WALTHAM (CBS) – The Boston Celtics kicked off year two of the Brad Stevens era in Waltham this week, moving training camp from Newport, Rhode Island to the friendly confines of the team’s practice facility.
With the team’s roster maxed out at 20 players, there are plenty of storylines to keep an eye on and serious playing time at multiple positions up for grabs. With that in mind, here are a few things to watch for over the next few weeks:READ MORE: New Memorial In Worcester Honors Firefighters Killed In Line Of Duty
1. Who takes Rondo’s minutes at point guard?
With a healthy Rajon Rondo playing 35-40 minutes per game, point guard was one position the Celtics did little to address this offseason. Marcus Smart spent most of his summer preparing to play two-guard, while new addition Evan Turner has played on the wing throughout his NBA career. Now, with Rondo expected to miss the first 2-4 weeks of the regular season with a broken left hand, Turner and Smart will be in the mix for minutes at the point, according to Stevens.
“The funny part is, the last time Marcus Smart really played point guard was in college. We only have one point guard that has NBA experience, and that’s [second-year guard] Phil Pressey, so that’s not a lot of it,” Stevens said.
Smart, Pressey, and Turner will all get opportunities at point guard throughout the preseason slate of games, so keep an eye on which player looks most comfortable at the spot.
2. Has Jared Sullinger improved his conditioning?
The third-year forward never fully got into shape last season after back surgery limited his ability to work out last summer as he prepared for the season. While Sullinger showed some notable flashes of greatness throughout the last year’s campaign, injuries and an inability to play major minutes limited his consistency.
This year, Sullinger has entered training camp with a clean-bill of health, so he won’t have any excuses for lackluster conditioning. The 22-year-old is pleased with where he’s at for the time being.
“Not where I want to be, but really, really close,” Sullinger said of his playing shape. “Getting up and down in practice has really been helpful, especially the pace that we’re playing. There’s no choice but for me to get in shape. As long as practices keep staying like this, you have no choice but to play as hard as you can.”
Sullinger’s ability to take the next step as a player will likely be determined by how well he succeeds in keeping his weight off and his energy up.
3. Can Vitor Faverani stay healthy?READ MORE: 2 Extricated From Car After Crash In Medford
The Brazilian big man played in just 37 games last season before undergoing season-ending knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. After spending much of the offseason rehabbing, the second-year center is back on the sidelines after experiencing some pain in his knee.
“Vitor had a little bit of swelling, so we sent him up to Dr. Brian McKeon and took an MRI, just to be sure,” Stevens said Wednesday at practice. “[Faverani] doesn’t feel like it’s an insurmountable amount of pain, it’s just he’s got a lot more swelling than he had hoped.”
The Celtics are thin at the center position as it stands, with just Tyler Zeller and Joel Anthony in the fold for the time being. If Faverani isn’t able to stay out on the floor, the door could be opened for Zeller to earn starter minutes or the team could go small with Sullinger at the five spot.
4. Which players make the cut?
The Celtics will have to trim their 20 man roster down to 15 players by the start of the regular season on October 30th. Some players are in camp simply on training camp invites (Christian Watford, Rodney McGruder, Tim Frazier) and are likely headed to the D-League after the preseason ends, but there will be plenty of stiff competition for the final couple spots on the roster. New additions like Erik Murphy and Dwight Powell will be battling it out for a seat at the end of the bench, and with 16 guaranteed salaries on the books, there’s the potential a veteran like Brandon Bass or Jeff Green could be moved before the regular season begins.
5. How much will Stevens push the pace?
With a significant portion of the team’s roster returning from last season, Stevens appears to be shifting the team’s offensive philosophy a bit to try to create easier scoring opportunities for his players.
“We’re going to start trying to be faster, with more emphasis on pace and space,” Stevens said. “And faster is maybe not the appropriate term, but the right pace. All the time. A very consistent pace, all the time that we need to play with. Both in the halfcourt when we are attacking against a set defense, and then when we get out in the break in primary transition.”
With a big man who can run the floor on board in Zeller, as well as a athletic backcourt in place between Avery Bradley, Rondo, and Smart, expect the Celtics to keep their foot on the gas in their quest to climb out of the basement of NBA offenses.'Loss Of A Beautiful Boy': Candlelight Vigil Held In Memory Of 5-Year-Old Elijah Lewis
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