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Training camp report: Getting defensive

09.29.10 at 5:08 pm ET
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NEWPORT, R.I. — A day after working through sweltering conditions at Salve Regina, a bit of normalcy returned to the Celtics on the second day of their workouts. Doc Rivers felt that it was a good, crisp practice and the focus was on–what else?– defense.

Tom Thibodeau is no longer with them, having left to coach the Bulls, but don’t expect the Celtics to change much defensively.

“We’ll keep it the same,” Rivers said. “Thibs and I toward the end of last year wanted to make some changes, but it was in the middle of the year so we decided not to. So we’€™ll make those changes now as a group. Other than that there will be very few changes.”

There are two points of emphasis for the C’s in camp. They want to lower their opponents field goal percentage and pressure the ball fullcourt. The two things are related.

“We went from No. 1 in field goal percentage defense to No. 9 last year,” Rivers said. “We want to get that back to No. 1. We have to pressure more. Our first year and a half we pressured the ball up the floor. Kevin [Garnett] was up the floor pressuring. Due to Kevin’€™s injury we got away from that completely.”

Garnett looks healthy in the early days of camp. “Night and day,” is how Rivers put it. “He’€™s explosive again, especially defensively.”

Without fullcourt pressure, the Celtics gave teams the whole 24 seconds on the shot clock to get into their offense and that left them defending for 18-19 seconds in the halfcourt. Rivers wants to see that down to 12-14 seconds.

“We really didn’€™t pressure the ball up the floor,” Rivers said. “You got [Rajon] Rondo on the floor and Kevin to shadow and we couldn’€™t do it last year. That’€™s a huge concession for our team.” 

GET TO KNOW: VON WAFER

Of all the offseason acquisitions, Von Wafer has been mostly overlooked. His contract is only partially guaranteed and with 16 players fighting for 15 spots, Wafer may be the odd man out. Or he might not. There’s a good chance the Celtics will need him to replace Delonte West while West is serving a 10-game suspension to start the season. Either way it’s a lot to process and Wafer is doing his best to block it all out.

“I’€™m not thinking about that,” he said. “Just working hard, trying to get in the best shape I can, just trying to get myself ready. The best thing I can do is stay in shape and be ready to play.”

Wafer knows that after a year out of the NBA, getting a chance to play for the Celtics is a huge break. “This is the biggest opportunity of my career,” he said. “This is the best thing I’€™ve ever been a part of.”

As he gets adjusted to a new team and system, Wafer is trying to slow himself down and take it all in.”I’ve learned so much from KG,” Wafer said. “I’€™m just sitting back, watching. I watch Ray [Allen] when he works out. I’€™ve learned so much. It’€™s helped me tremendously.”

He’s a shooter and a scorer, but Wafer also knows that he needs to improve defensively. He is also known as an emotional player, but he described himself as “shy” off the court. “I really don’€™t like communicating with a lot of people [away from the game], but when I’€™m on that court, it’€™s just different,” Wafer said. “I don’€™t know what it is. I just turn into another person.”

QUOTES OF NOTE

Doc Rivers: I think it’€™s the best bench we’€™ve had since I’€™ve been here on paper. But on paper and in games are two different things.

Shaquille O’Neal: I know for a fact that there will not be a big man that will come in here and dominate. That’€™s impossible. With me, Jermaine [O'Neal], Perk, the other cat, Semih [Erden]. No way. Not my front line.

Delonte West: I’€™m a soldier in Doc’€™s army. Whatever he need me to do. I’€™ll go to war and die for this team. Playing every game, every minute this year like my life depended on it, cause it [does.] Nothing’€™s promised. I’€™ve been given this opportunity to prove to the NBA and the world that I’€™m a good person. I have a lot to prove and I don’€™t want to let anyone down.

Read More: Delonte West, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal, Von Wafer
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