I just got back from the Celtics open practice – this year they played a full two quarters of basketball, “green” vs. “white.” Everyone played except for Garnett and Pierce, and guys got into it (running actual plays, playing defense, working for offensive rebounds, refs called it tight, etc.). The white team featured Rondo and Allen, as well as new face Brandon Bass and ex-star Jermaine O’Neal. The
Washington Generals green team was led by Marquis Daniels (the best defender in the league) and journeyman Chris Wilcox. It’s hard to learn too much from a setting like this, but I have a few observations from the evening:
- Ray Allen looks the same as he did when he joined the Celtics. He was one of the few guys that took warm ups seriously, taking a few dozen catch-and-shoot threes. Most of the other guys stood around taking lazy set shots or fadeaways off one foot (looks cool I guess). Celtics fans don’t have to worry about him getting older.
- Rondo is confident and into the game. I guess trade rumors are old hat for him by now. He also hit a mid-range jumper (the crowd let out a cheer mixed with a sigh of relief).
- Brandon Bass is still getting used to the offense, especially Rondo’s deceptive passing. Either that, or he just has bad hands. The Celtics traded Big Baby Davis and Von Wafer for Bass, who got a lot more minutes last year for Orlando and played fairly well. He’s also cheaper than Davis with similar numbers. However, his rebound rate was only 12.5 last year and he’s an undersized power forward at 6’8″, just like Davis. He worked through some ugly post moves and got a few hoops tonight. I think he has to start and play well for Boston to be elite this year. It will be interesting to see if his rebound rate climbs without Dwight Howard around.
- Bass may also have struggled because Chris Wilcox was locking him down. Maybe he was the only one playing hard, but Wilcox made a bunch of hustle plays, especially on the glass. When he was with the Pistons, I thought he was better than his numbers, and tonight he played very well. He fell hard after diving for one offensive board (the only hard fall of the night), but got back up and got down the court. He’s the only hope for front line depth in Boston, and I bet he plays as well as Bass overall.
- Speaking of which, Jermaine O’Neal looks old and slightly uninterested. During warmups, he was halfheartedly working post moves and missed a dunk over no one. In the second half of the scrimmage, he took a good pass, went two steps down the lane, and . . . missed a dunk over no one. He looked hurt after the play and didn’t get down the court while the green team scored. After sitting out for awhile, he came back into the game, so I bet he’s not actually hurt.
- Marquis Daniels, on the other hand, showed that he can finish a dunk. He also hustled the whole game, made Allen look bad on two post ups, and got at least one nice assist. A shrewd signing by Ainge.
- Of the two Celtics rookies from Purdue, E’Twaun Moore (the second rounder) played better than JJJ (JaJuan Johnson, the first rounder). He looks confident on the ball and can create a shot.
- Some things never change. “The Dutch Steamer” Greg Stiemsma is the latest big white guy to win over Boston’s hearts. He nearly got a steal and breakaway for a dunk, and the crowd went crazy for a moment. Don’t hold your breath Boston, The Steamer probably won’t join the rotation anytime soon.
The end of the game was surprisingly exciting. The white team predictably went up big early but got lazy. The green team tied it with under 15 seconds left. My man Marquis Daniels guarded the inbounds pass and backed off the line to shut down a passing lane, forcing E’Twaun Moore to step out as he received the pass. The green team then missed an ugly layup, but none other than CHRIS WILCOX came crashing down the lane, probably went over the back (uncalled), and got the board and the hoop for a two point lead.
But white would not be denied! Moore redeemed himself by coming around a screen and nailing a three with 0.8 seconds remaining (1 point lead for white). Just when I thought green’s Cinderella run was over, Avery Bradley hit a tough baseline jumper (assist from the clock operator), and green got the upset! Thanks for a fun night, Celtics — I appreciated the effort all around.
Correction: I had JJJ hitting the game winner in my first draft. Sorry Avery Bradley!