While reading the articles on training camp and listening to the player interviews, one thing stands out about this team. Nearly every player has a chip on his shoulder and has something to prove this season. Miami's 3 Am-Egos have chips on their shoulders, and maybe they have something to prove, but that attitude doesn't extend to every player on the team like it does on the Celtics.
Let's start with Kevin Garnett. The Big Ticket has been a shell of himself over the past two seasons. After the injury in the '08-09 season and the surgery in the off season, KG seemed to lack confidence last season and definitely had lost his explosiveness. He tried to avoid going into the post and his defense was porous at best. I'm sure he heard all the talk about KG being washed up, KG being too old, KG having lost a step, etc. He spent a dark summer with thoughts about how close he came to another ring and he is back this season with a chip on his shoulder. He is out to prove that he isn't washed up, that he hasn't lost a step and that he has gotten better with age. Doc had to keep after him to take a couple minutes rest in camp. He has been deemed unguardable in camp and is playing with an intensity we haven't seen from him since the Celtics' championship season. He is definitely a man on a mission.
Paul Pierce also had a sub-par season last year as he struggled with pesky injuries throughout the season. Ray Allen had a record breaking game in the playoffs and then couldn't seem to hit anything the rest of the series. He was playing with a severe thigh bruise courtesy of a Ron Artest knee, but he never made excuses. Both Pierce and Ray signed contracts this summer and both know that their window is closing. They spent the summer remembering how close they came to another ring and they both want to be the ones celebrating next season. They will be playing with chips on their shoulders and seeking that championship that they came within minutes of winning last season.
Rajon Rondo has said that he wants to prove this season that he is the best PG in the league. He doesn't want to be known as one of the best, or top 5, but the best. Some of that motivation could come from his Team USA experience where he ended up the odd man out on a guard heavy team. Right now, he knows he is seen as the PG who couldn't beat out Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry and Eric Gordon for a spot on Team USA. He will definitely have a chip on his shoulder coming into this season to prove that he is indeed the top PG. Along with his other teammates from last season, he also has that hunger that only a close game 7 loss can give a player.
Shaquille O'Neal first and foremost wants a ring so that Kobe won't have one up on him. He also is a proud player and wants to prove to everyone that he still has what it takes to help a team win a championship. He has come into camp in great shape and has impressed Doc to the point that, at least for right now, he has been playing with the starting unit. Shaq plans on playing just 2 more years and after hearing Kobe gloat about having one more ring than him, he is more than motivated to get that 5th ring this season.
Jermaine O'Neal was last seen fading into the sunset with the Miami Heat after being totally shut down in the playoffs by Kendrick Perkins. He has heard all the talk about how he has been overpaid and has never played up to his contract. At this point in his career, he wants to help the team to win the championship and prove that he can play and can help a good team win. JO is another player who worked very hard in the off season and came into camp in great shape with a chip on his shoulder to prove his critics wrong. Shaq and JO have a competition going for the starting spot and when Perk comes back, the competition gets even stronger.
Perhaps the player with the most to prove is Delonte West. After a very tough year that included an arrest, losing his starting spot and much turmoil in his life, Delonte is trying to get his career and his life back on track. He was traded by the Cavs and then cut by the Wolves. The fact that the Celtics were willing to take a take a chance on him prompted Delonte to say that he would go to war and die for this team. All 5 days of practice, he was the last guy on the floor, staying hours after practice was over to work on his game. He is determined to prove that he isn't a bad person and that he can help the team. He is driven and motivated and doesn't want to let the team, Doc, or Danny down. That is some strong motivation.
Marquis Daniels has a lot ot prove as well. Last year started out very well for him until he went down with the thumb injury. After that, he never was able to get back into the rotation. He is determined to prove that his big year in Indiana wasn't a fluke. He wants to prove that he can stay healthy for a season and that he is capable of contributing to a championship team. He is also another player who tasted the exhilaration of being minutes from winning a championship only to have it taken away at the end. He has a chip to prove that Danny didn't make a mistake in re-signing him.
Nate Robinson had a very tumultuous relationship with the Knicks, ending with being benched and labeled a malcontent. He has loved his time with the Celtics and in spite of falling out of the rotation for a time in the playoffs, ended up being key in a couple of wins. This season he has the benefit of being in training camp and has made the most of it. Along with Shaq, Doc singled out Nate as a player who impressed him the most. Nate is still trying to shed the malcontent label he received in New York and wants to prove that he can be a team player.
Glen Davis is constantly trying to prove that he belongs in the upper level of players. But he is also pulling stupid stunts to show that he isn't quite there yet. He is once again in a contract season and will be playing for his next contract along with trying to make up for past mistakes. Big Baby's chip will be more for his own personal gain than the other players, but it will motivate him nonetheless.
Kendrick Perkins was in camp although he can't take part in any basketball activities yet and he looks to be way ahead of schedule. He was walking without any limp and without a brace. He took part in the fun and games after practice, bonding with his new teammates. He also did some shooting. Reports are that he was on the sidelines shouting encouragement to his teammates during practice. Perk definitely has a chip on his shoulder, knowing that if he hadn't been hurt, the Celtics would have been celebrating Banner18 this summer. He also is in a contract year and wants to remain a Celtic. He knows that there are now 2 guys ahead of him on the depth chart while he is rehabbing and he will come back looking to earn his starting spot back. Look for Perk to return with a vengeance when he does.
And there are young guys in camp trying to earn playing time and even a spot on the team. Luke Harangody, Avery Bradley, Von Wafer, Semih Erden, Stephane Lasme, and Mario West are all trying to prove themselves in the preseason and Wafer, West and Lasme are trying to earn that last spot on the team. The players who do make the team will probably not see a lot of playing time unless there is an injury or one of them impresses so much that they beat out one of the current rotation players, which isn't too likely. But each of these players is important to sharpen the rotation players in practice and also for the future.
From 1 down to 15, each player on this team has much to prove and most are playing with a chip on their shoulders. The players who were here last year have the monkey that was game 7 hanging on their backs along with the chips on their shoulders. It's promising to be a fun season. Buckle up and hang on because it's going to be quite a ride.