Team USA’s roster for the FIBA World Cup in China drifted closer to matching the Celtics’ depth chart. Kemba Walker intends to play and Jayson Tatum edged closer to a roster spot. Then Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown joined for training camp.
At worse, we’ll see some Celtics in action one month early. Boston could then leverage relationships with the NBA’s young talent. While the defections of Bradley Beal, CJ McCollum and others thinned the team’s star power, it enlarged the Celtics’ presence.
The world needs a year off from Celtics star pursuit rumors, but it’s never to early to form bonds and set a tone that Boston changed.
Team USA will carry 12 players to China for the competition’s opening on Aug. 31. The World Cup represents the earliest qualifying tournament for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. America’s camp opens Aug. 5 in Las Vegas, before more practices and a scrimmage in southern California.
When they reach China, the Celtics could boast six players across the competition. Vincent Poirier plays for France. Daniel Theis will suit up for Germany. Despite injury concerns, the benefits of forming relationships today outweigh a chance sprained ankle.
Smart specifically will have everyone holding their breath. There’s zero chance he tones it back for an obscure tournament. He goes 100% at his children’s camps.
He’ll also initiate the healing process, meshing with Kemba Walker in the back court. The rotation there with Brown will mirror a challenge Boston will face. Their integration of Tatum supersedes all questions for next year.
Boston exited free agency with the sole silver lining of retaining destination status. Walker’s arrival scored a marquee free agent in three of four summers. But losing Al Horford, Marcus Morris, Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier for nothing leaves uncertain what end Walker accomplishes. What can this team do? The Celtics don’t appear title contenders yet.
Their road ahead involves aligning the next star’s arrival in Boston, and developing their youth core. Team USA begins both of those with at least Walker and Tatum poised to travel to China.
Walker and Tatum’s ability to mesh decides Boston’s ceiling in 2019-20. While they learn each other’s tendencies, their side job becomes selling the Celtics for the long haul. This offseason showed it’s never to early to begin engineering moves years ahead. Walker’s committed through 2023. Tatum can be extended next summer.
It’s impossible to imagine who the Celtics would reasonably target in the future among the US’ cast. Good vibes, sentiments and a signal of change within the C’s following last year must suffice to leave good memories. Getting opponents in the same locker room as Smart begins to sell a sour Celtics stock.
The US plays the Czech Republic, Turkey and Japan in the first week of September at Shangai. Donovan Mitchell, Khris Middleton and Kevin Love headline the group that will play through the final on Sept. 15.
The World Cup’s conclusion smoothly transitions into the preseason. Media day and its array of vastly different characters kicked off camp on Sept. 23 last year.
All four players returning in one piece is ideal. Though this team is still eyeing the long game despite Plan A acquisitions. They can afford a bruise now for a deal later. Also — players get hurt bowling. Search Andrew Bynum.