Paul Pierce will sit to rest his bruised heel, but professional basketball nonetheless returns to the TD Garden tonight at 7:30 p.m. A few things to watch:
Sasha Pavlovic’s debut:
The thought of relying on Pavlovic (even slightly) makes me contemplate whether to stick my head into a blazing bonfire. He’s been one of the NBA’s very worst players during each of the past four seasons and hasn’t shown any signs of being a capable rotation player since Dirk Nowitzki was still considered a choker (read: it’s been a very long time since Pavlovic was useful). Times have changed violently since then, and John Hollinger now writes with scorn when addressing Pavlovic: “As long as [the Celtics] can avoid playing Sasha Pavlovic in an actual game, they’ll be fine,” is not exactly a ringing endorsement for the player who might start on Sunday during Boston’s regular season opener.
Yes, hide yo’ kids, hide yo’ wife — Pavlovic might start a regular season NBA game on Sunday. Although Marquis Daniels is clearly ahead of Pavlovic on the depth chart, Doc Rivers said he likes Daniels with the second unit and could start Pavlovic instead. THIS is why Boston fans are universally worried by Jeff Green’s season-ending surgery. It’s not that Green was awesome. He wasn’t. It’s not that he’s perfect. He’s not. It’s not that we fully expected him to take a leap forward after he struggled last season, although it’s possible he could have. The Celtics just don’t have anyone to replace Green. Daniels is solid, but he gets injured more often than Chris Brown’s girlfriends. Pierce is great, but he can’t play 48 minutes. As the roster stands now Pavlovic is set to earn legitimate playing time whenever Pierce or Daniels get injured, a thought that could inspire projectile vomiting among serious Boston fans.
Boston’s rookies are earning praise. JaJuan Johnson passed Kevin Garnett’s mentor test, which would include hazing if not for the fact that Johnson is actually KG’s own size and KG thus refuses to pick on him. (Just a joke, guys. I’m the biggest Garnett fan ever, even when he takes out all his frustration on Jose Calderon.) Teammates are impressed by E’Twaun Moore’s praise. But let’s be real here: Except for the two shots Moore hit late in Boston’s preseason opener, neither rookie did anything to set himself apart. I like them both. Johnson’s run-and-jump athlete with perimeter touch who stands almost seven feet tall. Moore doesn’t make very many mistakes, and he’s a good outside shooter. But if the season started tomorrow, neither would play more than a bit role, if that. I’m not saying they can’t earn rotation spots. I’m just saying that from what I’ve seen, neither player is ready.
‘Quisy better, or no?
Doc Rivers is saying that Daniels is better than ever. Comcast’s announcers have said there’s a noticeable difference between Daniels now and Daniels during his last stint in Boston. And Daniels played great against Toronto in Boston’s preseason opener on Sunday.
So then why did nothing seem different? Daniels’ good game was exactly the same as all his good games used to be. He posted up shorter defenders, cut directly to the hoop whenever the opportunity presented itself, made very few mistakes, and was mostly quiet even when playing well.
I hope Daniels is better than ever. I hope he’ll play like he did Sunday all the time. But nothing he’s done yet has been out of character. Consistency — meaning that Daniels needs to make his impact felt even when he doesn’t face midget defenders — remains the key.
Rajon Rondo’s midrange jumper
I feel like I’m begging myself to believe something I know isn’t true. But still: Rondo’s jumper looked more confident and easy on Sunday than it ever did last season, didn’t it? Didn’t it??? Maybe I’m just being optimistic. Maybe I’m looking at string cheese and imagining steak. But a man can hope, can’t he?
The game’s at 7:30 p.m. I recommend that you watch.