Going into camp the questions on most people's minds were if Tony Allen could step up his game, if Patrick O'Bryant was really a bust or could he be a sound back up for Perk, what Miles could give the team, and if the team would have the motivation this season since they won the championship.
So far, the answers coming out of camp are very positive. Last season, Tony had trouble coming back from his most recent knee injury and wore a bulky brace the entire year and never did get his explosiveness or his confidence back. In camp this season, Tony Allen is playing without the knee brace and reports are that he has his explosiveness, mobility and most of all, his confidence back. Doc announced yesterday that Tony was the MVP of practice and that he had let the offense come to him. Praise like this from Doc this early in training camp is sure to motivate Tony to do even better. This is exciting stuff because if Tony can get back to where he was before the last knee injury, it will be huge in replacing what the Celtics lost with James Posey. Tony has the capability to be a lock down defender and the team will need him in that role now that Posey is gone. As for the 3 point shooting, James Posey is a career 35% shooter from beyond the arc while Tony has a 32% average for his career. That isn't a huge difference, but before the knee injuries slowed him, he was shooting almost 39% and if he has his legs and confidence back he may even be able to fill that role as well.
Even bigger than the questions surrounding Tony, are the ones that are surrounding the Celtics' back up center. Patrick O'Bryant was a lottery pick but was termed a bust by his former coach and never found his niche in Golden State. He never fit into their system and Don Nelson had these very critical words to say about him.
"I told him if he goes down to the D-League and isn't a dominant player, there should be red flags all over the place, and he should be the first to notice. He's not only not dominating, he's not playing very well. He's a long-term project. I really liked him the first week of training camp, but I assumed there would be great progress. He hasn't gotten better one bit."
No one could blame Celtics fans for being a bit skeptical about the big guy's ability to produce. But, he spent the summer working with Clifford Ray who is the best big man coach in the league. After yesterday's practice, Doc singled out O'Bryant for praise.
Rivers said he was impressed with Patrick O'Bryant's effort today, and for the second straight day while Kendrick Perkins is unavailable for contact, O'Bryant got the nod with the first unit.
"Patrick had a hell of a practice. He was great today," Rivers said, noting that if he figures out how to play alongside Garnett, "things could be pretty good for him."
It would be huge if he were to have a break out season. Clifford Ray has been known to work wonders with other bigs and it seems that his work with O'Bryant is paying off. It also was evident that O'Bryant never fit in Nellie's system and seems to be taking to Doc's system quite well.
As for Miles, praise has come from Pierce, Garnett, Allen and Doc for his performance so far. Doc praised his instincts and feel for the game, things you can't teach a player but they come naturally to Miles. His attitude is great and Doc has said he thinks that Miles is 100%. He beat out the other big men in wind sprints and although his basketball conditioning is a bit off after not playing for 2 years, he is working hard to get it back. At this point, it seems that he will be a lock to make the team and give the Celtics a big lift off the bench. When the Celtics signed him, I saw some reports questioning his defense, but reports from camp said that he was guarding KG much of the first day of camp and did a very good job. I don't think he will face many assignments much tougher than that. Like the team, he is committing to playing defense and so far is doing a good job of it. From the clips I have seen from practice, he is looking good.
Finally, the team's motivation has been questioned. The Celtics' stars were very motivated last year to finally get that elusive ring that they had been chasing their entire careers. Now that they have a ring, would they be as motivated as they were last season? The answer coming out of camp appears to be a resounding yes. The practices have been intense and Doc has said that this is the best start to camp that he has ever had. Dickerson said that the practice that he watched was every bit as intense as any practice last season. It appears that all of the Celtics from the stars down to the rookies are very serious about repeating as champions.
One thing that is puzzling is that Doc has had Tony and Eddie running the point on the second team and that Sam has not yet taken the floor in scrimmages. Reports are that Rondo has added 7 pounds of muscle and is even quicker than last season so the starting point guard spot is solid. The Celtics have 4 other players who can play the point in camp including Sam, Tony Allen, Eddie House and Gabe Pruitt. I haven't heard anything about Pruitt and he may be the odd man out in the race for that 15th spot, although Danny really seems to like him. With Sam not scrimmaging, it makes me wonder if possibly Sam will be the one cut and slip into the assistant coach spot and be kept around for insurance in case they need him. Barring any trades, this would be my choice for getting the roster to 15. It will be interesting to see what Danny does from this point until the season. With Trader Danny, we can never count out a 2 for 1 or 3 for 2 or 1 trade, either.