Shortened schedule could doom Celtics

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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:

Yikes!

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!"

Bradley (Achilles) 'felt good' during return to Celtics lineup

Bradley (Achilles) 'felt good' during return to Celtics lineup

WALTHAM, Mass. – As the final horn blew in Boston’s 108-98 win over Charlotte on Monday night, the game was a win-win kind of night for Avery Bradley.

The Celtics (26-15) continue rolling over opponents at the TD Garden, and he played a relatively pain-free 33 minutes in the win.

It was Bradley’s first game back after missing the previous four with a strained right Achilles injury.

And the fact that he was back on the practice floor on Tuesday (be it a light practice, mind you), bodes well for his injury being a thing of the past now.

“I felt good. It wasn’t sore at all in the game,” Bradley said. “I felt I was moving good. After the game I was a little sore and this morning, but otherwise I felt good.”

Despite Boston being 4-1 this season when Bradley doesn’t play, he has immense value to this Celtics team at both ends of the floor.

Offensively he has been Boston’s second-leading scorer most of this season and currently averages a career-high 17.7 points per game along with 6.9 rebounds which is also a career high.

And defensively, Bradley is coming off a season in which he was named to the NBA’s all-Defensive First Team for the first time.

Any questions or concerns about the Achilles affecting his play defensively were put to rest Monday night when he put the defensive clamps on Nicolas Batum who missed nine of his 11 shots from the field while primarily being guarded by Bradley.

Now his offense, that’s another story.

Bradley failed to reach double digits scoring for the first time this season as he missed seven of his nine shots on Monday to finish with just five points.

But part of that had to do with Bradley passing up shots he normally takes, as well as him missing some he normally knocks down.

Considering his lay-off and the rhythm his teammates have been in shooting the ball in his absence, Bradley wisely decided to get his defensive bearings on track and gradually bring his offensive game around. 

“I have to get my (shooting) rhythm back,” said Bradley who is making a career-best 40.9 percent of his 3-pointers this season. “I’m fine. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s game.”