Sizing up the C's at the end of the preseason


Sizing up the C's at the end of the preseason

BOSTON Now that the preseason schedule is officially a thing of the past, the Celtics can focus all their energy towards the season opener at Miami on Oct. 30.

But before the Miami Hype machine goes into overdrive in the coming days, here's a look at some of the more developments that came out of the preseason schedule, and how those issues might play out in the regular season.

Rondo's Team
All the bonding both overseas and state-side by the Boston Celtics has galvanized an already tight bunch in a way that hasn't been seen around these parts since the 2008 title run.

And the ring leader of all this team unity has been Rajon Rondo. Organizing team workouts earlier this summer was just one of the many things Rondo has done to assert his place as this team's leader.

He's trying to better his teammates in every way imaginable, on and off the court.

Following a recent game, Rondo interrupted an interview that rookie Jared Sullinger was conducting to tell him to cut down on his use of the word, 'uh.'

"The way I'm on Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, Jared Sullinger, I expect a lot from those guys and they're going to be big for us," Rondo said. "It may seem like I'm on them all the time, but like I said, gotta get those guys to jump on board and expect and demand greatness every night."

Defense: Not quite there yet
Boston has added a slew of scorers to the mix with most having proven their knack for knocking down shots.

But this team has won in recent years because of its defense, something that is very much a work in progress.

Of the eight preseason games Boston played, there was only one - their blowout win in Brooklyn on Thursday - in which the C's played the kind of defense they will have to in order to have another strong season.

Rivers has repeatedly talked about how he likes his team and their potential heading into the season.

But that success will hinge heavily on how quickly this group of Celtics can get on the same page defensively and develop better defensive cohesiveness.

"We still have to be a better defensive team consistently to be a great team," said coach Doc Rivers. "There's a lot of growth in our team."

In particular, the Celtics have to improve their pick-and-roll coverage which isn't necessarily a big man problem.

As Rivers has pointed out, there have been a number of times in which the C's struggles defending the pick and roll have stemmed from the Celtics guards not rotating quick enough to help Boston's big men.

Of course this is a problem that is easily correctable, especially when you have a defensive honcho like Kevin Garnett.

Still, it will be something to keep an eye on with all of the C's attention - especially their defense - now focused on the opener against the Heat.

Jeff Green's emergence
No player did more to solidify their role with the Celtics in the preseason than Jeff Green.

He played more minutes in the preseason than every Celtic player not named Rajon Rondo. And with those minutes, he showcase and array of skills at both ends of the floor that gives the Celtics reason to be excited that he will be among the most important players in Boston's quest to bring home Banner 18.

"My main goal was to get back on the court and help my team win," Green told Comcast SportsNet following Boston capping off its preseason schedule with an 88-79 loss.

As a third option in Oklahoma City (behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook), Green averaged a respectable 14.2 points per game primarily as a starter. In Boston, Green had to not only adjust to a more diminished role as a scorer, but also to playing fewer minutes coming off the bench.

After missing all of last season following heart surgery, there was a sense of uncertainty as to how Green - a player whose aggressiveness has been questioned before - would respond to his first full training camp with the Celtics.

With a slew of highlight-worthy dunks and electrifying plays defensively, Green showed no signs of hesitation or uncertainty about what he needs to do in order to help the Celtics this season.

Green raised a few eyebrows recently when he said he felt that he was one of the league's best defenders, adding that it's now on him to go out and prove it.

Throughout the preseason, his ability to defend multiple positions was indeed on display as he matched up with smaller players like Brooklyn's Joe Johnson, to more physical players like Spencer Hawes of Philadelphia.

"I still have a lot of work to do," Green said. "I still need to get in better condition if I want match up with some of the top players in this league," Green said.

But it's clear to those who watched him in the preseason as well as those who played with him, that he is well on his way.

"Jeff's a lot more aggressive," said Garnett. "I can remember when he first got here, maybe it was just understanding his role or whatever, at times he was tentative. Now he has a different appreciation, and he's playing like it. He knows he's going to be here. He understands his role. We're going to need that from him. To see him back, see him refreshed, doing the things that he loves to do it's good to see him back so I'm happy for him."

BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics drop back-to-back games


BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Celtics drop back-to-back games

0:41 - Michael Holley, Tom Giles, and Kayce Smith give their thoughts on Kyrie Irving’s struggles, not having Gordon Hayward, and the Celtics losing for the 2nd time in as many nights.

6:31 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins BST to discuss the message delivered by Hayward to the fans before the game, what was going on with Kyrie’s shot, and why they failed in stopping The Greek Freak.

10:33 - Albert Breer joins BST to preview the Falcons/Patriots Sunday night game and if Atlanta is in the middle of a Super Bowl hangover.

15:40 - In a new game called On The Clock, each person gets 40 seconds to rant on their selected subject including if Red Sox fans can root for the Yankees if the playoffs and how painful the Bruins season will be. 


Celtics 'don’t have time for square one' moving on without Hayward

Celtics 'don’t have time for square one' moving on without Hayward

BOSTON – When Kyrie Irving asked Cleveland to trade him this summer, he did so in part to be more of a navigator when it comes to charting out the rest of his basketball career.

But he knows for him to achieve the kind of individual and team success that he wants, he can’t do it alone.

And that maybe more than anything else, is why Irving has struggled in these first two games as far as shooting the ball.

In Boston’s first two games – both losses – Irving has averaged 19.5 points, 4.0 assists and 6.5 rebounds. Those are decent numbers but pale in comparison to what the 25-year-old has been able to do most of his NBA career.


And while the team is committed to moving on and focus on winning the next game, there’s no getting around the emotional tug they all feel towards Hayward.

“You can throw as many emotions in there as you want, man,” Irving said. “We know how much G (Gordon Hayward) meant to this team and means to this team. Without him on the floor creating those opportunities we were going over in practice, and we saw in preseason and in the first game, that’s a big void to fill. When you think of it in that aspect, of course you want to be frustrated and disappointed. I’m pretty sure that’s not what G wants. So, for us, you just have to continue to exude confidence in the young guys and be ready to step up to the plate. It’s going to be even higher expectations on our guys in this locker room now to try and fill that hole that G (Hayward) left for us. As one of the leaders on this team, it’s my job to pick us up, as well as with Brad and the team with all the guys. We have to look each other in the eyes and know what to expect every single night.”

That’s a lot easier said than done, especially when you consider how quickly things changed for the Celtics at least in the short term with Hayward’s energy.

“I just … as you can see its’ not an ideal situation,” Irving said. “So, as cliché as it is, everybody is probably going to say that’s life. But it is, man. [expletive] happens. Excuse my language. But it does, man. The individual that we have in Gordon, he’s very special. He’s going to fight like hell to get back on the floor. I know he’s already … there’s a fire burning inside of him. You see the amount of support he got. That should tell you the type of person he is. Not only to the Boston Celtics but to the rest of the league. We want him to get back healthy but we all understand that his health comes first. He’s going to do everything possible to get back on the floor and it’s our job to lift him up.”

Irving was asked whether the team would need to go back to Square One due to Hayward’s injury which will keep him out indefinite at this point.

“No. We don’t have time for square one,” Irving said. “I can tell you that right now. We don’t have time to go back to square one. It’s time to just figure it out, moment to moment, and we’ll be alright. I’ve had the unique opportunity to be in some situations that test your character and this is one of those times.”