Celtics Big Comes Under Fire For Previous Lack of ‘Defined Role’

Luke Kornet

Getty Luke Kornet #40 of the Boston Celtics defends Jaxson Hayes #10 of the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Boston Celtics have not added another established center since trading Daniel Theis to the Indiana Pacers for Malcolm Brogdon. This means that they will head into the season with Al Horford, Robert Williams III, and Luke Kornet as their only centers on the roster, although Grant Williams has played small-ball center in the past.

Since Horford and Williams III are slated to start, Kornet is presumed to be the first center off the bench, which scares Celtics fans because Kornet does not have the same pedigree that previous backup bigs like Theis or Aron Baynes did. An Eastern Conference coach recently spoke with Heavy’s Sean Deveney to issue caution because Kornet’s never had a carved-out role throughout his NBA career.

“I don’t think he’d be the first choice, but it is all about role for him,” the coach said. “He has never really been somewhere where he had a defined role right from the beginning. They can tell him to block shots and take open 3s, do that for 12 minutes a game.”

The longest Kornet has ever played for a team was with the original team that signed him as an undrafted free agent, the New York Knicks, who kept him from 2017 to 2019. The most Kornet played was 17 minutes a game in his second year in New York. The coach also talked about why Kornet might not fit with the Celtics’ defensive scheme.

“Defensively, he is slow, he is going to want to pack the paint. That’s not really their game. They want to switch,” the coach said.

In the end, the coach believes it will all be up to Head Coach Ime Udoka to decide whether Kornet is their guy at the backup center spot.

“So is Ime going to say, ‘Luke is our guy. We have to adjust while he is on the floor?’ Or is he going to say, ‘Luke can’t play my way, he can’t be my center, let’s get someone else.’?”

If Udoka goes the latter route, what would make the situation easier is that Kornet’s contract is only partially guaranteed for $1,066,639 until January 10, 2023, according to Spotrac.

Brad Stevens Has Faith in Kornet

During the Celtics introductory press conference for Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari, President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens vocalized that the Celtics were “really high” on Kornet, though they planned to add another center.

Stevens again displayed his faith in Kornet when he liked a Twitter video of Kornet doing a reverse dunk during a game of pickup basketball.

Stevens coached Kornet during his last year as the Celtics’ Head Coach and brought him back after the Celtics had opened multiple roster spots at the trade deadline. He has added bigs since re-signing Kornet – Mfiondu Kabengele and Noah Vonleh – but not exactly proven ones. When he said they were high on Kornet, all indications are he meant it.

Kornet’s NBA Career

As mentioned earlier, Kornet started his career with the Knicks and played there from 2017 to 2019. Kornet then signed a two-year deal with the Chicago Bulls.

Kornet, along with Moe Wagner, was then traded to the Celtics at the trade deadline in 2021 in a three-way deal that sent Theis to the Bulls. In the 18 games he played with the Celtics during the 2020-21 season, he averaged 4.4 points and 2.9 rebounds while shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 25 percent from three.

After brief stints with the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2021-22 season, Kornet then came back to the Celtics and signed a two-year deal with them this summer.

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