Basketball is back in session.
Across the NBA, teams are gearing up for their respective training camps as we prepare to flip the calendar to October. That includes the Boston Celtics, who enter camp this week under an unexpected cloud of uncertainty.
With Celtics media day set for Monday and training camp beginning the following day, let’s take a look at a few of the more prominent and/or intriguing storylines entering the preseason.
The name that will be on the tongues of all reporters Monday in Waltham is — you guessed it — Rajon Rondo. After the point guard spent the summer starring in more trade rumors than you can wrap your head around, we finally were confident enough to predict that he would take part in training camp with his Celtics teammates.
So much for that.
Rondo broke his hand in an off-court incident and underwent surgery just days before camp was set to open, adding another chapter to the All-Star’s puzzling Celtics tenure. One of the primary questions will be how exactly Rondo suffered the injury. He told the team he slipped in the shower, a source told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman on Friday, but details about the incident are sketchy.
Thrown into the fire
Rondo’s projected six-to-eight-week absence almost certainly will lead to top draft pick Marcus Smart taking on a more prominent role in the Celtics’ game plan much earlier than expected. Smart’s game was not without flaws coming out of Oklahoma State — his defense: renowned; his jump shot: not so much — but the 20-year-old drew rave reviews both from Celtics staffers after the Orlando summer league and from scouts after an impressive showing at USA Basketball training camp.
Smart will battle with second-year pro Phil Pressey for the starting point guard job and certainly will be one of the players to watch most closely in camp. They’ll join a backcourt rotation that will also feature rookie James Young, newcomer Marcus Thornton and veteran Avery Bradley, who will look to prove to doubters that his shiny new, four-year, $32 million contract was not a mistake.
Evan Turner’s search for redemption
The Celtics’ acquisition of Turner earlier this summer — which should be made official early this week — did not elicit the reaction an uneducated observer might expect. This is, after all, a guy who was a top-two draft pick just four years ago. But instead of excitement, news of the signing mainly served as an excuse for everyone to talk about how much they hate Evan Turner as a player. Granted, the 25-year-old has done little to buy himself public support, especially when the debacle that was his brief tenure in Indiana is still fresh in fans’ minds.
Fellow Ohio State product Jared Sullinger believes the swingman gets a bad rap, though. It’ll be up to Turner to prove whether a change of scenery will yield more favorable results.
Development of the young bigs
Sullinger lost a decent amount of weight over the summer and looks a lot fitter, which should cut back on the late-game fatigue we saw so often during his sophomore NBA campaign. The 6-foot-9 power forward posted solid numbers last season (13.3 points, 8.1 rebounds per game) but struggled in the efficiency department (42.7 percent field-goal percentage, 26.9 percent from 3-point range). He also has the added advantage of heading into camp fully healthy — a luxury he did not have last fall after recovering from a back injury.
Kelly Olynyk will hope to make a similar impact in his second season after showing promise as a rookie. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said last week that both have shown improvement this offseason and enter camp looking “really good.”
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