BOSTON - Eight preseason games down, an 82-game regular season and a playoff run to go for the Celtics.
In spite of a 3-5 record, often the result of resting players and experimenting with various rotations, coach Doc Rivers has a very optimistic outlook for his team less than two weeks away from Opening Night.
"That I like I team, thats it," he said following the Celtics preseason finale, an 88-79 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. "I do. I like the team. Like I said before, I think we still will have to be a better defensive team consistently to be a great team. And I think theres a lot of growth in our team. So how fast we do it, who knows. Well figure that out as the season goes along. But if we do grow in all the different ways we can play, everyone kind of gets it, I think we can be very, very good."
Rivers has more options on his roster than he has had in years. Rather than a set starting five and clear cut second and third units, Rivers has the flexibility to tinker with different combinations based on opposing matchups. After being forced to insert bench players into the starting lineup due to injuries in recent seasons, he now has multiple options at various positions.
Once Avery Bradley returns after recovering from shoulder surgery, either he or Courtney Lee could start at the two spot (Jason Terry will most likely keep his award-winning role as a sixth man). In the immediate future, Rivers will look at veteran Brandon Bass or rookie Jared Sullinger for the starting power forward role. Both had solid training camps, both give Rivers versatility.
"I do think this is going to be an unusual team in that I dont think well have a starting lineup for most of the year," said Rivers. "I think we may move that one guy around a lot.
Rivers said he didn't discover any surprises throughout training camp, which kicked off in Europe. He praised the play of rookie Kris Joseph -- "I thought he played terrific and we put him in terrible positions" -- and noted Jeff Green's performance after missing last season because of heart surgery.
"Weve got the kind of team, you kind of know what they do," Rivers said.
He believes that could lead to a very promising season.