Training camp concluded yesterday, and Doc Rivers had nothing but positive things to say about his team and its time in Newport. Doc was particularly pleased with everyone's attitude and focus (even Nate Robinson, who Doc continues to insist understands when he has to be serious and when he can be the class clown).
Some other things worth noting...
Shaq Runs With the First Unit
Shaquille O'Neal spent the majority of his time with the first unit over the final two days of camp. Doc seemed very satisfied with Shaq's level of play.
"I know he's playing his butt off...Just watching what he's doing, he doesn't care, he just wants to play and help the team. You can see, he really wants to prove he can still play, No. 1. And he just wants to win."
I don't know how much weight those final two days hold in terms of whether or not Shaq will be the starting center when the season opens on October 26 against the Miami Heat, but it seems pretty clear that he had a superb training camp.
I will say that Shaq did seem to get his butt kicked during the prank war that developed between him and Nate Robinson. It seemed like every day Nate was pulling a fast one on him. Maybe Nate's just better at tweeting his success stories than Shaq is. Maybe Shaq's got a whole arsenal of videos ready to unleash on Twitter next week, sort of like a "The Side You Didn't See" type of thing.
Cause for Optimism?
Perhaps the most significant (and consistent) storyline that developed during camp was the improved health of Kevin Garnett. I know, I know, we shouldn't buy into the pre-season hype too much, but the team seems legitimately excited about what they're seeing. It seemed like every day Doc had something superb to report regarding Garnett's play. Here's the latest:
"He looks great. Today, he was, at one point, unguardable," said coach Doc Rivers, excited to have Garnett playing in the post again. "[If] we had that post game that he gave us today all year last year, we would've been just a remarkable basketball team."
I feel like the word 'unguardable' isn't technically a word, but it makes perfect sense in the world of sports. And I'll certainly take an unguardable Kevin Garnett this season. Again, let's not get too ahead of ourselves, but it sure does sound promising. Here's one other quote from Doc that I liked:
"This year, he wants the ball down there and he's being effective. We thought about trapping him today, which we never do, but it got to the point where we said, 'Hey, if he can have a game like he did today, we're going to be really good.'"
Preseason Kicks Off Next Week
The preseason schedule begins Wednesday at 7:30pm against the Philadelphia 76ers. Your guess is as good as mine in terms of who will play how many minutes. I can see Doc limiting the minutes of the veterans, seeing as its only preseason. But I can also see him playing them for extended stretches, mixing in the two O'Neals with the first unit, and testing out some different lineups. We'll see what happens. I still wish Avery Bradley was ready to go. Hopefully we'll see him before these warm-up games are through. I am expecting to see a lot of Von Wafer. Doc acknowledged during training camp that Wafer hadn't really gotten a fair shot to show his stuff yet. Preseason could be the perfect time for an audition.
Also, a quick congratulations to Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn, who are entering their 30th year as partners in the broadcast booth.