It's that time of year again, folks - the NBA playoffs are here! And as a Celtics fan (okay, a very, very biased Celtics fan), I can't help but feel like this is our year. Our first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks kicks off on Saturday at 3:30, and I'm already on the edge of my seat. But what's really exciting to me is the connections that we can make between this series and our beautiful Pine Tree State.

For starters, we've got Robert Williams III, the big man in the middle, who has roots at The Expo in Portland. Williams made his professional debut for Boston back in October of 2018, before spending time with the Maine Red Claws (the Celtics' minor league affiliate team, now known as the “Maine Celtics”) throughout the fall and early winter of that same year.

Credit: NBA G League via YouTube
Credit: NBA G League via YouTube
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Speaking of the Maine Celtics, there are a few other notable alumni who could see some playoff minutes in this series against Atlanta. Guys like Luke Kornet, Mfiondu Kabengele, JD Davison, and Sam Hauser all cut their teeth for us up here in the G League (NBA’s minor league basketball organization).

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And let's not forget Marcus Smart, who also spent some time with the affiliate organization, however brief of a time. He played one game back in 2014 during his rookie season as a rehab assignment, where the future Defensive Player of the Year had 4 steals. Smart even took in a Red Claws game against the Windy City Bulls from the stands in 2018.

But it's not just the players who have ties to Maine - our head coach, Joe Mazzulla, was an assistant coach for the Red Claws during the 2016-17 season.

Of course, not all the connections are positive - Bruno Fernando, who now plays for the Hawks, is a former Celtic (both Maine and Boston). He was traded to the Celtics in 2021 before being traded again to Houston in 2022. Having been in the locker room recently, Fernando is definitely a wild card we need to keep an eye on.

Additionally, a few current Hawks have played for the College Park Skyhawks, Atlanta's G League affiliate team. Donovan Williams, Tyrese Martin, and Jalen Johnson have all spent time with the Skyhawks and have played against the Maine Celtics at The Expo in Portland. 

Credit: NBA G League via YouTube
Credit: NBA G League via YouTube
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We all love a good Maine summer, and so does Tom Krosnowski's favorite player, Al Horford, who visited Short Sands Beach in York back in July of 2018. The 5x NBA All-Star took pictures with fans and members of the local police and fire departments.

We've got some college connections up here too. Blake Griffin had a monster game for the University of Oklahoma against UMaine back in 2008, and Jayson Tatum made his college debut with Duke against the Black Bears in 2016. Tatum scored 10 points, had 8 rebounds, and had a block. Tatum had suffered a foot injury at Duke's NBA pro day in October and missed the first eight games of the season, but I think really he could sense his future connection to New England and wanted to hold off until he could play against Maine.

Credit: ACC Digital Network via YouTube
Credit: ACC Digital Network via YouTube
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All in all, there are plenty of Maine connections to keep an eye on during this playoff series. As a Celtics fan, I'm feeling pretty good about our chances, but anything can happen in the playoffs. 

The only certainty is that my hairline and general well-being will be put to the test until we can hoist the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy in June.

LOOK: 50 images of winning moments from sports history

Sometimes images are the best way to honor the figures we've lost. When tragedy swiftly reminds us that sports are far from the most consequential thing in life, we can still look back on an athlete's winning moment that felt larger than life, remaining grateful for their sacrifice on the court and bringing joy to millions.

Read on to explore the full collection of 50 images Stacker compiled showcasing various iconic winning moments in sports history. Covering achievements from a multitude of sports, these images represent stunning personal achievements, team championships, and athletic perseverance.

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