Make no mistke. This Boston Celtics team will be lead by Jayson Tatum, rear, and Jaylen Brown. But there are also some changes that should be a benefit, especially the addition of Tristan Thompson. Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Life in a blender continues.

From the Nov. 18 draft, to free agency, to Tuesday’s start of training camp, 13 days have passed. For those still feeling the pain, it’s been 45 days since the Celtics were eliminated by Miami in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

But there’s a benefit to this COVID-accelerated rush into the 2020-21 season. The silver lining of September’s disappointment – and there’s no other way to sum up how 2019-20 ended for the Celtics – is that there’s a quick turnaround.

Players can begin 4 on 4 workouts Tuesday – nothing from the NBA yet on when teams can go 5 on 5, though the Celtics play their first of two exhibition games on Dec. 15 in Philadelphia – and somewhere between now and Dec. 22 the first half of the schedule will be released.

For a coach who is obsessed with the mechanics of preparation, it couldn’t get any stranger for Brad Stevens.

“It’s a big challenge. And obviously everybody’s in a different boat,” Stevens said on draft night. “I mean, there’s teams that haven’t played in nine months. There’s teams like us that got done less than two months ago. Obviously the Lakers and Miami went longer than us, so they have an even shorter break. It is going to be a challenge. Some of the rules and regulations that are going to be in place to start getting back together from a mandatory basis at the start of December, and then when you can officially start 5 on 5 practice, all that stuff is going to make a pretty short period of time before you’re actually playing meaningful games – and more meaningful when you consider the fact that there’s 10 less (games).


“So one of the things that’s usually good is after the draft or after free agency you have a couple of months to plot and plan how you want to play to maximize the strengths of that particular team. You don’t get that benefit now. So it was a big staff meeting to kind of choose a couple of things that we think are really important … and cram in what we would typically do in a month to get ready for a new team and a new season starting in that Dec. 1 timeframe.”

And unlike last year, when a regular training camp allowed players to mesh, this year’s newcomers have to jell on the fly.


Boston completed a sign-and-trade with the Charlotte Hornets for Gordon Hayward on Sunday and received $28.5 million trade exception in return, John Raoux/Associated Press


Gordon Hayward became the third major free agent to leave the Celtics in the last two years, though this time Danny Ainge managed to get a $28.5 million trade exception in return. After losing Al Horford and Kyrie Irving for nothing, that’s a potentially big consolation come trade deadline time. Vincent Poirier was traded to Oklahoma City and Enes Kanter to Portland, and sturdy backup Brad Wanamaker signed with Golden State. The Celtics’ impending additions considered, the last three aren’t likely to be missed. And after three snake-bitten seasons that weren’t the fault of anyone or anything except lousy fate, it’s hard to say how the Celtics will miss Hayward. Injury always seemed to get in the way whenever this talented playmaking forward found a groove.


Boston announced the signing of Tristan Thompson, center, on Monday. Ron Schwane/Associated Press


Monday’s signings of Tristan Thompson (non-taxpayer midlevel exception, two years) and Jeff Teague (bi-annual exception) will add toughness to a Celtics team that had a few too many soft moments against Miami in the conference finals. The 29-year-old Thompson has long been a Celtics scourge over the course of his nine seasons, all in Cleveland, and his rebounding is an instant upgrade for a team often at a loss to contain active opposing big men – even those not named Bam Adebayo. Teague was traded from Minnesota back to his original team, Atlanta, midway through last season, and his production dropped. But he’s a veteran point guard, a one-time All-Star (2015) and still one of the quickest guards in the league. He’s a more aggressive scorer than Wanamaker, and certainly a steady backup to Marcus Smart.


The Celtics also drafted at least one and possibly two wing players who could break into the rotation. Aaron Nesmith, considered by most the best shooter in the draft, brings a gift often lacking when the Celtics turned to their bench in the playoffs, and particularly against Miami’s zone coverage. Should he continue to bury that shot and break zones, Nesmith will have a regular role from the start. He broke his right foot last season at Vanderbilt – he shot 52.2% from downtown over the 14 games before his injury – but says that he’s fully healed, and ready for training camp. The Celtics are also high on point guard Payton Pritchard, another deep shooter.


Thompson immediately changes the picture up front. He’ll join a bigs rotation that also includes Daniel Theis and Robert Williams – the former a supremely versatile center who is not built to guard the league’s biggest centers, and the later an intriguing project player who finally has to show enough to leave that phase of his career behind. But Thompson will add versatility to the group. He’s athletic enough to guard against the pick-and-roll – a noted weakness for Kanter and Williams during the playoffs – and, like Theis, can pick up players on the wing. Kanter was the best rebounder in the rotation last season, though due to mobility issues he also had a limited role. Thompson makes this a far more consistent group.


Quite simply, this team belongs to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Both have ballroom-sized growth ahead of them, and will get the ball more than ever.

They still need more offensive help to take pressure off Tatum – he was doubled with every touch in the playoffs. Kemba Walker will miss time at the start of the season after receiving a stem-cell injection in his left knee. The veteran guard was hobbled throughout the playoffs, and his inability to create separation may have been the most obvious missing link in the conference finals. Walker, who is 30, signed a four-year, $140 million contract with the Celtics in 2019.

Barring the ability of Danny Ainge to find a taker for most if not all of that $28.5 million trade exception – they’d likely have to also trade a player or two to take full advantage of the slot, considering that they’re up against the hard cap – the Celtics are likely to remain the same until at least the trade deadline.

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