I was really excited to see this Celts' team 15-deep, so I took my wife to our first-ever pre-season game. $20 for fine seats in the upper deck (original ticket price $45 - for the pre-season - What?). Great view of the benches and all the action on the court. I love watching Doc coach this team in-person.
I thought I'd share my two cents of what I saw at the game. It's always different live than on TV.
1) Defense pushes offense - The first 90 seconds were exhilarating. Pressure defense led to steals which led to transition buckets which led to a quick 9-0 lead and a Nets' timeout. This is the kind of ball we all want to see the Celts play. Everyone contributed, but Lee really stole the show early by jumping into passing lanes and sprinting down court to throw down transition dunks. This continued during the game, but it was the first 90 seconds that set the tone.
2) Jeff Green - Doc seems to love him some Jeff Green. Green spent time at the 2/3/4 spots and was on the court with almost every teammate at one time or another. Doc kept working plays through Green, which didn't seem to be Green's strength. He either struggled with his first step against quick guys or finishing at the rim against bigger guys. Where I was impressed with Green was off-the-ball. He cuts nicely and finishes near the rim (with monster dunks!), and he has a fluid shot from the corner, though his threes weren't falling. I would stop the Green iso (unless he's posting a smaller player) and I would stick with Green on the weak side, slashing and cutting toward the basket.
3) The bench mob is instant offense... - But, Doc needs to know when to go to them. In particular, the beginning of the third quarter found the Celts' starting lineup mired in an offensive drought that we've become all too familiar with. The ball was sticking in guy's hands, there was too much dribbling, too many isos, and not enough crisp passing and easy shots. Doc should have put Terry in, but he waited, and waited, and waited. This was the only time in the game that the Nets made a run to get it under 10.
4) Sully is a good fit - I'm fine with Doc's decision to start Sully and bring Bass off the bench (or vice versa). They're both undersized, but they handle themselves nicely the offer differing games. Sully did rack up quite a few fouls, but two of them were complete garbage calls by the refs. Kris Humphries has a way of getting a foul call even while he's tripping himself and kicking the ball out of bounds. Sully isn't the quickest of foot, but he knows where to be on offense and he has a knack on offense for getting off shots against bigger defenders, incl. a real pretty jump hook. He's still learning the defense, but it's only fair to give him time. It's nice to see Sully sink a 16-footer with ease. I don't want to say Bass may become expendable as trade bait, but I like Sully's game.
5) Jason Terry can still flat-out score - But, it seems he is actively trying to learn/perform his duties as a backup PG. I wouldn't worry too much though if his scoring numbers aren't big now. If this team needs 25 points out of him, I think he can easily deliver.
6) Pick and Roll D - When KG is out there, the team is fine. When he's not, players often find themselves out of position and a few easy baskets are given up. I partially blame Rondo. As in years passed, he can be remarkably lazy on defense, standing straight up while looking over his shoulders to see where other guys are positioned. He's also surprisingly lazy fighting through screens. Other guys on the team (Bass, Sully, Green) aren't great at pick-and-roll D yet, but they should get better as the season progresses.
7) The Nets - I see potential, but they're only about 7 guys deep and when they're not clicking they look downright awful. They settle for a lot of bad shots - Joe Johnson, anyone?. I don't know if D-Will was purposely not shooting to get others involved, but the Celts had him contained for 45 of the 48 minutes of the game. Wallace was good and I've always respected Crash. He hustles his butt off. Lopez needs to learn how to finish around the basket. For someone that big, he needs to be better. No one on their bench stood out, incl. Brooks.
8) Joe Johnson still has a Paul Pierce-size monkey on his back (and is immature) - This is the pre-season, and there is NO reason to commit a Flagrant 1 in the pre-season. Johnson decided he didn't want Pierce to have a transition dunk (even though the Celts were up double figures), so he chased Pierce down and shoved him out of bounds into the cameramen on the baseline*. He didn't go for the ball. He simply shoved Pierce from the side/behind. Pierce said a few words from the ground. KG immediately went to Johnson to have his say. Johnson acted tough and puffed out his chest as he strutted away. It was a clear Flagrant 1 and a disgusting act of immaturity by Johnson. *This wasn't the play on which Pierce was "injured." This play was in the 2nd half. The "injury" play occurred in the 1st half on a three Pierce hit from near the bench. He landed awkwardly on Gerald Wallace's foot and fell back into the bench. Pierce came immediately back into the game and hit a number of shots. He seems absolutely fine.
9) Nets fans - I'd say 30% of the fans were Celtics fans and 70% of the Nets fans were fair-weather fans. That leaves 1/3 of 30% as actual fans. I predict that the Nets are going to have a very difficult time selling tickets in the coming years, regardless of their record. First, the arena is not located in a "sports" neighborhood, or even a "sports" town. The Dodgers may have been huge in Brooklyn, but that was 70 years ago. The Nets are in a hipster neighborhood, on a train line that goes to downright urban neighborhoods (and not the good kind). There will be a general excitement this first season, and if the team competes for championships they may do alright, but I predict they'll have big issues selling tickets. I don't think you can count on hipsters and wannabe thugs as repeat business. Not when tickets are going for $100+ for regular season games. p.s. Quite a few fans were wearing Knicks' gear and openly talking about the Knicks. Not a good sign.
10) The Barclays - For those of you interested in the Nets' new arena, I can tell you it's not half-bad. During daylight hours, it does look like a giant pile of turds (not my blog), but at night it fits into the neighborhood nicely. The interior is spacious, yet inviting and comfortable. The seats are nice, though there is very little leg room and people constantly trip over the cup holders built into the backs of the seats in front of you - completely nonsensical design. The jumbotron is, in fact, jumbo, but the screen is crystal clear and gives all pertinent info - players on-court, points, fouls, etc. The court looks older than one month old and actually has some wear to it. No idea why. One odd effect of the arena is that the stands are placed in darkness when there is action on the court, so the court is the only thing lit. I don't recall ever seeing this elsewhere, at least not to this extreme. It's an odd effect that takes time to get used to. Another unique aspect of the arena that takes time to get used to is the open-ended bowl at one end of the court. The lower bowl circles the court entirely, but the upper level does not. At one end, there is a bright red private lounge. At the other end, a wide opening that leads directly to the all-glass entrance way (about forty yards away). This has to distract shooters. It also makes the arena difficult to heat. It was relatively warn last night and the arena was freezing. Imagine in the dead of a Brooklyn winter. It will be impossible to heat. One final note: Upon entering the arena, all bags are checked, per usual, but taking it one step further, everyone (incl. children) is scanned by guards for metal and weapons. To watch security guards scan a 4-year-old is a bit disturbing.
All in all, I loved what I saw from the Celtics. There will be bumps, and offensive droughts, but this is a more well-rounded team than in years past. No one may average more than 18ppg, but at least 8 guys have a chance to average double-digits. That's exciting.
Be respectful and keep it clean. Thanks.