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Rookie Watching

 

As I watched the Celtics take on the Knicks on Saturday night I could not help but think about Iman Shumpert.  The Knicks second year man suffered a devastating knee injury last season but up until then he was a surprise rookie contributor, the Knicks’ designated lock-down defender, and a most-of-the-year starter.  I wasn’t struck by Shumpert’s absence or lamenting a detoured career.  I was giddy of the opportunities  that lay ahead for the Celtics in discovering their own “Iman Shumpert.”

The Celtics rarely have a rookie contributor worth excited speculation.  Last season there was Greg Stiemsma (who was totally awesome both on the court and in the lockerroom) but he was given playing time out of necessity, not because Doc Rivers‘ had a notion he’d thrive.  The unexpectedness of Stiemsma’s ability and contributions was almost better than a highly-touted rookie living up to his hype.  It was awesome to watch his play transition from “flukey good game” to “wow, this guy can actually play in this league.”  Just awesome.

This season, however, is different.  Instead of having to hope that a rookie comes out of nowhere to save the Celtics in a pinch, the Celtics have a couple of prospective rookies that could easily become contributors.

The first potential stud is Jared Sullinger.  The anti-Stiemah.  There’s been talk of Sullinger potentially usurping the starting power forward role from Brandon Bass, which is crazy when you consider the Celtics last four first round picks (that they actually held on to) prior to Sullinger were JaJuan Johnson, Avery Bradley, JR Giddens, and Gerald Green.  Those guys had “project” written all over ‘em.  Sullinger is somewhere between “project” and “polished.”  Through three preseason games he’s shown that he can play well in multiple roles, in various lineups, and against opponents with very different styles of play.  Most importantly, he can carve out a role on his hustle alone.  While there is no doubt Sullinger is talented, he has a powerful ability to be where the ball is; something the Celtics have been sorely lacking the past few seasons.

Then there is Dionte Christmas. The anti-anti-Stiemsma.  He is pretty much Greg Stiemsma 2.0.  He’s been around NBA training camps before, played over-seas, and has grown a lot since going undrafted in 2009.  He is this season’s feel-good story.  I don’t think there is a single Celtics fan who isn’t pulling for Christmas to make the team.  Well, maybe those cautious ones who recognize the value of another roster spot down to road.  To them I say, “c’mon! Live a little!”  Christmas has all the makings of an over-achiever thrust into a reserve role due to some injury situation.  He’s a stronger two guard who can handle the ball, rebound well, and doesn’t shy away from contact.  While those are all things Christmas can do, he’s really a scorer first which is something of which the Celtics cannot have enough.

Last but not least, there is Kris Joseph.  He’s not even a lock to make the team but if he does, I can see him making an impact this season.  He’s not superbly talented at anything but like Sullinger he hustles. He has rebounded very well for a small forward which is something the Celtics always need.  Like Christmas, Joseph plays with a fearlessness uncommon among rookie second round picks.

It’s not as if any of these scenarios are certainties.  There’s a chance Rivers nails Sully’s butt to the bench and Christmas and Joseph don’t even make the team.  For now though, I’m excited about the possibilities and seeing these guys in a few more games.  Roster decisions are ahead and these next few preseason games will go along way in determining whether those decisions are easy or hard.

 

Note: Apologies to all the Jamar Smith and Micah Downs, and Fab Melo fans.  I don’t think Smith and Downs have a chance to make the team and Melo is too much of a project.

  • ElRoz

    This Celtics team has good players but they have not at all played together except for the last 2.5 weeks or so: Green, Terry, Lee, Sullinger, Milicic – these are quality guys and they will just need about 1/2 of the season (or maybe the whole season) to jell. By the way, they have not really played with KG, Rondo, Pierce, or Bass either before this season. So the whole bunch is pretty darn good, but needs time. Hopefully the team in March will be much more familiar with each other than in October.

  • CelticsBIG3

    Melo will make the team, he is a first round draft choice.

    • http://CelticsHub.com Brendan Jackson

      Sorry, what I meant was that Downs and Smith won't make the team and Melo is too much of a project to be a potential contributor. In other words, his potential for being a contributor this year is very low. I have no doubt that Melo will be in the league for years to come.

