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Boston Celtics 2011-12: What We Learned from Preseason

MIAMI, FL - MAY 03:  Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics reacts to a foul during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2011 NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on May 3, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Noman KhananiContributor IIIDecember 22, 2011

Typically, preseason basketball features little seriousness and minutes from starters. With only two games scheduled for each team before the season kicks off on Sunday, preseason has been more interesting than usual over the past week. 

At the very least, preseason was never a real indicator on how a team would fair when the games actually meant something. I won't say that it has been that much different this week, but the fact that starters are still playing in the fourth quarter with intensity must mean something. 

Here are some points I took away after watching the Boston Celtics defeat the Toronto Raptors in both of their preseason games this week:

 

1. Injuries Will Still Be an Issue

I didn't really learn that from preseason because it was already a known fact, but Paul Pierce's heel injury should be a concern. Boston isn't exactly very deep in any particular position and can't afford to have any of their big four out. 

 

2. Having Jermaine O'Neal at Center May Not Be So Bad

The Celtics frontcourt has raised many questions going into Christmas, but O'Neal, a former All-Star, really held things down along with Kevin Garnett against Toronto.

Granted, the Raptors don't exactly have the toughest frontcourt in the league, but six blocks in less than 30 minutes of action in those two games is a good sign. After playing in only 24 games last season, O'Neal could become a major factor in this team's success. 

 

3. Rajon Rondo Showing Improvement in His Jump Shot

Rondo's lack of range has held him back from truly becoming maybe the league's best point guard, but he wasn't hesitant in shooting from 18- to 20-feet away from the basket in the team's second game.

Now in his sixth season, the two-time All-Star is being given the keys to drive the Celtics forward. With the other big three now all at least 34 years old, Rondo is Boston's best player and must make his presence known through scoring as well. 

 

4. Rookies Show Encouraging Signs

Two weeks ago, I wrote an article predicting that the Celtics' two draft picks, JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore, would play sparingly throughout the regular season as it's been a trend with Doc Rivers-coached teams in the past.

While that may remain the case with Johnson, Moore has played very well, showing that he's not scared to pull the trigger. He did a great job of getting into the lane Wednesday night, going to the free-throw line eight times while scoring 11 points. 

Johnson has been unfortunate to fall behind former D-League Defensive Player of the Year, Greg Stiemsma. The undrafted center out of Wisconsin earned several "Tommy Points" with his hustle, something Rivers really appreciates. 

 

5. Last Year's First-Round Pick Avery Bradley Taking Backward Steps

While Moore has been pretty impressive thus far, Bradley has been anything but good. At an average of 19 minutes in the preseason, he went a total of 1-of-13 from the field and didn't show great decision-making. That's not a good sign for a 6'2" scorer.

With the second-rounder from Purdue breathing down his back, it's now or never for Bradley, who averaged only five minutes a game last season.

 

6. Michael Sweetney Should Just Stop

It's been over four years since the former lottery pick appeared in a regular season game, and he's now in his second attempt at trying to make the Celtics roster. While it's been encouraging to see him trying to bring his weight down and make a comeback, Sweetney is really in no shape to be playing basketball at this level. 

 

7. Teams Will Not Want to Play Boston in the Postseason

Though the other Eastern Conference elites all improved in the short offseason while Boston might have regressed, the Celtics will still be competitive. I can't say that they will be championship contenders because injuries seem to be a never-ending issue, but if this team catches fire at the end of the season, they will be dangerous in the playoffs. 

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