What a thrilling finish to the Boston Celtics preseason home opener, in which they lost, 97-96, to the Brooklyn Nets. According to multiple members of the press, Doc Rivers chose to watch the presidential debate instead of coaching in the second half and the referees (mercifully) called some phantom fouls on the Celtics at the end of the game to avoid overtime.
So, can anything be gleamed from a game which Doc Rivers deemed less important than a presidential debate? Probably not, but damnit, that’s our job!
Anyways, here’s what ( I think) I (might) have learned:
Jared Sullinger is NOT going to start over Brandon Bass.
If the last two preseason games have taught us anything, it’s that Sullinger is not ready to be a starter in this league. There has been a lot of (justified) talk about how far ahead of the curve Sullinger is for a rookie, but he’s still a rookie. And we know Doc Rivers is allergic to rookies, regardless of the praise he has heaped on Sully thus far.
Offensively, Sullinger may be ready to contribute at a starter’s level, but, defensively, he is much further behind and it’s not just because of his relative lack of athleticism. Against Philadelphia, Sullinger was consistently abused in pick-and-roll situations, making late or non-existent rotations and allowing easy layups and dunks. Tuesday night, recently amnestied Andray Blatche made Sullinger his Biatche, scoring 23 points. Rivers’ biggest pet peeve as a coach, it seems, is a missed defensive rotation, and, in this respect, Sullinger has a lot of growing to do.
Also, as Bass reminded us Tuesday night, he’s pretty good, too. And a true professional.
Courtney Lee runs the floor like he has Flubber in his sneakers.
Each of the past three seasons, it seems, Rivers has stressed the importance of pushing the pace with Rajon Rondo. Each of the past three season, it seems, Rivers has been all talk. This season, however, Rivers finally has the personnel to keep up with Rondo and Courtney Lee might help the most in this area. Lee is one those annoying players to play against, simply because he runs down the floor at full speed each and every possession. If you ease up just once, Lee will make you pay with a layup, or a corner three, at the other end. With Lee, Jeff Green, Jason Terry, Chris Wilcox, and Avery Bradley on board, Rondo may not be running solo in transition this season.
My boy Rondo is wicked Smahhht.
As if we need more evidence that Rondo is a basketball genius, he drew up the final play for the Celtics and he got Micah Downs wide open for an alley oop. Downs missed, because, well, he’s Micah Downs, but the play worked to perfection. As smart as Rondo is, he’s also a fierce competitor, playing 36 of the game’s 39 minutes before sitting down the stretch. Rondo just loves to play, preseason or not, and it helps the new players gain some comfort when he is out there orchestrating the offense.