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This Saturday the Boston Celtics opened training camp for the 2012-2013 season. After last year's successful "turn back the clock" performance, Boston heads into the season as a dark horse finals competitor. The team, which will now be entering its sixth year with Kevin Garnett, has reloaded with an infusion of young talent to go along with the veteran core.
This offseason was arguably one of Danny Ainge's finest since he assembled the "Big Three" in 2007, highlighted by the resigning of Jeff Green, Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass, along with the signings of savvy sixth man, Jason Terry and shooting guard, Courtney Lee. Barring the dreaded injury bug, this team has some serious potential for success but the drive to banner 18 team has more questions than injuries.
How will the new additions affect the team's chemistry?
It doesn't matter how good a team looks on paper, it's all about what they produce on the court. Team chemistry is a big factor relating to the team's success and with multiple new faces the Celtics need to establish this chemistry.
One major chemistry change resulted from the loss of one of the original members of the Big Three, Ray Allen. I believe the Celtics did a fantastic job of replacing Ray by signing Jason Terry, the former sixth man of the year.
The "Jet" has a career average of 16.1 points and with his one championship ring; he can bring plenty of leadership to the locker room. Terry has been saying all the right things this offseason and has already gotten a tattoo of Lucky with the Larry O'Brien trophy. If this does not show commitment to your new team then I don't know what does.
This Celtics team has surrounded its core with quality players who know how to play the game the right way along with not causing a locker room disturbance. From the early reports of the team holding unofficial practices, to the players hanging out during the offseason I think the team chemistry will be just fine.
Can the team adjust to Avery Bradley's absence?
Thanks to the emergence of Avery Bradley, the Boston Celtics became a championship contending team last year. Bradley plays phenomenal one-on-one defense and with Rondo running the point, he has found a niche in the offense as well. Bradley can slash to the basket for easy layups and he developed a reliable three point corner jump shot. With Bradley healthy, the Celtics guard rotation of Rondo, Bradley, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry is arguably the best backcourt rotation in the NBA.
Unfortunately for us, we will not get to see this backcourt rotation until December because of Bradley's double shoulder surgery this offseason. He suffered multiple separated shoulders during the season and playoffs and was actually forced to stop playing because of it in the 76ers series.
So with Bradley out for the foreseeable future, the starting shooting guard for the Celtics is going to be Courtney Lee. Lee is more than capable of playing with the starting unit, he is 6'5, a decent defender, can score, and is also a good three point shooter with a career average of .386 from beyond the arc. Jason Terry's energy and presence off the bench will allow the Celtics to make sure Bradley is 100% without hindering the first half of the season.
Is this the year that Rondo elevates himself from an all-star to a superstar?
You all have heard the statistics about how Rondo elevates his game when the stakes are at its highest. Out of the 23 triple-doubles Rajon Rondo has in his career, 18 of them have come on National Television. He also took his game to the next level in last year's playoffs averaging 17.3 points, 11.9 assists, and 6.7 rebounds, which were all an improvement from his regular season numbers (11.9 PPG, 11.7 AST, and 4.8 REB)
However, one of Rondo's downfalls tends to be his inconsistency in playing up to his potential every single night. He also has an unreliable jump shot and only shot a smidge under 60% from the free throw line. But, by using these most recent playoffs as the example, Rondo will elevate his game to that superstar level.
It seems Rondo has taken control of the team, evident from the offseason practices that Rondo organized in Los Angeles and got all the players to attend. Rondo has realized that he is the one who makes the Boston Celtics work and with Rondo playing to his full potential, it will be extremely difficult to stop the Celtics.
How will Doc handle minutes for his veterans?
One of the biggest concerns for the Celtics is how Doc is going to handle minutes for his aging veterans, specifically KG and Paul Pierce. The Celtics have had weak benches in years prior, which resulted in the starters logging more minutes than they should have.
This year the Celtics went out and addressed this bench issue and added some seriously needed depth. At the center/power forward positions the Celtics have added Darko Milicic, Chris Wilcox, Jason Collins, Brandon Bass, and Jared Sullinger who are all capable of giving KG a rest. Last year Doc went with what he called the five-minute plan for Garnett in which he tried to limit KG to five minute stints on the court.
Expect a similar tactic because the Celtics absolutely are going to need Garnett to play to his full potential come playoff time. Jeff Green will be Paul Pierce's primary back up and is more than capable of handling twenty plus minutes a game which will give Pierce a rest as well.
Can any rookies crack the rotation?
In the past, Doc Rivers has rarely given Celtic rookies any substantial playing time. Jared Sullinger, the 21st overall pick in the draft, will be the rookie that will change this trend. Sullinger is a 6'9 power forward who averaged averaged 17.35 PPG and 9.5 REB during his two years at Ohio State. He may be undersized for the Power Forward position but his skills on the offensive end of the floor will give him the chance to log quality minutes for the Celtics. He can provide that key rest for Kevin Garnett and provides a low post presence that the Celtics lacked last year.
The Celtics other top rookie is Fab Melo, a 7-foot center from Syracuse. Melo has been labeled as a project because his basketball skills are pretty raw. The Celtics were willing to take the risk with Melo because the reward may be greater with his size and shot blocking ability.
Melo's teammate, Kris Joseph was also drafted by the Celtics and showed exceptional promise in the Summer League. If he continues to improve during the preseason, he may be able to earn that final spot on the Celtics roster.
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