Five Takeaways from Boston's Preseason
BOSTON – It was a long preseason for the Boston Celtics. Day 1 began with media day on Sept. 28 and wrapped up with a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Oct. 21. Now the team has one week to prepare for its season opener on Oct. 30 in Miami.
There was a lot that took place during those 24 days of preseason ball. The Celtics visited two foreign countries, Turkey and Italy, in the span of one week. They played eight preseason games. And, most importantly, they got to know each other.
Only five players from last season’s roster returned to Boston for the 2012-13 season. Those five players are Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass, Garnett and Chris Wilcox – a significant quintet. But with 10 new players helping to make up the Celtics’ 15-man roster, the Celtics needed time to acquaint themselves with one another.
We learned a lot about this team as we watched the players learn each other’s tendencies and Doc Rivers learn his players. Here are five key takeaways from those 24 days.
That this team can run...
Remember the 2011-12 Celtics who were on the verge of an NBA Finals appearance? Remember how they had to work so hard and do everything perfectly just to score a basket? No more.
This Celtics team is loaded with athleticism and will score plenty of easy baskets. Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Jeff Green are the key additions who will give Boston a significant upgrade in this area.
Boston scored an average of 12.0 fast break points a night last season. In eight games of this preseason, they averaged 16.0 fast break points per game on 66.7 percent shooting. That’s a 33 percent increase, with efficient scoring. Rondo is going to run, and now he’s got some athletes to run with him.
That this team can score in the paint...
We predicted this summer that the Celtics would experience an increase in points in the paint thanks to their summer makeover. Their preseason numbers support that prediction.
Boston scored an average of 40.3 PPG in the paint during its eight preseason games. The team made an impressive 68.6 percent of its shots in the paint during those contests. The C’s scored just 35.1 PPG in the paint last season, which ranked 29th in the league. That 5.2 PPG jump is a 14.8 percent increase from last season that would likely place them in the top half of the league in this category.
That Doc Rivers has unparalleled depth...
You know your team is deep when you’re considered to be a title contender and you can’t even figure out a starting lineup in the preseason. Rivers used seven different starting lineups in Boston’s eight preseason games.
There are three constants in Boston’s starting lineup: Rondo, Pierce and Garnett. The starting shooting guard and power forward positions may rotate players throughout the season depending on nightly matchups.
Not many teams in the league have depth like that, and it’s not just in the starting unit. Boston’s roster is legitimately two-deep at every position. And don’t forget that many of this team’s players are interchangeable in terms of their positions, which actually makes the Celtics three-deep at most, if not all, positions.
That Pierce is ready for a monster season...
Pierce was never right during the 2011-12 season. He was rushed into training camp and then suffered a bruised heel that set him back from the get-go. This season is a much different story.
Nets – both the team and the twine – haven’t stood a chance against Pierce this preseason. No. 34 averaged 15.0 PPG in just 24.2 minutes of action in seven games. He shot 47.2 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from 3-point range in those contests. His numbers increased to 23.5 PPG, 61.5 percent shooting and 83.3 percent from downtown in two preseason matchups with the Brooklyn Nets.
Those numbers tell us that Pierce is prepared for a lights-out shooting season. Beware.
That there is a new Jeff Green in town...
Forget everything you knew about Jeff Green prior to this season. The guy from Georgetown, Oklahoma City and a few months of 2011 in Boston is long gone. The new Green, who has returned without issue from surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm, is an absolute weapon.
Green is no longer being asked to play power forward on a consistent basis. Rather than placing him on the block, the Celtics are asking Green to succeed on the wing. And boy, has he thrived in that role.
Green looks to be Boston’s sixth man this season after averaging 13.9 PPG and 4.9 RPG off of the bench during eight preseason games. He has shown explosiveness off the dribble, the ability score from the perimeter and a willingness to defend and rebound. Several analysts have compared this version of Green to Hall of Famer James Worthy.
We’re not saying Green is going to be a Hall of Famer, or even an All-Star, for that matter. But this guy is poised to surprise quite a few people this season with his new style of play.