Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens on Friday voiced his support for center Enes Kanter, whose comments in support of Tibetan freedom on Wednesday led to Celtics games being removed from the Chinese streaming service, Tencent.
“My conversation with Enes was real short and sweet,” Stevens said during his weekly appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub, “and that is we’re always going to support any of our players and their right to freedom of speech and expression. And I think in my experience with the Celtics and the NBA, that’s the way it’s been and that’s the way it’ll continue to be.”
Kanter posted a video on his social media platforms in which he blasted the Chinese government for its policies regarding Tibet and also called Chinese President Xi Jinping a dictator.
“Shame on the Chinese government,” Kanter said. “The Chinese dictatorship is erasing Tibetan identity and culture.”
During Boston’s season opener against the Knicks, Kanter wore sneakers with “Free Tibet” written on them. Celtics coach Ime Udoka said the Celtics had not discussed Kanter’s comments as a team.
“Enes is a guy that’s very passionate about a lot of different social issues, but we haven’t talked about it,” Udoka said. “I’m really focused on the [Raptors] game and getting us to 1-1.”
Horford returns to action
Celtics forward Al Horford returned for Friday’s home opener against Toronto after being sidelined for two weeks following a COVID-19 diagnosis. Udoka said Horford was able to work out the last few days and “looked good.”
Horford started and scored 11 points in 25 minutes of the Celtics’ 115-83 loss to the Raptors.
“We looked at some guys early and were tinkering with some lineups and different guys,” Udoka said. “But Al was great before he had to go out, in open gym and training camp. We felt he complements Rob [Williams] well. They do different things well, but this is what we want to do going forward. Grant [Williams] took his spot when he was out and did a wonderful job, but Al’s been great from Day 1. The leadership and versatility he brings is kind of valuable to us.”
Guard Josh Richardson, who missed the game against New York because of a migraine, was also activated scored 12 points in 21 minutes.
New roster depth is noticeable
The Celtics’ lack of depth was clear last season when key players were sidelined because of injuries or COVID-19. But Stevens restocked the bench this offseason and Raptors coach Nick Nurse said there are no obvious weak links on the roster.
“Horford is obviously a really good, experienced player,” Nurse said. “[Robert] Williams is kind of a future five man. He’s a lob threat, pressure on the rim, good defender. It just gives them a little more depth. Grant Williams coming off the bench, with [Dennis] Schröder coming off the bench, Payton [Pritchard] coming off the bench. They’ve got some depth when they’re healthy. There’s a quality player on the floor whether it’s a starter or a bench guy, that’s for sure.”
The Celtics held a brief ceremony prior to Friday’s game in which they introduced former Celtics Paul Pierce, Danny Ainge, Satch Sanders, Cedric Maxwell, Brian Scalabrine, and Leon Powe.