FIBA World Cup Proving to be a Positive and Negative for Celtics
The Boston Celtics found themselves in a unique position heading into this year's FIBA World Cup, given that they had a number of key players on the national team roster. And with many of those players sporting key roles within the team, some of their offseason preparation will be done on the international stage rather than with the organization. This experience has led to some interesting positives and negatives for the Celtics, as they look to get back near the top of the Eastern Conference after last year's disappointing showing.
On the positive side, the emergence of Kemba Walker as one of the top players on the Team USA roster will only continue his development as a star in the NBA going forward. Known more for his collegiate heroics than his professional accolades, Walker has been cherishing his role within the national team, with the 29-year-old receiving a large role due to so many star players dropping out of this year's World Cup roster.
With Kyrie Irving gone to Brooklyn, the Celtics brought in Walker to be their new focal point. They will have to hope that he can take his international leadership role and perform at just as high a level for the Celtics in that position. Given last year's team chemistry issues and the fact that the 2020 NBA Finals latest basketball odds have the Celtics at +2500 to win a title, there will be a lot of pressure on Walker to deliver. Fortunately for him, he was able to overcome even longer odds in college and is no stranger to stepping up to the spotlight.
On the flip side, the Celtics' experience with this year's FIBA World Cup hasn't been all positive. Young star Jayson Tatum suffered an ankle injury during the competition that saw him miss key games for the United States. More importantly for the Celtics, his ankle could see him miss time when the NBA season starts. At the very least, he will need to so some recovering upon his return to Boston that would not have been necessary had the promising young forward not been a part of the national team.
Tatum is one of the more interesting players on the Celtics roster, as his combination of size and athleticism make him a difficult guard for most players in the league. But if he is slowed due to ankle issues at any point this season, the Celtics may not be as explosive as they'd like in the half-court. While the eyes of the NBA will likely be on the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets to start the season, monitoring Jayson Tatum's ankle and his overall health will be one of the most important storylines in the Eastern Conference this season.
It has been an interesting offseason for the Celtics, in that most of the players that are going to be major factors during the season went to the FIBA World Cup. And with two of their key players having very different experiences, the impact of the tournament on the Celtics will be one of the more fascinating things to monitor when the regular season tips off.