Stern speaks out (cont'd)
Posted: Thursday October 11, 2007 1:29AM; Updated: Thursday October 11, 2007 12:40PM
The view from London
Here are five Celtics impression and one Wolves impression from the game in jolly olde England:
-- Kevin Garnett, facing his old Minnesota club, didn't bring any more intensity to the reunion than he normally brings to a game. But he did bring more than 95 percent of the players in the league, especially for a preseason contest. Garnett teamed with Celtics guard Rajon Rondo to apply full-court pressure to the Wolves ball handlers and expended as much energy cheerleading from the side after his stint of three quarters as he did on the floor. One area in particular in which Boston figures to improve is defensively, with Garnett directing traffic and bodily moving some new teammates into proper position.
"Since we came in in early September, playing and working out,'' Garnett said after the Celtics' 92-81 victory, "we said, hey, we know we can shoot the ball. We know we can put the ball in the basket. But we've got to make stops. That's the one thing we've focused on, in this training camp, on this road trip.''
-- Kendrick Perkins figures to benefit as much from Garnett's presence as any of the shooters spaced on the perimeter. From the high post, Garnett found the Boston center with a bullet pass for a dunk. He also made one extra dish to Perkins for another slam that demonstrated the value of a pass-first approach. Minnesota's problem was that it never found a low-post complement to Garnett, even as Kevin McHale dreamed about the possibilities. Rasho Nesterovic wasn't effective enough with him, Michael Olowokandi wasn't and Mark Blount was exactly the opposite of what the Wolves needed in that tandem. Dean Garrett was about as good as it got at playing off Garnett.
-- Rondo might be sitting on one of the NBA's hottest seats this season, since the Celtics' success or lack of it figures to swing on their point guard's play. Coach Doc Rivers praised the second-year guard's play late Wednesday, particularly his sense of finding the hot hand and the open man. Rondo had six assists and four steals in 26-plus minutes.
-- Garnett, Ray Allen (28 points) and Paul Pierce spent the fourth quarter as a booster club for the team's bench. Thinned dramatically by the trade that delivered Garnett, the Boston bench is crucial to the club's ambitions, if only for some reliability in protecting late leads earned by the Big Three. And from this one early glimpse, there is reason for optimism, with James Posey around for versatile defense, Eddie House and Tony Allen for spurt scoring, Brian Scalabrine as a three-point release valve and Esteban Batista and Glenn Davis doing some promising banging.
-- Pierce faces the biggest adjustment of Boston's high-profile troika, and he was the one who didn't even have to pack a bag. But this was his team, his offense, his ball, and that dynamic has been blurred now. It already was clear in Europe that Pierce won't have to be, or get to be, the media's go-to guy for all statements Celtic. Next up: How well he adapts to being third banana on 20 or 30 nights this season.
-- As for Minnesota, it's clear there is talent on its young roster. It is equally clear that the youth will be served, which might not sit well with veterans such as Ricky Davis, Marko Jaric, Mark Blount and Juwan Howard. Howard already has expressed a desire to play elsewhere and the other three reportedly are being shopped. But playing them enough minutes to avoid their grumbling probably means giving up too many minutes that would be better spent on the kids. And if the on-the-job training for the likes of Al Jefferson, Randy Foye, Craig Smith, Gerald Green and the rest doesn't produce victories that would stifle the neglected vets, look out.
"Rebuilding is just an excuse for losing,'' Davis said the other day. Coach Randy Wittman, who at this point has no idea what the team's pecking order is, admits he will be keeping an eye on a possible split within the ranks.
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