The Boston Celtics did not stand pat in the offseason. They did the opposite actually, and swung for the fences.
The first major change was acquiring star center Kristaps Porzingis from the Washington Wizards in June as part of a trade that sent Marcus Smart to the Memphis Grizzlies. Porzingis is a unique player. Very few players, if any, can shoot 3-pointers and defend as well as he does at 7-foot-3.
Porzingis is coming off the best offensive season of his career in which he averaged 23.2 points per game and shot 38.5 percent from 3-point range. He also shot a career-high 49.8 percent from the field. Durability has always been a concern with Porzingis. He does have a long injury history. But if he can stay healthy for a full regular season and playoff run, the veteran center has the potential to be the missing piece in Boston's championship quest.
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In an exclusive interview with our Celtics insider Chris Forsberg, Porzingis talked about his reaction to the Jrue Holiday trade, managing expectations, the chance to win a title, playing alongside Al Horford and much more.
Here were the highlights:
Initial impressions of Celtics
"I think I can speak for myself and everybody in and around the organization -- I think everybody's excited. I think just seeing the level of talent that has been brought in, it just gives, I think, extra motivation, an extra fire for everybody to get to work this season. And of course, the expectations are high and the pressure will be high, but that's what we're here for. We're here for this challenge and we expect great things from ourselves."
Reaction to Jrue Holiday trade
"I'm very happy he's on my team. He might be the only guy, the only guard, who wasn't a mismatch when you get the switch with him. He's such a strong 1-on-1 defender that, I have to admit, I'm very happy that he's on my team now.
"We're excited. Obviously he's an offensive talent. It's there. But I think what everybody just loves about that guy is how much of a dog he is on the defensive end and that's going to be very big for us."
Staying focused each day and not looking too far ahead
"I think coach (Joe Mazzulla) said the right words. For us, we cannot be thinking daily about what we want to achieve. We have to go day by day, just living. Living that kind of lifestyle, living that life and putting in that work that needs to be done to get there. And that has to be our focus, and if we take it day by day, game by game, eventually we believe we'll get there.
"For myself, I think I am getting to an age where I'm much more (even-keeled) -- not like this when I was younger. So I think I will be capable of doing that. I think most of the guys are experienced enough to just come in -- win, lose or draw -- do the same work the next day. And you have to embrace the same day over and over again almost, and I think we have the mental toughness to do that."
What he's learned about Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown
"They are extremely talented players. I think what stands out to me the most is how selfless they actually are. I could tell from just the pick-up games and just talking to them a little bit. Their only goal is to win. They just want to win. These guys are honestly incredible. That's why they're here in this organization. They're going to be here for a long time, and and I'm just glad to be their teammate."
Landing with a title contender like the Celtics via trade
"Yeah, actually, I talked to my brother a couple of days ago and I was just telling him I'm like, 'Man, I'm so happy I made this decision.' This is exactly what I wanted. He said he had goosebumps as we were talking. It feels right, though.
"It feels like, at this point in my career, this is what I really wanted, to be able to try to win it all, and especially wearing these colors and this organization, which is, as I keep saying, if not the most iconic than top two most iconic franchises there are. And I'm playing for this team. So it's absolutely incredible. An incredible opportunity for me, and I'm just grateful for it all."
Not being able to play in the 2023 FIBA World Cup
"I'm not going to lie. It was very tough the day I made the decision that I will not play. Not me, but as a group, we made the decision and I had to tell the coach that I was not going to be able to play. Man, it was very tough. One of the toughest things I've done recently because of how much I love playing for my country and how big of a deal it was for us.
"But understanding that I have to look at the at the big picture, and I have a very important season ahead of me. And even though it was a very hard decision, I know it was the right one. We move forward. I have a great opportunity now with the Celtics and then hopefully next season with our national team."
What excites him most about the upcoming season
"Honestly, I think playing in the Garden. I think that's going to be incredible. I've kind of missed that kind of atmosphere in regular season games. I know how it is playing here as a visitor, and it's a tough place to play. And so I'm looking forward to being at home here."
Playing with Al Horford in double-big lineups
"I think it's going to be pretty easy with me and Al. Al is one of the best shooters in the league. He shot, I looked it up, 44 percent last season. It was incredible numbers. So yeah, he's going to be just making life easier for everybody with his shooting ability.
"And defensively, I think I can do so many things. We've kind of already figured out ways and we'll figure out matchups which are better for me to be able to be closer to the rim so I can protect the rim for us. And I think it's going to be pretty easy to find that rhythm with."
The C's having the potential to be elite defensively
"I think it's going to make my life even easier, make me look even better. Those guys, the guards that we have, especially also now with the addition of Jrue, (Derrick White), those two guys, obviously, don't need to say anything, they're all elite defenders. So with that pressure, guys will try to drive in and it's going to be even tougher to finish.
"And then on top of that, (Horford) and myself coming in to block, it's going to be a tough task (for opposing players). I know that for sure. So we look forward to building that defensive chemistry to where we would get to like an elite level as a team."
How his foot is feeling
"It has bothered me like nothing at all since I've been here. So of course, I have to say, the medical staff did an incredible job of loading slowly. I wanted to go right away as soon as I got here to play pick-up the first day. But they held me back a little bit. I listened to them and it's been going perfect, ready for training camp and ready to go."