The C's are home from Newport, R.I., this Sunday and enjoying a day off; on Monday morning, they'll take the court at their practice facility in Waltham, Mass., to resume their preparations for Wednesday's preseason opener against the Philadelphia 76ers. This team may not be game-ready just quite yet, but over the past week, they've certainly gotten a lot closer.
Here's a rundown on what we've learned from the Celtics' week of workouts:
This team is deep. Over the course of the first three years of the Big Three, Doc has made do with a rotation of eight, nine, occasionally 10 guys playing the bulk of the minutes. This year the Celtics rolled into Newport 20 deep, and the 17 players that remain after the coach's first round of cuts can all play. This team is stacked at every position — so much so that potentially solid role players like Von Wafer, Luke Harangody and Mario West have been relegated to the third unit. If he wants to get a good look at every guy in preseason action this month, Doc's got his work cut out for him.
Jermaine O'Neal is the favorite to start at center. This has likely been true all along. And while Shaquille O'Neal had a tremendous week at camp by all accounts — he showed up in shape and ready to work, and he didn't disappoint — J.O. remains the right man to fill in for the injured Kendrick Perkins. He's a mobile big man, a solid defender, and a versatile player who contributes nicely to the C's unselfish style of play. J.O. has a solid future in Boston — but in Shaq, he's got one heck of a backup.
The Celtics' starting five is golden. Spots six through 15 on the Celtics' depth chart have all been points of constant contention, but the C's starting unit is in great shape. For all the questions that have abounded this week about the Celtics' bench, there have been no issues with the starters, as Doc has said he can "almost take it for granted" that his veteran core is good to go. Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are all in tip-top condition, one of the O'Neals will slide into the first five with no hesitation, and also…
Kevin Garnett looks better than he has in a long time. KG is now 16 months removed from the knee surgery that ended his season back in the spring of 2009, and he's since regained the spring in his step that's made him an elite power forward in the NBA. He's going to be 100 percent to start this season, and hopes were high around Celtics camp that with a rejuvenated defensive captain, the C's will return to being the defensive juggernaut team that cruised to the 2008 title. That's still a long way off, but it looks like this team will start off on the right foot.
Big Baby is hungry. Sorry, the punchlines are too easy. But to be serious, Glen Davis proved this week that he's itching for a chance to prove himself — not just to the fans of Boston who are hoping for a breakout season, but to his own coaches and teammates. Early this week, Baby griped to the media about his uncertain role on the Celtics; in the five practices since, he's worked hard as the power forward of the C's second unit, and he looks stedfast in his desire for a big season in 2010-11. He wants a bigger role, and he's willing to work for it.
Delonte West is recommitted. A month ago, the 26-year-old guard was unemployed and his life was in disarray; now, he's one of the hardest workers in the Celtics' gym. Pierce said this week he'd put West among his top three players at this year's camp. The guy is slaving away every day, keeping fit and hoisting up countless jump shots as he hones his game for this upcoming season. D-West has been through a lot in the past year, but he's pining for a second chance in Boston, and he looks primed to capitalize on it.
Nate Robinson is a happy camper. At this time a year ago, Nate was in the doghouse with Mike D'Antoni in New York, wondering when he'd get his chance to break free and start anew somewhere else. He's found a fantastic situation in Boston — teammates that love him, a coach that values his game, and a chance to compete for the first championship ring of his career. This was Nate's first training camp as a member of the Celtics, and he made the most of it both on and off the practice floor, working hard as the pointman of the second unit and laughing hard as the C's jolliest prankster away from the court. He's loving life as a Celtic.
Then again, most guys love it when they're playing for a team like the Celtics — close-knit, focused and determined to put their best foot forward this season. The road from here to a championship in 2011 is long, but the C's have embarked on that journey and they're not looking back.