The preseason is a time for loud predictions, optimistic outlooks and championship dreams. If Lindsey Lohan were in an NBA training camp, her coach would call her sober. If Tiger Woods were in an NBA training camp, his coach would rave about his cured swing and familial tendencies. If Nicolas Cage were in an NBA training camp, his coach would call him a great actor.
So take the Boston Celtics’ preseason optimism with a grain of salt. But if the Celtics are right, if what they’re saying is true, this season could be special.
“The second unit is no joke, really, and I feel like that every day,” captain Paul Pierce told the Herald.
“Right now, it’s about split. I can’t even tell you who has the advantage right now. Sometimes the second unit has it its way.
“Some days you have Nate (Robinson), Delonte (West) and Shaq (O’Neal) who get it going on the second team, then some days you have Marquis (Daniels) and Baby (Glen Davis),” he said. “They really have a good chemistry going. I really love our second team.
“I haven’t seen a second team like this since I’ve been in the league. I know when I come in I’m going to get better each and every day.” …
“I think we get a lot out of playing against each other, truthfully, because it’s like we’re playing a game every day.”
The Celtics’ second unit isn’t just great; it’s the best second team Paul Pierce has seen since he’s been in the NBA. Pierce might as well have drool hanging off the side of his mouth while he talks about his backups.
But let’s ask Jermaine O’Neal. He’s played for mediocre teams for awhile, so he’s not used to winning. What does he think about the Celtics so far?
“It is a dooooog fight,” Jermaine O’Neal told the Boston Herald. “Every single day is a dog fight. We joke a lot about it – that anything another team can throw at us isn’t anything we don’t see every day in practice.
“This is a very prideful group of guys. You can tell, because whenever Doc blows the whistle he just steps back, because guys are going super hard. They’re not competing because they’re trying to take another person’s time – they’re competing because they’re trying to make a person better. And it’s a big difference between the two.
“Some guys will go after a guy because they’re trying to take his time, but we’re not like that,” O’Neal added. “We’re going to support whoever is on the floor. Stars, rookies who come off the bench, whoever. It’s tough.”
Okay Jermaine, that’s good. Got anything else you want to discuss about the team?
“I knew about this team just talking to different players,” he told the Boston Herald. “Everything I thought it would be here – with small things like this – has happened.
“If you can depend on someone away from basketball, it’s easy money once you get on the court. This team jokes a lot in the locker room, but when we walk onto the court it’s all business. The luncheons and the movies are stuff that all (builds) chemistry. These things are hard to get in professional sports, because guys are out there thinking about playing time and how much they make. A lot of teams are built very well, but they can’t seem to win, and it’s because of chemistry.
Back to you, Paul. We’re going to ask you about Marquis Daniels now, because he really sucked last season. How has he played so far?
“He’s looking great,” Pierce told the Boston Herald.
Huh? Marquis Daniels? The guy who rode the pine most of last season?
“He’s the most versatile player in the second group. He can play the point guard, 2-guard, 3-guard, inside, outside, this is the best I’ve seen him since he’s been here. Maybe injuries had a lot to do with it last year, but he’s really tuned in.”
Is there anything bad you want to say about Marquis, Paul?
“He has a great IQ on defense. He’s always in the right spots, always into his man. He has good lift challenging shots. He has all of the tools of a great defender, and it’s all about the will, and he’s showing that will this year.”
Not exactly ripping him apart, Paul. Okay, moving on. I’m just trying to get someone — anyone — to say a negative thing about the Celtics. Please?
“We’re a loose, focused, hard-working group,” Pierce told ESPN Boston.
But I want something bad!
“A lot of people say, ‘They went down [to Newport] to have fun and goofed around.’
Here it comes! I can taste it!
But that’s not necessarily the case.
We got in a lot of good work and I think Doc was pleased with the work we got in. We really got better down there and we’re taking it all in stride. There’s a time and a place for everything and I think that we’re having a good balance between the two. We know when to have our fun, but we know when to buckle down when it’s time to focus.”
Can anybody say something negative? Tell me Shaq looks slow, or Nate Robinson is too nutty, or Ray Allen’s body fat might have moved from 4% to 4.2%.
“I’m excited about the season, truthfully,” Pierce told ESPN Boston.
Anything else you want to tell me, Paul?
“There’s an energy here. Something that each and every day, you get that feeling. I can’t explain it. I told y’all on [Media Day] about it and it’s in here. I feel like something special is going to happen.”
It’s a lost cause. There’s nothing but optimism, folks. If everything’s as rosy as the Celtics tell it, 82-0 is most definitely in reach.