The Boston Celtics' Top 5 Training Camp Storylines
If you can believe it, the NBA preseason is only about three weeks away. That can only mean that a whole lot of storylines are going to dominate the Boston Celtics from now until then and continue right through to the opening tip of the regular season.
It feels like just yesterday that the Celtics lost that Game 7 to the Miami Heat, but that was three months ago already. So much has changed since then.
Ray Allen is now a member of that Heat team, and the bench that Boston used during that series is now unrecognizable.
One could probably sit here for hours and discuss all of the different storylines surrounding the C's heading into the 2012-13 campaign, but let's break them down into five, shall we?
5. Who Wins Spot No. 15 on the Roster?
This may seem very insignificant. As a matter of fact, many NBA fans probably can't even name the 15th player on their team's roster. Still, to whomever may be battling for that spot, it means everything. Also, for the Celtics, a team that has struggled with injuries the past few years, it may end up being fairly important.
The two main guys duking it out for this final roster spot are Dionte Christmas and Jamar Smith.
Christmas seems to have the inside track to the job, as he was extremely impressive in Summer League play and possesses an all-around game that Smith simply cannot match.
Smith is more of a sharpshooter than anything else. Christmas is a bull who can put the ball on the floor and get into the lane at will. Plus, he is a better defender, and we all know how much Boston values defense.
Barring any more offseason signings or trades for the C's, you will likely see Christmas earn the last seat on the bench.
4. Is Kris Joseph the Real Deal?
When the Celtics selected Kris Joseph with the 51st overall pick in the draft, many thought they were getting a steal. How could a player with as much athleticism and collegiate success as Joseph fall all the way to the bottom of the second round?
Well, Danny Ainge pounced and added a player in Joseph who might get some minutes this season. Boston only has two true small forwards: Paul Pierce and Jeff Green. Should there be an injury or should one of them need rest, Joseph could certainly be someone Doc Rivers calls on.
Joseph impressed in Summer League, flashing a solid all-around game that some even say resembles that of Pierce himself. So, in Joseph's case, who better to mentor you than the player some are comparing you to?
Joseph will still be fairly far down on the depth chart, but he will be called upon at different points during the season. You can count on that.
3. How Will the Frontcourt Shape Up?
The Celtics made several new additions to their frontcourt this offseason.
They drafted Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo and signed Jason Collins. That's not to mention Chris Wilcox, out since March after undergoing season-ending heart surgery.
We know Boston's starting frontline will consist of Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass, but who will get the majority of the minutes behind them? Will it be Sullinger, who is the most talented player of the bunch? Will it be Wilcox, who serves as a great running mate for Rajon Rondo? Maybe even Green will get some minutes at the 4?
The hunch is that Wilcox will be the first big man off the bench given his experience, and when the C's play against bigger centers like Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard, Collins will see an ample amount of floor time. However, if Sullinger impresses Rivers early on, he could end up seeing the bulk of the minutes off the pine. Don't discount Melo, either.
To put it lightly, Doc has plenty of options, and if the Celtics' reported interest in Kenyon Martin is true, then he might have even more ways to go come opening night.
2. Will Rajon Rondo Take on More of a Scorer's Role?
While Rondo is widely recognized as one of the best point guards in the league, scoring has never been his forte. But then, Rondo will have a game like in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, where he went off for 44 points, and it makes you wonder whether he could be a consistent scorer.
When Allen was a Celtic, Rondo's role offensively was obviously diminished. Boston had set plays that were run specifically for Ray, and most of them involved Rondo dribbling the air our of the ball at the top of the key while Allen tried to get open.
Now that Allen is gone, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising to see Rondo start looking for his own shot more. If that is going to be the case, that is something we might see in the preseason. Rondo can now focus more on dribble penetration with Allen in South Beach, and that could open up the Celtics' entire offense.
1. How Much Do Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce Have Left in Them?
We saw Garnett coast through the regular season in 2012 only to seemingly turn back the clock a few years and dominate during the playoffs.
Pierce never really got much of a chance to increase his level of play in the postseason, as he was never quite the same after spraining his MCL in the middle of the Atlanta Hawks series.
Now, K.G. and Pierce are another year older. Can we expect the same type of big-game performances from them that we have in the past?
I'm really looking at Garnett in particular here, because he was the key to the Celtics' playoff run this past spring. By the time the 2013 postseason hits, he will be 37. Do his legs have enough left in them to propel Boston through the playoffs again?
You can expect more of the same from these two during the regular season this year, perhaps even on a grander scale now that Boston has more depth. Expect Rivers to limit K.G. and Pierce's minutes, Gregg Popovich style.
This is precisely why I wouldn't be all that surprised to see Boston go through the motions a bit throughout the middle of the season, only to turn it on once the calendar hits late March.
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