I prefer not to look too far into what the outcomes are of individual NBA preseason games, although I do value the information gained in NBA preseason slightly more than NFL preseason.
In watching these first two games I looked to check a bunch of things off my mental list of team aspects I wanted to ensure were up to par. There is also the hope that I am blessed with a few surprises that push my excitement as the season approaches. I am pleased to say my wishes, for the most part, have been granted.
First, the check list.
Two preseason games will not confirm much regarding what team totals will look like at the end of the regular season, but it at least gives us a hint.
The Celtics out-rebounded the 76ers 48-32 on Wednesday, and out-rebounded the Nets 46-40 last night. Essentially everyone has contributed to the rebounding, with Ray Allen having the individual game high with eight.
Obviously no players are logging that many minutes, but it is good to see a team pursuit in securing the rock. Hopefully they can maintain consistency in this regard, but it's a good sign looking forward.
Kevin Garnett's Health
Garnett's stats are of no concern to me in the preseason, what I wanted to see was some pep in his step, drowning out any thought's of the injuries that have plagued him over the past two seasons. Garnett's shooting touch has been off in the first two games, but that has never been, nor will it be, a point of concern.
What matters is that he looks fresh, and he has. Celtics fans rejoice.
It's difficult, maybe even impossible, to associate terms like “loose and limber” with Shaquille O'Neal, but the 38-year-old veteran does look a little more mobile. He has tallied 16 points and 7 rebounds over 26 minutes in the first two games.
CSNNE.com recently reported Paul Pierce's opinion on Shaq's condition:
"He looks good, just him getting up and down the court. In one pickup game, he got three fast-break layups. You don't really hardly hear about Shaq getting fast-break layups. But he's looked good. I think he's looked better than I guess people anticipated. A lot of people say he comes and gets in shape in camp, but he looks really good in the pickup games we've playing the last couple of weeks."
Head coach Doc Rivers has made similar comments and the big guy seems to be getting up and down the court with a hop in his step. Hopefully, the 18-year mileage won't get to him at some point. His assured decrease in minutes and anticipated rest (when appropriate) can only help.
From the players we would expect to log significant time during the upcoming season, there are a few notables in the first two games.
Glen Davis: Big Baby has totaled 33 points and 10 rebounds over 48 minutes in the games, including a 20/5 performance over 27 min. against the Nets Wednesday. So far, he is living up to his offseason proclamations and has been aggressive with 21 combined attempts at the line.
Nate Robinson/Delonte West: After factoring little into the scoring against the 76ers in the first preseason game, Robinson and West combined for 29 points against the Nets including a streak in the third quarter where they accounted for 19 consecutive Celtics points.
The two looked quick and slippery as usual. Most importantly, they have been playing off each other frequently. According to plan, West's presence is already being felt and the Celtics will look forward to having him back after he completes his ten game suspension (league conduct policy) to start the season.
Marquis Daniels: As I have mentioned in previous posts, Daniels has gained acclaim from the team and is looking healthy and championship possessed. Daniels logged 30 minutes against the Nets and the most combined minutes for both games on the team. He has 19 points, but his defensive ability is his core asset and he looks ready to provide exactly that.
Most Surprising - Semih Erden
I have previously mentioned that Doc Rivers has voiced his intention to use 6'11” Turkish rookie Semih Erden more frequently than some might have thought while Kendrick Perkins remains unavailable, but I didn't expect it would be to this extent. Not yet, anyway.
Although the bench always sees a dramatic boost in minutes during the preseason, both games had Erden included in that group of players.
Erden has played 23 minutes in both games totaling 15 points and 9 rebounds. Not surprisingly, the extra playing time is partially due to the absence of Jermaine O'Neal (hamstring), but Coach Rivers seems increasingly impressed with Erden:
"Defensively and offensively you can see he's played the game," Rivers said of Erden. "He has a really high IQ and he's been able to pick up our defense pretty well. He had some coverages today that were fantastic. The bumps, getting back out, finding his guy in rotation—that takes a while to get and he has it already."
Ray Allen's input on Erden:
"Sometimes it's good to be oblivious to what goes on, and not be star struck," Allen said. "If he went to college in this country, it probably would have been tough on him because you're over-inundated with SportsCenter...So he's just a guy who's not fazed and you come out and do your job like the lights come on and nothing changes."
It's clear that the team is on board with Erden's skills. Whether he is a significant factor during the season may depend on the condition of the Celtics' bigs. It certainly is exciting to see a youthful impact, particularly in their first year.
Biggest Letdown – Von Wafer
Wafer has been a non-factor in both of the preseason games. In fact, over 21 minutes, he hasn't even attempted a shot.
Wafer went into the preseason likely having to prove himself to gain a final roster spot. SG Mario West was a surprise invite to training camp and 6'8” F Stephane Lasme's invite was an even bigger surprise. Despite scoring 12 points last against the 76ers, Lasme is currently unlikely to make the team. West is undoubtedly Wafer's primary threat to steal his spot out from under him.
Fortunately for Wafer, West has also been unable to put something on the board while being dealt a few less minutes.
Even if Wafer earns the spot, he is clearly exhibiting the potential of a bench-warmer.