By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The common theme for the Boston Celtics at their media day on Monday was simple. Everyone is looking forward to a “fresh start” after a disappointing season last year.
There are news faces, new excitement and a few new hairdos up and down the roster.
“We’ve all seen Jaylen Brown’s hair, right? I think that kind of lets you know how fresh of a start it really is,” joked guard Marcus Smart.
Gone is Brown’s flattop, replaced with a nice close cut. Smart himself has a new do as well, one that looks like he installed a low-flow shower head in his house this offseason.
Boston’s defensive bulldog was as laid back as they come on Monday, sauntering around High Output Studios in Canton in a Celtics bathrobe for most of the day. It went along with the different feel of Monday’s media day compared to that of last year, when the Celtics were puffing their chests as Eastern Conference favorites. The goal is always to win a title, but this year, no one was saying the Celtics can beat anyone in a playoff series or win a handful of titles over the next five years.
The Celtics are starting anew and are focused on getting to the start line — not looking ahead to the finish line.
“I’m super excited,” said third-year forward Jayson Tatum, who is also bringing a new approach on offense in 2019. “It’s a fresh start. The new season came around quick and it’s a new team, new year, new guys. Everybody is excited for [Tuesday] so we can start practice.”
These Celtics are so fresh, maybe we should call them the Febreze Celtics. No? Fair enough, we’ll move on.
And moving on was another key theme on Monday. Two of the key cogs are gone from last year, but there were very few mentions of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford on Monday. Enes Kanter, Boston’s new big man, had some fun with the fact that he took Irving’s jersey number, referring to Brooklyn’s new point guard as “a guy who shall not be named.”
But the blame game was not played on Monday, with last year in the rear-view mirror. That doesn’t mean the team’s disappointing regular season, followed by an embarrassing five-game ousting by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second-round of the playoffs, have been forgotten. The team just isn’t dwelling on the negatives of last season.
“You learn that nothing is going to be given to you in this league,” said Gordon Hayward, ready for his own fresh start after an up-and-down return from injury last year. “A lot of people kind of just handed us the trip to the Finals and thought we were going to walk our way to the Eastern Conference finals. That’s obviously not the case and didn’t happen. There’s a lot more to basketball than just looking at who’s on the team. Some of the intangible things we didn’t do as good of a job last year, but I think individually each one of us had a lot to think about this summer and a lot to learn about what we can all do better. I certainly used that as motivation for myself to be a lot better player during this offseason, making sure I was getting my work in, but I think we’re all looking forward to this season and that fresh-start feel.”
“The best thing about what happened last year, it was just a teaching experience,” added Tatum. “Especially for me, being young in my second year, it was something I can look back on and ask myself what I could have done better and try to apply it to this coming up season. You can’t change what happened in the past. You can only worry about what’s next.”
What’s next is a season with point guard Kemba Walker running the show. Walker isn’t as offensively gifted as the last guy to run point for the Celtics, but he isn’t too far off either. And he’ll bring a level of leadership the Celtics haven’t seen in a few years.
And Walker knows that his spot at the top has to be earned, which is something Smart pointed out on Monday.
“When you have a competitor and a guy like that who is willing to come in here and know that, and not just come in here and think that because he was an All-Star and everything like that, that just helps these younger guys, myself included,” he said. “Because we see that and it makes us want to go out there and give everything we have for him.”
Walker himself said he’s ready to bring his leadership and infectious enthusiasm to his new team.
“I’m here to be myself,” said Walker. “I think I’m pretty easy to get along with, so that transition, and guys being able to like me, will make the transition easier. I’m looking forward to being part of this organization and giving it 100 percent on each and every play and possession that I can.”
The Celtics no longer have a seat at the top of the conference ahead of the season, but that’s probably a good thing. The lofty expectations weighed on Boston’s young roster last season, and everyone tried to do too much individually. The team never jelled, and it showed when it all fell apart in the end. This year, everyone is taking a “wait and see” approach with the team, with the expectations hovering somewhere around “pretty good” and “maybe they’ll surprise us.” But nearly everyone agrees that this year’s team should be a lot more fun to watch than last year.
This fresh start mentality should benefit everyone on the team, starting Tuesday at their first practice of camp.
“I like this team. I like their work ethic,” head coach Brad Stevens said Monday. “They’ve done a great job of earning the right to practice well, to start a season well, but there’s a lot of things ahead and we’re looking forward to getting started.
“Our focus over the next few weeks is getting ready to play with the right effort and togetherness, and that’s it,” the coach added. “I think that at the end of the day, that will give us a chance to be the best version of ourselves, and obviously at the end of the season, that’s what you want to be able to point to.”