Already down at least one key player for the opening of the season next week, the Celtics are keeping their spirits up that another guy might be ready to go for Game 1 against Milwaukee—newly signed center Tristan Thompson, who has been battling a hamstring injury that limited him throughout NBA training camp.
On Saturday, Thompson was a full participant in the Celtics practice, giving the team some hope that he will be available on Wednesday. Coach Brad Stevens said Thompson, “did a lot in practice today, you could tell our energy went to another level. In large part because he brings a physicality that we really need.”
Thompson pointed out it was his first practice with a team since March, when he was still a member of the Cavaliers.
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Tristan Thompson Status for Opener Still Uncertain
It is still not certain that Thompson will play on Wednesday, and certainly, injuries to the hamstring can be tricky. Thompson suffered the injury last month, just before the start of camp, during a private workout.
Asked whether he would be ready for the start of the season, Thompson deferred, pointing out that the team has goals well beyond the regular season.
“That’s a training staff question. When they say I’m ready to go, I’m ready,” Thompson said, according to Boston.com. “We’re trying to play late June, July. We want everyone to be healthy.”
Thompson signed a two-year deal with the Celtics this offseason for the mid-level exception, worth $19 million total. He was brought into a center group that was deep last year but had holes and lacked true bulk. Thompson has averaged more than 10 rebounds per games the last two seasons, and is one of the best offensive rebounders in the game.
Injuries are a concern for Thompson. After missing just 10 games in the first six seasons of his career (he played all 82 games for four straight years), Thompson missed 76 games in the last three seasons with injuries to his foot, calf, ankle. Starting off his first season with the Celtics sitting because of a hamstring is not a positive start.
Thompson’s Role on Celtics Still Undetermined
It is still unclear where Thompson will fit in with the Celtics’ rotation. While his rebounding ability indicates he would be an ideal starter alongside star wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the team does have last year’s starter, Daniel Theis, returning.
The Celtics seemed eager to replace Theis (who is undersize at just 6-foot-8) in the starting five early last year, but Theis simply played too well to force the change. That could be the case again this season. The Celtics also need to carve out minutes for Robert Williams and smallball center Grant Williams.
Either way, Thompson said his real role with the Celtics, in addition to providing interior bulk, will be his veteran leadership. He is the only member of the team to have championship experience, having won a title with the Cavs in 2016. He has played 78 games in four postseasons, reaching the Finals four times.
“The wisdom I’ve learned from my past experience, to help give it to these guys whether it’s the good, bad, or the ugly,” Thompson said of his role with the Celtics. “At the end of the day, I want to help this team by the best we can be. I feel like my voice and what I’ve been through and what I see is going to challenge them. If I can light a fire under their ass to get them going and try to make everyone just one percent better, then I’ve done my job.”