Celtics set to kick off preseason with bigger picture in mind

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Celtics set to kick off preseason with bigger picture in mind

ISTANBUL The bonding that the Boston Celtics players spoke so glowingly about wanting to achieve on this overseas trip, is evident.

But based on how chirpy things have been the last couple of practices, it's clear that this group is ready to unload on someone else.

They will get that chance today against Fenerbahce Ulker, the best team in Turkey and one of the best teams throughout all of Europe.

"Right now, we're beating up on each other pretty good," said Boston's Dionte Christmas. "We're ready to see some faces, besides us."

Looking at the Celtics on paper, it's clear that this team has more talent than last year's club - and arguably as much if not more than the 2008 title-winning squad. But talent means little if it's not mixed properly or hasn't had enough time to gel.

That's why preseason games, especially for the Celtics, are so important.

Of course Boston wants to win them all. But what they're playing for is so much bigger than a game in October against a team that they won't ever have to play again.

"We're all about building; building up to something great," said C's guard Courtney Lee. "We've made really good progress already; each of us is getting closer to being on the same page. But we know for us to do what we came to do this year and that's win a championship, we have to just keep getting better."

That cohesiveness that the C's long for only comes about through playing together.

And while practice may feature encouraging signs for potential growth and success in the near future, it is what it is.

Practice.

No more. No less.

But even with great practices, that won't adequately prepare the C's for what they will face today against Fenerbahce which is led by former University of New Orleans star Bo McCalebb. A number of NBA teams have expressed interest in him. CSNNE.com reported earlier this week that the C's made a run at trying to land him this summer but McCalebb was in position to earn significantly more than the Celtics were willing to pay.

"He probably should be on the other side of the waters now," said Boston's Brandon Bass who played against McCalebb in college.

In addition to McCalebb, the Celtics will also have to contend with a sold-out crowd that expects the home team to emerge victorious.

It's the kind of crowd you seldom see in a preseason game.

That doesn't apparently matter to Celtics head coach Doc Rivers.

While his staff has prepared for today's game, Rivers has maintained for weeks that his focus remains on the season opener at Miami on Oct. 30.

"You want to win all the games you play, preseason or not," said Boston's Chris Wilcox. "But we're trying to win a championship, an NBA championship. You can't win a championship now, not in the preseason. So we just have to keep working, keep getting better and do the little things we need to do to put ourselves in the best situation to win it all."

Blakely: Thomas isn't a starter, but new All-Star voting is an improvement

Blakely: Thomas isn't a starter, but new All-Star voting is an improvement

BOSTON – There’s certainly some disappointment among Celtics Nation that Isaiah Thomas just missed out on being an All-Star starter in the East.

But one thing we can certainly see with the new voting system … it works way better than the old way of choosing starters.

This was the first year that the NBA decided to allow current NBA players as well as a select panel of media choose who the starting five in the Eastern and Western Conferences would be.

The fan vote would count for 50 percent while media and players would each represent 25 percent of the final tally.

From there, the players would receive a fan ranking, a media ranking and a player ranking.

Because of the aforementioned breakdown – fans count for 50 percent while media and players represent 25 percent of the vote – the fan ranking would be counted twice while the media and player rankings would be counted once.

Let’s look at Isaiah Thomas’ situation which ultimately came down to him and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan for the final starting spot in the backcourt.

Thomas was fourth in the fan voting, second in the player voting and first among guards in the media voting. So when you add the fan voting (4 *2) + player voting (2 *1) + media voting (1*1), you get a total of 11 which is then divided by 4 to arrive at a score of 2.75.

Now let’s look at DeRozan.

He was third in the fan voting, third in the player ranking and second in the media voting among guards. So his score when you add the fan voting (3*2) + player voting (3*1) + media voting (2*1), you get a total of 11 which when divided by 4 brings you to a score of 2.75 – same as Thomas.

The tiebreaker was the fan vote which meant DeRozan and not Thomas, would get the starting nod in next month’s All-Star game.

As much as it may suck that Thomas lost out because of this system, he would not have had a shot at being a starter under the old system in which the fans were the ones to pick starters.

In fact, it would have been Chicago’s Dwyane Wade in the starting lineup under the old system.

No disrespect to D-Wade, but he has not had an All-Star worthy season. And had the old system been in place, he would be an all-star and thus take up a roster spot of another player who frankly, is more deserving.

And if you take a glance out West, they too would have had a starter who has not had an All-Star caliber season.

Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia finished second in the voting among Western Conference forwards, fueled in large part to his home country, Georgia, voting early and often for him. Because of the media and player voting, Pachulia wound up sixth among Western Conference big men which is still too high when you consider some of the players behind him – Memphis’ Marc Gasol, Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge and Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan – who are all having better seasons.

While no one would say this new system is perfect, considering how this year’s voting would have panned out under the old rules, this change by the league is a good one that should stick around.

NOTE: I was among the media panelists selected by the NBA to vote for this year’s All-Star starters. My selections in the East were Cleveland’s LeBron James, Kevin Love and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo in the frontcourt with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Boston’s Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt. My Western Conference selections were Kevin Durant of Golden State, Anthony Davis of New Orleans and Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio in the frontcourt, with Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in the backcourt.