1. It’s too early to read into things like this, but Shaq played with the first unit the final two days of training camp. Doc Rivers had all good things to say about the Diesel.
“I know he’s playing his butt off,” Rivers told ESPN Boston. “The last two days, [Shaq has] been with the first team. Just watching what he’s doing, he doesn’t care, he just wants to play and help the team. You can see, he really wants to prove he can still play, No. 1. And he just wants to win.”
I’m going to continue to be skeptical until I see how Shaq works. I still can’t get over the fact that Cleveland was better when Shaq was off the floor.
2. Tony Gaffney has been cut, which would normally be nothing more than a blip on the radar. As Doc Rivers said, Gaffney had little chance with the amount of Celtics wing players. Especially considering his jumper is more broke than I am, and the only money I have is 23 cents I just scavenged for underneath my couch cushions. But Gaffney’s different, because of his story. He was born near Boston and cherished the Celtics as much as anyone who reads this site. His bedroom floor is made of parquet, for Christ’s sake. He owns a pair of John Havlicek’s old shoes. His walls are draped with posters of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. He bleeds Green, and has since he was born. I’m sure getting cut hurts, but Gaffney will succeed somewhere (either in the NBA or overseas). He works too hard not to.
3. Celtics Hub wondered whether “The Battle for 15th man” is now over. It’s commonly thought that Von Wafer and Gaffney were the two finalists for that role. Not so fast, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely: “Celtics waiving Tony Gaffney does not mean Von Wafer’s a definite in for this team. Mario West is similar in a lot of ways to Tony Allen.”
Ahh, the Mario West-Tony Allen comparison. Two differences: 1) West has never played a meaningful minute, ever. His career averages? 4.4 minutes per game and 0.8 ppg. And 2) Doc Rivers said West “just plays the right way every single time.” That’s one thing TA was never accused of.
My money’s still on Wafer.
4. Mark Murphy wrote a nice piece on Delonte West. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both think West will fit well in Boston.
“I had a relationship with him here and when he was gone,” Pierce told the Boston Herald. “Me and him still talked when he was on other teams. And he had a relationship with Danny and Doc. They had a good bond. Danny would take Delonte out to the movies – that whole rookie group – so being a Celtic already is why he’s comfortable coming back here. Knowing me, Perk (Kendrick Perkins), Doc and Danny is why it’s going to be easy for him.”
Pierce told CSNNE, “[West has] been one of the top three players in camp, truthfully. He’s been one of the most consistent, one of the most competitive. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s looked great out there.”
“Let me tell you something, man,” said Garnett. “I know Delonte’s having his issues – whatever and however – but I’m glad we got him, man. The situations in life – we all have difficulties. We’ll back him 1,000 percent. The fact we have him on this team makes us dangerous. He just buys into our system. He’s grit, he’s not going to back down, all fight and blood, I like that.”
I don’t doubt a single thing about West’s game. I couldn’t describe him better than Kevin Garnett just did; he’s grit, he’s not going to back down, all fight and blood. He can shoot, defend, handle the ball, do a little bit of everything. I just hope West makes the most of his chance in Boston. If he can’t succeed in Boston, where he has a support group of friends who “back him 1,000 percent”, where is he going to?
5. Kevin Garnett was dominant in yesterday’s practice. “At one point,” Doc told ESPN Boston, “he looked unguardable.” Garnett was so dominant that Doc Rivers reportedly considered trapping him, which he said he never does.
“If we had that post game that he gave us today last year, we would have been a remarkable basketball team,” Rivers told the Boston Herald. “That’s where you can see it’s the confidence part. Last year, I don’t think he ever had the confidence to go to the post. He didn’t like it down there. This year he wants it down there and he’s being a factor.”
What Rivers failed to mention: Garnett was likely being defended by either Glen Davis or Luke Harangody. Still, Garnett feels rejuvenated and healthy.
“It’s a new year,” said Garnett. “Over the summer, rest is always good. I’m just excited about this year. I’m not really keying on myself, I’m just trying to make the other guys better on this team. I’m revived.”
He continued, “Obviously, I’ve got a little chip on my shoulder because of Game 7 and all that. That’s gonna sorta motivate me throughout the year. … I’m eager, man.”
So are we.
6. It should surprise nobody that Rajon Rondo believes he’s the league’s best point guard.
“I feel I’m the best at what I do, and that’s how I play it,” Rondo told the Boston Herald. “People know who I am, but that’s not why I play. I play to be the best.
“I’m the best, hands down. There’s no speculation. Not top three or top five, I’m the best.”
What now matters is how Rondo sets out to prove he’s the best. Paul Pierce cautions he’ll need to find something new to motivate himself.
“He’s going to have to find something to continue to motivate himself,” Pierce told the Boston Globe. “Yeah, he got the contract. Yeah, he got a ring. Yeah, he made the All-Star team. But there’s still a lot of things for him to accomplish. That’s up to him to find a motivation each and every day to improve himself.’’
Doc Rivers isn’t as worried about motivation. “He’ll always have a chip,’’ Rivers said. “People still want to see him make shots. He didn’t make the Olympic team this year. He probably wants to do that. He’s so young, Rondo has a lot of things to prove.’’
Rondo agrees. “This team, it’s impossible to get comfortable,’’ Rondo said. “You’ve got plenty of All-Stars on the team, four future Hall of Famers. I made one All-Star appearance. I haven’t done anything. Maybe if I was the only guy on the Celtics that made the All-Star team I could maybe relax a little bit, but on this team, it’s impossible.’’
“I’m not looking to be the best one year or to have people think you’re the best one year,’’ Rondo continued. “You’ve got to prove it every night. Every night somebody’s going to be gunning for that spot.’’
So is Rondo really number one? I’ll let Zach Lowe’s tweet take it from here: “I love ya, Rajon, but you’re not the best and never will be if you don’t improve your shooting.”
7. I loved this quote from Paul Pierce, discussing the bench’s improved talent:
“We don’t know how much better we can get with the new guys until you put it out there on the court. The talent is there. It’s about bringing it together. There are so many talented teams in the NBA, but if you don’t bring it together, it won’t do you any good.”
On paper, the Celtics’ depth should be a major strength. But we thought the same thing last year, and the reserves were erratic. A consistent, explosive second unit would do so many things for the Celts: provide rest for the Big Three, stretch small leads into big ones, and change the energy when the starters don’t have it. The Celtics have the type of talent to do all those things.
But they still have to prove it on the court.
8. The Celtics were pleased with training camp. “Off the court, it’s been a blast,” said Kevin Garnett. “After we get done working, we definitely have a good time. But you can see the progress. You can see that we’re ahead of schedule and it’s basically because of the experience that we have in the additions. But so far so good.”
“I thought everybody came back with a great attitude, a great focus and for one week we actually got a lot of good stuff in,” Doc Rivers told the Boston Globe. “So I’m actually every happy.”
So are we. Three days ’til the first preseason game. Hallelujah, the sweet smell of NBA basketball is very close to invading my nostrils.
I’ll leave you with one picture, and I apologize if it permanently blinds you. (Thanks to KWAPT for the picture.