Defense... First and foremost, the key to the season and anything beyond is a commitment to defense. We don't need 2 stars to win a championship, but we do need to play tough defense. That defense must start this season. This falls mostly on Doc. Last season Doc made the comment that the team would pick up defense because while they were practicing offense, half the team was playing defense. But hopefully after Danny talking about defense being the main priority for the off season, Doc will get the message that it is important and actually work on it.
Rebounding... Our rebounding needs to improve. We were 26th in the league in rebounding last season. Blount and Raef got the majority of the minutes at center and neither one of them was a rebounder. I believe that our rebounding will be greatly improved this season. This year, our bigs are Perk, Al, Ratliff, Gomes, Powe and Jones, all of whom are good rebounders. I loved that quote from Pat Summitt, "Offense sells tickets, defense wins games, rebounds win championships." I am convinced that we are on the way to becoming a good rebounding team. But I still have concerns about defense since that depends on a coach who doesn't have a clue about defense.
Frontcourt Play...This brings me to the next key. Clifford Ray. Everywhere he has gone, teams increase their rebounding. But, I believe he is going to help a lot more than our rebounding. He has been working with Al and Gomes most of the summer on defensive positioning and foot work along with rebounding and post moves. He has over a month to work with Perk on the same things.
Veteran Leadership... Ratliff may be one of the keys to our bigs as well. He is already in Boston working out with the team and getting to know his teammates. The article on Celtics.com says, "he sets solid picks and carves out space for his jump hook quite nicely with his broad shoulders. The elder statesman on the floor by far, he was already dispensing advice to younger players about setting picks and getting open." Not only will he be a solid defensive presence in the center but his experience will be invaluable in teaching our younger bigs. I am very encouraged by what I hear from him.
Big Al... A big key to this season will be a healthy Big Al. Al is determined to prove his critics wrong. His goal is to average a double double. He is playing without pain in his ankle for the first time since he injured it in the preseason last year. He has worked on increasing his range a little further from the basket and is in the best shape of his career. The problems he had with getting winded last season should be a thing of the past. If Al has the break out season that he is expected to, the Celtics should have a very good season.
Point Guard Play... For the first time since I can remember, we have 2 very quick pass first pure points on the team. We also have a combo guard in West who can handle the ball. Both Telfair and Rondo can run the fast break and find the open man. This brings me to another point and that is our turnovers. With pure points handling the ball, and no Mark Blount to fumble it, we should be able to cut down on turnovers. The competition at the PG spot is going to be a good thing as it will push them all to play their best.
Running... Doc and Danny have brought in quick PGs to run. The kids will run, but will Pierce? Pierce so far has bought into the system and changed his game quite a bit last season. That resulted in a career year for him. I think that he is going to run as he will see the benefits of it. I think he will do whatever it will take to win. Besides, if everyone else is running, he is going to have to or he won't get the ball.
Coaching... Doc will need to set a rotation this season. He will need to improve his in game decision making. And he will need to stress defense. I have the hope that having Clifford Ray on the coaching staff will help. Hopefully he will be able to show Doc how to use the bigs better. We need them playing under the basket and not out on the 3 point line. We saw in the summer league that Clifford is going to be a hands on coach and will be vocal in the games and working with the bigs even during games. I hope that continues during the regular season.
Staying healthy... Last year, we had a good team and had high hopes entereing the season, but had so many injuries that we couldn't seem to get anything going. This year, if everyone stays healthy, we should see dramatic improvement at every position. Of course if Al, Tony, Wally, Pierce, Perk, Telfair, West and more on the injured list for periods of time, it may be an uphill battle, just as it was last season.
There are a lot of things to be excited about and things seem to be going in a positive direction. 24 days until training camp and then we will know how all these things will work out. I don't know about you, but I can't wait!!
Nice analysis of the roster and the issues needing improvement. We have an interesting mix of players, unfortunately, the ones who are defenders are not necessarily the ones who can score, or rebound and vice versa. I think Doc needs to take a hard look at his starting five and the rotations to insure that we always have a couple of strong defenders and rebounders on the floor with a point guard who can push the pace. It will go against his grain, so I'm not so hopeful.
I get frustrated with the team because it's hard to get blood from a stone and I just feel like we have some stones. I have no faith in AL for the time being and I think PP is the Peyton Manning of the NBA. Also a good big men is like owning the Batmobile. There's only one guy on the block that has one, they ain't makin no more, that guy is now the coolest guy on the block and he ain't sellin. Even if he would you can't afford it. I actually think it can be a good team, but not if Doc doesn't play the best players and even if it is a good team that's just great, but you're still not getting to the conference championship. At this point I might settle for that cause if we could gte to that level since we are young maybe we could stay there awhile and at least have a shot at it and might be able to attract players or trades.
When Doc first came aboard, he talked about defense being a priority. He was enamored with the Pistons's defense as he was the color commentated for ESPN(?) that season. Last season, he tried many different defensive schemes, trying to find one that worked, but wasn't very successful.
In some ways, maybe its not all his fault. The players have to produce on the defensive end and in his defense, Doc has a bunch of young players and it takes time for them to learn defense. He did favor Justin Reed more than Ryan Gomes early last season and I think a large part of it was because of Reed's all out hustle and ability to guard a wide range of players.
Now, I can't give any reason for Doc's reluctance to give more of Blount's playing time to Perk--he's on his own with that one.