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The Summer Celtics Are Back Which Means It's Time To Overreact

I wasn't sure I would be ready. Normally when Summer League rolls around and I wake up and realize it's time to watch the Summer Celts play, my body is overcome with excitement. The second I walk into the gym and watch a guy who has little to no chance of making the Celts NBA roster start to warm up, it's probably a top 17 moment of my life. This year though, my Finals wounds are still fresh. I wish they weren't, but they are. That's what being up 2-1 and dropping 3 straight to lose an NBA title will do to a person. I wasn't sure I was ready to see this team play real fake basketball without being extremely triggered. Maybe it was because the Summer Celts were playing the Heat that my mind went back to the real thing, I'm not sure.

Maybe it was the fact that during warmups/pregame I was a legit 2 feet from Brad/Ime across the isle up in the bleachers that brought back all my terrible June feelings. Did I say anything to them? Of course not. By now you should know that I am a gigantic pussy. I also really think that shit is super awkward. Both of them were very nice and accommodating to everyone that went up to them, but that's just never been my thing. Leave people alone is what I always say. Papa Greenie would have throw a tantrum if he was there with me and told me to go introduce myself like they could possibly give a shit who "Greenie from Barstool" is or has to say. I'm just a mentally deranged person who obsesses about this team on the internet for a living. I know Ime reads the blogs as evident by his willingness to call out when his players are "playing like assholes", that's good enough for me.

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Anyway, the second the game started, I learned that I am ready. I think yesterday was the official turning of the page that my brain needed. Yeah, the ending of the 2021-22 season was maybe the worst thing to ever happen to me, but I am ready to begin again. I'm ready to dust myself off and get back on the wagon. 

This year's Summer Celts have a little bit of a different vibe. Unlike previous summers, there isn't really that rotation player where you're hoping to see who takes a big leap. The one guy who we know is slated to make the roster in Sam Hauser is already a lock, so this summer is more about checking in on the projects/rookies. If someone snags a Two Way? Great. If someone plays their way onto the actual roster? I think that would surprise pretty much all of us. Once Brad traded the entire Summer League roster for Malcolm Brogdon, it changed what my mindset was heading into the next 10 days. 

As is often the case with Summer League, the results were a mixed bag. I can tell you right now, this does not appear to be the Summer Celts Wagon of 2021-22 where they were crushing everyone by 25+ points until ultimately running out of gas in the Finals (sound familiar!). With that said, here's what I saw.

The Good

- It took me about 2 possessions to realize why Brad drafted JD Davison. He's a Baby Smart. We probably should have known that from his press conference last week

but now actually seeing him play, I get it. He's athletic as shit, has legit size with solid defensive instincts, showed some good vision and willingness as a passer, did well in terms of attacking space and getting into the paint, and most importantly finished with only ONE turnover.

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You give me 10/6/6/2/3 with 1 TO in your "professional" debut at 19 years old and yeah, you have my attention. Tell me that isn't a vintage Smart line. What if I also told you he shot 3-11 (2-5)?

Like I said, JD is Baby Smart. I've seen enough to know that to be true. 

I will say, it wouldn't hurt to also make some layups. That's kind of how I know that JD was born to be a Celtic. Nobody misses more layups than our Boston Celtics and I'd say JD had about 3-5 layups where he had just one man to beat in transition only to leave it short. His YouTube highlights showed me someone who just dunked on everyone, so I was a bit surprised by that. 

We should also mention that given the large sample size of 29 minutes, it's pretty clear that JD is an elite lob thrower. For a team that went about 4 different seasons without a player on the roster outside of Smart who could successfully throw fastbreak lobs, it's great to see JD already feels comfortable doing it. 

If I had to give his overall debut a grade, I'd probably give it a solid B to B+. 

- You want to talk about intriguing players on this Summer Celts roster when it comes to the real club, we probably shouldn't go too much longer without talking about Mfiondu Kabengele.

At 6'10, everyone knows the Celts roster needs big man depth, so my first impression is let's give Kabengele a legit look. I mean look at those highlights. A big that can catch lobs and finish with authority? Rob Williams has basically become a Top 5 center doing that. Then you look and he's also stepping back and hitting the occasional open three (1-2)? OK, you have my interest.

Kabengele finished with 14/6/3/1 on 5-7 (1-2) shooting in his 24 minutes and was a team best +9. You could argue he was the best all around big we saw yesterday and while there were certainly some turnover issues and he doesn't look the quickest out there, I'm not ruling out that he could be a legit Two Way candidate. I thought he showed some legit flashes defensively and in terms of his aggressiveness on the boards which is something this Celts team could always use, and as long as he continues to improve at moving his feet defensively, there could be something there.

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Remember, we're talking about end of bench/Two Way projects here. Of course these guys would get dominated by legit NBA bigs, no shit. But this is about finding value and diamonds in the rough to round out the roster/build the Maine Celts depth and Mfiondu Kabengele has certainly checked off some boxes after the first game.

- When I watched Trevion Williams' highlights, I couldn't really understand how he went undrafted. The passing and rebounding was insane. Well, I can confirm after seeing him in person that it is just as great as YouTube told us. His vision and passing touch is legit incredible. He sees shit like he's Jokic. OK, that might be the Summer Celts Kool Aid getting to my brain, but the passing is very, very legit. Finding cutters while facing up his opponent, finding cutters out of the post, he passes like a true point guard, that's the only way I can describe it. Doesn't matter if it's a bullet pass to someone making a cut off ball or a lot that requires just a bit of touch as someone comes off a screen, or a bounce pass through traffic, we saw Trevion make all those plays in this game. He may have only finished with 2 assists, but I would say there were 5-6 great passes that either ended in a foul or a missed shot so take that with a grain of salt.

