Celtics assistant coach Kara Lawson has agreed to become the head women’s basketball coach at Duke University, according to an NBA source.
The former University of Tennessee and WNBA player, as well as NBA analyst, will be taking over one of the premium coaching jobs in America.
Lawson, 39, was with the Celtics for one season, becoming the first female coach in franchise history. She worked primarily with the guards.
The Celtics were delighted with Lawson’s work, and she traveled to Orlando with the team for the resumption of the NBA season while in negotiations with Duke. She has longed to become a Division 1 head coach, and the Duke position opened up when Joanne McCallie resigned after being unable to agree to a contract extension.
The Blue Devils haven’t reached the Final Four since 2003 and failed to make the NCAA Tournament in 2018-19. This year’s tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jayson Tatum believes the Celtics have the ingredients to make a long playoff run.
The Celtics are now settled into their Disney World hotel in Orlando, and they have practiced the past few days. Tatum, who has become one of the team’s leaders despite being just 22, thinks the Celtics should have title aspirations.
“I think that’s the mentality you should have,” he said. “I’ve never been on a team in my life that we should just settle for third place. That’s why we play, to be the last team standing, and I think we should automatically have that mind-set. We have a realistic chance. We have the talent, experience, the depth. We compete with the best of them.
“Our mind-set is never give up. We’ve got a lot of guys that have been through a lot with each other, been through a lot of battles with each other over the last couple of years, so we hold each other accountable, trust each other, and we’re going to fight until there’s zero on the clock.”
One of the sacrifices Tatum has had to make in traveling to the NBA bubble is being away from his 2-year-old son, Jayson Jr., nicknamed “Deuce.” Tatum acknowledged that one of his major considerations for perhaps not joining his teammates was time away from his family.
“It was tough; it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Tatum said. “We’ve only been gone for like three days. I’m able to FaceTime him a couple of times a day. I’ve got to get used to it. We ain’t got nothing else to do besides chill together, play cards, play a lot of golf, trying to get some of the guys into golf, make the most out of it.
“It’s something we’re going to remember the rest of our life, so just make the most of it.”
Tatum said he worked mostly on conditioning and building muscle mass during the early weeks of the pandemic. He would not reveal how much he now weighs.
“I worked on my body, just trying to maintain my weight, try to maintain strength,” he said. “I can get better at everything. Just trying to take it up to another level.”
The Celtics continue to get accustomed to their new surroundings, and coach Brad Stevens is trying to devise a practice schedule that will get his team back in basketball shape but preserve their bodies at the same time.
The biggest priority appears to be the right knee of point guard Kemba Walker, who had been dealing with soreness when the season was suspended in March.
“The biggest thing that we don’t want to do is go through a typical training camp, which is usually a ramp-up session to get to where they need to be,” Stevens said. “For [Walker], we need to make it a ramp-up session so he doesn’t have setbacks once we start playing. He will start playing under limited minutes, most likely. Who know what that means? The goal is not to be limited once the playoffs come around.”
Center Enes Kanter took his shirt off before conducting his Zoom interview to show reporters his improved physique. He said the first few days of practice have been about trying to get wind back.
“We’re focusing on trying to get in shape, literally,” Kanter said. “If anyone says they are in game shape, I feel like they’re lying because you have to play the games to get into game shape. The only thing we need to worry about is go out there and play our best basketball. I feel like we have enough talent to beat every team on every floor. Everybody is healthy and going out there and trying to get into the best shape.”
Kanter has maintained the Celtics have a chance to win a championship, and he said he’s ready to prove wrong those who said Boston would struggle without Kyrie Irving and Al Horford.
“The beginning of the season there were so many haters out there, so many doubters saying the Celtics are not going to be the best, not going to do it this year, but I feel like we’ve proved them wrong already, but our job is not done yet,” Kanter said. “We need to show the whole world we’ve got what we need.”