Boston Celtics Training Camp Report: Latest News and Preseason Predictions
Photo Credit: ESPN.com
A lot of questions will be answered in the coming weeks before the 2012-13 season kicks off. The three 2012 draft picks will be fighting for roster spots and playing time. Two key contributors are returning after season-ending heart surgeries. A handful of other free agents will also be making their first appearances in green.
This training camp tracker will be consistently updated throughout camp and the preseason, bringing you the latest on what is happening in Celtics land.
Latest News/Roster Moves
Photo Credit: www.marca.com
Update: Oct. 17, 2012 by Stephen Babb
Just when you thought the Boston Celtics were finished re-fashioning themselves as one of the deepest teams in the league, Adrian Wojnaworski Tweets this:
Free agent guard Leandro Barbosa has reached agreement on a one-year deal with the Boston Celtics, league sources tell Yahoo! Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) October 17, 2012
At first glance, that might seem to crowd head coach Doc Rivers' backcourt rotation, but Wojnarowski also notes that, "Boston could lean more heavily on Barbosa until guard Avery Bradley returns from shoulder surgery sometime before Jan. 1."
Like Celtics sixth man Jason Terry, Barbosa is hardly a pass-first guard, but he does give Boston another ball-handler who can shoot off the dribble. Though Terry is probably the purer shooter, Barbosa's speed keeps defenders on their heels.
He's scored in the 10-12 point range over the last three seasons, a stretch in which he's spent time with the Phoenix Suns (where he had his best years), Toronto Raptors and most recently the Indiana Pacers.
Barbosa signed for the veteran's minimum, so it's really a no-risk move for a team that's quickly established itself as one of the top contenders in the East. The 6'3" combo-guard isn't the best defender, he can still play an important—if limited—role under Rivers.
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Celtics Sign Former No. 2 Overall Pick, Two Others
Obviously, the biggest roster move to occur recently is the Celtics signing of veteran center Darko Milicic, as reported by A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft agreed to a one-year deal with Boston for the veteran's minimum.
Boston also offered two players invites to training camp. Though their contracts are non-guaranteed, both Rob Kurz and Micah Downs will have a shot to make the roster in camp.
Kurz is a 6'9" forward who played four years at Notre Dame but went undrafted in 2008. He was able to earn a spot with Golden State and played 40 games for them as a rookie. Since then, he has been playing overseas.
Downs played college ball at both Kansas and Gonzaga. He, likewise was undrafted in 2009. The 6'8" forward was named the Spanish ACB League's rising star last season. Previous winners include Ricky Rubio and Gustavo Ayon.
Veteran Guard, Keyon Dooling Retires
Also happening recently was the waiving and subsequent retirement of Keyon Dooling, as reported by the Boston Herald. The veteran guard had signed a one-year deal to return to the Celtics. After more thought, the 32-year-old made the decision to retire. He opened up about his reasoning in a fantastic interview with CSNNE.com's Jessica Camerato.
Celtics-Heat Start Rivalry with Early Words
Other news involving Boston recently includes Kevin Garnett's shot at Ray Allen concerning the deletion of the latter's phone number from Garnett's cell phone. Allen shrugged off the comments to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, but new teammate Dwyane Wade contributed his two cents as well.
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Update: Oct. 19, 2012 by Stephen Babb
It's a good thing the Boston Celtics added so much depth this summer. They might actually need it.
Greg Payne reports for ESPN Boston that both Paul Pierce (twisted ankle) and Brandon Bass (bruised knee) had to leave Thursday's preseason contest against the Brooklyn Nets. Pierce later returned in the third quarter, but Bass remained sidelined.
Payne also notes that, "coach Doc Rivers didn't seem overly concerned" about either situation, so all that depth may not be entirely necessary.
If the two forwards miss some preseason time, though, it will just mean more opportunity for rookie Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green, who's returning from a year-long absence on account of a heart condition.
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Update: Oct. 17, 2012 by Stephen Babb
Doc said Darko likely to sit out tonight & Thursday in Brooklyn; Hopes to have him back Saturday in Albany vs. Knicks.— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) October 16, 2012
Unless the wrist becomes an ongoing problem, there's probably no cause for panic. It's certainly not as if Milicic ranks among the league's top centers.
That said, the Boston Celtics are especially thin at the center position—so thin in fact that power forward Kevin Garnett was moved to center last season and will likely assume a similar burden this time around, at least when Darko isn't in the game. When he is in the game, Garnett will have more opportunities to return to his more natural 4-spot.
---End of Update---
Avery Bradley (Shoulders)
For Boston, the major injury concern is Avery Bradley. After having a breakout season and becoming one of the league's most impressive defensive guards, Bradley suffered injuries to both shoulders.
The 21-year-old had surgery to repair both shoulders which kept him out of the team's final 10 playoff games, including the entire Eastern Conference finals. Recently, the word was that he was nowhere near ready to play, but things have gotten considerably more optimistic since.
