Five takeaways: Needed preseason break for Celtics
Five takeaways: A needed preseason break for Celtics
BOSTON – Having won back-to-back preseason games within 48 hours, the Celtics won’t take to the floor until Thursday.
It’s a lot of days without games, but that’s a good thing for this team.
Having played three games in five days, this past week was similar to the kind of schedule Boston will have once the regular season arrives. That can only help the adjustment period that all the players – not just the rookies and new guys – are going through.
Without a game until Thursday at Brooklyn, Boston will have lots of time to use the past three games as tools to learn from, in addition to steadily improving the team’s overall conditioning through practice.
There were certainly things that Boston could take away from its most recent matchup, a 104-86 win over Charlotte at Mohegan Sun Arena Saturday afternoon.
But more important is what can they do in the coming days to get better.
Here are five points of emphasis that the Celtics will address in some fashion between now and their next game.
AL HORFORD’S IMPACT
After getting their lunch handed to them in practices, Boston’s starting five came out putting the smack down on teams in their first two preseason games. In talking with the coaches, they say Al Horford has been a better fit than they imagined. We all knew what he could bring to the floor as a player and had a pretty good idea of what he could deliver from an intangibles standpoint. But he has come in and achieved one of the more difficult balancing acts which is to blend in with his teammates while still asserting himself as a prominent leader on the floor and inside the locker room. It’s still early of course. But at this point, this Horford signing is looking more and more like a perfect pairing.
ESTABLISHED BENCH ROLES
Boston can go in so many different directions with its second unit, figuring out the best course of action at the right time might be Brad Stevens’ biggest challenge with this group. He has a pretty good idea of who will be playing off the bench, but the team’s depth makes any lineup he has in mind anything but a sure thing to work. In Boston’s 104-86 win over Charlotte, he used a starting lineup that was heavy on versatility defensively. And while the offense sputtered, that group did enough good things to stay within striking distance. Having the ability to turn to his bench and find the right combination to provide what the Celtics need at a particular point in the game, is a luxury that few teams in the NBA have. Because of that character trait of this Celtics team, their second unit has the potential to become a first-rate problem for foes.
BACKUP POINT GUARD
Until we get to actual games being played, the talk of who will fill the void left by Evan Turner won’t go away. While most indications are that Terry Rozier will be that guy, don’t be surprised if he splits time on and off the ball, with Marcus Smart. Heading into this third season, Smart has tweaked his shooting form and now that he’s healthy, appears a lot more eager to attack the rim than we’ve seen in the past. He’s also shown improvement as a playmaker which gives the Celtics the luxury of playing him and Rozier together, with both seeing time as the lead guard running the offense.
JAYLEN BROWN’S ROLE
The question now isn’t whether Jaylen Brown will play … it’s how much? He has been praised repeatedly for his athleticism which is clearly elite even among athletically elite players. But he has shown himself to be capable of doing more than many might have expected at the infancy stage of his basketball career. His court vision may be the most under-rated part of his game. And while he still has lots of room to grow as a defender, his long wing span, athleticism and on-court smarts will allow him to help the Celtics a lot more than folks bargained for. Figuring out how to put him in the best position to be successful and help the team, is what you would call a good problem for the Celtics.
When Isaiah Thomas went to the bench on Thursday with a sprained left wrist, there was immediate concern among Celtics Nation. Seeing Terry Rozier take an elbow to the face and hit the group moments later, brought out the worst fears for players, coaches and fans. Fortunately, neither injury was serious. But that doesn’t diminish the level of concern that all involved with the game have this time of season. It is that fear that led to Gerald Green (hip flexor) to sit out a few days in order to let his injury heal. And it is part of the reason why Celtics coach Brad Stevens gave all his starters the day off on Saturday except for Jae Crowder. The moves made this summer by Boston provided some much-needed depth at key areas just in case one of their main guys isn’t available. Because for Boston to succeed in achieving the many goals it has this season, a number of factors will have to weigh in their favor. And at or near the top of that list, is guys staying relatively healthy.