LAS VEGAS — Although last season ended in disappointment for the Celtics, it does not take long for fresh starts to arrive in the NBA.
Boston’s summer squad has arrived to take part in the Las Vegas Summer League, and there is some intrigue surrounding this group that includes four players who were drafted last month.
Here are seven things to keep an eye on over the next week.
The Romeo watch
Romeo Langford, the 14th overall pick in June’s draft, is recovering from surgery to repair ligament damage to his right thumb, and he is unlikely to play in any of the games in Las Vegas. He is here with the team, though, and, as of Friday, was taking part in non-contact drills.
“I’m hoping that he does more,” said assistant coach Scott Morrison, who is guiding the summer Celtics. “He has been getting in more reps in the non-contact stuff and he continues to work on his shooting and his skill work.
“I’m guessing the plan is to take it slow with him and make sure he’s as strong as he can be by the time the real stuff gets going. Not that this isn’t important, but it wouldn’t be worth it to risk a further injury to play two games of summer league.”
This is one of the less star-studded Celtics summer rosters in recent memory. In past seasons, the team has mostly included high draft picks such as Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart, or second-year NBA contributors such as Terry Rozier and Semi Ojeleye.
This season, with Langford’s injury, the top incoming draft pick is the No. 22 overall selection, Grant Williams. And the only returning Celtics are Robert Williams and Guerschon Yabusele, who played just over 500 minutes combined last season.
Speaking of Williams and Yabusele, they are set to rejoin a Boston team that looks much different than the one they last played for. In the frontcourt, Al Horford, Aron Baynes, and — almost certainly — free agent Marcus Morris, are gone. So there will be fresh opportunities for young players to make their pitches for playing time.
For Williams and Yabusele, the chance to do that begins this week. Yabusele is entering his third year with the Celtics, and he is running out of time to show the he belongs. Williams, a shot-blocking, lob-dunking athletic specimen, needs to show that he can make the proper play more often.
“So anxious [to play],” Williams said. “It’s been so long. And [I’m] enjoying it with these great guys.”
Tacko Fall, a 7-foot-6-inch center who played for Central Florida last season, will be one of the biggest curiosities at this year’s event — for obvious reasons. Most basketball players tower over regular people, and Fall towers over most of them.
Fall was not selected in last month’s NBA draft but he signed an Exhibit 10 contract, which essentially means he will collect a bonus if he agrees to join the Maine Red Claws, the team’s G-League affiliate, next season.
‘I’m always the biggest guy on the floor,” Fall said. “I’ve worked on a lot of things that have helped me get used to my height, get used to my weight, helped me move up and down. I take advantage of that.”
The Celtics will play four games during the “regular season” part of the Las Vegas Summer League schedule, with matchups against the 76ers, Grizzlies, Nuggets, and Cavaliers. There will be some notable players on those teams, too.
The Grizzlies will be without No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant, who is recovering after undergoing minor knee surgery last month. But Memphis has three other players who played in the NBA last season. The 6-9 forward Bruno Caboclo has actually been in the NBA for five years, but he played in just 69 total games and is still just 23 years old. Memphis’s roster also includes third-year forward Ivan Rabb, who was Brown’s teammate at Cal, and the Japanese big man Yuta Watanabe.
Philadelphia’s roster technically includes a 2019 Celtics draft pick. Boston traded the No. 20 overall pick to the 76ers, and thus selected Matisse Thybulle on Philadelphia’s behalf. He is known as a tough, intense defender. The 76ers also have PJ Dozier, who played six games for the Celtics on a two-way contract last season. Zhaire Smith, the 16th overall pick of the 2018 draft, is also on Philadelphia’s summer team.
Cleveland’s team is highlighted by No. 5 overall pick Darius Garland, the talented point guard from Vanderbilt. Collin Sexton, the eighth overall pick in last year’s draft, is not on Cleveland’s summer league roster.
Michael Porter Jr., a 2018 Nuggets lottery pick who missed all of last season after undergoing back surgery, was slated to make his summer league debut this week, but is now expected to be sidelined with a knee strain.
Although the Celtics’ summer roster might be a bit lacking in star power, there is a good chance that more familiar names will stop by to sit courtside for a game or two. In recent years, Brown, Smart, Rozier, Morris, Evan Turner, Kelly Olynyk, and Isaiah Thomas have visited Vegas to support the summer Celtics. Surely there will be another cameo or two. The guess here is that among current players, Brown and Tatum would be the two most likely to stop in.
Around the league
Croatia and China will have national team entries, bringing the field to a record 32 teams. Last season was the first in which all 30 NBA teams took part . . . All 83 games will be televised on either NBATV or ESPN’s family of networks.