It is only the preseason, but one thing is for certain: the Celtics are going to be pretty good, and the Sixers are going to be bad. And with that, we are going to try out a format for postgame thoughts—the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Hopefully it will go over better than Shaq in his bow tie.
OK, so to be fair, no Elton Brand or Andre Iguodala for Philadelphia. But boy was Doug Collins’ team overmatched last night in Manchester. Still, there was a lot to be pleased about as the Celtics were back on the court for the first time since Game 7. Here are the highlights.
Semih-Sweet: Fresh off a silver medal at the World Championships with Turkey, Semih Erden took advantage of the absence of Jermaine O’Neal to show what he can do. His line: 3-for-3 from the field, six of seven from the line, for 13 points, along with five rebounds and two blocks. Pretty nice stat line, but there was even more to this performance.
The difference between the Semih Erden we saw briefly in the Summer League in Orlando and the Semih from last night was like night and day. He was in better position, he battled on the boards, and he even made a few pretty passes. Doc gave him a good deal of run with Shaq the only other player at center, and he delivered.
Now if Semih is playing that much come the regular season, the Celtics are in trouble. And it is not like he was playing against great competition (not to beat up on the Sixers). But it is nice to know that he can play a little bit, particularly if some of the older big men have some injury issues at times.
Resurrecting Jesus: Well, not so much a resurrection, but Ray is back in Green after some doubt this summer, and he looked good. He had his legs under him and his shooting stroke looked as sweet as ever. He was quite active, and the Celtics will need him to be this season. Keeping Ray fresh and healthy should be something the Celtics focus on, and with some solid depth at the guard spot that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
No Rest on Defense: I don’t care who you play, holding a team to 27 percent shooting is impressive. The Celtics played strong up front—even Erden made some plays and had good rotations, which is not usually his strong suit— Rondo had a couple of nice steals, and they closed well on shooters. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the night, however, was that the C’s thoroughly dominated the rebounding battle, to the tune of a 48-32 edge. For a team that struggled in that aspect all season last year–particularly in the Finals—it was encouraging to see everyone attacking the glass.
Got Depth?: Why yes, the Celtics do. In fact, this team could almost have too many guys that Doc has the potential to play. Right now the Celtics are at least 10 deep, and that is without factoring Kendrick Perkins’ eventual return. Let’s break it down, shall we?
Point Guard: Rajon Rondo, Nate Robinson
Shooting Guard: Ray Allen, Delonte West
Small Forward: Paul Pierce, Marquis Daniels
Power Forward: Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis
Center: Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal
Notice that this already leaves very little room for any other player to earn time. As good as he was last night, Erden will be hard pressed to get minutes come the regular season. Stephen Lasme came in at the end of the game and poured in 12 points in seven minutes. He looks like an NBA player, but unless he keeps that up he still probably won’t make the team. The Celtics like Mario West as a defender, but that is a crowded backcourt he is trying to break into.
All that being said, it is certainly better to have to get rid of good players than keep anyone who doesn’t deserve to be there.
“It’s difficult because as a player you kind of don’t understand where they’re going or what they’re doing,” Davis said this afternoon at media day. “No matter what I do, I can play great, it’s still not enough.”’
What Glen Davis told the Herald last week is true, to some extent. There will come a time, when Perk is back, when the front court will be crowded and his role might have to change. But at this point he backing up KG and will see plenty of minutes with the second team. And with that being the case, you have to like what you saw from him last night. Glen looked to be in good shape and he attacked the basket all night, getting to the line a team-high 10 times.
You aren’t going to get much here. Really I am just nitpicking, because there was very little negative from last night’s performance. A few things did catch my eye though.
KG: Well, he LOOKED good. But he did not play well last night.
The supposedly rejuvenated Garnett struggled offensively. In an ugly first quarter stretch for the Celtics as a whole, Garnett put up some wild shots that could not fall. An 0-4 night is never good, but on the positive side he did play well on defense, as usual, and looked to have a spring to his step.
The return of the 2008-KG would be a welcome sight for this team, especially on the defensive end where he will have to be sharp if he is playing with Shaq. I’m not going to worry after one preseason game in which he only played 15 minutes, but it would have been nice to see KG makes some plays in the post. I mean, he did have Trent Plaisted playing him.
Turnover Troubles: Gary Tanguay and Donny Marshall said it, and I agree: the Celtics are a team that will always have a lot of turnovers. Against a team like the Sixers that isn’t too big an issue. But versus a better club, that could come back to bite them.
The Gunners: Surprise of the night? No shots in 12 minutes for Von Wafer. I guess Doc might be finding a way to change his gunning ways. And Nate Robinson, who also has rarely met a shot he doesn’t like, was 0-5. Truthfully though, I’m splitting hairs here. In fact, this might really be a good thing.
The 76ers: Outside of Thaddeus Young and maybe Jodie Meeks, no one on Philly came to play. You want to talk about ugly? How about a team that shoots 27 percent and has more turnovers than field goals?
The Celtics dominated this one in every facet of the game, but there were really no encouraging signs on Philly’s end. The biggest issue? Evan Turner.
Turner was just 1-8 from the field on Wednesday night, and for a player who was the second pick in the draft he was barely noticeable on the court. I thought he was the most NBA-ready player in this draft. I was wrong. I saw it in the Summer League and it was even more apparent last night—Turner just is not comfortable on the floor in the NBA.
Maybe it is because Doug Collins can’t settle on a position for him; one day he is going to be at the point, and the next he is back at off-guard. Or maybe he is not as athletic as everyone pegged him to be. Whatever the case, his struggles have to frustrate Sixers fans.