ORLANDO — In the midst of a shooting drill with his teammates, Carsen Edwards was reminded of his football-like frame. “You’re a linebacker playing basketball,” Marcus Smart said, meaning that as a compliment because Edwards is built like granite.
The clock isn’t ticking for the rookie but the Celtics would certainly like some production out of Edwards as the season resumes. He has had a difficult time fulfilling the team’s projected role for him — a spark plug off the bench that would provide instant offense for a reserve unit that needs scoring.
Edwards’s problems continued Friday, when the Celtics’ second unit was dominated by its Oklahoma City counterparts in a 98-84 scrimmage win at the Visa Athletic Center.
Edwards played 16 minutes, missing six of eight shots and all three 3-pointers — all of which were wide open. It’s only a scrimmage and the Celtics have two more left, including Sunday against the Phoenix Suns, but they would like to see some type of momentum from Edwards.
He shot 32.7 percent from the field in 35 games in limited action before the season was suspended, still trying to find that magic that made him a prolific college scorer. The Celtics’ bench has struggled to find offense all season and on Friday when coach Brad Stevens used Edwards, Tremont Waters, Grant Williams, Robert Williams and Javonte Green, the offense stalled.
Edwards had his chances but missed open shots. He’s trying not to press but he realizes that he has yet to meet expectations. The Celtics bypassed the opportunity to pick up a veteran shooter because it could have meant waiving a current roster player.
That’s why the Celtics hope Edwards can come off the bench and knock down a couple of 3-pointers.
“I want to be able to be known as someone who’s playing well and providing for the team and it’s not just off of making shots. I’m just trying to focus on ways for me to be consistent that doesn’t just focus on making shots. I’m still just learning, trying to get the hang of it.
Edwards went back to his native Houston during the pandemic and spent quality time with his parents and brother. It was a refreshing respite.
“I used it a little bit to find some peace in a way,” he said. “I was just trying to focus on myself, continue to improve and playing and being able to work on your game is something I fell in love with at the start and it’s kind of cool to go back to that and it was peaceful for me.”
Edwards’s mother, Carla, noticed her son was having trouble sleeping when he returned to Houston. It wasn’t that Carsen was tossing and turning. He just didn’t go to sleep at all. She implored him to get more rest each night. He took her advice.
“She said, ‘this is probably the best sleep you’ve had in a long time,’” he said. “I was like just being able to relax and working on myself and just being around my family was a good time for me. I had the circumstances though.
“I was [always] up, always thinking, always doing stuff, always something on my mind but I was able to take a break from it and just relax.”
Edwards hopes the trip home alleviated some of the pressure he has placed on himself. The Celtics need a quality shooter off the bench and Edwards has his opportunity to be that guy.
“I just care so much about doing the right things and performing well, that sometimes all that stuff weighs on you. It wasn’t about not taking care about myself, it was more I care so much. Going home and my parents letting me know, ‘you’re fine, you’re doing the right things and we’re still proud of you.' That helped a lot. It relieved some stress.”
Perhaps no player was affected more by the departure of assistant coach Kara Lawson, who took the coaching job for Duke women’s team, than Carsen, who built a close relationship. Lawson was assigned to work with Edwards on his offensive approach, coming off screens and cleanly releasing his jump shot.
“It was tough and I was talking to her about it because in a way we kind of grew together,” he said. “At the same time, I was happy for her but we still talk. As soon as she got to campus there I called her and we talked. We will still keep in touch for sure.”
Stevens said Kemba Walker went through practice Saturday healthy and he’s getting his speed back. It’s uncertain if he will play Sunday against the Suns but the Celtics want Walker to be healthy when the season officially resumes Friday against Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, Romeo Langford returned to practice after a stomach ailment and could also play against the Suns. Gordon Hayward said the team will have to adjust to the dimensions and atmosphere of the games, which included a distinctly different shooting backdrop of a video board.