BOSTON (CBS) – Preseason action does not officially get underway for the Celtics until Tuesday at UMass-Amherst, but the team gave season ticket holders a little taste of what’s in store Friday night at an intrasquad scrimmage at TD Garden.
Boston’s 20-man training camp roster was divided into a two squads, with everyone seeing the court for portions of the session in front of a crowd of over 6,000. The live action gave us our first in-depth glimpse into training camp, and with Danny Ainge giving commentary on the TV broadcast, we learned a few lessons about who is sticking out during training camp thus far.
Terry Rozier is Turning Heads
The second-year guard knew there was plenty of opportunity awaiting him in the Boston backcourt following the departure of Evan Turner and he’s wasted no time in taking advantage. The ex-Louisville standout out was the best player on the floor for long portions of the scrimmage, showing off a smooth 3-point shot, making smart decisions in the paint and pestering Isaiah Thomas regularly on defense.
The performance was a throwback to Rozier’s summer league effort in Utah and Leas Vegas in which he stood out above the rest of Boston’s young roster. It’s a change that isn’t lost on head coach Brad Stevens either.
“You can see, like, Terry’s a different guy in Year 2 than he was in the first couple of days in Year 1,” Stevens said at practice earlier this week. “It just stands out right now.”
“I just think (his) feel of everything (has improved),” Stevens continued. “Things move really fast for everybody. When you’re the guy with the ball it moves even faster because you’ve got to be able to not only gauge what you need to be doing, but you need to make sure everybody else is there. And he’s got the ball a lot. I think he’s doing a really good job of attacking and picking his spots to attack. We can all get better at that. But the biggest thing that I’ve always said about Terry is he’s going to improve because the guy works. From the minute we met him in the draft process, it was like there are work ethics and there are real work ethics. And he’s got a real one. And so I think he’ll do well.”
The Celtics already have an embarrassment of riches in the backcourt with Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart. If Rozier continues to step up his game, don’t be surprised if Stevens goes smaller more often in order to maximize his talented guards.
Marcus Smart’s Revamped Jumper Looks Better
The reserve guard took a major step back with his outside shot in his second NBA season, shooting a dismal 25 percent from beyond the arc. He committed to smoothing out his stroke over the summer and the early returns were good in the scrimmage. He fired with confidence and hit three of his attempts from downtown and a pullup jumper as well. The question now is whether he will be able to sustain that progress and return to a respectable 33 percent mark from downtown that he managed during his rookie season.
The R.J. Hunter/James Young Competition Remains Tight
These two are battling for one of the final spots on the roster and the coaching staff had them go head-to-head in this scrimmage. Neither had a particularly good night, although Young was more productive on the offensive end overall. There’s no guarantee either will see minutes with Gerald Green also lurking for playing time, but both will have to show more in the coming weeks to strengthen their respective cases.
Pace is a Priority for Celtics Offense
With the Celtics ditching one of their slower big men (Jared Sullinger) in favor of Al Horford, it was hard not to notice the frantic pace that both the starters and second unit played at Friday night. Boston’s halfcourt offense has always been somewhat of a Achilles’ heel due to the team’s lackluster outside shooting. In response, pushing the ball in transition against unorganized defenses should remain a big theme all season long to help the team unlock better looks as we saw Friday night.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.