We’re getting ready to head back to training camp, and I’m really looking forward to getting started with the guys—some returning and some new faces.
I want to get this season going for two big reasons. First and foremost is the way that last season ended, with all the expectations we didn’t meet. That didn’t leave a good taste in my mouth, and that has driven me all summer.
On top of that, it kind of felt like my game had slowly progressed throughout the year. So having a full summer, being able to get ready for the season and get it going, it makes me feel excited.
I’ve had the opportunity to stay here in Boston and train at the facility with the staff all summer, and that has been great for me. Last summer had a lot of fits and starts in the recovery. I had that second surgery in the spring, so I was really hampered. It wasn’t like I even had the end of the summer to really fully train.
Last season, I also played a little bit different of a role than I had played in Utah. That was understandable. Things were always going to be different. It’s a different team, different coach, different system, different style of play. People would have seen that in year one in Boston had I been healthy. Injury or not, there was going to be an adjustment period. That’s what happens when you change teams.
But by the end of the year, I felt like I was about where I needed to be.
Looking back on that recovery, I’m proud just to be able to say I got back out there on the court. More than anything, it was a testing year for me mentally. I gradually got better as the year went on. I got more and more confident, and felt like I was playing my best basketball at the end of the year. So overall, it was a successful year for me because to come off the injury and still be able to go out on the court and compete was a huge step.
For me to be able to take that and just build on it, take this summer and train like I’ve been training my whole NBA career, it feels really good. And it’s been a great summer.
I’ve really worked out with the Celtics staff more than anything else. Guys have popped in and out throughout the course of the summer, and I’ve seen just about everybody for at least a couple of days. Everyone has so many different things they’re doing—most people kind of go their own way in the summer and take their chance to get away. I did the same with the trip to China.
Other than that though, I’ve been in the gym, at the facility working and improving every day.
For me, this summer has been all about building confidence and continuing to do some of the same things that I was so used to doing. I can’t overstate how important it’s been for my mental approach, to have a full summer where I was working out and training the way I need to train. That confidence is something that comes with repetition.
Last year, I didn’t really know what to expect because I was coming off the injury. Physically, I felt like I was good to go, but I hadn’t really played. So I think I was just hoping that I was good to go more than knowing that I was good to go.
That’s the biggest difference from last year and this year.
Last year, I was in my own head a lot, thinking about a lot of different things—hoping that it was going to be okay, hoping that I was going to be right—because I just hadn’t done it. I hadn’t had a chance to put in the reps.
Going into this season, I’ve put in the reps all summer. I know my body is still just as good and feels 100 percent, and certainly, I know the guys on the team a lot better now than I did last year too. All the unknowns are gone. That’s the biggest difference.
CHANGES TO THE TEAM
We do have some new faces on the team and we certainly are going to have a little bit of a different look this coming season.
I’ve been around the league long enough now to understand that things happen. You can have one team one year, and a completely different team the next.
Kyrie and Al are gone, but we brought in Kemba and Enes, and added some other pieces as well. I think a lot of people around the league have kind of counted us out now. But I believe we’ve got a really tough squad.
Kemba is definitely a game-changer. The pace that he plays at, there’s not very many guys in the league that are as quick as he is, and can kind of find the seam the way he can. It opens things up for me. So I’m excited to get a chance to play with him this year.
I’ve always had a good relationship with Kemba dating back to our first few seasons in the league. It seems like we’ve always been around each other: Rising Stars games and All-Star games, and just playing against each other. We’ve had some battles.
It’s also kind of funny how sometimes the league comes full circle. A few years back when I was a restricted free agent, I went to Charlotte and signed an offer sheet then. We would’ve been teammates then if the Jazz hadn’t matched it. It was kind of similar with Kyrie. I remember Kyrie was at the meeting when I went to Cleveland as a restricted free agent.
You never know who you’ll be teammates with at some point in time.
Same thing with Enes. I played with Enes for three years in Utah and here we are again, full-circle seven years later.
Enes is somebody that’s going to bring energy. He’s got all the moves in the post. I think it’s pretty rare these days for big men to have post moves, but he certainly has a good post game down there. And as far as offensive rebounds are concerned, I think he’s one of the best bigs in the league at doing that. Over the years, he’s also learned to play really well there in the mid-roll/half-roll area, and has a great feel for how the game goes.
The fans are going love him, for sure. They always do.
I like some of the other additions we’ve made as well. The young guys look good. Bringing in Vincent Poirer, the big man from France, I think went under the radar a bit. We have a lot of depth and with our youngest guys like Jaylen and Jayson having another year under their belts, I like where we’re headed.
The team’s goal is still the same. Nothing has changed for us. The Boston Celtics still want to raise Banner 18. That’s still the goal.
Personally, I want to build on the year that I had last year and the way I ended the year and improve on that. I expect to have more responsibility as well. We’re an extremely young team and I’m one of the vets here. So off the court and on, I think more will be expected of me.
On the court, I think that’s something that Coach Stevens was cautious about with me last year. He wanted to ease me into everything and make sure that I was healthy. Now, the reins are off.
I’m ready to be the player I came here to be.
That’s my focus. That and raising a banner at the Garden.
To our Celtics fans, I want to say thanks for sticking with us. Thanks for sticking with me. I know last year wasn’t the year any of us wanted it to be, but this summer, I’ve worked harder than any summer I’ve ever had.
I’m going to be ready to go. We’re going to be ready to go.