The Celtics came out with a new look for 2019-20, with Kemba Walker at point guard, Enes Kanter at center and some young blood on the bench. But not much went right in the first game. Not only did the Celtics shoot a woeful 36.7 percent from the field in a 14-point loss at Philadelphia, but Kanter suffered a contusion on his left knee that will keep him out for another division matchup, against Toronto on Friday.
Kanter, who had 12 points in 24 minutes, apparently hurt the knee when the Sixers’ Josh Richardson fell into him in the second quarter. He finished the game, but coach Brad Stevens told reporters, “I thought Kanter was great. He’s a little banged up, which obviously is not good for us, but I thought he was great. I thought he really did a good job in isolation (defense) and allowed us to not to always have to double (team) because when we did we left the rim occasionally.”
To make matters worse, rookie center Tacko Fall suffered an injury, too, when he banged his head on a low ceiling and was put into concussion protocol. Fall, who is 7-5, is not expected to get serious playing time for the Celtics this year.
Celtics Projected Starting Lineup vs. Raptors
C– Robert Williams
PF– Jayson Tatum
SF– Gordon Hayward
SG– Jaylen Brown
PG– Kemba Walker
So the question of who starts at center looms for Boston and it could linger for the duration of the season. Kanter was expected to come off the bench behind Daniel Theis (who is 6-8, 215 pounds) but in the opener, against Sixers behemoth Joel Embiid, Stevens went with Kanter (6-10, 262).
With 7-1 center Marc Gasol, the Raptors pose a similar problem. Stevens might prefer to start Theis, but he gives up five inches to Gasol in that matchup. Second-year man Robert Williams, who had five points in 10 minutes on Wednesday, is better suited for Gasol. Williams is also 6-8, but has more heft than Theis at 237 pounds.
Boston Roster for the 2019-20 NBA Season
Here is a look at the current Celtics roster and depth chart.
C–Daniel Theis, Robert Williams, Vincent Poirier, Enes Kanter (injured), Tacko Fall (two-way, injured)
PF– Gordon Hayward, Grant Williams
SF– Jayson Tatum, Semi Ojeleye
SG–Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Brad Wanamaker, Javonte Green, Romeo Langford (injured)
PG– Kemba Walker, Carsen Edwards, Tremont Waters (two-way)
Expect Stevens to Tinker With the Rotation
Stevens played 12 players on Wednesday and given the output the team had, he may adjust the rotation for Toronto. French import center Vincent Poirier did not play against Philadelphia but could see playing time against Toronto with Kanter out.
The bench remains a major concern, with two rookies—Carsen Edwards and Grant Williams—getting minutes. Neither was productive, combining for just three points. Boston’s reserves scored 15 total points on 23.8 percent shooting, giving up 20 points to the Sixers bench.
Still, Stevens won’t do anything rash. He said he actually found positives in the Celtics’ performance and was complimentary of the Sixers. “I’m a lot more encouraged than discouraged,” Stevens told reporters. “I thought we really came out and fought. It was a heckuva environment, we played a really good team and now we’ve just got to get better.”