Shortened schedule could doom Celtics


Shortened schedule could doom Celtics

NEW YORK So if the NBA Players Association decides to accept the latest take-it-or-it'll-get-worse ultimatum from the NBA, we'll have a 72-game season that begins on Dec. 15.

One word for the Celtics:


The last thing an aging team like the Celtics wants is a shortened training camp, a frenzied free-agency period with at least seven new faces to the lineup, and a regular-season schedule that features 10 fewer games packed into a tighter time frame.

The biggest fear with this kind of schedule has to be injuries.

When you look at the Celtics' Big Four (Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo), you have to be concerned about whether they'll be able to withstand the rigors of a compressed schedule that is sure to feature a couple of back-to-back-to-back sets of games.

The C's have to be especially careful in handling Garnett, who even at 35 years old, is one of the NBA's better big-man defenders. He's on the downside of his career -- I know, shocker -- and is more susceptible to injuries in part because of his age and the fact that he has played so many minutes throughout his career.

Look no further than the fact that he has missed at least 11 regular-season games every year he's been with the Celtics. When he was in Minnesota, KG missed no more than six contests in a given season.

But the show of injuries among the Big Four isn't just a KG production. Collectively, Boston's Big Four missed a total of 29 regular-season games this past season.

Only once (2008-09) did they combine to miss more regular-season games. And that was primarily because KG was out for 25 games and the playoffs.

Even if the C's managed to stay relatively healthy, there lies another potential issue -- chemistry.

We saw at times how challenging it was for some of the Celtics' new faces to immerse themselves with the core group. If you have a shortened training camp, little to no preseason and you're playing games in a relatively tight window of time, developing on-court chemistry won't be easy.

We saw the problems that Jeff Green had last season when he arrived to Boston in a trade with Oklahoma City.

We saw the struggles Von Wafer had . . . and Nenad Krstic . . . and Nate Robinson. You get the picture.

And making matters even tougher for the Celtics is that even when they map out the areas in need of improvement, there won't be much time to work on those aspects of play because there won't be a lot of practice time.

Execution, along with chemistry, will have to be honed, literally, on the fly as the season progresses.

But who knows, Danny Ainge could hit the free agency jackpot and land all of his primary targets. The gelling process could happen very quickly. If that happend, the C's could once again one of the last teams standing in the NBA.

As KG reminds us, "Anything's possible!"

Celtics to begin season with Marcus Smart on the shelf

Celtics to begin season with Marcus Smart on the shelf

WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Boston Celtics will be a bit shorthanded for the first few games of the season with Marcus Smart being out with a left ankle sprain injury.
The Celtics were holding out slim hope that it would heal in time for tomorrow’s game against the Brooklyn Nets.
Smart confirmed a report shortly after the injury on October 19 that it would likely be at least a couple weeks before he returned to action.
Following Tuesday’s practice, one in which Smart watched from the sidelines, he gave an update on his ankle injury which occurred in the Celtics’ last preseason game, a 121-96 loss to the New York Knicks.
“A couple weeks, that’s the projection (of a return) they gave me,” Smart said. “They want to make sure we can limit this from happening again.”
Smart said the two-week timetable began from the time of his injury, which means it’s likely that he will miss the Celtics’ first four games of the season.
That’s a much rosier timetable than the left ankle sprain injury Smart suffered as a rookie which kept him sidelined for several weeks afterwards.
“It shouldn’t be too long,” Smart said. “Better safe than sorry.”
His absence will certainly have an impact on a Celtics defense that ranked among the NBA’s best a year ago, and has only gotten stronger with the addition of Al Horford.
But the Celtics have been a "next man up" team for since Stevens has been the head coach. With Smart out, that’s not going to change.
“That’ll be a great opportunity for someone else to step up in his place,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
Boston guard Isaiah Thomas echoed similar thoughts.
“When somebody’s hurt, the next man has to step up,” Thomas said. “Guys have to take advantage of these opportunities.”
And for Smart, it’ll mean displaying his leadership skills from the sideline.
He’s totally comfortable taking on that role right now.
For his teammates, it might take a little bit of getting used to. Smart has been very loquacious on the Celtics sideline since suffering the injury.
“These last four days, he has been yelling … I told him to shut up a few times,” quipped Isaiah Thomas. “That’s just him, especially when he’s not playing. He’s very vocal.”
Terry Rozier, the likely benefactor in terms of minutes played due to Smart’s injury, agreed.
“He’s been sitting right there in that seat,” said Rozier, adding, “and he hasn’t shut up yet. It’s good; you’re going to need a guy like that who is going to talk to you. It’s like a guy, he says things … it’s like he’s been in the league 10 years. He knows his stuff.”
Smart’s knowledge bank includes understanding that his current injury will probably happen again at some point. The key isn’t dealing with the injury, but how you move forward from it.
“This isn’t my first ankle sprain and I know it won’t be my last,” Smart said. “I just have to let it heal on its own and let your body do what it does.”