WALTHAM – The Celtics held their final practice in Waltham on Thursday before heading down to Orlando for the Summer League.
With such a young roster that includes two big name rookies, the Summer League is going to carry significantly more weight for Boston than in past years. Marcus Smart is considered the most exciting talent that everyone is expected have their eyes on. Smart is just excited to get his first taste of the NBA; even if it’s just Summer League action.
“It’s still going to be a big deal because it is my first game,” Smart told media members before practice started.
Smart expects his Celtics squad to fare well when they take the court at the Amway Center practice floor in Orlando.
“Actually, we’ve come pretty far,” said Smart of his team’s progress over the last three days. “[We've] got all these new guys in, [Coach Jay Larranaga is] putting in some new plays, trying to learn some things and playing with different type of style. We’ve come a long way.”
We know Smart is ready to begin polishing his game in Orlando before his first season as a professional begins, however, fellow rookie James Young is in a different boat. Young is still recovering from a neck injury suffered in a June car accident.
“I haven’t heard from Ed [Lacerte], or Danny [Ainge] or Brad [Stevens] on what the plan is for James,” Larranaga told reporters.
Young’s status, in terms of playing in Orlando, sounds as if it’s up in the air at the moment.
“He did some more stuff yesterday as far as non-contact on the bike,” Stevens added on Young. “I think he’ll be continuing to do some of that stuff today, but I haven’t been given a timeline on it. And, obviously, he was in the car accident a couple weeks ago. It’s Summer League, we want to be very, very smart about this with him. He’s anxious to play, he’s antsy, he wants to [play]. But at the same time, I want to be cognizant of the big picture here.”
So is Young’s neck a short-term injury?
“Yeah,” Stevens immediately responded. “No question.”
Although the team is going to play it safe with Young, he has still not been ruled out, leaving a chance he will make his debut sometime in Orlando.
The focus will not solely be on the recent draft picks, though. Second-year players Kelly Olynyk and Phil Pressey are expected to play big roles on the Summer League team, while developing their individual games.
“The new guys are just trying to get everything down,” Stevens elaborated. “[The second-year] guys are trying to continue to enhance their play within the system and within their role. And getting better within that role, hopefully expanding that role. The thing about all of our young guys is they’ve worked. They work at a great pace. That’s the good part about it.”
Despite the Celtics‘ roster having some of the bigger names in the Summer League this year, it’s still a busy schedule. That means minutes are going to be available to everyone.
“I’m pretty comfortable just giving the minutes to players,” Larranaga said of his rotation. “It’s not real difficult. You just play and substitute guys in and try and get everyone a rest when they need it. We play five games in seven days, so fatigue will be a factor for certain players. Everyone has to be ready to step up when they get their opportunity.”
In the end, what are the Celtics looking to accomplish in Summer League?
“Starting to develop the habits that will make us successful during the year,” a straightforward Larranaga responded. “That’s offensively, that’s defensively, that’s approach to the game, approach to practice. I think the players have done a great job, so far, of that.
“And I would like to win,” Larranaga said of goals to be reached.
Coach Larranaga and the Celtics will get their first shot at a victory on Saturday, July 5 against the Heat. The game can be seen on NBATV at 11 A.M.
Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow