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The Celtics like the chemistry they've formed during the preseason.BOSTON -- Team chemistry was a hot topic for the Celtics prior to their trip to Europe at the beginning of training camp. With more than half of the roster being new faces, it was clear to the likes of Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett -- the only remaining players from the 2008 championship team -- that the new jelling process wouldn't be a one-day experience.
So the team didn't rush things, choosing to let off-court relationships flourish while utilizing the eight-game preseason schedule to cultivate their connections on the court. And with the exhibition slate now behind them and the real games about to begin, the Celtics were pleased to announce after Sunday's preseason finale that team chemistry is right where they need it to be, with further growth still very much an option.
When asked to rate the team's cohesion level, on a 1 to 10 scale, Rondo simply offered, "10."
Garnett added, "Team chemistry is very, very high."
And it was Pierce, factoring in the recent addition of Leandro Barbosa, who stressed the team will continue to make strides in this area.
"Yeah, we've seen a lot of good, positive things. We're still building chemistry," Pierce said. "Chemistry, sometimes, doesn't happen overnight like it did in '08, so we're still trying to build that. When you look at the number of new players that we got, we're still trying to implement them. Adding Barbosa to the mix, we've still got to get him on the court, practice time, to understand what we're trying to do around here. It's coming though."
Some players, such as Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee, pointed to specific games to illustrate the strides the team has taken over the last three weeks. Consider the team's first exhibition game in Turkey, when the C's were routinely burned on pick-and-roll coverage and the offense lacked fluidity. Fast forward to Boston's 115-85 thrashing of the Brooklyn Nets last Thursday, and there were practically no signs of the issues that plagued the team early on, as the Celtics were locked in defensively, pushing the ball in transition and not hesitating to make the extra pass.
"From the first preseason game up until now, especially the Brooklyn game, we showed how we can have it clicking on all cylinders and getting everybody involved as well," Bass said.
"We're a lot better than our first preseason game," Lee said. "I mean, you can see it in a couple games, especially the last couple wins that we've got, against Brooklyn and New York, where the chemistry came into play late in that New York game, where we decided to get stops and execute. And then Brooklyn, we came out with a focus to execute and strap up on the defensive end. You can see the chemistry definitely getting better."
Defense was a sticking point for a handful of players, indicating that further on-court chemistry will be helped along by consistent improvement on that side of the ball. But the offensive end wasn't discounted, either. With a host of offensive options, both in the starting lineup and off the bench, Jeff Green said the team's willingness to bring forth a balanced offensive attack showcased the faith he and his teammates have in one another.
"We were unselfish on offense," Green said. "I mean, we've got a lot of guys who can put up a lot of points on the board, and we're very unselfish. That shows that we have trust in our teammates, that they can make plays."
"We just got better. We got better every game," rookie Jared Sullinger said. "Even though we had a couple down games, we got better. As a team we showed spurts where [we did] what the coaches want, and then we showed that we can do it, so I think we're getting better every day."