Mfiondu Kabengele was one of the success stories from the Boston Celtics opening pre-season game, impressing with his all-action display at the center position.
From the moment Kabengele entered the game, he brought energy and a sense of urgency to the Celtics – on both ends of the floor, while his eagerness also allowed him to make multiple big plays, including one where he dove onto the floor in pursuit of a loose ball.
Speaking to the media following his official Celtics debut, the 25-year-old center took time to credit Al Horford and Robert Williams for his impressive performance, noting how both of the veteran centers have been integral in his rapid acclimation to the system.
“I can ask him (Horford) any question, smart questions, dumb questions, he’ll answer it – he’s been really helpful since I’ve been here… Most of the questions I ask him are about pick-and-roll coverages, sometimes I have a hard time gauging where I should be at, playing cat-and-mouse with the ball-handler, and figuring out how I should guard it. Al gives me good tips on how I should angle it (his coverage) properly, especially with different personnel and stuff.
Rob’s been good because he’s been out because he watches practises while he does his rehab, he might give me a little comment here and there on what I can work on. So, Rob and Al have both been really helpful,” Kabengele said.
Kabengele might only have played for 10 minutes on October 3, but his hustle and heart certainly made a lasting impression, and that will go much further than the 10 points, three rebounds, and two assists that he registered in the box score.
Blake Griffin Still Waiting For Debut
News about Blake Griffin’s acquisition might have broken on September 30, but it would seem that we’re still waiting for the deal to become official, and as such, the veteran big was unable to participate in Boston’s 134-93 pre-season victory.
Still, Griffin’s addition has certainly got people excited, as the veteran is a high-level passer, smart screener, and capable floor spacer – even if his above-the-rim game isn’t his calling card anymore. Speaking to Adam Hibbelsbach of the Boston Globe in an exclusive interview, starting guard Marcus Smart shared his excitement at the team’s latest addition.
“He’s not above the rim anymore, but he still does great things…He’s a great professional. Last year he led the league in charges taken. For a guy that doesn’t play as much, that speaks volumes of what he does. He can affect the game not just with his offense but defensively. So it’ll be a great pickup for us. It’s a great vet for some of these young guys to listen to and what he has to offer,” Smart said.
Last season, Griffin was playing for the Brooklyn Nets, and over his 56 regular-season games, the big man averaged 6.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists while shooting 42.5% from the field and 26.2% from deep.
Joe Mazzulla Impresses in Coaching Debut
The Celtics had numerous players making their debut in their pre-season win over the Charlotte Hornets, but it’s worth remembering that interim head coach, Joe Mazzulla, was also making his debut – as he officially took control of his first NBA game.
Shortly after the victory over Charlotte, veteran guard Malcolm Brogdon heaped praise on how Mazzulla has handled the transition from assistant to head coach, noting how his poise and communication skills have stood out.
“I thought he was excellent. I thought he was composed [and] I thought he had some great out-of-timeout plays,” Brogdon said on Mazzulla, “He’s not a yeller. He’s not a screamer. He’s very deliberate. He’s very direct. He’s not a guy that’s going to over-talk you and tell you too much because he wants you to go out and have a clear mind. He’s going to be very direct and very honest with what he expects from you, which I think is everything an NBA player wants in a coach.”
Hopefully, Boston’s impressive start under Mazzulla continues to develop, and the team can make good on their target of reaching the NBA Finals again this season, hopefully going one step further to win the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy.