The Celtics' 2010 preseason has officially wrapped up. The Celts went 7-1 this year, and are already preparing for another season, officially beginning on Tuesday, October 26, against the much-hyped Miami Heat. Despite the preseason not meaning much on paper, it meant a lot for fans, players and the coaching staff, who definitely needed to see how the new additions jelled with the established team members. We certainly a lot in eight games. Let's take a look:
Welcome to Boston, O'Neals!
With the much-anticipated arrival of non-related stars Shaquille and Jermaine O'Neal, Celtics fans (including yours truly) were certainly eager to see what these two can add. Shaq certainly looked good, averaging 9.0 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game and 1.0 assists per game during an average of 16.2 minutes per game over five games. Of course, Shaq will never be as productive as he once was, considering his age (38 years old) and his expected role as bench player. However, with Jermaine O'Neal already battling injuries, don't be surprised if the Big Shamrock gets a few extra minutes.
As stated above, Jermaine O'Neal is already battling injuries. He's barely practiced the last few days, and there's concern that he may not be ready for opening night. This a big disappointment for Boston, with the idea behind his acquisition being that he could hold down the center spot until Kendrick Perkins is recovered from his knee injury, not expected to be after the All-Star break. With O'Neal nursing injuries, look for new big men Semih Erden (from Turkey) and Luke Harangody to get extra minutes along with Shaq.
Other New Additions Find Their Footing
Naturally, there are other new faces in Boston this year, but they sometimes get lost in the Shaq hype. However, their contributions are starting to show. Semih Erden, a native of Turkey who previously played in Europe, averaged 5.8 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game and 1.3 assists per game over the course of eight games. Raw stats aside, we saw flashes of potential in Erden, with some good low post play that can certainly be fine-tuned with some practice and time on the court.
Von Wafer, previously of the Houston Rockets, averaged 5.5 points per game, 1.3 rebounds per game and 0.4 assists per game over eight games. It will be interesting to see where Wafer fits into the Celtics roster, as the team is already loaded at guard. If Wafer can a few minutes on the court, even just to give the starters and higher-up bench players a rest and score a few points, he may find a way to contribute.
Luke Harangody, a rookie out of Notre Dame, has similar stats, with 5.3 points per game, 3.9 rebounds per game and 0.3 assists per game. Harangody can also play a decent post game and should have no problem making himself known, being 6'7" and 251 pounds. With his size, he should be able to get wide down low and put in more than a few easy bank shots, that is if he can successfully compete with Glen Davis for playing time.
Finally, rookie guard Avery Bradley (out of Texas) has yet to contribute much, playing only sparingly during the preseason. Delonte West has averaged 8.3 points per game, 4.0 rebounds per game and 2.3 assists per game in his return to Boston.
The Big Four Still Excite
After Rajon Rondo established himself as a true floor general last year, the Big Three were rechristened the Big Four. Despite play that will probably be more limited than in the regular season, Pierce, Garnett, Allen and Rondo dazzled us once more and got us even more pumped for the season. Everybody knows that this may very well be the last opportunity for these guys to win a championship together as a team.
These guys are also looking for redemption after reaching the NBA Finals and losing to the hated Lakers, so look for some extra fire and determination. With the national media already writing off the aging Celtics, the vets have a lot to prove. Look for an interesting season with a "push it to the limit" kind of attitude.
All in all, we saw a lot of potential in the preseason. We're all excited for the season, and we're hoping it'll be a good one. The Celts will certainly face an uphill battle in the East, squaring off against a star-studded Miami, an always-tough Orlando, a new-and-improved Chicago, and a wild card in New York. But I think the experience and chemistry of this veteran team, along with a deep bench will contend in the East and have a far better season.
Here's my prediction:
Regular season: 57-25, third seed in East heading into the playoffs behind top seed Miami and second seed Orlando.
Go Green 18!
P.S. I attempted to get tickets for Opening Night against Miami, but naturally the loge/floor seats I enjoy so much were exorbitantly priced, and I had to pass them up. Fortunately, however, I will be going to the October 29th game against the Knicks, and I will of course watch Opening Night from my favorite chair. Expect more frequent articles from me as the season gets going.