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Celtics-Knicks Preseason Preview: What To Expect in Boston

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Celtics-Knicks Preseason Preview: What To Expect in Boston
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I’ll be there when the Knicks travel to Boston for the Celtics’ second preseason game tonight at 7:30 p.m.

The Knicks are coming off a win over the New Jersey Nets, 115-107. Not that that means anything in an early preseason game.

 

The Green Machine

The Celtics are coming off a loss to the Houston Rockets, 96-90, after a fourth-quarter collapse in which they were outscored by a 26-15 margin.

Kevin Garnett looked good limited minutes, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce likewise. Rasheed Wallace blocked three shots, got his first technical, and had his moments. Marquis Daniels impressed in his Celtic debut. Glen Davis was productive with nine points and four boards, Rajon Rondo was a bit sluggish, while Kendrick Perkins made his presence felt with five fouls.

Rookie guard Lester Hudson took it to the hole for nine foul shot attempts and nine points total. Eddie House put in nine more, and the entire roster (save Tony Allen—sore ankle) got substantial minutes. I expect that those minutes will sift down to potentially meaningful players going forward. Newcomer and former lottery pick from Duke Shelden Williams was solid defensively and grabbed five boards.

The Celtics are stronger than last season and some say are stronger up and down the lineup than even their 2008 championship team. Expectations and spirits are high as they get ready for another championship run.

 

Tryin’ Brian

One area to watch is 6′9″ Brian Scalabrine being tried as a backup small forward, behind Pierce. He is being watched as he guards opposing threes. It is one area that wasn’t remedied in offseason acquisitions. With Bill Walker out for six to eight weeks and no real replacement added to fill that James Posey role, it will come down to Scalabrine or Daniels.

My guess is that Daniels will get the bulk of those assignments and help will be looked for during the season. Scal's strength is as a mobile power forward. He did a great job of stretching defenses with his three-point shooting from the 4 last season. He also played some effective defense against power forwards and even centers occasionally in what was his best year as a Celtic. But keeping up with the quickness of NBA’s ultra-athletic small forwards might be asking a bit too much of the ultimate team player.

But ask Scalabrine to run through a wall for you and he’ll give it his best shot. Even if he ends up with a concussion...or three, as he did last season.

I think that any success Scal has with defending threes will be to back off a little to play the drive and use his length to contest the jumper. If he gets up in somebody’s grill, they will probably draw the foul or blow by him a bit too often for it to work. That’s my guess, anyway. Wouldn’t be great if he rises to the occasion, though?

 

The Knicks

Expect a similar team to last season from the Knicks. They are trying to keep things open for the big free agent bonanza next summer, so they didn’t make any dramatic moves. They were expected to loose either David Lee or Nate Robinson to free agency this past summer but ended up re-signing both to one-year contracts. That was a pleasant bonus for Knick fans.

Coach Mike D’Antoni says he’ll go with a veteran lineup right now. That means point guard Chris Duhon, shooting guard Larry Hughes, small forward Al Harrington, power forward Lee, and center Darko Milicic—unless Wilson Chandler goes at small forward and moves Harrington to power forward, Darko to the bench, and Lee to center. Either way, that actually makes sense.

The Knicks spent a lot of prime time playing time developing the versatile 6′8″ Chandler last season. I really like him, but I think he had a bit too much freedom last year, especially shooting. He has a lot of tools and his potential is intriguing. A bit more discipline this season should help his game.

D’Antoni and Walsh failed to land a starting point guard to send Duhon to the bench, though he tried with overtures to both Ramon Sessions and Jason Kidd. So Duhon, one of Donnie Walsh’s earliest decisions as Knick head man, will be it again...for right now.

The 7′0″ Milicic was their only offseason addition, besides their draft picks. He actually fills a hole on this team. They had no shot-blocking interior defenders on this squad last year. Darko will bring that to the table. Though Milicic has had a spotty and largely disappointing NBA career, this may be his best opportunity of all. He wants to be able to spot up for his outside shot, a strength, al a European big man style, and he may get permission to do so here.

Al Harrington is supposed to be in great shape and with an "I want to retire here," good guy attitude. Danilo Gallinari is looking like a solid pickup as a skilled big man and Euro draft choice from last season. But coming off the bench for now is a good thing. He is only 21 and has a lot of time to learn the game.

Nate Robinson, the man without a defined position, meaning a point guard who isn’t really, returns after being unable to draw a contract out of another NBA team. Still, Robinson brings one-man offense, lots of energy, some added defensive disruption to his game, and entertainment value to a team that is treading water this season.

The rookie additions for the Knicks are 6′10″ Jordan Hill out of Arizona and 6′2″ Toney Douglas from Florida State. Hill, a lottery pick, should see some regular minutes this season.

Note of disappointment: No more Quentin Richardson to talk big and play small while trying to aggravate Paul Pierce. After what seemed like a 30-team, 50-state tour, Q ended up in Miami...for now.

I’ll give you the sights and sounds after the game. Have a great weekend!


Tom Halzack writes the Celtics Central blog for CTnews.com, a Web site for eight Connecticut newspapers. He also writes weekly for Celticsblog.com, the premier Celtic fan site on the net.

This article first appeared at Celtics Central on CTnews.com.

Agree or disagree, let Tom know how you feel.

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