October 17, 2017 is finally here! Boston fans can finally see the new look Celtics in action against the hated Cleveland Cavaliers. Boston has always had a tense relationship with LeBron James, but the addition of Kyrie Irving to the C’s adds an interesting wrinkle to the narrative. The Celtics and Cavs are bound to meet in May to fulfill their common goal of winning the East and toppling the mighty Golden State Warriors.
Here are a few things to watch for during tonight’s game
1. Kyrie Irving’s return to Cleveland
Whenever superstars depart from their teams, there’s bound to be some hurt feelings. Just ask LeBron or Kevin Durant who had to return to Cleveland and Oklahoma City respectively. Fans are ruthless to their former idols, often mocking them and riddling them with insults. Kyrie did not leave Cleveland in free agency, but he did request to be traded from ‘the Land’. Kyrie has also made some unflattering comments regarding Cleveland in the last month, which may not make the Cleveland fans be any nicer to him. It’s bound to be an emotional night in Cleveland, where the Cavs plan to honor Kyrie’s achievements and his contributions to the franchise. It will be interesting to see how an emotional (and possibly hostile) atmosphere impact Uncle Drew’s performance.
2. The Celtics’ defensive performance
During the 2016-17 season, the Celtics were the fourth best defensive team in the NBA. However, this may not be the case this season, as the Celtics shipped Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder to Detroit and Cleveland respectively. Bradley and Crowder were defensive standouts who contributed significantly to Boston’s success on defense. The aforementioned players were traded in order for the Celtics to obtain Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. Although, Irving and Hayward are heavily skilled on offense, they are not the best defensive players, which may allow opposing teams to take advantage of them. On the bright side, Irving is a definite upgrade over Isaiah Thomas on the defensive end, as his slightly bigger frame will allow him to not get bullied as much as Thomas. The opener at the Cavaliers will be a great opportunity for the Celtics to show their defensive capabilities.
3. The Celtics’ depth
As mentioned earlier, the Celtics needed to clear some of their depth in order to obtain their two newest stars. Although the Celtics gained significant upgrades in Hayward and Irving, their bold moves will force them to rely on young wing players such as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart. All of these players are very talented and athletically gifted, but they are unproven shooters. Another problem that the Celtics have to deal with is their depth at the 4 and 5, as Marcus Morris (another offseason acquisition) will be missing at least the first week of the season. The Celtics will need to find a way to compete with the depth of the Cavaliers, who have reserves that are better than the starting lineups of some teams.
4. Chemistry between Boston’s starting lineup
Chemistry is something that can be instantaneous, but in many cases it can take some time to develop. Boston had an insane roster turnaround in a span of a few months, as only 4 players remain from last season’s 53-29 squad. Brad Stevens has a lot of pieces to work with, and he needs to find a way to ensure that the team is successful. There were some signs of the chemistry being developed during the preseason, but it remains to be seen how the Celtics will perform with their current lineup during the regular season.