I'm also intrigued to see more of his offensive scoring game out of the post, because this dude looks huge in person. Not really in terms of his height, but his frame. He's massive. I would guess he most likely needs to get in better shape, but that's nothing. The Celts could use a guy who actually knows how to operate out of the post with legit moves who can also then make an elite read/pass if the shot isn't there for him.

On the other end, the defense was just as terrible as I was told it would be. That's easily his biggest flaw right now, and the -19 in his 16 minutes certainly wasn't great. But for a guy who was credited as the best rebounder and passing big of the Draft, we saw why in this game. I'm definitely excited to see him get more reps, because if he can tighten up the defense to just be slightly below average instead of devastatingly terrible, there is legit potential there.

- Celts went 21-23 from the FT line. If you don't think I'm paying attention or care about this just because it's Summer League, well then I'm not sure where you've been for the last 7 years. FTs matter. Always have and always will. Doesn't matter when they happen. Could be Summer League, could be the regular season, could be the NBA Finals. 

- Everyone says the Celts need to add shooting, so Matt Ryan decided to show Brad that hey, maybe he could be that guy

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He had his own little personal run where he made like 3 straight, and what stood out to me was it wasn't just all catch and shoot stuff. We saw Ryan make some plays off the dribble which was certainly a nice surprise. He finished with 15 points on 4-8 (4-8), and was easily the team's best shooter in this game. I think we all thought that was going to be someone else (who we'll get to), so for Ryan to step up and knock down shots in the manner he did was intriguing. If he has a good Summer League, it wouldn't shock me if he lands somewhere else if this is going to be how he shoots. I got the sense that it could be another Garrison Matthews situation where he turns down a Celts Two Way or something because another team offers him a bigger role.

- I think most of us were excited to see the progress from Juhann, and like everyone it was mostly a mixed bag. On the good side, I still love him in transition. Very excited to see more of that this week. I also thought he did a tremendous job moving without the ball and cutting to the rim. Since he's most likely going to go back overseas, my hope is that this cutting is more of an organizational adjustment. The Celts NEED to be better with their off ball cutting next season, so maybe this is the coaching staff already laying that foundation. 

As a result of all that off ball movement, Juhann went 9-10 from the line. I know his jumper is broken as shit, but his form looks great from the line which tells me not to really worry. If you can shoot FTs, you can learn to make jumpers. 

The Bad

- Part of the deal with this version of the Summer Celts is there's no Payton Pritchard who is going to shoot like 65/65% from the floor. In fact, outside of Hauser/Ryan, this entire roster is filled with dudes who have a ton of work to do shooting the basketball, which is why their 35/31% splits weren't all that surprising. They just…..couldn't score. Only 31 points in the second half, we saw this team go about 5 of the 10 4th quarter minutes with only 4 points. Boy was that triggering. Just go down the list

JD: 2-11

Juhann: 2-10

Hauser: 2-11

That my friends, is pretty gross. I especially loved the Summer Celts staying on brand with 35 of their 65 FGA being 3PA, and ultimately they lost this game because they were trading missed threes for easy buckets in the paint for MIA. I mean just look at the shot chart comparison

On one end, they couldn't buy a three. On the other, they couldn't give any resistence/rim protection. That really made an impact in the 2nd quarter which the Celts lost 33-22, and from there they never really recovered. It got down to 5-7 a few times only for the Heat to get right to the rim whenever they wanted. That's where not having any sort of legit rim protection was an issue.

- It was also extremely triggering how terrible the Celts were at dealing with ball pressure. My God, did nobody watch the playoffs/Finals? Brodrick Thomas was in hell whenever he tried to cross halfcourt. Sam Hauser couldn't get by anyone. There were shot clock violations, turnovers, you name it we got it all via the Heat's ball pressure. 

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I get they don't have a traditional ball handler on this roster outside of JD, but you could tell the Heat knew that as long as they got into their man and played in their chest, the Celts would panic/not be able to go anywhere. It was like I was watching the Bucks/Heat series all over again and frankly I didn't care for it.

The Ugly

- I'll be honest, I don't think I've ever seen Sam Hauser miss this much. I didn't know he was even capable of going 2-12 (1-9). This is the Sam Hauser that never missed against real NBA competition, yet he couldn't buy a bucket against these guys? Very weird. Not really concerning, just not very good. He's way more of a catch & shoot guy than a create off the dribble guy and that was sort of exposed in this game. Given the fact that there isn't a ton of spacing in these Summer League games, I'm interested to see how the rest of his week goes. I think we all had pretty high expectations for him and there were parts of his game defensively which were nice, but he's there to be a knockdown shooter and he most certainly was not that in Game 1.

The good news is that in Summer League, it's the #1 rule that we can ignore anything terrible because these games don't matter. Thank God for that rule because Hauser's shooting….woof.

- Oh you thought you were done being triggered? Ha. You fool. Let's add in the 18 TOs to the mix and suddenly

Giphy Images.

A Celtics team couldn't stop turning it over against a Heat team in a game that they ultimately lost? No way! If you add in some of the shot clock violations, their total was 20 TOs. So, for those keeping score at home, we saw terrible shooting/a massive scoring drought/20 TOs in a loss. Like I said, this was the postseason all over again.

Now that they've gotten their feet wet, I'm excited to see how they look moving forward. Guys like JD/Kabengele/Trevion/Juhann showed real flashes even with their struggles. At the end of the day, I'm just happy to be watching Celtics basketball again. It had been too long since the Finals ended for my liking, and it feels great to be back on the horse, ready to be hurt again.

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