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Preseason Impressions

The Boston Celtics wrapped up the 2010 preseason with a 107-92 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night, finishing with a 7-1 record. So, how did everyone look? Let's review.

Rajon Rondo - Rondo took a back seat through the first handful of games, before really coming alive in the second half of the Celtics' 104-101 win over the New York Knicks on October 13. Over the final three preseason games Rondo averaged 10.3 points, 8.6 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and only 1.6 turnovers per game. He did all of the typical Rondo things: Played great defense at times, attacked the rim, threw the lob passes to his big men, directed the fast break well, and missed a few free throws. Actually, his free throw numbers weren't too bad. He shot 14-19 overall (73.7 percent), although all 19 came in two, back-to-back games. 

Paul Pierce and Ray Allen - Business as usual for these two. Ray's stroke looks as pure as ever, and Pierce is still balancing his game between attacking the rim and shooting mid-range jumpers. 

Kevin Garnett - Garnett had perhaps the most important preseason out of anyone, at least from a fan's perspective. We waited with bated breath to see if the reports out of training camp that Garnett looked "explosive" again were true. And sure enough, as the preseason went on, he seemed to resemble the player we saw in 2007-2008 more than the player we saw last season. He converted alley-oop dunks, didn't shy away from contact in the paint, fought for rebounds, played very well inside with Shaquille O'Neal, was making his rotations and barking out orders on defense, and found a nice shooting stroke in the final group of games. Overall, we have many reasons to be excited about Kevin Garnett heading into Tuesday's season opener against the Miami Heat

Shaquille O'Neal - Can we agree that Shaq had one of the more surprising training camps and preseasons out of anyone on the roster? Did anyone expect Shaq to be in this great of shape already? He's proven he can still handle himself in the post, which gives the Celtics a consistent option down there that they simply didn't have last season. He finished the preseason with averages of nine points and 4.8 rebounds per game. If he can hike that rebounding average up closer to seven or eight per game during the regular season, the Celtics will take that production all day. He's 38, and more than likely will need games off over the course of the season, but he showed us he still has some leaping ability when he threw down a few lob passes from Rondo, and his conditioning seems to be in good order, as he was the first Celtic down the floor on a number of possessions. When he wasn't making a sharp outlet pass to Rondo to start the break, he was working his way down the court, just as fast as his other teammates. 

Jermaine O'Neal - It's a shame O'Neal was limited to just four preseason games due to a sore hamstring, back, and hand, but in the limited minutes we saw him in, he played well on the defensive end, totaling eight blocks through the four games. He also showed signs of being an effective rebounder, as evidenced by his 12-rebound game against Philadelphia on October 12. His offense was pedestrian at best, as his jump shot failed to fall consistently, but on this team, his defense is probably more important anyway. He'll develop more of an offensive rhythm as the season progresses and he can garner consistent floor time. His help defense was especially effective in a number of games, as many of his blocks came off of defensive rotations.

Glen Davis - Playing a shade over 20 minutes per game during the preseason and posting averages of 12.0 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 49.1 percent from the field, Davis put forth a very consistent preseason, both offensively and defensively. On the offensive side we saw more versatility than we did last season, as he was back mixing in his mid-range jump shots with his aggressive drives to the basket. He worked well in pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop situations with the likes of Nate Robinson and Delonte West, and he got himself to the free throw line with regularity, taking 5.8 free throws per game. He managed to prove on defense that he's still willing to be the team's resident charge-taker - a title Jermaine O'Neal might try and strip from him this season.

Delonte West - West was limited to a mere three preseason games, which of course wasn't ideal given the length of time he'll be away from the court during his 10-game suspension which begins on Tuesday. He battled back and glute problems, which are reportedly cleared up at this point, and he should be returning to practice soon. In his three games he formed an effective 1-2 punch with Nate Robinson, serving as the second unit's primary ball handler while Robinson floated around on the wing at the off-guard spot. West proved he's still capable of both creating his own shot and getting to the rim, particularly off of the beefy screens set by Davis. He'll be a welcome addition to the second unit once he returns from his suspension on November 17.

