BOSTON (CBS) – It’s hard to get excited for preseason anything, but when the final image of the Boston Celtics is them walking off the court at American Airlines arena in defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat, even a match up against a Turkish team is a welcome sight.
That, and it will be better than Summer League — not that I’m taking anything away from the exciting summer league action we were privy to a few months ago.
The Celtics kick off their preseason schedule Friday afternoon in Turkey, taking on Fenerbache Ulker at the Ulker Sports Arena. It’s just one of the steps as this team begins a very focused 2012-13 season with just one thing on their minds: another championship.
Preseason basketball doesn’t always offer a glimpse of what to expect in the regular season, but for basketball junkies we’ll take anything we can get. And with all the offseason moves Danny Ainge pulled off, there should be plenty of excitement surrounding these Boston Celtics.
Here are a few things to keep an eye on throughout the preseason, starting Friday in Turkey.
Glimpse of the “New” Starting Five
Four of the five Celtics starters are back, and although they won’t likely play much, we will get our first look at how Courtney Lee meshes with the group.
Lee steps in replacing not only Ray Allen, but the injured Avery Bradley to start the season. The excitement surrounding Bradley’s defense and quickness on offense gave a lot of Celtics fans hope for the future of the two-guard spot, but his offseason was filled with not one but two shoulder surgeries, and he won’t be hitting the court until December — at the earliest.
Gallery: 2012-13 Boston Celtics
Lee should be more than up to the challenge. The four-year veteran has been a solid contributor at all his NBA stops, and surrounded with the veteran talent in the Celtics starting five should only increase that. The preseason will give him a chance to get acclimated with all of their styles, and Celtics fans a chance to see why Danny made such a strong push for him this summer.
The 2nd Unit
Believe it or not, the Celtics actually have a second unit now – and a solid one at that. Anchored by Jason Terry, who relishes the sixth-man role like no other, this unit should provide the aging veterans time to rest during the regular season, and a good change of pace in-game.
Jeff Green will be the key to it all. There is little doubt that Terry will provide instant offense when the starters need a breather, but how Green bounces back from missing all of last season after undergoing heart surgery will be a big part of the Celtics’ success this season.
Jared Sullinger was a gift to the Celtics when he fell to 21st in the draft. He’s an animal under the basket, and it will be fun to watch him develop in the NBA. After an impressive run in the summer league, it will be interesting to see how he does in the preseason – although the first two games won’t be against NBA-caliber talent.
Not to be forgotten is center Fab Melo, who will have his best chance to earn some minutes in the regular over the next couple weeks. He has a whole lot of learning to do in the NBA, but he has a great teacher in Kevin Garnett. If he focuses on the defensive end and pulling down rebounds, he could be another steal in June’s draft, although it will likely take him a few years to develop.
Dionte Christmas is also one of those feel-good stories, earning his a contract with a strong summer league performance. These next few weeks may be the only time he finds the floor, but if he fights as hard as he did in Orlando and Vegas, he may be sticking around on the bench (however far down it may be).
I can’t believe I just typed that, but Darko has a lot to prove in his seventh stop in the NBA. The pressure is off the former number 2 overall pick, and he seems to be taking a liking to his new surroundings. He has structure and little expectations in this go-around, and already seems to be latching on to the Celtics-way. He said he would go out and kill someone if need be (hopefully KG didn’t take that one to serious) and is no longer going by “Darko.” Now, plain and simple, he is “Celtic.”
If anyone can get “Celtic”’s head straight, it’s got to be Doc Rivers and Garnett. This preseason will be his time to shine and earn his spot on the team.