      • CelticsBIG3

        I was at the XL Center Saturday night, that kid Downs played his ass off in overtime. He went to work obviously won't make the team, but he was killing the boards and ALMOST won the game for us.

        • elroz

          He played very well….smart, energetic, and confident….I liked him.

  • http://www.taylorfranklin.com Taylor

    So who is confirmed and how many spots are open. Why did I think Melo was on for sure. Maybe this is before we got Darko?

    On another note, what happened to Daniels?

    • CG12

      Melo will be on the roster, but will likely spend most of the year playing with the Red Claws in Portland, Maine. Daniels signed with Miwaukee – there was no way he was getting any minutes on this roster.

  • Kobe goes for 6

    same shit ,different faces
    Celtics sucks

    • CelticsBIG3

      "Duh Celtics sucks – I write like an idiot"

      • Kobe goes for 6

        if you are idiot don't tell that to anybody

        • CelticsBIG3

          Your grammatical abilities are incredible.

    • elroz

      from what I recall, the Lakers got eliminated 4-1 by the NBA FINALS runner up …but Boston too the NBA Champion to 7 games…so clearly the fruits from LA are the ones sucking…and we will see Kobe decline even more this year – all the guy does is put up a ton of shots.

      • Kobe goes for 6

        from from what I recall, the Shmeltics should be eliminated by Atlanta .but injury to Horvord and Pachulia and their glory -hunters think they are capable of beating anybody
        thanks to Rose injury you even played in east Finals
        By the Way Lakers beat your celtics twice last year
        so keep Dreaming ..
        P.S if Kobe decline Garnett and Pierce are getting younger ???

        • CelticsBIG3

          Unfortunately those things didn't happen did they? Rose did get hurt didn't he? Things happen; the Lakers are not going to make the NBA Finals. When Dwight Howard bumps into a dude named Kendrick Perkins he'll remember why his only offensive post move is a sweeping right handed hook from 10 feet from the rim.

          • Kobe goes for 6

            Unfortunately those things didn't happen did they? GARNETT did get hurt didn't he IN 2009
            BOSTON WILL SUCK like they did from 1986 to 2007
            and those 3 big clowns ,now only 2 ,will never win another championship

  • janos

    Thank you provid eme bio this new players

  • kg215

    Disagree on Stiemsma being "totally awesome on the court." He had those flukey good games but was injured and made plenty of mistakes (of course he was new to the team/NBA basketball, what I mean is he didn't exceed expectations on that front). Stiesmsma was/is a good shotblocker, but was not consistent in general. We cut his minutes and he even stopped practicing for months, which should have helped his injury. Somehow he ended up playing worse and worse, especially in the playoffs.

  • Montrossdad

    Its ludicrous to describe Stiemsma’s season or abilities, in any respect, as awesome.
    I stopped reading there…

    I will say that sullinger has the best chance of being a contributing role player out of any of the c’s rooks over the last couple years. Both because of the c’s need at his position and his clearly defined skill set.

    • Sue Ellen Mischke

      When people say that they 'stopped reading' is that a figure of speech? If so, why make the effort to even comment?

      • CelticsBIG3

        "The Bra-less Wonder"?!?

  • Rich

    @Kobe goes for 6… Just remember the Lakers are 0-2 (mavs, lakers) the 2 postseasons straight. So before u troll on sites just remember what I told u.

    Do something constructive with ur time instead of trolling on other sites. Oh yeah, I didn’t know Kobe,Nash, Artest, Gasol were staring in Golden Girls the play at Staples center.

  • CelticsBIG3

    Big shoutout to Dionte Christmas. Sad to see him cut from the team, good luck.

  • Montrossdad

    @Sue Ellen, though I suspect your question is rhetorical…
    I literally stopped reading because if a writer/commentor describes Stiemsma’s play as ‘awesome’ that conveys they are watching these games and badly misreading the action on the floor. so badly, in this case, as to make their other basketball opinions, especifically those contained in this article, suspect at the very least and not worthy of my time.
    My goal in commenting is to perhaps inspire some self-reflection on the author’s part- “is my supposition indeed ludicrous? Hmm…”

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