Kerr: Celtics 'team of the future in the East'


OAKLAND, Calif. — Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr says it appears the Boston Celtics have emerged as the next team to beat in the Eastern Conference.

“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 [Irving] is amazing,” Kerr said after practice Tuesday. “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.”

In a potential NBA Finals preview, the Warriors and Celtics will face off for the first time this season Thursday at TD Garden. Kerr raved about how well Boston has incorporated new players and young players while not missing a beat on its development curve.

“They’re really sound, and they’re motivated,” he said. “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.”

The Celtics and Warriors possess the longest active winning streaks at 12 and seven, respectively. Boston is the first team in NBA history to secure 12 straight victories after losing the first two games of the season. Boston and Golden State are also No. 1 and No. 2 in defensive rating, at 95.4 and 101.8, respectively. During the Warriors’ streak, they’re beating opponents by an average of 19.8 points.

Irving, who played his first six seasons in Cleveland before coming to Boston in an offseason trade that sent Isaiah Thomas to the Cavs, has been a catalyst, averaging 20.3 points, 5.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds entering Tuesday.

“I just think it’s his team,” Kerr said of Irving. “In Cleveland, he was such a dominant force, but it was always going to be LeBron’s team. It just looks like Kyrie knows it’s his group and he’s thriving with that group of players around him. It just seems like the next stage in his development. He knew what he was doing when he decided to leave. I admire Kyrie. Obviously, he’s been a thorn in our side for years, and now he just happens to wear green.”

Golden State (11-3) has won four straight at Boston (12-2). Kerr said he understands it’s a different team, but that he’s excited for the opportunity to gauge where both teams are thus far.

“It’s a fun thing, because you only play these teams twice, obviously,” Kerr said. “It’s fun to go against the contenders from the other conference because you get that glimpse and usually you’re only watching them on TV. So, you take advantage of the two nights that you see them.”

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