According to Gary Dzen of the Boston Globe, Bradley is far ahead of schedule and has been at the training facility as much as possible. January was the original target for his return, anytime before that is gravy.
Jeff Green (Heart) and Chris Wilcox (Heart)
Other than Bradley, the Celtics are looking pretty healthy. Obvious concern is there for Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox, both of whom underwent season-ending heart surgeries. However, there are no immediate concerns coming out of camp for either player.
Jared Sullinger (Back)
Also, 2012 draft pick Jared Sullinger has shown no signs of the reported back problems that led to him falling to the Celtics at No. 21.
Projected Depth Chart
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Right now, the Celtics have 13 players under contract, and two open spots to be filled during camp.
Projecting out the depth chart would have the roster being filled out with summer league standout Dionte Christmas and second-round pick Kris Joseph.
(1) Rajon Rondo, (2) Jason Terry
The starting job is obviously Rondo's for the foreseeable future. With no legitimate point guard to back him up, Jason Terry will see time in the role. Terry was going to be the natural leader of the second unit, so playing the point role would seem to be a fit. He won't give the team the distribution skills of Rondo, but should be able to hold down the fort and score some points along the way.
(1) Courtney Lee, (2) Dionte Christmas, (Avery Bradley*)
While Avery Bradley nurses his way back from double shoulder surgery and Jason Terry slides in to spell Rondo, Courtney Lee has the inside track to the starting shooting guard spot. Terry will see time here as well, while Rondo plays big minutes, but also look for Dionte Christmas to earn some time before Bradley's return.
(1) Paul Pierce, (2) Jeff Green, (3) Kris Joseph
Small forward in Boston has been a title owned by Paul Pierce for nearly two decades, this year won't be any different. Jeff Green will see big minutes if he can earn them. He will be one of the most important Celtics in 2012-13 and should Pierce take some games off to rest, Green will need to carry a lot of the scoring load. If Pierce or Green are unable to play, Kris Joseph could be in line to see minutes.
(1) Brandon Bass, (2) Jared Sullinger, (3) Chris Wilcox
I'll continue pulling for Jared Sullinger to start, but that takes nothing away from Brandon Bass. Bass was a solid starter in 2011-12 when forced into duty, and his experience will give him the edge here as well. Sullinger still figures to see big minutes, as he may be Boston's best interior scoring threat. Wilcox will see time in the second unit at both frontcourt positions. He played very well last season, but is returning from serious heart surgery.
(1) Kevin Garnett, (2) Darko Milicic, (3) Jason Collins, (4) Fab Melo
Kevin Garnett will remain as the starting center for Boston, after transferring to the position in the middle of the 2011-12 season. His main backup could be Chris Wilcox, but Darko Milicic is a wild card. After signing recently for a one-year deal, it remains to be seen what he can contribute. Further down the depth chart resides Jason Collins, who will be a decent big body to sacrifice some fouls, but not much else. Fab Melo needs seasoning and may wind up playing more games for Maine than Boston.
*Avery Bradley advances up the depth chart upon his return. Whether he retains the starting role depends on how Courtney Lee is playing with Rajon Rondo.
Player Under Most Pressure to Perform: Jeff Green
Photo Credit: www.BostonGlobe.com
6'9", 235 lbs
9.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 23.5 minutes per game (26 games in 2010-11)
Does the Celtics season live or die with Green's performance? No. However, there is no player on the roster with more to prove than him.
Green has pressure coming at him from all directions. There is still the lingering feelings about the original Kendrick Perkins trade. There is also the big new contract he signed during the offseason. All of that is added to the fact that he has to prove he can play again after missing an entire season recovering from an aortic aneurysm.
After the trade from Oklahoma City, Green was a major disappointment in Boston. He made a habit of disappearing in games and made almost no impact on the Celtics season. In the postseason, he notched double figure points just once in nine games.
With the Celtics aging stars seeing less minutes, Jeff Green is a natural fit to have a big year. Paul Pierce has entered the twilight of his career, and Green needs to step up. He needs to prove himself worth the respect of the Boston fans.
He has the security of a four-year deal and the respect of $9 million per year. Everything is lined up for him to succeed.
His role will be mainly with the second unit at small forward, but he may also see time at the other forward spot. Green is the player who can elevate the Celtics beyond where they are. He is going to need to be the difference between Boston being very good and Boston being great.
Most Critical Area Where Team Must Improve: Rebounding
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
2011-12 NBA rank: 30th
38.8 rebounds per game
The most glaring weakness on the Celtics last season was the second unit. Due to injuries, Boston's talent tank was decimated, and the reserves left a lot to be desired.
Through free agency, the Celtics have built up and fortified that second unit. Boston's bench is now very good on paper. This leaves the most critical area for improvement in the rebounding game.
