- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Kelly Olynyk throws down a dunk as the C's go through practice.WALTHAM, Mass. -- The question posed to Gerald Wallace after Saturday's practice centered on expectations for the Boston Celtics this season and whether he had seen or heard any of the lowly prognostications for his new team.
"If it ain’t on the Xbox, I ain’t reading it," said Wallace. "I couldn’t tell you anything about no magazines, newspapers, none of that."
But try as he might to avoid the noise, even Wallace couldn't help but acknowledge that few pundits expect Boston to be very competitive this season with most win projections -- both locally and nationally -- topping out in the high 20s.
"Our main thing is we want to try to get better," said the 31-year-old Wallace, the Boston player with the most service time in the league (12 seasons). "We know nobody is picking us to win the championship; nobody is picking us to make the playoffs. Our main thing is we just gotta continue to get better. I told the guys, we’re like a sleeper team. We’re that team that everybody’s looking at on their schedule like, ‘OK, we can get a win,’ [or,] ‘We can rest, this might be a night off for us.' We can surprise some teams and do some things. ... A lot of teams are not going to be expecting it."
Wallace echoed the sentiments of his new coach Brad Stevens, who we know now is incredibly process-oriented and prefers to focus on the day-to-day climb rather than the big-picture leap. But even Stevens recalled a couple times that his Butler squads were picked to be in the bottom half of the Horizon League. He suggested there's only so far you can get by using predictions as motivation.
"[The players] know what people are saying, I know what people are saying. You can use that as motivation for a week maybe," said Stevens. "But then you’ve got to just get to be good. You have to make yourself do the little things to be good. You can use it as a chip on your shoulder and I think most of these guys will do that. We’ve talked about that in certain circumstances, but that can’t be a major part of your everyday [approach]. It’s gotta be more about, ‘Hey, there’s a lot of little things that go on in the game that can help you win' and that’s what you focus on."
The Celtics went through a 75-minute session in front of visitors from New England Baptist Hospital before flying to Quebec for Sunday's tilt with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Read on for more notes from Saturday's session, including point guard Phil Pressey returning to the floor (but uncertain for Sunday's game):
* PRESSEY RETURNS, GAME-TIME DECISION VS. WOLVES: Rookie point guard Phil Pressey, who sprained his left ankle during Wednesday's loss in Toronto and sat out Friday's practice, was back on the floor Saturday. "[The ankle] feels a lot better than it was a couple days ago," said Pressey. "Today was the first day I actually ran on it and jumped on it. It’s getting better. But more ice and more treatment." Pressey said he felt like he would be able to go Sunday if cleared by the training staff, but Stevens hinted he might play it safe. "Phil did practice a little bit today," said Stevens. "I don’t know if I’m going to play him tomorrow or not, it may be a last-minute decision based on how he’s feeling tomorrow. He was out there and probably wasn’t 100 percent himself, the question is if you play him tomorrow, does it linger? There’s no reason to make something linger that doesn’t need to right now. We’ll see how that goes, and that will help determine some of our rotations."
* THE BACKUP PLAN: If Pressey doesn't suit up, Stevens has noted he'll likely shuffle Jordan Crawford to the second unit to serve as backup point guard. During the portion of practice open to reporters, Boston's first unit (Green) team featured Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Gerald Wallace, Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger, while the second unit (White) was headlined by Crawford, MarShon Brooks, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries. Bradley, who stands to handle the ball more with the first unit, is OK with however the lineup shakes down. "I love playing with Jordan, I love playing with Courtney. That’s the good thing about our team, anybody can start. Any night, any person can bring a spark to our team, as far as scoring and defense. I feel like it’s going to be good for the bench to get a chance to play with Jordan, because he’s a great player."
* MORE LINEUP CHATTER: Asked if he might employ a variable starting lineup this season, Stevens offered, "I think the people that will pay the most attention to who starts and who doesn’t is probably people writing about it, to be honest. I think it’s going to be more based on who complements one another. ... I told [the team] the other night, it can be really fun to be on a team where you don’t know who’s going to get the last shot. Because you might be riding a hot hand that night. Maybe somebody is 0-for-6 that has to step up and make a big one, because they are not being guarded in a certain situation. It’s fun to have a team where you’ve got guys that you know are going to take the last shot, too. But this is a great opportunity to have different guys step up at different times. A lot of the teams that I’ve been around have been really good at embracing that."
* RUBIO VS. BRADLEY: Bradley said he can only remember playing against Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio one time. That point guard matchup will be in the spotlight Sunday as the Celtics and Timberwolves joust in Quebec as part of the NBA's Canada Series. The question is whether the Celtics will commit Bradley to Rubio defensively, particularly as they've had Bradley defend shooting guards at times this season. "Well, if they guard each other, that would be an interesting matchup, and they might, so we’ll see," said Stevens. "I think Rubio is a really good player and Avery’s a good player. Rubio is a very unique point guard in that he’s probably more of that traditional pure point that people talk about, and Avery’s that combo type guy. But both of them have a good impact on the game. I’ve never watched Rubio all that close until this week, and I’ve enjoyed that; he's a good player."
* WALLACE AVOIDS VIRTUAL WALLACE: After noting his devotion to video games, Wallace was playfully asked if he had suited up as the virtual Celtics yet. "No, I don’t play basketball games on Xbox. I do it for a living; I’m not going to go home and play for another two hours," said Wallace. "My kids play me all the time. So they let me know if they got it right or they got it wrong." Wallace, who has gotten two games off this preseason on the second night of back-to-backs, is scheduled to play in the two final games of the preseason.
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