Boston Celtics: 3-on-3
The Celtics host the Detroit Pistons on Friday night in their home-opener at the TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). I'm joined by ESPN Boston intern Greg Payne and CelticsHub's Brian Robb. Let's play a little 3-on-3:
1. The Pistons? Home-opener? The Celtics can't lose this one, right?
Robb: I would like to say they can't, but there are no guarantees here, especially if the C's are still waiting on Paul Pierce's bruised right heel to recover. The Celtics will be hungry and facing a team with inferior talent, but the problem is the Pistons are desperate too as they search for their first win, so this will not be a walkover. The familiar confines of the TD Garden should work wonders however, as will the return of some semblance of Boston's top-five defense from past years, which I refuse to think has dropped off a cliff this quickly. It won't be pretty overall but expect Boston's first win of the 2011-12 campaign.
Forsberg: Tonight's game goes one of two ways: 1) The most likely scenario sees a rollicking Garden give the Celtics a little spark early on and Boston produces its first quality (and sustained) start of the season while racing to a comfortable lead on the Pistons. I'm not saying we'll see Gino, but it aids a win, or 2) Far less likely, but the Celtics could come out sluggish yet again, fall behind Detroit early, and out come the boo birds. I'm not saying they lose even if that happens, but, you know, just brace yourself if they don't have Pierce.
The Celtics travel to New Orleans Wednesday night for the back end of their first back-to-back this season (8 p.m., CSN). I'm joined by ESPN Boston intern Greg Payne and CelticsHub's Brian Robb. Let's play a little 3-on-3:
1. Fact or Fiction: Two losses in two games is no big deal for Boston
Robb: Fact. Obviously the slow start is not ideal, but given the opponents and injury problems Boston has been dealt out of the gate here, it's hard to get overly concerned. The upcoming schedule also helps to soften the blow as four likely non-playoff teams are next on the docket (New Orleans, Detroit, Washington (twice), New Jersey). Lose to a couple of those teams and you have a problem. For now? There were enough positive signs from the first two contests to avoid the panic button.
Forsberg: Fact. But I'll say this: If the Celtics lose in New Orleans, feel free to dust off those panic buttons. While there's been plenty to be encouraged by, there's been an equal amount to lament (particularly the utter disappearance of this team's defense that had to resort to a zone to scramble back against Miami). The one thing that concerns me: Good teams find a way to overcome their mistakes and win games. The Celtics have hung tough in the face of adversity, but they've faltered in crunch time. That's when this team is supposed to be better than everyone else based on their experience together.
1. Will Rajon Rondo be traded before this season starts?
While Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge didn't exactly say he wouldn't trade Rondo, the spin control in the wake of the Chris Paul rumors seems to suggest the team believes he will be here when the season starts. As Ainge stressed, he has no intentions of trading Rondo, but he has to be open-minded to potential deals (regardless of which way the communication flows to start that process). Rondo is the team's most valuable young commodity and with a roster overhaul looming after this season, Ainge must explore all options to keep this team competitive. It's just hard to envision too many scenarios in which the team would be willing to ship Rondo out.
2. Should the C's consider dealing Rondo if they can’t get a superstar like Chris Paul?
Well, would that include a superstar big man? We all know this team desperately needs size and it doesn't come cheap in the NBA. The only way you even consider trading Rondo is if you get a point guard you believe is better in return (Paul would be one of maybe only three guys you'd consider there) or a game-changing big man to build around. Yet again, there's just not many elite big men out there that teams are willing to give up. Even with the potential for a loaded 2012 draft, you most certainly wouldn't trade a known commodity like Rondo for the uncertainty of ping pong balls.
3. What effect will these rumors have on Rondo this season if he remains in Green?
While everyone seems to focus on the potential negative fallout, shouldn't we also brace ourselves for the other end of the spectrum? You know, an angry Rondo, but in a good way. The one that opens camp with a "I'll show you an elite point guard" type chip on his shoulder and reminds us all what a completely engaged Rondo is capable of. Oh sure, there's a pattern of potential moping from incidents like the Obama jab to the Perkins trade, but this will be a good test of Rondo's maturity, particularly if the team sees him as the centerpiece after the season. One thing to consider: In a season in which many players with arrive oozing post-lockout rust, you can certainly envision Rondo just running circles around some guys and maybe even carrying his elderly Big Three in a true pass-the-torch year.
1. What improvements do you want to see from Bradley?
Call his rookie season a redshirt year because, as Doc Rivers was quick to point out in June, Bradley never had a chance given the ankle injury to start the season. Being healthy should allow his natural abilities to take over and a year in the NBA -- regardless of the lack of playing time -- will aid his development. Given the time he spent with Rivers in Orlando before the lockout, I'm eager to see if his point guard abilities have improved. The Celtics will look for shooting in the free-agent market, so Bradley might be most valuable as a backup point guard, especially if the team isn't able to bring back Delonte West (or even if they do).
2. How do you expect Doc Rivers to use him (if at all)?
Rivers said Thursday that it's imperative to get more from the bench this season, particularly given the game-heavy schedule. I still gotta see some younger players get extended time before I'm ready to believe Rivers will actually lean on them. The Celtics could really benefit from finding Bradley consistent minutes and seeing what his potential is. The only way he'll truly blossom is with court time and it might help them determine what exactly his role can be. If his defense is as it was advertised and Bradley shows some offensive progress, there's potential for him to get his foot in the rotation door and what he does from there is up to him.
3. What’s the career prognosis for Bradley?
Simply too early to tell. Between injuries and lockouts, it's been tough for Bradley to simply get on track in the NBA. That said, he just turned 21 and there's plenty of room to blossom for a defense-first guard in Doc Rivers' system. Year 2 could be a defining year. If Bradley establishes a role, he can start the growing process. If he doesn't, it'll be important to keep him invested and encouraged, mentally.
[Your turn: What's your take on Bradley? Is he poised for big things in his sophomore season, or will he be stuck at the end of the bench again? Sound off in the comments.]
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