Boston was the worst rebounding team in the league in 2011-12. Their 38.8 boards per game was .2 worse than Charlotte. This is alarming and something that needs to be assessed during camp.
Even more concerning is the offensive rebounds the Celtics surrender. In the regular season, Boston opponents averaged nearly 12 offensive boards a night. Those 12 extra possessions really killed them in some big games.
There is nothing more frustrating than a team playing dynamite defense for 20 seconds and then allowing a second-chance attempt to be an easy basket.
The influx of height brought in through the draft and free agency should help alleviate some of these woes. Jared Sullinger, in particular, needs to show a lot in training camp in order to receive the minutes necessary to right the Celtics' rebounding.
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2012-13 Win-Loss Prediction: 53-29
The original prediction for the Celtics' final record stood at 50-32, but with the recent acquisitions and revelations, I would be willing to add a couple more wins to that total.
This is a very deep team that will not be quite as susceptible as the 2011-12 team to injuries and slumps. I predict a very steady year, with the ability to limit minutes on the older veterans and keep them fresh throughout the season. To see the season-long breakdown and in-depth predictions, check out this monthly breakdown of the Celtics' schedule.
How it Ends
Predicting how things will look eight months from now, before the preseason has finished, is impossible. However, with all the additions the Celtics have made, as well as the players they have retained, it is hard to imagine them not making noise in the postseason once again.
No Celtics fan will be satisfied until the green team has knocked off Miami, and neither will any of the players. Therefore, I believe we are headed for, yet another, cataclysmic Eastern Conference finals between the two powerhouses that bracket the Eastern seaboard. I won't tempt the fates beyond that.
Top Players' Final Stat Lines
Rajon Rondo: 14 points, 11 assists, five rebounds per game
I'm looking for an increase in scoring from Rondo this season. He made it known that he can do it all in the postseason of 2012, and that should carry over to a more confident offensive game in 2012-13. However, with an increase in points, comes a slight decrease in assists.
The hope is that Rondo will start taking, and making, some of those layups he continually passes up. Look for the usual haul of triple-doubles scattered about as well, as the Celtics have 19 nationally televised regular season games.
Paul Pierce: 17 points, five assists, six rebounds per game
Pierce's usual has been slightly downgraded over the past couple seasons. That will continue as he won't have to carry such a load in 2012-13. While he should still lead the team in scoring, he won't approach 20 points per game. The Celtics are much deeper than in year's past, especially at small forward. Jeff Green will see significant minutes, lessening Pierce's court time and shots.
The Captain will still be immensely important to the team's success. His most important role will be as the team's clutch performer. He showed in singular games that he can still take over during Rondo's suspension against Atlanta. With no Ray Allen on the team, there is no doubt who gets the game winning shots.
Kevin Garnett: 14 points, three assists, seven rebounds per game
Still an elite defender, Garnett is the leader of the Celtics defensive unit. It will never matter how many minutes he is on the court, his impact will be felt on that end. He has taken numerous young bigs under his wing and taught them the defense. He will be doing the same with Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and Darko Milicic.
Garnett's offense is still very important. The 18-foot jumper isn't going anywhere. His paint game improved in the postseason as well. The move to center is looking like a permanent thing, which works in his favor. Garnett is able to provide a mismatch over all kinds of centers, because of his versatility. This allows him to punish smaller and weaker players inside, as well as clearing slower bigs out of the paint with his mid-range game.
Most Significant Storyline and How It Will Play out
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Rajon Rondo as an elite player, not just an elite point guard
This is going to be the year where we find out just how good Rondo is going to be. Up until now, he has played the role of scrappy rookie, understudy, sidekick and finally working his way into an integral part of Boston's offense.
Now, he is assuming the role of top player on an elite team. He is the most important player wearing green this season and could be for quite some time.
The storyline is Rondo becoming one of the league's top players. Where he ranks in the list of point guards is up for much debate, but that doesn't matter anymore. The Celtics won't win because he is a top point guard; they will win because he is a top player.
That means scoring has to become a bigger part of his game. If he is going to both lead and occasionally carry this team, Rondo has to score more and score more efficiently. I'm actually predicting a slight down-tick in his assist numbers, solely because I want Rondo shooting some of the shots he has passed up to this point.
If Rondo starts using his penetration more to his own benefit in terms of getting baskets, the Celtics will be better off for it. A championship-caliber team can't have their best player being gun-shy or one-dimensional. Rondo has been both of those things in recent years.
To a lesser extent, the attitude has to start subsiding—not to a point where he loses his edge but like Paul Pierce before him; maturity must start setting in. Pierce has been one of the best captains in sports for many years now, and that wasn't even a possibility when he was 25 years old.
Rondo is on his way to becoming one of the NBA's most visible and highly regarded stars. The Celtics' storyline will now mirror that of their burgeoning young star.