It was great to get back out on the court on Christmas Day and help us get a big road win. I always appreciate being able to play in Christmas Day games. It’s kind of cool to be a part of the spotlight that gets put on our league that day.
I’m hoping now that I’m back, I can build off the way I began the season. I felt like I got off to such a refreshing start. I was being aggressive. A focus of mine had been to drive and attack the rim. I was taking a lot of shots in the paint. I feel like I’ve gotten some layups and some really good looks, with my teammates finding me in good areas. I’ve also been very cognizant of shot selection, and if it’s not available for me, then I have to kick out or drop off to the bigs that are going to be there as well.
I also felt like I had been more active on the glass. Rebounding has always been something where if I get active, it flows into the rest of my game. When I get a defensive rebound especially, I can start the break and really get us into our offense, so I’m trying to do that more, too.
I felt like early on we were building some really good momentum, both as a team and myself individually. So to have that all going well and have the hand injury, then get hit in the face, and then the foot injury—it was definitely frustrating for me.
But after what I went through with my broken ankle, four weeks was nothing.
PATIENCE & PROGRESS
A lot of people were surprised I made it back so quickly from the hand injury. I think I beat the estimated timeline by about two weeks. With any injury, you want to be more conservative with your timeline just because if you’re too aggressive, and you don’t make it back in that time frame that you said you would, now people are gonna start questioning, “Did something go wrong? Are you having anything that’s causing you to be late?” Being more cautious and conservative about it, if it works out and you get ahead of the timeline, you get back “early.”
That being said, I was working hard every day, trying to get back as fast as I could. With a broken bone, there’s only so much that you can do. It just has to take time to heal. But fortunately, getting surgery and being able to put hardware in there really speeds up the process.
After the surgery, we sat down and I was given a timeline: roughly three weeks for the bone to heal. After that, it was a matter of regaining that range of motion and working through the pain to get there.
But after a little while you’re just kind of gauging, “Can I play through this and be effective?” Luckily, it being my left-hand side, it wasn’t as important as my right. But certainly, I do a lot of things with my left hand in dribbling and being a guide hand on the ball. So it definitely took a little while to get used to it. There wasn’t really a time where I was like, “OK, that’s the thing that tells me I’m ready.” I wasn’t aiming for a certain amount of shots that I would make before being ready. It’s just a feel thing and a matter of asking, “Can I play through this?”
At this point, my tissue is still healing, and I’m still building strength back and trying to get full motion back.
Funny enough, I was told gaming would help my rehab because it would continue to get some motion into the hand. Over the summer, I was playing a lot of Destiny, and then Halo Reach finally came out on PC. So I was playing that to help with my recovery. Halo is one of the games I remember playing more than anything growing up, so to kind of have that come back full circle and be able to play on PC brings back some memories for sure.
The injury did impact me not being able to carry up decorations for Christmas, so I didn’t have to carry up the tree or anything like that.
That was a win for me.
But in terms of basketball workouts, you’re obviously still able to work out your legs, run around, jump, and those types of things, which I think is the stuff that kind of takes the longest to get back, your conditioning in your legs. Fortunately, I was still able to be in the gym every day. Especially in the NBA, there’s a lot of running, a lot of jumping, a lot of timing, a lot of rhythm, and so some of that can be eased by being able to work out your legs.
And once the hand was ready, I was right back on the floor.
DEPTH & DEFENSE
Any time you take a break and you’re able to watch more from a bird’s eye view or review film, the game seems to slow down. You notice different areas to attack, when guys are doing a great job, or when they’re getting into trouble, and things to avoid as well.
Watching the team while I was out, it gave me the chance to really appreciate—again—the level of talent and amount of depth we have on our roster. We’ve got a lot of guys who can do different things and really step up in big moments. That was on display when I was out. Multiple guys stepped up in different situations and won us games when they needed to.
We also had that nice long home winning streak, which was great. We’re pretty comfortable playing at home, and the fans do a tremendous job of bringing us energy. It’s a long season and there are certainly nights where the energy is low. So on nights when you’re not necessarily feeling it as much, having the home crowd behind you is very helpful. We’ve had a couple of games where we’ve come from behind to win at home, and a lot of that is the momentum you get from the crowd. We love our fans.
For the most part, we’ve also been pretty good defensively. There have been a couple of games here and there where we lapsed, but overall we’ve been really solid defensively this year. That’s given us a shot in games even when our offense hasn’t been there or hasn’t been flowing that well.
To be successful defensively like we have, you have to have a system in place with rules and different things that you want to execute. Then you need players that play hard and compete. We have those things. I think if you have one or the other, you can be okay, and if you have neither of those, you’re going to be pretty terrible. But if you have both, then you’re going to be really, really tough to score on.
You’re going to have different philosophies and styles of defense everywhere you go. For us, it’s a matter of just doing your job, competing and playing hard. You have to if you want to be good on defense. If everyone is doing their job and you’re all connected and playing hard, that’s when you can really get something going. We also have guys that are really versatile, guys that are smart basketball players.
When you have all of that, you’re going to be tough to score on.
That said, there are definitely different things we can do better defensively. Those two games we had a couple weeks ago—in Indiana and then home against Philly—are an example of that. I’m not going to make any excuses, but certainly those are two top teams. That said, it’s good for us to have some games where we were shown that we have to do better.
We also have to make sure that we’re continuing to take care of the ball. I thought we did a good job of that early in the season, but lately, we haven’t been. Going along with that, when you take care of the ball, you have to get good shots. If we take care of the ball and make the right plays, we’ll get good shots. I’m confident we’ll knock down more of those then we’ll miss.
