad Stevens will be relying on Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart to help with that, without sacrificing the parts of their game that impact winning.
In Tatum’s case, we’ve seen his passing game improve tremendously going back to the playoffs, and he’s made that a point of emphasis going into this year as well.
“I think you saw in the bubble that his passing was big time,” Stevens told reporters Monday about Tatum’s growth as a playmaker. “He was putting the ball on the money, making the right read quickly. He draws a lot of attention so guys around him have to be ready, but usually makes the right play.”
Stevens also is hoping Smart will build off the jumps he’s made, too. He said while Marcus already is an outstanding playmaker and has improved shooting, those things need to be merged together while Walker is recovering to help guide the team.
?We have specific goals for each of our guys and Marcus in particular, he’s got to continue to build off on the threat he is and at the same time, we need him to organize us and help run us, especially while Kemba is out,” Stevens said of Smart. “There?s even more of a responsibility to get us organized as a team. Guys are going to have nights when they make shots, don?t make shots and if they are wide open, inside-out shots, you have to shoot those.
?At the same time, I think he can get everybody where they need to be. He?s a much improved shooter but he?s also an outstanding playmaker. I?ve told him we?ve talked a lot about increasing the efficiency of our team and his ability to make plays for others is a big part of that, putting guys in the right spots to soar with their strengths.?
In his own availability, Smart on Monday said shot selection would be a point of emphasis for him to focus on.
We’ll see if he and Tatum still step up when the Celtics start their season Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks.