The Celtics are in Istanbul (Not Constantinople), preparing for their first exhibition game against Fenerbahce Ulker today at 2 p.m. ET (CSNNE).
As you’re all intimately familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of the Ulkers (or is it the Fenerbahces?), let’s focus on the Celtics. Here are five things to watch for in the first C’s game since that ugly business in Miami last spring.
1. Lineups. We’re all going to spend a lot of time studying Doc Rivers’ lineups this season, so let’s see what he rolls out this afternoon. With new 5-men Darko Milicic, Jason Collins and Fab Melo, Rivers can easily go big, especially in preseason where Melo’s rawness, Collins’ nonexistent offensive repertoire and Darko’s inevitable suite of issues won’t hurt him. But size matters less than usual in the new Eastern Conference where centers now include Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire, so watch for the small lineups. Doc’s already on record saying the Celtics are going to play faster this year, which will require multi-position production from Jeff Green, Jason Terry and Courtney Lee. Rajon Rondo had them all playing Scrabble (or whatever) in L.A. this summer. Let’s see if that translates into an immediate double word score.
2. What are we going to get out of Jeff Green? Rivers wants Green beating big guys off the dribble and up and down the floor and he wants him in the post against smaller players. He’s also planning to use him on LeBron James this season. I’m just hoping for enough competence to make his ludicrous contract tradeable should he repeat his passive performances of two years ago. For game one, let’s just hope he looks healthy and assertive.
3. Depth. Wow, I forgot Chris Wilcox in my summary of the center position which should tell you two things: 1) I’m not quite in midseason blogging form and 2) this team has unfathomable depth. So, let’s not fathom it now, lest the injuries start piling up and kill one of Boston’s key advantages over the rest of the Eastern Conference.
4. The War On Christmas. Our own Brian Robb has a major crush on Dionte Christmas’ game and I am terrified that Doc will nail him (Christmas, not Robb) to the pine despite Avery Bradley’s absence. For Brian’s sake, let’s hope Christmas’ spirited summer league effort will carry over through training camp and into the regular season. I’m expecting he’ll be a contributor in short, scattered minutes, but it’s possible Brian’s right here and he’s actually the second coming of Michael Jordan.
That may not have been exactly what Brian said. Let me check my notes on that.
5. New offense, new sets? With all these new weapons, what is the offense going to look like this year? More importantly, will it continue to be awful? With a younger team, we know the C’s are headed for more transition attacks, with Terry’s arrival the Celtics should employ more pick and rolls and with whatisname’s departure, there should be less standing around for 15 seconds waiting for someone to come off a double screen.
Ah, who am I kidding? I can’t pretend to be bitter.
The Celtics look good and it’s great to have them back.