Celtics prepare for first preseason game Monday

Celtics prepare for first preseason game Monday
October 6, 2013, 9:00 pm
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(AP Photo)

WALTHAM -- The Boston Celtics will kick off preseason action on Monday against the Toronto Raptors. When they take the court, the game will be just as much about learning about their own team than defeating the competition.

"I haven't treated this like a regular season game," first-year head coach Brad Stevens said following practice on Sunday. "I haven't gotten too in-depth into the opponent. I'll look at that a little bit, but this is much more about us."

The Celtics roster has been overhauled with a drastically different look than seasons past. After less than a week of training camp, Stevens is still testing out rotations. Monday's starting five could be completely different than Wednesday's,  and so on. With seven new faces (not counting training camp invites), he is using this time to figure out the best fit for the Celtics.

"We're going to be tinkering with lineups quite a bit," he said. "I don't know what we'll do in games two, three, and four, but I'm guessing we will not start the same lineups. I'm guessing we will really shift things around. … The first game I won't look to play guys extended, extended minutes."

There are question marks on all areas of the court. Until Rajon Rondo returns from an ACL injury, the Celtics will utilize different players at the point guard position. It remains to be seen how the minutes of Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace will be used, and there is a logjam of bigs in the frontcourt. Monday's game will be Stevens' first chance to see how the players, both starters and reserves, work together against an opponent.

"I think the real interesting part is probably when you really start looking at all the bigs," he said. "What their strengths are and how they can complement one another, and trying to give ourselves a little bit of uniqueness at that position with the ability to stretch and pass and play off the high post and those types of things."

Knowing these lineups are a work in progress, Stevens is looking for the Celtics to play together as a team and be as good as they can be on each possession. The C's echoed the same sentiment that they are looking forward to competing against players other than their teammates.

Veteran Keith Bogans has encouraged the rookies and younger players to approach Monday's game as if it were a regular season matchup. Kelly Olynyk has bought in and is preparing to be mentally ready for his first NBA preseason game.

"You don't want to be too uptight," Olynyk said. "You don't want to be too nervous. It's basketball, it's meant to be fun. It's the game you love. Obviously it's a job and it's something you've got to go out there and work hard for, but you still want to be relaxed and play cool because that's when you're going to play at your best."

Avery Bradley believes the Celtics best will be better than what critics are speculating.

"We want to keep improving as a team," he said. "We feel like the sky's the limit for us. A lot of people might count us out but we've just got to continue to work hard and keep improving. The better teams out there, we've got to work just as hard as them."

When Stevens gets his first look at his new team in action, that kind of attitude will help the Celtics regardless of who is in the lineup.