C's Evaluate Rotations During Open Practice
BOSTON – The 2015-16 Boston Celtics got their first taste of the TD Garden Tuesday night, as they assembled in front of nearly 5,000 lucky season ticket members for an open practice.
While the session gave fans a sneak peak of what the team has to offer this season, it also gave coach Brad Stevens an opportunity to evaluate his rotation while the C’s played a scrimmage consisting of three, eight-minute quarters.
“We have to find the right combinations for our team, I think that’s the number one thing,” Stevens said two hours prior to the scrimmage. “We a have a lot of guys that are very capable, but just like anything else, sometimes guys don’t fit great, sometimes guys do. The sooner we can find out, the better.
“I’ve got thoughts in my mind on how certain guys fit, we’ve got data on how certain guys will fit who have been here, but with a new team and a new season it’s good see it all live early on.”
He started off with an intriguing “Green” team lineup, which consisted of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko, Kelly Olynyk and Amir Johnson. They faced off against a more conventional “White” team fivesome of Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, David Lee and Tyler Zeller.
But Stevens and his coaching staff made a point to switch up the lineups multiple times during the 24-minute scrimmage, which he will surely continue to do throughout camp to find those right combinations.
This is a critical period of time, especially for newcomers such as a veteran forward like Lee, who is trying to figure out where he fits best within the rotation.
Lee says the C’s have been testing the waters through the first few days of training camp by switching up the lineups on a consistent basis.
“We haven’t gone with a ‘first and second unit.’ We’ve balanced the teams out and I think I’ve played with a different big man combination just about every single day,” said Lee. “It’s been really helpful for me to get used to playing with different guys on the team because I don’t have any experience with any of these guys.”
He also has had no prior experience playing in front of the boisterous Celtics fans at the Garden; at least not while wearing a green and white jersey.
“I’ve played against a lot of Celtics fans in the past but they haven’t been exactly cheering for me,” Lee said with a grin. “It’s just fun to be on the court in front of our fans and I think it’s a cool thing to get the season kicked off and have them see what we’re working on and just welcome their team back for another year.”
For others, like Crowder, this was a welcome back that has been anticipated since the C’s final playoff game in April. The recently re-signed forward took a more laid back approach to this session, not so much worrying about evaluating potential lineups, but rather putting his effort into making sure the fans enjoyed the unique experience.
“I’m not looking too much into [the lineup scenarios] right now,” said Crowder. “It just gives me a good feeling inside being back here and I just want to show the fans my appreciation for them and try to have fun out there.”
It was a fun experience for the entire team as soon as they hit the floor, and there were a few impressive performances from old faces and new.
Kelly Olynyk, who is fresh off a FIBA Americas tournament run with the Canadian national team, put up nine points during the first four minutes of play and finished with a game-high 17.
Perry Jones, a summer acquisition who is attempting to make his case for a final spot on the roster, came out flying when he entered the game late during the first quarter. The 6-foot-11 forward hit a pair of 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, while showcasing impressive skills off the dribble.
That type of energy has been apparent from the entire team during the first few days of camp, according to Jones.
“Everybody is competing every day all the way through, even through conditioning we’re competing and trying to be first in conditioning drills,” said the 24-year-old swingman. “A lot of guys are doing a great job competing, just hustling all over the floor diving for loose balls, things you don’t see 'til midseason, but it’s been great energy so far.”
Hopefully that’s a trend that continues throughout camp so the C’s can enter their season with a spark of enthusiasm.
There will surely be deficiencies along the way over the next month, but as Lee pointed out, now is the time to iron out those kinks.
“Every year there’s new challenges,” said Lee. “There’s new strengths and weaknesses and its just about establishing an identity as a team, which we’re doing right now.”
Rozier Addresses Celtics Nation
After the C’s wrapped up their scrimmage Tuesday night, one of its newest additions grabbed a microphone and called for the attention of Celtics fans before they made their way to the exits.
Terry Rozier, Boston’s top pick from this year's Draft, found it to be an appropriate time to introduce himself and pump up Celtics Nation before tipping off the preseason.
“I just want to say thank you, on me and [on] behalf of my teammates to come out here and cheer us on,” said the 6-1 guard. “Hopefully you can cheer us on to another championship this year.”
Rozier’s short speech sparked a lengthy chorus of “Let’s Go Celtics” chants from the Boston faithful.
It was a perfect welcoming for one of the newest and youngest members of the team, and the perfect sendoff for the C’s, who will embark for Milan on Friday to begin their preseason slate of games.