Five Things To Watch
With the Celtics tipping off the 2004-05 season tonight, Celtics.com wanted to take a look at five things to watch out for this year. As you know there are many changes for the Green entering the season and plenty of reasons to be optimistic, so with out further ado, check out our five things watch in 2004-05.
New Celtics Coach Doc Rivers
The Celtics made a big splash this off-season when they signed Doc Rivers to run the show for the historic franchise. With Rivers, the Celtics get an experienced coach who brings an aggressive approach to the team. Rivers will finally get the Celtics back to the good old days of team basketball with a fast break approach. He has also brought to Boston a deep and experienced coaching staff, filled with former players and longtime coaches. The staff as a whole has been great for the young players, and is focused on winning games.
The GP Effect
The Celtics made another big splash when they traded for nine-time All-Star Gary Payton. Payton's influence, in terms of leadership, has been immeasurable through the preseason, and everyone can expect more of the same in the regular season. Payton has immediately commanded the respect of not only the rookies, but the veterans as well. Beside his leadership in the locker room, he should also have a dramatic influence on the court. It's been a long time since the Celtics had a true point guard capable of averaging 20 points and 10 assists each night, but that's what Payton can do. Look for Payton's addition to have a huge effect on Paul Pierce's game.
A Healthy LaFrentz
A new aspect for the Celtics this season will be a healthy Raef LaFrentz. LaFrentz missed much of last season with a knee injury, but has returned healthy and ready to go this season. LaFrentz is capable of scoring 15 points, grabbing 8 boards and blocking 3 shots a game, something that would give the C's a big boost. But his impact can be even greater than just numbers. At 6-11, he's a 40% three-point shooter, which forces opposing big men to guard him around the three-point line. This should open up driving lanes for Pierce, Payton, Ricky Davis, Jiri Welsch and the rest of the Celtics athletic wings. With LaFrentz teamed up with Mark Blount, the Celtics could actually have one of the top frontlines in the Eastern Conference.
The Young Guns
It's been a while since the Celtics had some young and talented players waiting in the wings, but that's the kind of depth Danny Ainge has created with his draft picks. Look for Tony Allen to get the most minutes early in the season, but don't count out Al Jefferson and Delonte West, who were also tremendous in the preseason. Allen has shown early on that he is an aggressive player who isn't afraid to stick his nose in the middle of things, something a rookie needs to do to be successful. Jefferson also made an impact in the preseason, showing he may be ready to contribute this season. He was the only Celtic to have a double-digit rebounding night in the preseason and he also proved he can score at the NBA level. As for West, it could be a longer wait, as a thumb injury has forced him to begin the season on the Injured List, but you can expect big things once he does get an opportunity. If the Celtics can get good contributions from just one or two of the young guns, then they could be a real surprise in the NBA this season.
A New Attitude
The Celtics had a rough year last season with plenty of changes, and it was often evident on some of the players' faces. But this is a new year. Paul Pierce and Gary Payton set the tone early in training camp and the players are excited and ready to go this season. With plenty of depth and a consistent message from both the coaching staff and management, the sky is the limit for this Celtics team and the people that believe it the most are the guys wearing the uniforms. When visiting the FleetCenter this season, look for an upbeat atmosphere and plenty energy and excitement on the court.