The last few Sunday mornings, I’ve played basketball with some middle-aged men at my local Jewish Community Center. The competition is, at best, weak; I play mostly to get a sweat during my furious attempt to get my fat ass back in shape.
You should see the cast of characters that shows up. There’s the 6’6″ stiff who thinks that setting a pick means bear-hugging your opponent until your teammate gets free; the bumble bee of energy who zips around the court and causes plenty of turnovers, but probably doesn’t even know the definition of the term “offense”; the 6’3″ red-headed Jew with a sweet stroke, who couldn’t even beat a parked car in a race; the big, lead-footed man who always demands the ball in the post, but who still hasn’t actually scored once in four weeks; and the 65-year old who moves like an elephant and is an even worse jump shooter, but always thinks he should have the green light.
The characters may sound interesting, but watching the games definitely wouldn’t be. Hell, I almost fall asleep while playing in them.
I know what you’re undoubtedly wondering: how do these pickup basketball games between misfits have anything to do with the Boston Celtics?
Because watching those misfits is about as exciting as I imagine watching the Raptors-Celtics game tonight will be. Preseason games can be quite dreadful, and the Toronto Raptors probably couldn’t even win the D-League championship. I’m as dedicated a Celtics fan as you’ll find, and even I am having trouble gearing up for this game. My best attempt so far has been this: “The Paul Pierce vs. DeMar DeRozan matchup pits two of the league’s finest small forwards!” Needless to say, I’m reaching.
Anyway, here are a couple things to look for. You know, just in case you actually care about tonight’s game.
Okay, I’m not really THAT excited. Jermaine O’Neal should make his debut tonight, which ranges anywhere from 1 to 7 on the excitement scale, depending on who’s scoring. Will O’Neal help? Yes, of course. He’ll rebound, defend and occasionally score. He brings a different dynamic than any other Celtic center. He’s more Kevin Garnett than Shaq, with a nice midrange jumper to compliment a decent post game.
I’m excited to see how “The Other O’Neal” fits into the Celtics’ schemes. Both Semih Erden and Shaquille O’Neal seem to have quickly accepted a secondary (tertiary?) role. (Okay, I know, it’s only preseason. But still! Shaq seems completely fine with playing a small part.) Will Jermaine’s fusion be so seamless? Will the offense run as smoothly when he’s on the floor? Barring further injury complications, we start to find out tonight.
What am I worried about? Everything has gone fine the first two games, right?
Yeah, pretty much. But the problem is, Delonte West will miss the season’s first ten games with a suspension. And the Celtics don’t exactly seem to have an adequate replacement.
I thought Von Wafer might be a decent sparkplug off the bench, but he looks unconfident. He hasn’t learned his role yet, and it shows. He passes when he should shoot and hasn’t yet looked to score. “Von, you’re a damn scorer!” I want to scream at him. “We definitely didn’t sign you for your terrific court vision.”
Another option, Mario West, is about as talented offensively as the chair I’m sitting on. I love his tenacity while defending, but he doesn’t show much of anything on the other end. With West on the court, the Celtics might as well play 4-on-5.
Maybe Avery Bradley can learn enough during the next few weeks to step in. Everyone raves about his defense, and he’s certainly athletic. If Bradley can pick up the Celtics’ schemes over the next 16 days, I wouldn’t be surprised if he sees opening-night minutes as Ray Allen’s backup. At least from what I’ve seen, nobody else has staked a claim for that spot.
- As usual, I’m on Kevin Garnett watch tonight. Look spry, KG!
- Can Semih Erden continue to surprise? I say yes. Even when he doesn’t score, Erden helps out. He knows how to play, and he always seems to be in the right spot.
- Delonte and Nate Robinson look to have great chemistry. They also can become a fearsome defensive tandem, capable of pressuring the hell out of opposing guards. I’m loving the second unit’s backcourt.
- Rebounding. In the two wins to open their preseason, the Celtics were a combined +22 on the boards. I know it was just preseason and I know the Celtics were playing the Ingleside School for the Blind and Deaf, but +11 rebounds per game is still music to my ears. Especially after the rebounding debacle of last year.