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Celtics Notebook

All systems go for the Celtics as next week’s season opener looms

Joe Mazzulla will coach his first regular-season NBA game on Tuesday.Chuck Burton/Associated Press

The most impressive aspect of Celtics training camp in the final stages is the lack of drama.

The Celtics are working meticulously toward their season opener Tuesday against the Philadelphia 76ers, nearing full health and using their long week of practice to finish their preparations for a challenging season.

The only injury worry is center Luke Kornet, who appears close to returning from a sprained left ankle that sidelined him for the past week. The Celtics conclude their preseason Friday in Montreal against the Toronto Raptors and the regulars are expected to play in longer stints after most rested in the Oct. 7 win against the Charlotte Hornets.


“It was a good opportunity for us on reemphasizing things we talked about at the beginning of the season,” coach Joe Mazzulla said. “The guys did a great job coming in and being attentive to that. We want to challenge them physically but also challenge them mentally and the guys did a great job being attentive on the days that weren’t as physical.”

The Celtics still have roster decisions to make over the next few days, but it appears Haverhill native Noah Vonleh has notched a roster spot as a third center. Vonleh has earned more minutes in the preseason than two-way contract signee Mfiondu Kabengele, who is expected to split time between Maine and Boston.

Vonleh, right, has appeared to parlay a strong preseason into a roster spot.Jared C. Tilton/Getty

The question is whether the club will fill that 15th roster spot or leave it open for a potential free agent addition during the season. The competitors for that spot are swingmen Justin Jackson and Jake Layman; each may have one final opportunity to make an impression Friday in Montreal.

The Celtics could wait until the season begins to determine whether they have a need before filling that final roster spot. They could require another wing player, and 38-year-old Carmelo Anthony remains available. According to an NBA source, the Celtics have shown some interest in Anthony but obviously not enough yet to make a contract offer.


With Robert Williams and Danilo Gallinari occupying roster spots but out with injuries, the Celtics may have depth issues. They would rely on Kabengele or Vonleh for minutes until Williams returns. Mazzulla has not revealed his rotations or how he plans to use his substitutes beyond Malcolm Brogdon being the first guard off the bench. Friday’s game could determine how Mazzulla plans to use the remaining reserves as the season begins.

Going way back

Blake Griffin already knew some of his new teammates — he spent time with Jayson Tatum in Paris during a Jordan Brand event, and he works out with the same trainer as Marcus Smart in Los Angeles.

He met Payton Pritchard about eight years ago when Griffin’s Clippers were in Portland to face the Trail Blazers and Pritchard was a high school junior who had committed to Griffin’s alma mater, Oklahoma.

“After one of the Portland games, I had gotten him some passes and he came back [to the locker room] and I was talking to him and he, like, de-committed [later],” Griffin said. “I don’t know what I said. I would have been a bad recruiter.”

Pritchard, whose parents attended Oklahoma and were athletes, doesn’t pin the change of heart on Griffin.

Griffin starred at Oklahoma before joining the NBA.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

“I always had a connection to Oklahoma but ultimately I just wanted to stay home,” Pritchard said. “I remember the meeting, I was like, ‘Damn, this is Blake Griffin.’ It’s good and he’s a good dude and a good person.


“Actually, I stayed committed [to Oklahoma] a couple of months [after the meeting]. I just wanted to stay home. I went to Oregon, so it worked out.”

More in Maine

The Celtics signed former Northwestern State center Reggie Kissoonlal to the training camp roster for the purpose of sending him to G-League Maine, where he will join former Providence guard A.J. Reeves and ex-Knick Luka Samanic. Those players will play for Maine but could sign with any NBA team that offers a two-way or standard contract.

Gary Washburn is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at gary.washburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.