Sizing up the C's at the end of the preseason


Sizing up the C's at the end of the preseason

BOSTON Now that the preseason schedule is officially a thing of the past, the Celtics can focus all their energy towards the season opener at Miami on Oct. 30.

But before the Miami Hype machine goes into overdrive in the coming days, here's a look at some of the more developments that came out of the preseason schedule, and how those issues might play out in the regular season.

Rondo's Team
All the bonding both overseas and state-side by the Boston Celtics has galvanized an already tight bunch in a way that hasn't been seen around these parts since the 2008 title run.

And the ring leader of all this team unity has been Rajon Rondo. Organizing team workouts earlier this summer was just one of the many things Rondo has done to assert his place as this team's leader.

He's trying to better his teammates in every way imaginable, on and off the court.

Following a recent game, Rondo interrupted an interview that rookie Jared Sullinger was conducting to tell him to cut down on his use of the word, 'uh.'

"The way I'm on Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, Jared Sullinger, I expect a lot from those guys and they're going to be big for us," Rondo said. "It may seem like I'm on them all the time, but like I said, gotta get those guys to jump on board and expect and demand greatness every night."

Defense: Not quite there yet
Boston has added a slew of scorers to the mix with most having proven their knack for knocking down shots.

But this team has won in recent years because of its defense, something that is very much a work in progress.

Of the eight preseason games Boston played, there was only one - their blowout win in Brooklyn on Thursday - in which the C's played the kind of defense they will have to in order to have another strong season.

Rivers has repeatedly talked about how he likes his team and their potential heading into the season.

But that success will hinge heavily on how quickly this group of Celtics can get on the same page defensively and develop better defensive cohesiveness.

"We still have to be a better defensive team consistently to be a great team," said coach Doc Rivers. "There's a lot of growth in our team."

In particular, the Celtics have to improve their pick-and-roll coverage which isn't necessarily a big man problem.

As Rivers has pointed out, there have been a number of times in which the C's struggles defending the pick and roll have stemmed from the Celtics guards not rotating quick enough to help Boston's big men.

Of course this is a problem that is easily correctable, especially when you have a defensive honcho like Kevin Garnett.

Still, it will be something to keep an eye on with all of the C's attention - especially their defense - now focused on the opener against the Heat.

Jeff Green's emergence
No player did more to solidify their role with the Celtics in the preseason than Jeff Green.

He played more minutes in the preseason than every Celtic player not named Rajon Rondo. And with those minutes, he showcase and array of skills at both ends of the floor that gives the Celtics reason to be excited that he will be among the most important players in Boston's quest to bring home Banner 18.

"My main goal was to get back on the court and help my team win," Green told Comcast SportsNet following Boston capping off its preseason schedule with an 88-79 loss.

As a third option in Oklahoma City (behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook), Green averaged a respectable 14.2 points per game primarily as a starter. In Boston, Green had to not only adjust to a more diminished role as a scorer, but also to playing fewer minutes coming off the bench.

After missing all of last season following heart surgery, there was a sense of uncertainty as to how Green - a player whose aggressiveness has been questioned before - would respond to his first full training camp with the Celtics.

With a slew of highlight-worthy dunks and electrifying plays defensively, Green showed no signs of hesitation or uncertainty about what he needs to do in order to help the Celtics this season.

Green raised a few eyebrows recently when he said he felt that he was one of the league's best defenders, adding that it's now on him to go out and prove it.

Throughout the preseason, his ability to defend multiple positions was indeed on display as he matched up with smaller players like Brooklyn's Joe Johnson, to more physical players like Spencer Hawes of Philadelphia.

"I still have a lot of work to do," Green said. "I still need to get in better condition if I want match up with some of the top players in this league," Green said.

But it's clear to those who watched him in the preseason as well as those who played with him, that he is well on his way.

"Jeff's a lot more aggressive," said Garnett. "I can remember when he first got here, maybe it was just understanding his role or whatever, at times he was tentative. Now he has a different appreciation, and he's playing like it. He knows he's going to be here. He understands his role. We're going to need that from him. To see him back, see him refreshed, doing the things that he loves to do it's good to see him back so I'm happy for him."

Thomas won’t play Friday night vs. Raptors

Thomas won’t play Friday night vs. Raptors

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics are about to hit one of the toughest stretches of the season and they’ll have to do it for at least one more game without their leading scorer, Isaiah Thomas. 
Thomas, who suffered a right groin injury on Monday against the Houston Rockets, did not play on Wednesday against Orlando and said that he will not play in Friday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors. 
“It’s day to day. I want to play. I want to be out there but it’s the smart decision to hold out and wait until it’s 100 percent,” Thomas said during a Season of Giving event for children of the Military Friends Foundation held at the Celtics’ practice facility. “If it was a playoff game I would be out there for sure.”
However, after consulting with a number of medical personnel, Thomas decided the best thing for him and the Celtics was to sit out Friday’s game which, along with Wednesday in Orlando, will be the first two he has missed since the 2014-2015 season. 
Thomas said there’s no specific timetable for his return, but he said he is planning to travel with the team to Oklahoma City for their matchup against the Thunder on Sunday. 
“It’s eating me a live to sit, but I have to do what’s best for my body, I have to do what’s best for this team,” Thomas said. “I need to be 100 percent healthy to give this team what I can give them.”
The Celtics are hoping for similar success they had Wednesday in Orlando (a 117-87 victory) on Friday against Toronto.
“They played a hell of a game last night,” Thomas said. “They’ll be ready tomorrow.”
The fact that Thomas intends to travel with the team is a good sign that the groin injury isn’t too serious. 
If he doesn’t play at Oklahoma City, that likely means he’ll return to action on Wednesday at San Antonio. 
“I’m going to do what I can to get back out there on the court,” Thomas said. “I gotta be smart about this. I don’t want this to linger on this season.”
Replacing Smart in the lineup against Toronto will most likely be Marcus Smart. 
Smart, who has been a replacement starter at small forward and point guard this season, had 13 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals against the Magic.