At the last minute, my buddy Greg picked up four $20 tickets to the preseason home opener and gave me a ring yesterday – how could I refuse? Here’s 10 observations from my first trip to the Garden for the 07-08 campaign:
I - The rejuvenated atmosphere. There was a legitimate buzz last night walking around the arena. Scores of people wearing #5 and #20 jerseys. Troupes of high school kids. Concessions and bars packed with patrons. A complete reversal from last year when the concourse action included people trying to sell you a Boston Globe subscription in exchange for an Al Jefferson jersey (glad I didn’t take the bait) and drunken dudes in Eric Montross throwbacks with a shamrock tattoo on their bicep looking to use the can.
II – The realization. When it came time to introduce the starting lineups, I realized that I haven’t been this excited about the Celtics since the 1991-92 campaign – Bird’s last. It’s been a long time since the league has been afraid of this team – and that’s a cool feeling. I remember being in awe of ‘Nique Wilkins as a kid but by the time he got to Boston, he wasn’t the same ‘Nique Wilkins. And that was the last time I was excited. And screw you Rick Pitino.
III – The offense. Having KG, Shuttlesworth and Pierce on the floor at the same time is like shooting fish in a barrel. Everything opens up. The presence of Garnett allowed Pierce to get to the cup with ease (7-8 from the field) and whenever the defense doubled, the best shooter in the NBA was ready to fire away from the wing.
IV – Rondo really doesn’t have to shoot to be successful. He was 1-2 last night and 3-4 from the line and it really seemed like he was one of the best players out there with his penetration, ball movement, and defense.
V – KG can dish! Garnett had three assists last night and exhibited amazing dexterity with the rock. His touch pass to Allen for an open jumper and no-look to Rondo were sweet. Quite the change from last year when we watched the 3’s and 4’s on the squad get stripped, dribble the ball off their feet, or get tied up in jump balls ALL THE TIME.
VI – Perk still worries me. He made two buckets on easy dunks, fine, but he logged five fouls in 21 minutes.
VII – The backup center situation. Pollard sat. Greg’s animated “wait, is that Scot Pollard? When did we get him?” comment in the 2nd quarter drew some laughs.
Powe’s hustle is noticeable – it stands out how hard this guy is playing. He even got a steal and threw down a breakaway two-handed jam after some idiot decided to pull on his jersey like he was trying to take down Walter Payton on an open-field run. He’s strong and boxes out exceptionally. But he’s also undersized and has stone hands.
Big Baby looks like ’84 Charles Barkley. When he went to the floor for a loose ball in the 4th I think I felt the impact in my upper level seat. Appearance aside, I wasn’t overly impressed with The Baby on the offensive end. Even against reserve scrubs, he exhibited plodding footwork, forced shooting, and looked miserable turning it over twice. He’s a likeable character who I hope will step it up.
VIII - Eddie House makes me nervous. There were several possessions when Marbury decided to dig into House and Eddie could barely get the ball over the timeline. It was reminiscent of me trying to play one-on-one against our all-conference point guard in high school and having to back him down from 25 feet out. House has a fantastic stroke, and when that second unit can get the ball up with a nice outlet pass, he will be the recipient of a lot of open transition J’s.
IX – Gabe Pruitt is Delonte West-lite. He’s got a nice stroke and an adequate handle, and he’s a tweener at about 6’4”. Seeing Pruitt run around out there makes me feel a little better about losing Delonte.
X – Brandon Wallace! This kid is energy personified. He rose up for a sick block in the 4th quarter and looked alive on the glass. Maybe he’ll be down in the D-League this year, but I’m glad he’s a Celtic. Upside, upside, upside. I hate that term but he’s got it. I’m going to think of another word for “upside” in the next couple weeks. You can tell me what you think.
Postscript: The Celtics crushed the Knicks by 40. Even Doc Rivers makes Isiah Thomas look like somebody’s drunken Dad coaching 5th grade rec. basketball. The Knicks have some good personnel but there’s no way in hell Zeke can manage this team to a playoff berth. He’s a clown and I’m glad the home crowd booed the hell out of him.
Took down a few Octoberfests at The Four’s with my buddy Will after the game and while we dissected the Heisman race, bandwagon Sox fans, things girls do that piss us off, and what people from high school are doing now, a familiar looking guy plops down in the seat next to me and orders a Corona. Ladies and gentlemen: David Aldridge, ESPN! Ok, so now he’s with TNT. But you gotta love it. October 17th and we’ve got the national media checking out a Celtics preseason game. Buckle up.