Basketball is back. OK, so it's preseason basketball, but we have to start somewhere. With an overhauled roster, the Celtics certainly have plenty to work on before the regular season, and Monday night is the first chance to see them do it before our eyes. Here are five things I'll be focused on when watching the game.
1. Brad Stevens's style of play
Celtics players hinted about the style of play they expected from the team's new head coach at media day and during training camp last week. Kris Humphries said he expected to get out and run. Rajon Rondo said that if Jeff Green got a rebound, he would let Green take the ball up the floor himself rather than look for the outlet pass to start the break. Rondo won't play Monday night, but we'll get a sense of the speed with which Stevens intends to play from the jump. Rebounding is another key factor here. Under Doc Rivers, the Celtics rarely crashed the glass. With a glut of power forwards on the roster, that may change this season.
2. Rondo's involvement
Speaking of Rondo, it will be interesting to see how involved he'll be on the sidelines. Will he sit on the bench? Next to Stevens? Holding a clipboard? Will he actively give instruction to his teammates? Based on training camp, Rondo seems to have a heavy hand in the direction of the team early on.
By the way, did it ever bother anyone that Kevin Garnett refused to sit on the bench during the games he missed? Seems like he skated pretty easily for it.
Stevens said over the weekend that he planned on using a different starting lineup in each of his preseason games, and that we shouldn't read too much into any of it. That doesn't mean we have to believe him. Stevens's tinkering will tell us something, from gauging which players work well together, to how small/big he wants to go, to who gets the shots. Don't you just want to see MarShon Brooks and Jordan Crawford out there at the same time tonight?
4. Who is Vitor Faverani?
He's the guy on the left, for starters. When the Celtics signed the Brazilian center to a three-year, $6 million contract, he was off the radar of most Celtics fans. Faverani was funny and engaging during media day, if not always easy to understand ("Not too much questions, please," he told the media). He appeared to be in shape and is bigger than just about anyone else on the roster. Stevens has not yet said how he plans to use Faverani, but he could be a wild card if he can step in and play well.
5. How does the team look without Pierce, Garnett, and Rondo?
Maybe the better question is how does it feel? That's pretty mushy, but for Celtics fans, it's going to feel different watching a rebuilding team than an established one. That doesn't mean it's going to feel worse. As with this year's Red Sox, it may feel good to root for an underdog, to see a collection of less-talented players come together to form something greater than the sum of the parts. It's going to be frustrating and exciting and surprising, and maybe all in the same game.