BOSTON –Brad Stevens knew he would be facing a complex puzzle at the start of Celtics training camp when attempting to make sense of a deep, but mismatched roster.
Now, with four full days of a Rondo-less training camp in the books, we are beginning to get a sense of how all the different pieces may fit together this season.
We saw our first extended on-floor glimpse of the team Friday night, as the entire squad, minus Rondo, Vitor Faverani (knee), and Joel Anthony (groin), suited up for a scrimmage in front of season ticket holders at the TD Garden.
After taking in all of the action, here are a few things we learned about the Celtics through the first full week of Celtics training camp.
1. Kelly Olynyk is picking up where he left off last season.
It took awhile last year for Olynyk to get comfortable as some rookie growing pains and a pesky ankle injury sidelined the seven-footer for a stretch over the first half of the season. The former Gonzaga star found his offensive groove in April though, averaging 16.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest over the final eight games of the season.
Olynyk spent most of his summer playing for Team Canada, and the added experience appears to have paid off thus far in camp. The 23-year-old showed off a smooth stroke in Friday’s scrimmage, scoring 12 points over 12 minutes in the split-squad scrimmage. The offensive consistency, combined with some needed improvements on the defensive end of the floor, makes the big man a candidate to get the starting nod at center this year.
“Kelly, is not your prototypical 5,” Stevens explained this week. “He’s a little bit undersized in some ways, but he is a matchup problem on the other end for most 5s as well. It goes back to, we’ve got to be great in the details.
“I can tell that he worked hard with the Canadian national team. Then when he came back, I just think his techniques look better and he’s in a much better position with his hands this year than he was last year, that’s going to be critical. He’s gotta be smart to guard some of those guys because he’s going to be at a weight disadvantage.”
2. There is no clear-cut favorite to take Rondo’s minutes at point guard.
We heard earlier this week that Marcus Smart, Evan Turner and Phil Pressey would all be in the running for minutes at the point while Rondo recovers from his left hand injury. None of these candidates have stepped up to take the frontrunner spot early on in camp thus far.
Turner had a tough time with point duties in Friday night’s scrimmage, which isn’t a surprise since he’s had no point experience during his NBA career for the most part. He’s explosive with the ball in his hands, but many of his passes were lazily thrown, and he wasn’t particularly comfortable in the face of ball pressure.
Smart obviously is just trying to get his NBA feet, so he had a healthy mix of good and bad play Friday night, but the guy to watch here may be Pressey. He’s been working on his jumpshot all summer, the one aspect of his game that really limited him last year. If he can find some consistency with his shot on the perimeter, he may be best suited to guide this team with Rondo watching from the sidelines.
3. James Young may be able to help sooner than we thought.
Defense may be a work in progress for the 19-year-old, but for a Celtics squad that will desperately be in need of some additional offensive firepower off the bench this year, Young is a strong candidate to provide some assistance.
We saw a glimpse of it Friday night, as he hit a couple 3-pointers upon entering the contest and also showed good patience finding open teammates within the offense. It’s early and there are plenty of people for him to climb over in the depth chart, but if Stevens wants to get a head start on building for the future, Young could be in line for some minutes.
All fans will be able to get their first extended look at the Celtics Monday night when they host the Philadelphia 76ers at the TD Garden in their preseason opener.