When it comes to our offense, it’s not always going to be the same guy who steps up and has a big scoring night. We’ve got several guys, not including myself, who can put up big-time numbers.
Watching the way Kemba plays, both being on the court with him and watching from the sidelines, you get to really appreciate how hard he plays and competes. Kemba is a gamer. Each and every night, you know you’re going to get his best. He’s just so quick and he’s so potent on pick and rolls. If he’s hitting his pull up three, the other team has to basically make a decision. A lot of times, they’ve been forced to try to double-team him, which is leaving other guys open. So he’s been great to play with.
I think playing alongside Kemba has been very good for Jayson Tatum, who has gotten the opportunity to shoot and knock down more threes. He’s doing a really good job this year playing along the perimeter. He’s had some big-time shots that have fallen for us, and we need somebody that’s not afraid of the moment, who can step up and hit shots like that. The one against the Knicks early in the year comes to mind. He had another one when the team went on the road against the Clippers that he hit over PG to tie it. He’s never afraid of the moment, and that’s on display this year.
Jaylen Brown has also been playing really well. He has done a really good job this year of picking his spots when to attack and being under control when he drives to the rim, finding guys on kick-outs, playing off two-feet, going up for and-ones. He’s also been extremely valuable for us on defense. The hard work that he’s put in has really paid off.
Another guy who has kind of held down the fort for us defensively and been a great anchor is Daniel Theis. He does a lot of things that don’t necessarily get him a lot of credit, but he always challenges at the rim and has been a good rim protector for us, as well as playing in the seams on the pick and roll, setting screens, rolling to the rim, kind of fending guys off for layups and different things like that.
Then after I went down with the hand injury and some other guys went down, a couple of guys have stepped up. One of them is Brad Wanamaker. Brad has done a great job, running the show with the second unit and scoring the ball. There have been multiple games where he’s been kind of the catalyst for us, and has really helped us win or sealed the deal for us and finished it off.
The other guy is Semi Ojeleye. He’s in his third season now, and he’s a guy that’s never going to complain about not getting the ball or not getting shots. He’s just out there trying to help the team win and do whatever he can. Semi has always been really good defensively for us, being able to guard multiple guys and really affect things on that end of the court. Then he’ll knock down some three balls, too.
The Christmas season is always a special time of year for me, especially now that I have a family and three little girls.
One of the things we like to do is always give back in some way.
This year, we had a very special event where we invited 10 lower-income families to the practice facility and gave them a special Christmas celebration. The event was spearheaded by Robyn, who does a great job with this stuff. But we also have to thank the Celtics for letting us host it at the facility. All the kids and their families had the ability to go on the court and play. We had video games set up. There was Connect 4, a giant Jenga set up, cornhole and puzzles. We also had gingerbread houses that they could decorate. We brought in some pizza and cookies. Santa came. Then we brought each family some Christmas presents that kind of helped out so they could have a great Christmas.
It went really well, and I think everyone had a good time.
The best part for me is just seeing the smiles on kids’ faces. Not everyone has a chance to go to a holiday-themed party or to interact with Santa and see Santa’s elves, or, for that matter, to be at the Boston Celtics practice facility and get a chance to run around, and enjoy being a kid, playing basketball or whatever else that they wanted to play. It was special. So just to see the joy that it brought them, that’s for sure the best part of doing this stuff.
It’s also great for us to be able to involve Bernie and Charlie. Robyn and I are trying to teach them about some of the things we can do with the blessings that we have, being able to help people that aren’t as fortunate as they are and help kids that don’t have toys or don’t have stuff to play with. We’re trying to instill that in them, to be giving and caring people. I think it’s important to teach them those things at a young age.
Both Bernie and Charlie love this time of year. It’s really fun for us because they still have that sense of wonder where they’re in awe of everything they see. If you show them a bunch of Christmas lights that are up, Bernie is like, “Oh, my gosh. That looks so pretty.” Things like that. We’ll go out and see decorations. Or when we’re putting up the tree, they love it. They soak it all in and they’re so excited about it. They’re not at the age yet where they’re too cool for this stuff.
They love every part of it, and that is a lot of fun.
They love watching Christmas movies, too. They’ve been watching the Santa Clause movies. Disney Plus, the streaming service, came out a few months ago and that was a big deal in our house. They have a section on there with holiday movies, and the Santa Clause movies with Tim Allen are on like a loop in our house. It’s to the point where I actually think Bernie thinks that Santa Claus’ real name is Scott Calvin. Somebody asked her about Santa Claus and she goes, “Oh, yeah, you mean Scott Calvin?”
So, they’re all about the Santa Clause movies right now.
This was also Nora’s first Christmas. She’ll be 1 in January so we’ve enjoyed her first Christmas season with us. She just started walking a few weeks ago, and when babies first start walking, that’s all they want to do. So she just is going all over the house, walking around. And anything that she sees that catches her eyes, she wants to go over and feel it and then put it in her mouth. It certainly makes it a little bit more difficult to watch her because you have to watch closely since she can get into everything now, but it’s also really fun to see her waddling around.
She’s at a kind of fun time right now where she’s trying to figure things out a little bit more. And I think the next phase will probably be her finding her voice a little bit, but she’s not there yet.
As for me this Christmas, I’m just very grateful for all that I have, and I always appreciate the continued support of you guys, the fans, for us as a team and for me individually. I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, a safe and fun holiday season this year and enjoys a Happy New Year as well.