Despite injuries to key addition Danilo Gallinari and starting center Robert Williams, Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens remains confident in his roster yet is open to adding another key piece.
During the ABCD Hoop Dreams tournament at TD Garden, Stevens told the Globe Williams and Gallinari will have surgery Thursday to repair knee issues. Williams will miss at least a month after requiring an arthroscopic procedure on his surgically repaired left knee. Gallinari will have anterior cruciate ligament surgery about a month after tearing the ligament playing for the Italian National Team.
“Robert’s obviously a short-term thing,” Stevens said. “We’re hopeful that Rob will be just like last time [in May], in the weight room a day later and starting his rehab. It should not take a long time into the season.”
Stevens said Gallinari, signed to a two-year deal in July, had been strengthening his knee in preparation for surgery and is motivated to return this season. It’s uncertain whether the 34-year-old can respond from his second ACL tear on that rapid of a timeline.
Williams, who has experienced a plethora of injuries, will not be rushed back despite the Celtics’ desire to get off to a fast start — unlike last season.
“With Rob, we’ve got to be really smart, especially early in the year,” Stevens said.
The question is whether Stevens will seek a big-man replacement with Williams out. Al Horford and Luke Kornet are the lone legitimate centers on the roster and the Celtics want to limit the 36-year-old Horford’s minutes during the regular season. Even before Williams’s injury, center was a position of need. Stevens said this summer he had confidence in the little-used Kornet for an increased role.
He said Wednesday the club is open to roster additions.
“We’re going back and forth on it,” Stevens said. “We don’t want to overreact to Rob’s [injury] just because it’s a short-term thing here. We feel good about some of the guys who have been in the gym for the last few weeks. We’ve had a bunch of guys in, a lot of the guys that have been added to the roster recently.
“I’ve been impressed with some of those guys at positions of need and so we’ll see how that plays itself out.”
Stevens said the Celtics are deep in the guard and forward positions, especially with the addition of Malcolm Brogdon and the drafting of JD Davison. Center, however, is another subject.
The club could bank on two-way addition Mfiondu Kabengele to earn some minutes or perhaps dig into the free agent pool with players such as DeMarcus Cousins, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Dwight Howard still unsigned.
“We’re obviously super aware [of our need] but we want to make sure we add the right people,” Stevens said. “We can do that through guys who can make our team; we can do that through guys that are available as free agents and we can do that through trades down the road.”
There is a sense of urgency this season. The Celtics reached the NBA Finals last summer, losing to the Golden State Warriors in six games, partly because of a lack of depth. The Celtics got off to an 18-21 start and then had to rally for a 33-10 finish to earn the No. 2 seed in the East.
“We do need to get off to a good start, but we have a lot of good players,” Stevens said. “We’ll see how it all goes from here. If we get into the early parts of training camp and we’re saying [we have a need], we’ll be able to adjust that as time comes.
“But [we’re not] addressing it wrongly or poorly for a fit from our standpoint. We just want to make sure we’re right.”
Stevens said he is fully aware of the high expectations as the Celtics enter this season as favorites, according to some prognosticators, to win their first championship in 14 years.
“That’s part of it, right?” he said. “There’s a lot of challenges that come with that. There’s one thing you can’t do is skip steps and that starts on Tuesday [first day of training camp]. We have to make sure we’re not skipping steps.”
When asked if he was particularly excited for this season, Stevens said: “I’m looking forward to Tuesday. That’s my best answer.”