The Celtics were hopeful last season that rookie guard Carsen Edwards could emerge as a bench scorer capable of pouring in a lot of points in a little bit of time. And when he erupted for eight 3-pointers in the third quarter of a preseason game against the Cavaliers, it certainly seemed to offer evidence of that possibility.
But then the season arrived and it became clear that Edwards was not quite ready for that role. He was used sparingly, and when he did play, his shots did not go in very often. After scoring 24 points in that surprising third quarter he scored just 121 during the entire regular season and connected on just 32.8 percent of his attempts.
Now his second season has arrived, and Edwards is hopeful that both his opportunity and his results get an uptick.
“I just continue to be ready,” Edwards said. “I mean, I didn’t really play very much [last year] but at the same time, I wanted to help my team prepare, whether that’s at practice or whether that’s through walkthroughs, when I’m in the game just try my best to be the best I can and to help my team and make a positive impact, however it may be. At the end of the day, I just continue to work to be ready, so whenever my number is called, just try my best to do what I can.”
Boston’s need for bench scoring was glaring in last season’s playoffs. And now that Gordon Hayward is gone and Kemba Walker is sidelined with his knee issue, Boston will be even more in need of the scoring pop that perhaps Edwards can provide.
“I feel like I can help out any way they ask me to help when they put me on the floor,” Edwards said. “Whether that’s being solid on defense and picking up and guarding my man well, being able to spread the floor and knock down shots. Just anything they ask me to do, try my best to do. At the end of the day, we have so many good players and so many versatile players, athletic. I know we have a deep team that’s very talented so just see how things go this year.”
Rookie wing Aaron Nesmith, the 14th overall pick of the draft, could also give the offense a jolt. The sharpshooter hit 52.2 percent of his 3-pointers as a sophomore at Vanderbilt last season.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Nesmith hasn’t had an opportunity to show his shooting touch during the scrimmage sections of Boston’s practices the last two days, but he is fully aware of his capabilities in that area.
“I’m not worried about his shot at all,” Stevens said. “He just needs to learn as quickly as possible. He’s a good shooter. He’s a smart kid. I think he’ll pick things up very quickly. But there’s a lot to pick up. And making shots at the college level is much different than making shots at the professional level. Not just the line, not just the longer game, the speed of the game, the shot challenges, all that stuff.”
Quick camp hurts extra players
The Celtics started practicing Sunday and the first regular-season game is just more than two weeks away, at home against the Bucks on Dec. 23. That will make for an extremely abbreviated training camp, but Stevens is confident that his players will be ready in time.
The more unfortunate result of this setup, he said, is the lack of opportunities for players who normally would be with the team on training camp contracts for an extended period.
“Usually we have three extra guys in here, and then you know they’re going to go up to [the Maine Red Claws], and get to play a season, and maybe find their way onto a 10-day, and maybe be on an NBA team the next year,” Stevens said. “I hurt for those guys that are on the cusp of playing in the NBA, or high-level Europe, or whatever the case may be. Their next steps are in flux in a lot of ways. That’s one of the things about this that I think is difficult.”
“We obviously talk about all the people that are already in the NBA and all of us that are impacted by the schedule, but that’s nothing compared to the guys that are just trying to hang on or find their way in.”
Schedule shifted for testing
The Celtics continue to navigate through this unprecedented time that will certainly create unusual circumstances. On Monday, the team was scheduled to hold an 11 a.m. practice but there was an issue with their COVID-19 testing machine, so the session was moved back five hours until the issue was fixed and testing could be completed.