Final Thoughts Before Last Preseason Game

On the brink of the final preseason game it seems appropriate to offer a few final thoughts; well maybe not final, I hope to have another occasionally. It’s been a jerky ride, filled with the bright spots hoped for from the large cast of significant summer signings. Unfortunately the seemingly endless string of nagging injuries has only reinforced the concerns of an aging and fragile lineup. In all fairness to the AARP, the list of trainer’s room attendees has included just as many young’uns as high-mileage vets and none of the New Big Three have missed practice time or games. There has been no shakeup in the predicted top ten going in to camp and just as much jousting for the final roster position as expected.

There have been some really pleasant surprises, some big and some mild, and a couple of disappointments. Everyone who thought Semih Erden would look, this good raise your hand . . . thought so. Last pick in the draft, poor to mediocre numbers for less than powerhouse teams across the pond, Semih created less than a ripple until a nice supporting role for the Turkish national team in the World Games concluding right before camp started. Six weeks later and most reports are glowing with his activity, mobility, BBIQ, passing, rebounding, lane presence, and smooth hook shot with either hand. Since the O’Neal question of the day has been which one would suit up rather than which would start, Erden’s emergence as a viable option for significant backup minutes at center is a large and most welcome surprise.

At the cost of undisciplined defender Bill Walker and fan-favorite spark-plug Eddie House, the addition of Nate Robinson last mid-season had to be termed a disappointment when he spent most of the season in Doc’s doghouse for defensive indifference and undisciplined shot selection. His re-signing this past summer was far from a foregone conclusion but early returns suggest the light bulb has come on. As a backup to Rondo he looks head and shoulders better than any second team ball-handler in the PGA era
and his talents seem to blend particularly well with Delonte West with whom he can share the PG/SG duties on offense while covering the shorter opponent. Another iffy re-signing was Marquis Daniels. Freed from the point forward blend of duties, and matched with the outside shooting of the second unit’s guard combos, Marquis has looked rock solid and even flashed some long range bombs of his own.

I’m not sure which has been the greater disappointment, Avery Bradley’s lingering injury or Von Wafer’s hanging on to the 15th spot more by default. I expected, and still do, good if not great things from Bradley. I had hoped his emergence would be a real spur for Wafer who would have to show a vast improvement in attitude and defensive effort. Instead Von is backing onto the roster by showing flashes of what he should have done well all along—shooting. I favored Tony Gaffney who brought effort and tenacious defense. I still think the call was close but the Turkish interest/opportunity arose and Danny canceled the competition prematurely in the same way that he has made other cuts early to give players a chance to secure other options rather than holding them until the end-of-the-bench decision was played out and obvious. The Stephane Lasme story is a heart-warming one although hardly on the Leon Powe level. Lasme will get his green card but it will be in Maine. It will still keep him close to his family, and on the good side of immigration, but his upside is NBDL level and at 28 he hasn’t got a lot of developing to do. I don’t think he has the mobility to play the three and at 6’5” he has only the skills of a defensive backup center.

Luke Harrangody continues to score and rebound against all odds. He is a walking fan magnet as he (and his game) looks like that guy down at the Y that you schooled in the pickup game last weekend. Scores of ticket holders must fall asleep nights thinking that “Hell, if that guy could play for the Celtics! Man, if I was only an inch or two taller.” Rondo looks more comfortable shooting, and if there is anything that is all about confidence, well you know. Did I mention that the Big Three have avoided the injury bug? And Kevin Garnett is looking more like the KG of old, as opposed to the old Kevin Garnett.

One final thought about the Tiny Gallon buzz. This smacks of Danny Ainge genius. Can you be a reclamation project at 19 years old? Threw away college for $3,000 from an agent? Only time motor running on high is at the buffet line? Legitimate size, actual skills, and the mental maturity of a 12 year old. This may be nothing but kudos to Danny for taking a look. Reports are that he acted grateful for the Bucks giving him a chance. Let him brush elbows with some All-Time greats. Let him see Perkins (an excellent comparator for a body makeover of a pudgy teenager) working in the weight room on his rehab, and hopefully go home to see how to eat like a pro rather than like a professional hot dog eater. Let Garnett beat him fifty times in two minutes and scream in his ear about the drive it takes to be a pro—is he an early Perk, or just a POB. D&D are talking about making the final cuts after this last preseason game. If Gallon responds well to this two day trial, I hope they keep him around until next Monday and let him absorb as much as possible—of the system, of the culture, of the game, of the Celtics’ way. Then if he goes to Maine with the right attitude, you might really have something!