CLEVELAND – The Boston Celtics will play their final preseason game without arguably their top seven players.
Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Daniel Theis and Kemba Walker all stayed back in Boston for rest purposes and will miss tonight’s preseason finale against the Cavaliers. The rest and recovery those players are getting back home has opened the door for the rest of the team to see significant playing time tonight.
“Listen, this is a tremendous opportunity,” Brad Stevens said Tuesday morning of the players who did make the trip to Cleveland. “They’re going to play more minutes than they’ve played the entire preseason.”
Carsen Edwards and Grant Williams, who have played 52 and 51 minutes during the preseason, respectively, are the only C’s who will be active tonight who have logged more than 43 minutes this preseason. They, along with the other Celtics players and Celtics two-way players, should receive significant playing time.
Another player on that list is third-year forward Semi Ojeleye, who is the most experienced NBA player in the group. Remember, he was an important member of the 2018 team that advanced all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. No other player who will suit up tonight for Boston has more than one year of NBA experience under their belt.
With that fact in mind, Ojeleye finds himself thrust into a leadership role for this contest. That’s a role he’s looking forward to filling.
“It’s always a good thing,” he said of having the opportunity to serve as the veteran of the group. “You watch guys, you see how they lead, and you kinda take what you can for your opportunity. Now is that time for guys like Brad (Wanamaker), myself, just some of the older guys who have been in this situation before to kinda step up and show these guys how to be professionals and approach this the right way.”
For what it’s worth, Ojeleye expects his young teammates to fall right in line.
“Since they’ve gotten here, they love to compete, they love playing hard, they always make the right plays,” he said. “That’s from the guys who just got here to Brad to VP (Vincent Poirier), everybody. Having a group like that, you know when you get on the floor with them it’s going to be fun.”
Speaking of fun, Javonte Green, another young prospect, has had plenty of it while he’s been on the court this preseason. He had made all 10 of his shot attempts during his 26 total minutes of action.
Green, who is fighting to earn Boston’s final roster spot, might double his preseason minute total tonight. He spoke Tuesday morning about why it’s important for both he and his teammates to take advantage of their minutes against the Cavs.
“It’s a great opportunity for not just me, but for everybody that came on this trip - guys that’s not used to playing a lot of minutes,” he said. “You have rookies, you have guys like me that’s fighting for the 15th spot. So I think it’s just about the opportunity and how you take it all in and how you execute or prevail on this stage.”
The stage has been set for the youngest Celtics to make one last preseason impression on Stevens and the front office. A list of players that is headlined by Edwards, Williams, Ojeleye, Green, Robert Williams, Max Strus, Tremont Waters and Tacko Fall will play major minutes against the Cavaliers. This is their time to shine, while their older veterans look on from back home.
addByline("Marc D'Amico", "Celtics.com", "Marc_DAmico");