Practice report: Sharpening the tools
|10.18.10 at 4:35 pm ET|
The Celtics are a little more than a week away from their much-anticipated regular season opener against the Miami Heat at the Garden. They have already played six preseason games, but after surviving a four games in five days road trip that included a quasi-home game in Hartford, the C’s are ready to get down to business with a week’s worth of practices.
“It’s a good time for us,” Paul Pierce said. “We can sharpen our tools.”
The news out of Monday’s practice was the surgical procedure underwent by Doc Rivers Sunday morning to ease the tension on his vocal chords. Rivers was home resting Monday, and there’s no word yet on when he will return. As expected, Rivers did leave a practice plan for his coaches, and under the eyes of Lawrence Frank, Armond Hill and Kevin Eastman, the C’s went through a two-hour practice session.
Of immediate importance is getting the players back and healthy for the start of the season. Delonte West returned to Boston for tests on his back last week and Frank said that West responded favorably. Still, West sat out practice as did rookie Avery Bradley who is dealing with the affects of an offseason ankle scope. Marquis Daniels was also limited at practice to non-contact drills. He’s dealing with rotator cuff soreness.
Jermaine O’Neal (hamstring) and Shaquille O’Neal (soreness in hips) practiced fully.
“We’ve got to get everybody back on the court,” Pierce said. “At the same time we’ve got a few nagging injuries that we’re taking care of right now. I think it’s good that we get them all out of the way. We’re right on schedule I believe. I’m confident about opening day, if it started today.”
Here are some points of emphasis for the final week of preseason camp:
WHO GETS THE LAST ROSTER SPOT?
UMass product Stephane Lasme has impressed everyone with his play, but has it been enough to get the 15th roster spot? Unfortunately for Lasme, the Celtics are deep at his position. Where they have a need is for more shooting on the wing, particularly as West sits out the first 10 games with an NBA suspension.
That puts the onus on Von Wafer, who has struggled at times during camp. He broke out a bit with a 14-point game against the Raptors Friday night, but he also appears to struggle with the offensive structure.
Lasme has put himself in contention, and as the Celtics learned last season, they can never have enough big men. That’s true of practices as well as games. Mario West is also still on the roster, but the battle for the last spot looks like it’s between Lasme and Wafer. The final cuts have to be made next Monday.
DEVELOPING THE SECOND UNIT
If it seems like there hasn’t been much news about the Celtics starting five, or four as the case may be, that’s because the focus has been on developing a second unit. Note that second unit is different from “rotation,” because it seems like Rivers is trying to develop a whole other team to compliment his starters.
Nate Robinson is now comfortably in place, alongside Marquis Daniels and Delonte West in the backcourt and on the wings. Glen Davis and one of the O’Neal’s will be the second-line frontcourt. Beyond that, Luke Harangody and Semih Erden have had their moments.The Celtics are going to need contributions from all 12, because if history, both recent and past, has shown us anything it’s that injuries are going to be a part of this year’s team.
“We have a unique bench,” Pierce said. “One that can play five guys at one time. Our second unit is starting to develop a certain chemistry with one another. They love playing with each other and that’s the great part of it.”
UNDERSTANDING THE PROCESS
For many people, the Celtics season doesn’t really get underway until April when the playoffs begin. That’s a dangerous bit of thinking and Rivers seems determined not to let his team fall into that trap. From the opening day of camp, Rivers has stressed that this team can’t expect to repeat last season’s formula.
Sounding very much like the head coach, Frank reiterated that message.
“We have a long ways to go and this is a process,” Frank said. “I don’t think you’re a complete product by the first game of the season. It’s a process that happens over a course of time, and if any group proved that, it’s what this group did last year. There’s different gears and different layers that you go through as the season evolves. You don’t want to be at your peak on October 26, you want to continue to get better.”