Kevin Garnett, Celtics Ready to Use Preseason to Gear Up for ‘Big Race’ of Regular Season

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Kevin Garnett, Celtics Ready to Use Preseason to Gear Up for 'Big Race' of Regular Season Kevin Garnett was surprised on Tuesday afternoon to hear that his coach had big plans for him and his teammates on Wednesday morning.

"I hear he's going to run you guys pretty good tomorrow morning," a reporter told KG, who looked more than a little taken aback.

"Thank you for that," the Celtics' veteran said after taking a minute to process. "Now I know."

Most of the seasoned vets on this Celtics team aren't looking forward to the preseason schedule, which tips off Wednesday night at 7:30 when the C's take on the Sixers at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H. They already know what they're capable of, and a grueling stretch of eight games in 15 days isn't of much use to them. But nevertheless, it's about to get underway, and the C's are ready to get down to business.

"Usually when we come in, Doc does a pretty good job of getting us a sweat," said Garnett, who opens his fourth preseason under Doc Rivers in Boston. "I don't see it being anything ridiculous or crazy. But we do come in and get a nice sweat, and then after that we go through our strategies and things of that nature. So this should be no different.

"But," he added, "the fact that he told you guys that is pretty weird."

On Wednesday night, we'll get our real-time first look at a Celtics team that's undergone a massive offseason overhaul in preparation for the 2010-11 campaign. For the first time in a Celtics uniform, we'll see newcomer Shaquille O'Neal and returnee Delonte West showcase what they can do. We'll see rookies like Semih Erden and Luke Harangody prove their mettle in green. We'll see youngsters like Von Wafer and Mario West compete for their chance to land a role on this year's Celtics.

We'll also see a starting five that's been one of the NBA's best for three seasons returning to action. All in all, we'll see a lot of guys, and the big question is how the coach plans to juggle them all.

"I'm not going to play anybody big minutes or anything like that," Rivers said Tuesday. "We're going to practice tomorrow, pretty hard, and then go right to the bus and go right to the arena. So some of the guys are going to be tired. But that's fine. I'm not worried about it."

Shaq is expected to start on Wednesday night with Jermaine O'Neal nursing a hamstring injury; he'll take the floor alongside Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo with the C's first unit. The second team will feature Erden, West, Glen Davis, Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson. But there's bound to be some shuffling, especially in the early going, as Rivers uses the low-stakes environment of preseason basketball to tinker with some different arrangements.

"That's what preseason is for," Garnett said. "It's for timing, for playing different lineups, it's a chance for coaches to see different talent. For people who have been in the league for a long time, it's just timing and rhythm. These preseason games are not only a chance to play with some different opposition, but it's a chance for yourself to get into a rhythm. It's almost getting on a bike or running on a treadmill before the big race."

It would behoove the Celtics, you would think, to start slow and steady. With the O'Neal injury and a brief back problem for Delonte West on Monday, the injury bug has already started to eat away at this team, and the 2010-11 marathon is only just beginning. But the C's are looking forward with no fear.

"I'm not really worried about it," Rivers said of the injuries. "We're just going to go hard, and if somebody falls, then they're going to fall. That's life in the NBA. But they're playing hard and they're playing really well."

"Everybody's working hard, and everybody's going to be fine," Shaquille O'Neal said. "The thing that I don't think they had last year was a lot of bigs, truthfully. So Jermaine goes down, I've got to step up; if I go down, Semih's got to step up, Big Baby [Davis] has got to step up. So I think Danny Ainge and Wyc Grousbeck did a great job of bringing in all these bigs this summer."

The Celtics look fired up and ready to go. They've been going hard in practice every day, with the second unit playing out of their minds and giving the starters a run for their money. This squad is not only potent, but deep too, and it'll be exciting to see them in action against another NBA team.

"We do need to see somebody else, I can tell you that," Rivers said. "And we need to see NBA officials, because they're sick of us officiating. But other than that, I'm happy with so far where we're at. But we'll get a better look tomorrow."

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