The last time the Boston Celtics played a game — actually, let’s not talk about that. I’d rather not start bawling for the 4,569th time since The Game That Must Not Be Named. Let’s just say it’s been awhile since the Green and White suited up to play some basketball, and I’ve missed it.
Tonight, the wait is finally over. Amen. Here are some things to look for:
Kevin Garnett’s explosiveness
When we last saw KG, Pau Gasol was eating him for breakfast. Just check out their rebounding numbers from The Game That Must Not Be Named: Garnett - 3, Gasol - 18. Gasol might as well have bent KG over and whipped him with a ping pong paddle, the dominance was so thorough. And Gasol, before the series, was widely thought to be soft. Not exactly. (Shutting a door on my head, repeatedly.)
Since KG was administered that thorough bit of ass-whooping, we’ve heard nothing about him but optimism. He’s “revived;” he looks fantastic; he’s mentally recharged; he’s moving like he hasn’t in years; his post game came back; and his defense once again registers on a level somewhere between harrassment and assault. In a good way. Can we believe everything we hear? Maybe not. But if Garnett gets on all fours tonight and Jose Calderon’s the hell out of Jrue Holiday, I’ll probably cry tears of joy.
The battle for 15th man
It’s weird that a battle for 15th man actually means something, but whoever earns the C’s final roster spot will likely end up being the primary backup shooting guard for the season’s first 10 games. So the 15th man will actually be more like a 7th or 8th man, at least until Delonte West’s suspension ends.
Before training camp I would have bet my life on Von Wafer making the team. He’s talented enough to be a J.R. Smith type, an electric scorer off the bench. But then Mario West decided to complicate everything by impressing everybody in the organization. Doc Rivers practically gushes about West’s hustle, and Paul Pierce said he loves guys like West. Meanwhile, Wafer reportedly went oh-fer-training camp from outside, making the battle a lot tougher than I anticipated.
What will win out: West’s professionalism and scrappy attitude, or Wafer’s natural scoring ability?
By all accounts, Delonte West has been phenomenal in practices . Yesterday Chris Forsberg tweeted, “West looks fantastic. He’s really the key to this second unit. C’s will miss him a lot over first 10 [games].” And Forsberg isn’t the only one who’s noticed West’s high-quality play. Paul Pierce noted that West was one of the team’s three best players in camp, and Doc Rivers has applauded West’s play on more than one occasion.
If West can approach his averages from two seasons ago in Cleveland (11.7 points, 3.5 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 45.7% FG, 39.9% 3-pt. FG), the Celtics will have a consistent playmaker off the bench they haven’t had in the Big Three era.
The biggest wild card on the Celtics, nothing Marquis Daniels does this season will surprise me. He could be a stabilizing presence, somebody Doc Rivers can count on every game, or he could be awful. The problem is, Daniels is the C’s only option at small forward. If he can’t do the job, Wafer or M dot West will have to switch over to small forward and try their hand against bigger, stronger opponents. Not exactly ideal.
I’m excited to see Daniels play with a clean slate. One impressive preseason game does not a good season make, but a nice performance tonight could help solidify Doc’s confidence in his only natural small forward backup.
I thought Michael Sweetney would win a gold medal in the high jump before I saw Shaquille O’Neal start a game alongside Kevin Garnett for the Boston Celtics. Obviously, I was wrong. The Diesel will start his first game as a Celtic tonight. Weird.
I’m most looking forward to seeing the C’s pick and roll coverage with Shaq. Doc Rivers says the onus is now on the guards, and that Shaq should never venture too far out of the paint. I don’t know why Rivers chose that method; it’s the one Shaq has used for the past five years or so, and it’s a philosophy that has never worked before. I can already see Chauncey Billups running Rajon Rondo into screen after screen and draining pull-up jumpers all day. Damn it! I’m already obsessed with Shaq’s lack of pick and roll defense and he hasn’t played a single game in Boston. Woo-sah. Woo-sah.
Let me get this out of the way first: If Semih Erden spends more time in Boston than Maine this season, I’ll suck a fart out of Big Baby’s ass. (Hold on, puking at the thought.) Behind the O’Neal brothers and, later, Kendrick Perkins, there’s nowhere for Erden to play.
That said, I’m actually excited about the Semih Erden era. He’s tough, plays his role (defense and rebounding) and has mobility for a seven-footer. If you saw him play for Turkey this summer, you know two things about Erden: 1) He’s limited. He won’t ever become an All-Star, and his post moves will never make Kevin McHale jealous. And 2) He can help a team win. Players like Semih Erden make great backup centers in the NBA. Just not this season. Semih’s time is not now.
Basketball is back, boys and girls. If you know me, you know I woke up this morning with a smile and it won’t stop until June. Until then, Comcast Sports and NBA League Pass are my best friends.