Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics officially kick off the 2023-24 season on Wednesday night against the New York Knicks, on the road at Madison Square Garden. Here are five things to watch for in the opening contest of the campaign…

Jayson Tatum Takeover

Feb 27, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) reacts as he leaves the court after being ejected for a second technical foul during the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 27, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) reacts as he leaves the court after being ejected for a second technical foul during the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With Marcus Smart finally out of the picture, the hierarchy in Boston is clear: the Celtics are Jayson Tatum’s team, it should have been his team already, and it will be his team as long as he’s around.

It’s time for that to really manifest itself on the court. And that’s not something you can really quantify. You have to just see it and feel it. Remember feelings, nerds? (Sorry. I’m also a huge nerd.) Let’s just watch Tatum play and see if we feel some feelings.

If Tatum wants to break through and finally lead the Celtics to an NBA championship, he needs to truly assert himself, and do it every night, and do it throughout the playoffs. It can’t just be sometimes. It can’t be in only a second or third-round game. It needs to be every night.

The Celtics have made all kinds of changes and upgrades around Tatum and Jaylen Brown, especially with the fearless and aggressive Brad Stevens at the helm of the front office. But it will still come down to the Celtics’ two stars and how they perform, on the biggest stages, at the same time. Boston will not hang that 18th banner until they get the best basketball out of those two, and when they need it the most.

  • The Third Scorer

    Oct 19, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis (8) looks to shoot guarded by Charlotte Hornets center Mark Williams (5) during the second quarter at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 19, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis (8) looks to shoot guarded by Charlotte Hornets center Mark Williams (5) during the second quarter at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

    Logically, Kristaps Porzingis remains the most likely third scoring option for the Celtics this season, even after the addition of Jrue Holiday. A versatile big who has averaged 21.1 points per game since returning from his ACL injury in 2020, Porzingis has a chance to provide a fine complement to Brown and Tatum in the frontcourt, and we already know he can shoot threes as well.

    It’ll be interesting to see how the Celtics function with a legitimate No. 3 scorer. Whomever that is.

  • Jrue Holiday’s Impact

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 17: Quentin Grimes #6 of the New York Knicks defends Jrue Holiday #4 of the Boston Celtics during the second half of the Celtic's preseason game against the New York Knicks at TD Garden on October 17, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 17: Quentin Grimes #6 of the New York Knicks defends Jrue Holiday #4 of the Boston Celtics during the second half of the Celtic’s preseason game against the New York Knicks at TD Garden on October 17, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Long regarded as one of the NBA’s best two-way point guards, Holiday represents an upgrade over Marcus Smart on the floor, due to his strong shooting (49.4 percent from the field in three seasons with the Bucks) in addition to his solid defense. But he’s also an upgrade off the court, as a humble player who will not try to force himself as the “leader” or “heart & soul” of the team.

    Better player, no baggage. Holiday’s presence should make the Celtics better all-around, and Wednesday night is his first test.

  • Rim Protection

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 17: Kristaps Porzingis #8 of the Boston Celtics blocks a shot from Mitchell Robinson #23 of the New York Knicks during the second quarter of the preseason game at TD Garden on October 17, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 17: Kristaps Porzingis #8 of the Boston Celtics blocks a shot from Mitchell Robinson #23 of the New York Knicks during the second quarter of the preseason game at TD Garden on October 17, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    As much as Porzingis is known for his offense, his defense is underrated. According to data from CraftedNBA, Porzingis allowed the 12th-lowest field goal percentage plus/minus (11.1 percent below expected). Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards straight-up called Porzingis the best rim protector in the league.

    They’re going to need it. With Robert Williams III gone, that leaves a big defensive void. Al Horford is a capable defender, but is also 37 years old. It’s on Porzingis to pick up the slack at the defensive end. If he can be a two-way stud for them, that would be huge.

  • The Coaches

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 09: Head coach Joe Mazzulla of the Boston Celtics reacts during the second half of a preseason game against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden on October 09, 2023 in New York City. The Knicks won 114-107. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 09: Head coach Joe Mazzulla of the Boston Celtics reacts during the second half of a preseason game against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden on October 09, 2023 in New York City. The Knicks won 114-107. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

    There are plenty of things to wonder about with the men on the floor, but what about the men on the sidelines? The Celtics revamped their coaching staff under Joe Mazzulla in the off-season, arguably more than they revamped their roster. So, there will be plenty of eyes on Mazzulla, as well as notable new assistant coaches like Sam Cassell, Charles LeeJeff Van Gundy?!

    We’ll also be looking to see if Mazzulla has learned anything from his first season as an NBA head coach. The way he handles his timeouts, for example. Mazzulla is still a young coach and has plenty of time to learn, but it’s important to see a little growth this season.

  • Click here for complete Boston Celtics coverage at 985TheSportsHub.com.

    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

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