Media Day: Boston Celtics will let Daniel Theis and the Centers Run

Big men running was one of several hints into how the Celtics will play stylistically in 2019-20.

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The Celtics held their media day while the 76ers simultaneously introduced Al Horford on Monday. Enes Kanter alluded to Kyrie Irving, but Boston’s players largely ignored the gaping holes left at the podium by key departures.

Daniel Theis, re-signed by the Celtics to help offset Horford’s loss, gave one of many indications about how Boston will play differently now. Tommy Heinsohn will relish this season, as the Celtics will feature a heavy dose of big men running.

One of Heinsohn’s favorite attributes, from Bill Russell to Tyler Zeller, the Celtics pioneered the fast break and involved bigs in it from the franchise’s earliest days. That trend dissolved in recent years with ball-dominant point guards and Horford able to lead the half-court offense. The new cast of centers expect to sprint in his place.

Theis said mobility and energy will continue to be the center of his game. New addition Vincent Poirier showcased his ability to both handle and run in transition with Team France. Robert Williams provides speed and lob-catching on the run. 

Kanter, who switched from soccer to basketball at a young age due to his lack of speed, may not contribute in that facet. Brad Stevens does expect him to provide his first sizable dose of three-point shooting though.

The Celtics will continue to pair three wings with a ball-handler and big. A new team will provide different intricacies from how recent rosters played. Kemba Walker’s action around screens and downhill sets resemble Isaiah Thomas more than Kyrie Irving’s heavy dosage of dribbling. Thomas’ teams also played with more pace than the Irving Celtics.

Grant Williams guarded everyone on the team this summer, from Tremont Waters to Tacko Fall, preparing for the variety of positions he could defend. Marcus Smart named the one, two and three positions as where he’ll likely remain. Semi Ojeleye and Jaylen Brown volunteered for minutes at the five against face-up players.

“I think we’ll have all kinds of lineups this year,” Ojeleye said.

Jayson Tatum’s emphasis on layups, threes and free throws showed the core mindset remains under Brad Stevens. The center position will change drastically and the wide array of new bodies lends itself to experimentation, but that’s something Stevens did every year of his tenure.

Stevens plans to to show the team a slide about being both the best offensive and defensive teams in the league. He credited Boston’s high defensive ranking in recent seasons to a team-wide commitment to that end. The emphasis, with lineup-tinkering, will overcome any individual concerns they have on that end.

It also doesn’t hurt to still have Smart either.