The first part of Thursday’s workout was devoted to defense, as usual. Tom Thibodeau kept yelling to get the players on the same page, and the group seemed to take his words very seriously. After Thibodeau completed his task, Rivers had the teams play five on five.
It was a classic light workout after the tough workouts of the past days. But apparently scrimmaging is never taken lightly "chez Celtics", this season: there were a couple of heated moments when trash talking seemed to reach heights never reached before. In the last scrimmage, the White team (which is usually the second unit, with House, Tony Allen, Posey, Scalabrine, Powe) again nipped the Green Team (Rondo, Pierce, Ray Allen, Garnett and Perkins) with a 55-54 score and the squads playing two quarters of ten minutes each.
The score was close, and that made the game very intense in the last minutes, with a couple of tough baskets the most notable being a Scalabrine’s trey with no time on the shot-clock which eventually was the game. My impression is that while the "Triple Threat" (Doc again said the he doesn’t like the "Big Three" name, because Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish worked hard and won some jewelry to earn that) is still trying to find out the best way to jell, the White (second unit) and Grey (rookies or free agents under scrutiny) teams are giving all they have, in the best Celtics tradition which in 1986 saw the White team (Carlisle, Sichting, Wedman, Walton and Thirdkill) giving fits to the future NBA Champions (Dennis Johnson, Ainge, Bird, McHale and Parish).
Garnett, Pierce and Allen are trying to get to know each other better, and even if they are giving it all they are probably too busy studying their new teammates while the second unit, which loves to go full speed, all out defense with Posey and House leading the dance, is just focusing on defeating the starting five.
Batista today did not shine as he had done in the previous days: Enrico, the friend of mine who works in the Security, pointed out that he had the impression that Esteban was trying to overdo things, while in the first four days he was just focused on fitting in. So, since he was the first to point that out, kudos to Enrico. But, at the same time, I think we shouldn’t put too much emphasis in Allen missing some baskets from outside, or Pierce icing his knee after a contact (like he did yesterday). In my humble opinion these are just minor problems, which will eventually vanish as soon as the going gets tough.
Tony Allen again seemed to go hard to the basket, and his intense attitude is one of the brightest aspects of the roman stay for the Celtics. He still doesn’t have the lift he used to, but his fearless approach to the game and his competitiveness can’t be denied.
In the last part of the workout assistant coach Kevin Eastman took control, commanding a platoon of six player (Davis, Scalabrine, Pruitt, Jones, Wallace and Batista) to a series of shooting drills which saw Scalabrine and Pruitt sinking most of their shots. In the meantime Cliff Ray was working with Kendrick Perkins, who looks even slimmer than in the past. After K-Perk completed his drills, Clifford took Leon Powe under his wing and lead him to another series of drills. It is really impressive to see how Ray is relentlessly pushing our young big men again and again, I think Big Al will miss him a lot in Minneapolis.
Rajon Rondo was shooting baskets with Eastman, and I approached Danny Ainge while he was watching Rajon’s effort. When I asked him if he thinks this team can duplicate the success of the Celtics in the Eighties, he said that it’s still too early to tell. He knows that we have talent now, but talent alone doesn’t win games. He stressed the importance of sacrifice (he used the word twice in a minute span) and said that playing hard day in and day out is another key.
I then asked him what he thinks about Rivers’ opinion on the "Big Three Part II", and he said that he agrees with the coach that we shouldn’t use those terms straight away because Bird, Parish and McHale became the "Big Three" after they started winning, and they had Bill Walton and Dennis Johnson helping them too (I quietly "helped" him to remind that there was another good guard helping the three Hall of Famers, and he thankfully smiled).
In my last question I asked him what is the new goal in his "Vision", and he said that the next step is just fine tuning, finding a way to make this team learn how to play together, to play hard and to sacrifice and do what it takes to win. Pollard is still not ready to go hard at it, as the bond of his ankle with the classic Gatorade can filled with ice seems to prove. The massive use of ice on knees, ankles and bruises shouldn’t worry, though, since it is a quite normal practice after a series of hard workouts like these.
Stay tuned for more…