Nate Robinson - Robinson was one of the few Celtics to play in all eight preseason games, partly due to Avery Bradley's ankle injury. His shooting averages weren't terrific (39 percent from the field and 34.2 percent from three-point nation), but take those with a grain of salt as he did need to play some garbage time minutes in a few fourth quarters in some of the team's blowout wins. He seemed much more comfortable with the second unit than he did in the playoffs last season, and when West returns from his suspension (depending on how Von Wafer is used), the Celtics should receive enough offense from their second unit to keep the starters on the bench for extended stretches. 

Marquis Daniels - Has your faith in Daniels been restored yet? He got back to being the player that came to the Celtics as advertised last season, slashing and driving to the hoop, putting in layups and tweener shots, and getting to the free throw line. He shot a blistering 57.1 percent from the field, and a very surprising 80 percent from three-point nation (he did only take five shots from deep). Don't pay a whole lot of attention to that three-point field goal percentage, as that obviously won't hold up during the regular season, but an improved three-point shot shouldn't hurt his offensive game in any way. As long as Daniels can play his subtle and smooth game with consistency, he'll serve as a reliable backup for Pierce. 

Semih Erden - Erden averaged 5.8 points and 4.4 rebounds while shooting 62.1 percent from the field in 21.8 minutes per game during the eight preseason games. The numbers aren't overwhelming, but we'll take solace in the flashes we saw out or Erden. He has a credible touch on offense around the basket, seems to have great passing instincts, doesn't shy away from physical play, and appears to be a fairly reliable free throw shooter (76.9 percent during the preseason). If the O'Neal's remain relatively healthy, Erden might not see much court time, but it is nice knowing he's capable of playing and contributing in the NBA if he's called into action. 

Avery Bradley - Bradley managed just 16 total minutes in the preseason, as he tried fighting off the lingering effects of offseason ankle surgery. In the end, the ankle won out, as Bradley was shut down for the final two games, and there's no current timetable for when we might see him again. Doc Rivers suggested the Celtics will take a new approach regarding his treatment for the ankle as the team moves forward. Still, in the brief instances we saw the foot speed and the on-ball defense that Bradley was lauded for throughout the offseason. For now, we'll just have to be happy with the small sample size and look forward to his return. 

Von Wafer - For a while there, it looked like Wafer was set to be one of the odd men out. Despite a partially guaranteed contract, it looked as though Stephane Lasme would swipe the 15th roster spot out from under him. A slow start to the preseason for Wafer didn't help his cause, as he failed to take a shot in either of the first two contests. He responded in his fourth game with an 11-point outing against Philadelphia, and rounded out the final three preseason games more aggressively, averaging 10 points on 5.3 field goal attempts per game. His three-point shooting over the final three games was flawless, as he sank all seven of his attempts. Wafer's spot on the roster was confirmed Wednesday night, but it's still unclear how much of a role he'll serve, particularly throughout West's 10-game suspension. Will he step in at the two-guard spot with the second unit? Stick around and find out. 

Luke Harangody - Harangody's "breakout" preseason game came on October 13 against the New York Knicks when he posted a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double. Before that game, his shot wasn't falling with regularity, and unfortunately that trend continued after that game against New York, as Harangody made just four of his final 12 shots over the team's final three preseason games. His chances of finding legitimate court time prior to the preseason were slim to begin with, and he didn't seem to do enough during the preseason to challenge the likes of Glen Davis for any real minutes. He'll most likely spend part of this coming season with the Maine Red Claws. 

Mario West - West was praised throughout training camp for his defense and work ethic, but his time on the court was limited to just over seven minutes per game in six preseason games - not nearly enough time to make any measurable impact and realistically compete for a roster spot. His offense was non-existent, but he did live up to his defensive reputation with a LeBron James-like chase down against Philadelphia on October 12. According to a few writers on Twitter, he's heading back to Georgia to reassess his options and hopefully catch on with another NBA team. 

Stephane Lasme - Lasme proved to be a fan favorite from day one, when he put in 12 points in seven minutes against Philadelphia in the team's inaugural preseason contest. His energy, defense, and athleticism stood out most during his time on the court, and it wasn't long before he was being deemed the early favorite for the final roster spot. In the end, the spot went to Wafer, but all signs point to Lasme joining the Maine Red Claws, unless he receives a guaranteed contract offer from another club. If he does end up in Maine, he could still definitely have a future with the Celtics. 

Let the real games begin. 

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