There's nothing like Opening Night -- except, of course, when there is no Opening Night. Like Wednesday night, for instance. The Celtics were supposed to open the 2011-12 season at home against those vaunted Cleveland Cavaliers.
Oh well, score one for the lockout.
We won't miss seeing the Cavaliers, except for them being obliging visitors and succumbing in kind, or for the (possible) returns of Luke Harangody and Semih Erden. Actually, David Stern did us a favor in a roundabout way because the Celtics' November home schedule was littered with forgettable foes (although also pretty much guaranteed W's): Cleveland, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Golden State and Toronto. The only viewing casualty from the slate of canceled home games isn't a team, but an individual: We won't be seeing Blake Griffin.
But, let's face it, even though a lot of people don't even know there's a lockout and a lot of people don't care there's a lockout, those of us who follow the NBA are going to start missing the actual games. And as the Celtics embark on their would-be Opening Night, here are some things I will miss -- and won't miss -- starting on Nov. 2.
I will miss seeing what Doc Rivers is going to do with Avery Bradley, now toiling away in Israel. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Bradley had an utterly unremarkable rookie season. He was hurt. He missed too much and didn't have enough time to catch up. He had to go to the D-League (not a good sign for his future in Boston if you look at the rookies who did the same before him). But he could well be the third guard, depending on what happens in free agency. I still find it hard to believe that Danny Ainge, he of the BYU pedigree and affinity for shooting and scoring, saw fit to not guarantee BYU's Jimmer Fredette a first-round pick in the same draft the Celtics ended up with Bradley. I know they like Bradley. I know they feel he is capable of playing NBA defense (which Jimmer most certainly is not). But how fun would it have been to see Fredette coming off the bench last season?
I won't miss the Shaquille O'Neal of 2011. It's mind-boggling to think of what the guy could have accomplished, on top of what he did, had he ever had the slightest motivation to get in shape. He never did. He never had to because he was always bigger and stronger than the other guy.
I will miss the Shaquille O'Neal of 2010. The Celtics were as good as anyone in the league over the first few months of last season, when Shaq was as healthy as he was ever going to be. Had the Celtics had that Shaq in the spring, things might have ended differently. And he should be fun to watch on TNT.
I will miss seeing Rajon Rondo. Even against Cleveland and Toronto. How could you not? Almost every game, he does something that makes you turn your head and say, 'Did I just see what I thought I saw?' I often wonder if he himself knows what he's going to do before he does it. Just be grateful for instant replay.
I won't miss seeing Rajon Rondo line it up from 20 feet. I see that and I think of John Lackey in a bases-loaded situation or Sergio Garcia over a 5-footer to win a major. I think we have to live with the fact that Rondo is never going to be a reliable outside shooter -- he has been in the league five years now and teams are going to continue to lay off him. That's where his innate skills and derring-do should be at their best.
I will miss seeing the Celtics' bench. We pretty much know the starting five, assuming Jermaine O'Neal is still ambulatory and not an amnesty guy. Will Glen Davis be back? Did JJ Johnson play well enough to merit Davis-like minutes as a rookie? Is Jeff Green going to make us all forget Feb. 24, 2011? Troy Murphy anyone? (Just kidding.)
I will miss seeing who Ainge and Rivers decided to bring in to fill all those vacant roster spots. We're talking five to seven new players depending on roster sizes and one of them should be a legit, Posey-esque, c. 2007, persona. There may be some interesting bodies out there if the proposed amnesty clause gets approved. Would Marvin Williams look good in a Celtics' uniform? (No appeal here.) How about Agent Zero himself, Gilbert Arenas? (Jimmer would have been younger, cheaper and less zany.) Luke Walton? Josh Childress? The possibilities are fun to consider but we'll have to wait and see who is out there.
I will miss Geno. I won't miss much else on the Jumbotron.
I will miss seeing Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, together maybe for the last time. I know we've been writing this for a couple years, but THIS COULD REALLY BE THEIR LAST YEAR TOGETHER! HONEST! Garnett and Allen are in the final years of their respective contracts and the mileage is showing on KG. He was an on-again, mostly off-again presence in the playoffs last season. (For example: Game 3 against Miami: 28 points on 13-of-20 shooting and 18 rebounds. Games 1, 2, 4 and 5 against Miami: 11 ppg, 8.75 rpg and 18-of-52 shooting, including 1-of-10 in Game 4.) Allen, by contrast, seems to improve with age and is, as we all know, a fitness zealot. But at some point, you have to let their big numbers off the payroll and move forward. Maybe they'd come back for less. But it's time to look forward to ...
Unlikely? Yes. Implausible? Totally. Fun to think about? Definitely. You say the Clippers are too smart to let that happen? Yeah, even the Clips probably won't screw up this one. But it's ultimately the kid's call. I'd put the Celtics' Covert Ops team on this one pronto -- assuming it isn't on the case already.
Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.