At this point last year, we were limping out of a lock out and into a compressed training camp and in the full sprint of a shortened season. What a difference a year makes. The Captain is finally back at 100% and Rajon Rondo is ahead of the curve. People have also reported that Jeff Green is in great shape. The rookies are first-in-last-out and chemistry is developing between them and the vets. The team is off to a great start before heading off to Europe next week for a pair of exhibition games and we might already have a few developing stories in the works. It's only the first day and the media was only privy to some of the practice, but these insights might shed a little light on what Doc's thinking on Day 1:
This isn't a big surprise. We knew Garnett would take all the young bigs under his wing. It'll get interesting when Doc starts to mix and match the lineups with KG playing with Melo and Jared Sullinger or Dionte Christmas filling in at the 2 with Rajon Rondo. Doc is notorious for not playing rookies and coupled with the depth of this team, we may never see them run with the first team. Slow and steady has been successful in the development of young players in Boston, but I'd love to see Garnett in full bark mode with the pups a few times.
Terry's looking like the primary ball handler for the second unit right now.— Greg Payne (@GregPayne_ESPN) September 29, 2012
I'm not surprised that Terry's with the second unit, but it should be noted that he's handling the rock. After Keyon Dooling's retirement, there was some concern that the Celtics lacked another true point guard on the bench. There were rumors that Danny was interested in bringing in Derek Fisher and another former Orangemen Jonny Flynn to back up the point. Terry seems like a natural to fill in while Avery's on the mend and with Jeff Green acting as an additional facilitator on the floor, the bench should be fine. Forgive me if I'm not remembering this correctly, but I think Wilcox mentioned how impressed he was with Jamar Smith. Chris Forsberg of ESPN tweeted that Smith saw some time with the second unit and I'm curious if that means more playing time with the big leaguers or a future stint in Maine.
At end of #Celtics workout in Waltham, Jeff Green on 'white team' 2nd unit with Darko, Wilcox and Terry (my error on that in previous post)— Scott Souza (@scott_souza) September 29, 2012
We all knew that Terry, Green, and Wilcox (and eventually Bradley or Lee) would be primary rotation players, but the 10th man was always in question. Would it be Jason Collins (who looks to be in the best shape of his life)? Could Doc go out of character and give some PT to rookies Sullinger and Melo? Today, we got our answer: Darko Milicic. This may be Doc's way of seeing what Milicic will be able to provide. With Darko signing only a week ago, he's a step behind all the players that have already spent that last several weeks playing together at Waltham and in LA. This trial by fire could be the best way to see what kind of shape he's in and how quickly he can pick up the offensive sets and defensive schemes. He looked a little chunky on Friday and could use all the work he can get to get up to speed over the next four weeks.
Or is Doc treating him with kid gloves? Darko never expected to start, but relegating him to the third unit and having him play with the rookies could have quickly soured him on the idea of playing for the Celtics despite saying that he had "stopped chasing the dream of being the second pick a long time ago." Doc doesn't have to play these games with the rookies because they're rookies. They expect to work their way from the bottom. My guess is that Doc's trying to get a good look at the Serbian before going forward. He's a master of maximizing a player's strengths and if he squeeze 5-10 meaning minutes from Milicic, it'll be another stroke of genius by Doc and Danny.
Regardless, what I like about this move is that it puts Chris Wilcox at the 4 rather at the 5 with Sullinger at power forward. Wilcox's athleticism is going to be a problem with smaller bigs and his speed is going to be an issue with lumbering power forwards. It also allows him to maybe roam and freelance a little more on defense while Darko anchors the baseline. If Darko's pulling down defensive rebounds and outletting the ball quickly, Wilcox can be halfway down the court in transition.
If Day 1 proves anything, it's that this team is very versatile and has a lot of options. But before they board that plane for Turkey (any news of them reuniting with Semih for old times' sake, by the way?), I'd love to hear how the summer league stand outs and rookies are doing. We all fell in love with how Kris Joseph, Dionte Christmas, and Jamar Smith did in Orlando and Las Vegas. I'm looking forward to seeing how they're adjusting to working out with the vets and picking up their dry cleaning.