When it’s over? How about now? Finally.
No more preseason basketball for the Boston Celtics. The roster is set and the regular season is just around the corner. But before focusing all of our energy on the season opener against the Miami Heat, let’s look back on the positives and negatives of the preseason. And if you think that Sugar Ray is a negative, well, too bad.
Shrek and Donkey: Call them what you want, but Nate Robinson and Glen Davis were the stars of the preseason for the Boston Celtics.
With consistent minutes (outside of Davis missing time to injury), the two produced throughout the last month. If they continue to play like this in the regular season, the Celtics bench will be a strength of this team. And it is obvious that these two will continue to be the leaders of that second unit. Robinson will be out to prove that he is the player we saw in the playoffs and not the one from the end of the regular season. Davis, meanwhile, is in a contract year and could earn big money (and a starting role) with a solid campaign this year.
Pierce’s Winner: By far the moment of the preseason, Paul Pierce celebrated his birthday (and Doc’s and Jermaine O’Neal’s as well) with a game-winner against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Pierce and Ray Allen were business-like this preseason. Neither player really made headlines (outside of Pierce’s shot), but both delivered and look like they are primed and ready for the regular season.
The key for the Celtics will be keeping them strong and rested. That will be up to Doc Rivers and the Celtics bench.
Rondo Returns: The last time we heard from Rajon Rondo, he was dropping out of the USA basketball roster before he could be cut.
When his star was supposed to be rising, it fell just a bit. Rondo saw Russell Westbrook steal some of his thunder (no pun intended) as the best young guard in the game. But Rondo showed he isn’t going to give that mantle up without a fight; his preseason numbers showed his all-around brilliance and proved he will be ready to lead in the regular season.
The big question mark of how he would fit with Shaq? It turns out that this pairing might be a good thing, with Rondo getting him easy shots all game. But perhaps the best thing about the preseason was Rondo’s willingness to take a jumper when need be, and hit it more often than not. He also seems like he has solved his foul line woes, at least if his performance in the second game vs. the Toronto Raptors is any indication. If that is a sign of things to come, Rondo is due to boost his numbers once again.
Getting Defensive: At times, the Celtics’ defensive stats were staggering, such as when they held the 76ers to 27 percent shooting in the opener or outrebounded the Knicks by 19 boards.
All in all, Boston held the opposition to an average of 41 percent shooting from the field and outrebounded its foe in every game except for one tie (surprisingly the blowout second win over the Toronto Raptors) to the tune of almost nine boards per game.
The Celtics won the title in 2008 largely on the strength of their defense. But that identity disappeared a bit with Kevin Garnett recovering from injury and the team’s inexplicable ability to rebound the basketball. With Tom Thibodeau departing for Chicago and Kendrick Perkins’ injury, there was some question as to whether the Celtics had lost their defensive identity, at least partially. But if the preseason is any indication, it is still there.
Technicals: I covered this already, but it is worth repeating. The technical foul rule is going to be an issue for this Celtics team.
Over time I am sure the players will adjust, but early on it is going to be frustrating. Don’t be surprised if some game in the first week around the league is turned on a tech call. Only then can the rule really be re-examined.
Injury Issues: You would think that a 7-1 record would mean there wasn’t much to discuss in that “bad” category. But you’d be wrong. The Celtics were late on defensive rotations at times, showed an inability to defend in the post, and played sloppy basketball in frequent spurts. Of course, it was preseason, and those things should tighten up once the real show begins.
But something the team cannot escape that easily is injury issues. Delonte West. Jermaine O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal, Glen Davis, and Marquis Daniels all missed time with injuries. Oh, and let’s not forget about Kendrick Perkins.
Don’t be shocked when the Celtics announce that JO is going to miss Tuesday’s game against Miami with his hamstring issue. He might be held out almost as long as West, who “luckily” has a suspension that will allow him to recover from his back spasms.
The problem is that those are nagging injuries that could persist all season. Ditto for Shaq’s hip, Big Baby’s knee and Marquis Daniel’s shoulder. All three of those players missed significant chunks of last season with injuries, and if that happens again the Celtics apparent depth can be thrown out the window.
The Competition: It’s pretty apparent that the Atlantic Division is going to be woeful this season.
The Celtics saw a few nights of Philly, NJ and Toronto during this span, as those three teams should be at the bottom of the league. The Knicks are the most intriguing out of the bunch, if only because they could land Carmelo and still have Amar’e Stoudemire even if they dont. I like how the Nets are building, for the most part, but they are not ready to make the leap just yet.
So, in other words, the Celtics played some of the dregs of the NBA. Again, it is preseason, so no one really cared who won. But it would hav been nice to see how this team stacks up against some of the other “powers that be” in the league.