Mailbag: Questions About C's Restart in Orlando

BOSTON – We’re moving closer and closer to Boston’s departure date to Orlando, which is set for July 8. In the meantime, there are plenty of questions surrounding their return to play, and that’s why we opened up the Celtics Mailbag.

Our fans submitted questions through Twitter, and we pulled a chunk of them to answer below. We hope this provides some insight to you as the anticipation for Orlando grows.

Answer: Great question, and one that remains to be answered. NBA teams are not required to submit their rosters for the Orlando bubble until Wednesday, July 1. That’s the point when we’ll have answers on who and who will not fill the 17 roster spots available to the 22 teams heading to Orlando.

Answer: There are two answers to this question: one regarding the seeding games, and one regarding the playoff games. The seeding games will be interesting, as I think Brad Stevens will need to use a longer rotation at the start to ease his top players back into game shape. Likewise, Boston’s reserves also need game action to work some of their rust off. But once the postseason arrives, I expect to see a tight rotation of eight or nine players seeing significant playing time for the C’s. With all of the time off from the hiatus, Boston’s top players, none of whom are more than 30 years old, should be primed for major, major minutes in the postseason.

Answer: Remove the contract talk. That will have zero impact on what we should expect from Hayward. What we should expect is more of the same, which is a hell of a player. Hayward’s shooting this season has been right on par with his All-Star campaign from 2016-17; his true shooting percentage that season was 59.5 percent, and it’s 59.3 percent this season. That’s an outstanding number. He is also having the best rebounding season of his career and is always a reliable playmaker both for himself and for others when the ball is in his hands. He has been a critical piece of Boston’s offensive and defensive success, and I expect that to continue in Orlando.

Answer: This answer might surprise you, but I’m going with four-time All-Star Kemba Walker. We all know how great Walker is and has been for the past five seasons, but he simply wasn’t playing to his standard level since late-January. Starting Jan. 22 and running through the beginning of the NBA hiatus in mid-March, Walker shot just 37.9 percent from the field and 34.2 percent from long range through his final 13 games. The reason behind his struggles was clear: left knee soreness. Beginning Jan. 18, Walker missed 10 games due to that injury, but even when he played, he didn’t always look like himself. Now, after three-plus months of rehab and recovery, expect to see the Walker we’ve all come to know during his All-Star campaigns. It won’t be surprising to see him playing at an All-Star level, but it will be surprising in comparison to how he was playing prior to the hiatus.

Answer: The energy. No question. The Celtics have one of the greatest home-court advantages in the NBA. Their crowd can literally win games by fueling comebacks and critical stretches of game play with overwhelming noise and energy. In Orlando, that advantage will be nonexistent. Now the players will need to fuel their own energy. The good news is that Boston has multiple players, highlighted by Marcus Smart, who are true energy-givers. The type of winning plays for which Smart has become known will be even more important now; they are the replacement for a crowd’s energy.

Answer: There’s a long list, which includes the topic of no crowd that’s outlined above. The players will have only two weeks of “regular season” games before the playoffs begin to shake off the rust that was accumulated over the previous four months. Imagine if the Celtics had to start the postseason on Nov. 7 this season – only two weeks after the original Opening Night. Exactly – that doesn’t sound simple. This is a continuation of the season, but the hiatus lasted as long as - if not longer than - an actual offseason. Players will also be forced to live in isolation from all of their families and friends for at least a month. Even after some family and friends are allowed to join players in Orlando, only a small number of people will be allowed per player. Players will be extremely limited in what they can do in their day-to-day lives, and this will undoubtedly be a difficult adjustment. They’ve never been in this situation before. The challenge of staying in a healthy mental space will be just as significant as the challenge of playing in a brand-new game environment. These guys know what they’re getting into, but it will still shock their system when games get underway.

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