‘Unfinished business’: Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis eager for the new season
BRIGHTON — As a snippet of the upcoming schedule was released, the Celtics were itching to get back to work and prepare for what could be a special season.
As kids from the Edgerley Boys and Girls Club waited to walk onto the floor of the Red Auerbach Center, Al Horford was working on his 3-point shot with two Celtics staff members. The kids had to wait until Horford was finished to meet two of Horford’s teammates on the floor.
The kids were thrilled when centers Daniel Theis and Aron Baynes emerged from behind a door that separates the court and the weight room. Theis is coming off season-ending knee surgery and will be a critical part of the Celtics bench strength. Baynes enjoyed a standout season as the Celtics starting center and agreed to a two-year contract extension in July.
So, as the Celtics surge towards good health, they are anxiously anticipating the season, which begins Oct. 16 against the Philadelphia 76ers, less than 10 weeks away.
“I can’t [wait] until everybody is back for training camp,” Theis said. “When Kyrie [Irving] is back, Gordon [Hayward] is hopefully 100 percent. And we can start where the team ended and hopefully take the next step.”
Irving and Hayward will be the main returners from injury, but Theis’ torn meniscus caused him to miss the final month of the regular season and all of the playoffs, damaging the Celtics’ chances of reaching the NBA Finals. Theis said Wednesday he is participating and cutting and running in drills and should be healthy by the beginning of training camp.
“I’m going to be 100 percent,” he said. “I’m a little tired from workouts, but, overall, I’m [feeling] great. I’ve been sprinting the whole week, jump shots, just progressing week by week. For now, I’ve never had a bad reaction to sprinting or jump shots. I hope I can do more one-on-one, more basketball stuff this month.”
Baynes told coach Brad Stevens at his exit interviews the Celtics’ Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers reminded him of San Antonio’s painful loss to the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals. The Spurs, though, returned to win the title in 2014.
“I told him it was similar circumstances,” Baynes said. “One of those big similarities was LeBron [James], of course, but we managed to use it as fuel for the rest of the  season. Guys didn’t take a step back and we kind of hit the ground running because we returned so many guys from that team. There was a familiarity already. So that’s something we can do.
“In that year, Kawhi Leonard took big leaps and he was a young guy that was coming into his own in the elite caliber. I think we have some similarities with that as well with Jaylen [Brown] and Jayson [Tatum]. It’s an exciting time.
“Hopefully, we can emulate some of that Spurs success.”
Baynes signed a two-year, $11 million extension, which was $1 million more than he earned in 2017-18 and for an additional year, making him a mainstay in the Celtics’ frontcourt. With the return of Hayward, it’s uncertain if Baynes will remain a starter. The Celtics are expected to use a myriad of lineups to display their versatility and talent.
“I felt like there was unfinished business and I didn’t want to leave on that note,” he said. “I’m excited for what we can do here. You always want to be playing in a great situation for a great team for a great coach with great teammates. That’s what Boston is. That’s why I’m excited to be back.
“There’s so much talent throughout the roster, it’s going to be fun for us, another tool for Brad to use in his back pocket.”