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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Celtics aren't going away

November 16. 2017 8:28PM

LET’S JUMP IN Mr. Peabody’s WayBack machine and travel all the way back.

To last month.

Gordon Hayward had just gone down with a horrific injury that will cost him his entire first season — less a handful of minutes — as a Celtic. Sir Charles Barkley, whose opinions are always valued here, blurted out, “Their season’s over.”

Not so fast, Sir Charles.

In fact, the special early season game at TD Gahden Thursday night may well have been a preview of the NBA Finals.

Sure, the Cavaliers are still the team to beat. And Isaiah Thomas may return in the second half of the season and help turn them back into what they used to be. But as of Thursday, the two teams that played Thursday night are the best teams in the NBA.

The Warriors have Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

The Celtics have Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, the kids — and an incredible coach, Brad Stevens.

Two great teams who were a combined 24-5 before last night, 25-6 after.

Earlier this week, Warriors coach Steve Kerr didn’t hold back when talking about the Celtics and what they have going on in Boston.

“It sure looks like Boston is the team of the future in the East, with the assets that they still have and their young talent and their coaching, and Kyrie is amazing,” Kerr said. “That looks like a team that is going to be at the top of the East for a long time to come. Whether their time is now or the future, that’s to be determined, but they sure look like they want it to be right now.

“They’re really sound, and they’re motivated. It’s a team that’s been on the rise the last couple of years. They lost in the conference finals. They want to win a championship, and it looks like it. Even without Gordon Hayward and that awful injury, Boston is just crushing people. So, it’s going to be really fun to go against them on Thursday. We know how tough it’s going to be.”

And Stevens, the bandleader of the whole thing, stays the same regardless of what’s going on around him. If you get a chance to go to a game, watch his demeanor. Watch how much it takes to make him anything less than unflappable.

And you also might want to watch the different things Horford does to help his team win — things that just don’t show up on the stat sheet.

Before facing the Celtics Tuesday night, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, talking about how tough it is to mix chemistry this quickly, said, “It really is, because continuity is so important. “In this league, it’s all about knowing your teammate and knowing what they can do. So what they’ve done is impressive.”

Mixed messages

The Red Sox are going to make big changes. The Red Sox are not going to make big changes. The Red Sox are going to blast through the luxury tax roof. The Red Sox are not going to overspend. The Red Sox are going to try and trade for Giancarlo Stanton (who reportedly doesn’t want to come to Boston). The Red Sox want to keep their outfield intact.

“I do read those names,” team president Dave Dombrowski told Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe at the GM meetings in Orlando. “I think you have to be a little carried away that that’s not for sure the direction that you’re going.

“There are quite a few players capable of helping us with what we need to do. Maybe they’re not as high profile as other names. I do think we have to remember that we still won 93 games. So, when you’re in that position, we’re not looking to revamp our ballclub. We’re looking to make that addition.”

You follow that? Perhaps we’re not supposed to.

Impressive talent

The future of the NBA, very much on display with the likes of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in Boston, ran rampant in Los Angeles late Wednesday night.

Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma — special talent on display while Lonzo Ball watched and continued to learn.

Embiid scored 46 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, dished out seven assists and blocked seven shots — two nights after going for 32 points, 16 rebounds, two assists and a block in the same building, against the Clippers.

He was the first player with at least 40 points, seven assists and seven blocks since Julius Erving in 1982 — and the first with 46 and seven blocks since David Robinson in 1993.

Simmons, a 6-10 point guard who missed last season and thus will be rookie of the year in 2018, had 22 points, 12 rebounds and four assists Monday and 18 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists against the Lakers.

Here and there

Irving honored the Veterans Day message by presenting his jersey and shoes to two soldiers in the front row in Philly Tuesday night. … The President helps gets the kids out of China, then says he is waiting for a thank you. He got it. The three foolish young men, including Lonzo Ball’s brother, have been suspended indefinitely. … Who are you rooting for in the Roger Goodell/Jerry Jones NFL war? … Leave it to John Tortorella to say Alexander Wennberg was out with a “full body injury.” …

Rob Gronkowski to the people of Mexico City: “My old message: Yo soy fiesta, baby.” … Yahoo sports ranked the NBA rookies: Simmons No. 1, Tatum 2 and Lonzo Ball not in the top 10. … Finally, the Arizona Coyotes’ last victory in Winnipeg was when they WERE the Winnipeg Jets..

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is

Sports columns Patriots/NFL Red Sox/MLB Celtics/NBA Bruins/NHL