The Celtics played their first ever in-season tournament game when they faced the Nets on Friday night, and despite the league’s push to create buzz about the event, the Celtics have not exactly been bubbling with anticipation.
When Jaylen Brown was asked whether the team was excited about the event, he paused.
“I wouldn’t use the word excited,” he said, “but ready.”
When center Kristaps Porzingis was asked whether there had been much discussion about the tournament among the players, he also paused before answering.
“Honestly,” Porzingis said, “no.”
Coach Joe Mazzulla reiterated that the team wasn’t focused on the tournament, adding that the four group-play games would simply be treated like the regular-season contests that they are. But the coaches and players are at least ready to give it a chance.
“There is obviously something that we’re trying to create here in the NBA, which I think is important,” Mazzulla said. “I do like the structure of in-season tournaments in soccer internationally, so I get where we’re trying to get to and I think it can be a good thing. But the way it’s set up right now it’s still one of 82 games and regardless of it’s an in-season tournament game or not, we’re playing to win the game, and that’s kind of the process that we’re going with. So we appreciate it, but we’ve just got to win regardless.”
The Celtics will face the Nets, Bulls, Raptors and Magic in group-play action this month. The six group winners and two wild card teams will advance to the single-elimination quarterfinals, which will be played on the courts of the higher-seeded teams. The semifinals and finals will be played in Las Vegas on Dec. 7 and 9.
“It’s going to be probably a bit more exciting for the fans,” Porzingis said. “The thing is a lot of people probably don’t know what it is. Maybe if it’s a successful year, which I believe it will be this year, next year every game is going to be like, ‘OK, now we know what it is.’ So I think we’re going into something that we don’t know, but for us it’s important to win every game.”
Celtics forward Al Horford sat out against Brooklyn due to right knee injury management. Horford did not play in games on back-to-back nights last season, and Boston faces the Raptors on Saturday.
“He had a sore knee after the Philly game and it’s gotten better today so hopefully he’ll be ready [Saturday],” Mazzulla said.
Two-way contract center Neemias Queta remains sidelined with a foot injury.
“I think he’s getting closer,” Mazzulla said. “He did some on-court work yesterday. The next couple of days or so we’ll do another test to see where he’s at, but he’s been on the court.”
The Nets were shorthanded on Friday, missing starters Ben Simmons (hip), Nic Claxton (ankle) and Cam Thomas (ankle).