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Exhibition Inquisition: 7 questions for the Celtics' preseason slate

The Celtics' preseason schedule gets underway with tonight's tilt against the Philadelphia 76ers. With that in mind, here are seven questions about the C's to ponder this October.

How young and smart are they, really?
How young and smart are they, really?
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Let's begin by reiterating something that's already been well established with everyone who knows a lick about NBA basketball, and their mothers, and their mothers' mothers:

Preseason games mean pretty much nothing.

This is understood, yes? The exhibition schedule is really hard to take seriously, because rarely if ever is it a predictor of regular-season success, failure or anything in between. It's random and arbitrary and bizarre and ultimately forgotten. We as fans, we crave it because it's the only basketball we've got for the next few weeks, but that doesn't make it truly worthy of our attention. It's just a sideshow.

Except... well...

With this Celtics team, it feels kinda necessary. If you're an established NBA team that's got talent and continuity, you can just pick up in November where you left off in the spring, and it's no sweat. If you're San Antonio or Memphis or Portland, you can just bring the guys back and give it another go. But in Boston? There's too much uncertainty here. A lot's going on, both with roster turnover and with changing dynamics among the guys who were already here, and a few practice runs may actually be necessary for this team to, ahem, figure its stuff out.

Honestly, unironically, I'll just say it - I'm looking forward to the preseason.

Specifically, here are seven questions I think we should all be thinking about as October rolls on.

1. How ready is Marcus Smart?
With Rajon Rondo out for the time being, it's time to throw Marcus Smart into the fire and let him play as many minutes as possible as the team's primary point guard. Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens are saying all the right things about how Smart's a rookie and needs to take it slow, and Phil Pressey has the benefit of a year under his belt, but come on. The truth is that Smart is the future, not Pressey, and it's time to see what he's made of.

The kid's going to make mistakes. There will be turnovers, questionable choices to shoot or not to, defensive lapses and so on. But these things happen with every 20-year-old kid, and with a Celtics team that's taking the long view, it's time to get to work on observing Smart against NBA opponents, exploring his weaknesses, and seeing how best to develop him. This is exciting. I almost want to thank Rondo for getting hurt.

2. How exactly does Evan Turner fit?
We've all heard about Turner's versatility - about how he can play the 1, the 2, the 3, whatever his team needs of him. It's time to find out now - what does Turner's team need of him?

Does he play well off the ball with Smart at the point? What about running the point and setting up Avery Bradley and Jeff Green? What about on the wing, playing with Smart and Bradley both? It will be interesting to see the dynamics between Turner and his new teammates. This may determine his future role with the team.

3. Will Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk thrive together?
Stevens talked a lot before last year's preseason slate about the trio of Sullinger, Olynyk and Gerald Wallace - he said that Wallace's slashing would help open up the floor for the other two forwards to shoot. He said he wanted to use that combination a lot. At season's end, though, none of the Celtics' top 20 lineups contained all three players. None of the top 12 even had Sullinger and Olynyk together.

This should change. The Celtics' two young power forwards are two of the most promising players on the roster. Together, they can complicate things for opposing defenses - with one threat inside and one out, the C's are really difficult to stop. There's a ton of evidence to suggest Stevens should use the two guys together more. With some time to experiment this preseason, will he?

4. Will Gerald Wallace be engaged?
Speaking of Wallace, I'm still a big believer that he can help the Celtics in a way. He may be 32, and not what he once was physically, but if he shows up committed to the team and ready to work hard, lead by example, that can make a real difference. He's a veteran leader on this team whether he likes it or not, and if the right Gerald Wallace shows up, that can be huge.

Wallace won't help the Celtics win a championship this year. But he can assist his younger teammates in developing their on-court skills, work ethic and devotion to the game. First, he's got to walk that walk for himself.

5. Can James Young contribute?
We already know Young is a freaky athlete. He exerted his will on the NCAA Tournament last year, flying up and down the floor and dunking on guys with impunity. But I'm not sure whether that will translate to the NBA - at least just yet. Young is still so... well, young, and his talent is exciting but raw and undeveloped.

If he shows some tangible basketball skills this October, there might be a spot on the roster for him yet. But if not, there's always Maine.

6. Is one ball enough?
Let's be frank - this team has several players whose demonstrable basketball skills consist of scoring and little else. Green, Turner and Marcus Thornton come to mind. (Turner puts up exciting raw numbers of assists and rebounds, but he's inefficient and really just a "high-volume everything" type of player.) Sadly, there's only one basketball, and not all of these guys can score at once. So how will they play together?

I'm curious to see what all of them - especially Thornton, who's still a bit of an unknown commodity in Boston - can do without the ball in their hands. If the Celtics are going to exceed expectations and fight for a playoff spot this year, they need their players to be unselfish and flexible in their roles. Not everyone can be a gunner.

7. Will this group show us something?
Finally, the big overall question - is there any spark to these Celtics? Is there any chance they come out guns blazing in October and show us something we didn't expect?

Is Smart a Rookie of the Year candidate waiting to bust out? Does Olynyk have a huge year two in the chamber? Is Sullinger All-Star material? Is this weird ragtaggy group of players more than the sum of its parts - can Stevens turn a quirky collection of talent into a successful group?

Preseason may not indicate future success, but it sure would be nice if October gave us something out of the ordinary. Just a little something to inject some optimism into what could be a bleak 2014-15 season. To most teams, these October games mean nothing, but the Celtics sure would love to find... something. Anything.

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