By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Wednesday night in San Antonio is a big evening for the Boston Celtics. For the first time all season, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker will take the floor together.READ MORE: Somerville Woman Accused Of Drunk Driving After Crashing Into Pole In NH
It has taken 16 games, but we’re finally here. We will finally see the Celtics’ starting lineup at full strength — or at least something close to it — which has been an anomaly for the team since last season. Whether it was Walker’s knee or Gordon Hayward’s ankle in the playoffs (and wrist earlier in the season) or, most recently, Tatum’s bout with COVID-19, the Celtics haven’t been healthy for some time.
Now Boston will have its three main stars sharing the floor with each other. It should warm the soul a little bit on an otherwise frigid day in the northeast.
“I think we’re all excited to have everybody back on the floor and playing,” Marcus Smart said Wednesday afternoon. “It feels like we missed this for a very long time. For us, it’s great. Being 16 games in to have everyone back and start our rhythm, we’re looking forward to it.”READ MORE: Three Men Charged In Cheating Scheme At Encore Boston Harbor
The Celtics managed their absences pretty well over the first five weeks of the season. Boston sits at 10-6 on the year with a healthy mix of solid wins (opening night over Milwaukee, a win in Miami before Tatum hit quarantine, and a demolition of the Cavaliers last week) and disappointing losses (a Christmas Day blowout by the Nets, an embarrassing 30-point loss to the Knicks at home, and back-to-back defeats in games they could have won against Philly). After many predicted a slow start for the team with Walker on the mend, second in the Eastern Conference is a surprisingly solid spot for the Celtics to find themselves in at the moment. They had all the excuses in the world to stumble, and though they had a few wobbly stretches, they’ve overachieved. They can thank Jaylen Brown’s emergence as an absolute stud for most of that success.
The hope is that Boston’s improved depth will have a trickle down effect up and down the roster. Marcus Smart can move back to the bench, which should greatly help the second unit, especially with rookie phenom Payton Pritchard sidelined for at least a few weeks after suffering an MCL sprain last week. Roles should become more defined, though Brad Stevens still has some tinkering to do with his big man rotation. It’s still a work in progress, one that has some wrinkles to iron out.
But now that the band is back together, the ceiling for this squad should go up a little bit higher. We’ve seen that the Celtics are still a really good team in the East, but the next step is to beat the other really good teams in the league. Their first opportunity comes Saturday night with the defending champs coming to town for a prime time showdown.MORE NEWS: Stores Are Closing But This Discount Chain Plans To Move In
Over the next few weeks, we should know if the Celtics will remain “really good,” or if they have a legit shot at becoming great.