Before the gates were open to the press and Celtics "let the dogs of war out", I got to know Danny Ainge while he was sitting just outside of the Palafonte gym in Rome. My first impression is that he was quite guarded since he didn’t know me, and was fearing he would have regretted something he could possibly say, which is pretty understandable. But he was kind and looked quite excited with the team the Celtics will field. We didn’t talk basketball, just small talk about his golfing in Rome yesterday and something. The sun was shining in Rome, in one of those autumn days so mild and sweet to make you believe you shouldn’t live anywhere else but here. But as soon as the media were let in, grey was the dominant color in the Palafonte gym.
The Boston Celtics went through another hard fought session, practicing for about three hours. Some of them showed the signs of the battle: Paul Pierce got his left knee iced, and Kevin Garnett did some rehabbing too, after he was seen slightly limping.
Grey was the dominant color when the rookies filled Grey team (Gabe Pruitt - back to action after his ankle problems – Dahntay Jones, Glen Davis, Esteban Batista, Brandon Wallace and Jackie Manuel all wearing the Grey top) defeated the Green Team (Rondo, Ray Allen, Pierce, Garnett and Perkins) by three, 24 to 21 in 10 minutes of play.
Pierce got out of the gates fast scoring seven of his teams’ first nine points, but from then on the possible starters went on a scoring drought which was countered by some really nice plays by Batista – who kept raising eyebrows for his inside toughness and capability to attack the basket – Dahntay Jones and Gabe Pruitt.
Glen Davis did the "dirty work", getting rebounds, hustling, clogging the lane and even sinking a pretty outside shot when the Green defense lost him on a play. Garnett, possibly slowed down by pain in his right lower leg (he sported a long white sleeve), wasn’t as sharp as usual, but he kept fighting and being vocal until the buzzer sounded, giving once again the impression of the warrior who doesn’t lose the game, it just happens that the time runs out.
Pierce got out of the gates fast, but eventually got silenced after banging the knee while making an inside move, which eventually turned a drive in the paint into a drive in the pain when Batista didn’t back off. Ray Allen at first had people wondering again if he has left his shot in Boston. But he eventually was able to sink a couple of jumpers: one of them was so smooth that I would have paid to see that again.
As you probably got to know from above, Gabe Pruitt was back to action, and he showed some really good flashed, although a couple of times Rondo locked him up real good. Rajon totally devoted himself to team play, as far as we got to see, and he didn’t shine too much while Pierce, Garnett and Allen were taking their shots, but he was there, feeding them as soon as they had a good look to the basket.
Garnett didn’t look too glad to hand the game to the rooks, who had another impressive effort by Esteban Batista. When I first mentioned his strong moves to the basket yesterday, I got a couple of puzzled looks from two Italian sportswriters, but by the time the scrimmage was over today everybody was saying that Esteban is definitely close to earning a spot in the Celtics’ roster.
"Doc" Rivers wasn’t too thrilled or depressed by the final score of the scrimmage, he said that days like this just happen, and that the kids put a great effort to prove that they belong. In a roman mood, Paul Pierce sported a shaved head, something that eventually got out of control within the Celtics band and prompted Rondo and a couple of guys more to do the same. A lot of shaved heads today…
Scot Pollard seems to be progressing, he did some shooting but he is not yet ready for "taped" action, as his ankle sank in a huge Gatorade can filled with ice proved quite clearly.
Kendrick Perkins kept working with Clifford Ray after the scrimmages. Cliff had him shooting from the top of the key, then both left handed and right handed short hooks, and then some jumpers more from the corner. It is great to see how Ray is taking care of the kid, he always pushes him to the edge but in a very gentle way, as if "barking orders" wasn’t part of their bond.
Tony Allen went very strong to the basket, and although you can see that his lift is not back yet, he’s working hard to come back. His knee sometimes is sore, sometimes is ok, but he was definitely working very hard to get his groove back.
Dahntay Jones and the always polite Brian Scalabrine were working with team conditioning coach Bryan Doo (or "BeDoo", as we heard them call him).
After the scrimmage, conditioning coaches Edward Norton and Bryan Doo played some H-O-R-S-E, and Edward won hands down showing a real good touch. Hearsay is he is not the best shooter around, though: equipment manager John Connor seems to be endowed with uncanny precision, thing that had Paul Pierce in troubles in the past.
We will see if the new marskman in town, Ray Allen, can steal that from him. Again, it wasn’t too difficult to tell when "Media Time" was up: Scot Pollard got in his gig screaming like a madman that it was time for them to board the bus and go back to the hotel, a pretty nice accommodation which has me wondering: it takes 30 minutes to reach the training site even with an escort, while there’s plenty of comfortable hotels closer both to the Palafonte training site and to the PalaLottomatica, the site where the Celtics will play the Toronto Raptors on Saturday.