Although bigger splashes were made in Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Miami, and Houston, the Celtics officially open training camp Friday in Waltham pleased with their offseason adjustments and prepared to begin transforming their summer visions into reality.
The Celtics quickly got over the departure of Ray Allen, adding nine new players in addition to Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox, who are coming off heart surgeries. There is a sense of excitement as the Celtics practice for three days starting Saturday, before heading to Istanbul and Milan for exhibition games.
What was initially thought of as a rebuilding season may now be the most anticipated season since Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett came together as teammates in 2007.
“I think we’re deep at every position,” said team president Danny Ainge. “There’s been other years where we thought we were, and injuries and some things you can’t really planned for [occurred]. We have a lot of depth, particularly at the big positions.’’ I’m excited about our depth.”
Garnett will speak publicly for the first time Friday since signing his three-year contract extension. Pierce returns for at least one more season. And Ainge and coach Doc Rivers have anointed Rajon Rondo the team leader.
Ainge sought to surround the new Big Three with capable bench players. Gone are Marquis Daniels, Sasha Pavlovic, Mickael Pietrus, Keyon Dooling, Ryan Hollins, Greg Stiemsma, E’Twaun Moore, and JaJuan Johnson.
Although the latter three had potential, they were unlikely to make an impact. Jason Terry and Courtney Lee should give the Celtics backcourt scoring and long-range shooting, with Lee expected to be the starting shooting guard with Avery Bradley (double shoulder surgery) not expected to return until December.
Garnett will play center, with backups in Jason Collins and Darko Milicic, and first-round picks Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo. Melo is a center but could take a year or two to develop. His playing time will be determined on how well he adjusts to the speed of the NBA and his ability to defend the pick-and-roll and stay out of foul trouble.
Sullinger will have considerable competition at power forward. Wilcox re-signed to play both center and power forward, and Green will play small forward and power forward.
“We signed a lot of bigs, so there’s going to be a lot of competition,” Sullinger said. “But I think the team is going to be a great basketball team. And we’ve developed a bond. The competition is just going to help us. I think with everybody coming in not knowing they have a guaranteed spot except for a select few, it’s just going to bring practice to a whole other intensity level.”
The Celtics worked out together last week in Los Angeles.