So the Celtics are 0-2. It's the first time Kevin Garnett has been on a Celtics team with a losing record. But ti's too early to panic, or even read TOO much into things.
In fact, there are some positives to take out of this. And as this site's eternal optimist, it's my duty to highlight those.
1: We still haven't seen Paul Pierce, and that matters defensively
The Captain has yet to play a minute for the this team. I've talked about Pierce's effect on the offense, but Pierce is also underrated defensively. His knowledge of the defensive system is almost as important as the scoring. In case you haven't noticed, the C's scored 104 points against New York and 107 against the Heat… which may end up as the best defensive team in the league. The scoring hasn't been the issues. It's been defense and turnovers.
The Celtics' defense relies on precise rotations. Take Paul Pierce out of the mix, and one new guy can screw up the whole scheme. Put Paul Pierce in the mix and suddenly you have a ripple effect that can put any one of the other Celtics in a position to make a play.
The impact won't be overwhelming, but it will be noticeable. There is a lot to be said for five guys who are familiar with each other being on the floor together. When the other four guys don't have to worry about cleaning up Sasha Pavlovic's mess, they can play better defense themselves. They can relax and do their jobs.
2: We still haven't seen Mickael Pietrus
The flexibility the Celtics get with Pietrus is the ability to send him in for Ray Allen or Paul Pierce. A backcourt of Keyon Dooling, Mickael Pietrus, and Marquis Daniels feels a little better than one with Avery Bradley and Quis having to sometimes handle the ball.
Pietrus and Daniels can provide some solid defense while providing a scoring punch. With Dooling in the back court with them, you have two guys who can space the floor and a third who can slash. Add Bass' ability to hit the mid-range shot and suddenly this bench really starts to take shape.
3: Doc has shown a willingness to play zone
He won't do it all the time, but the willingness last night to play zone is going to be a huge step forward for this aging Celtics team.
Hey, I'm not proud of it. As a basketball player, I was taught that man-to-man was the man's way of playing the sport. And, when you do it well, with proper rotations, help and recovering, it can be suffocating. Hell, we've seen it be suffocating in the past.
But the Celtics won't be able to keep up with the younger, faster teams. Doc's switch to a zone is an admission that the team's legs are just too old to do it the old way ALL the time. But if the C's work it in from time to time against the right matchups, they can slow down a team like Miami.
This is what makes Doc a great coach. He looks at what his team needs, and he adjusts. As opposed to, say, a Mike Brown who tries to cram "his system" into the Lakers… when his system isn't exactly what the Lakers need to do. The willingness to play a zone will be a big deal this year.
4: Rajon Rondo has come out strong
The fears about him sulking after trade rumors can be put to rest. First: The guy is being aggressive. He's never averaged more than 3.5 free throws per game. After 2 games, he's averaging 11.5. And his shooting has improved. He shot just under 57% last season from the line. He just under 70% right now. I'm not sure he's going to be putting up 26.5 points and 12.5 assists per game for the whole season… but if he keeps this up, he'll start getting mentioned as a dark-horse MVP candidate.
Those are four positives coming out of a rough start to the season. The Celtics are scoring a lot, but help is coming defensively and the bench is getting a boost. And with Rondo leading the way, the Celtics will definitely turn this around. And with 5 games against bad teams coming up (New Orleans, Detroit, Washington twice and New Jersey), the turnaround could come very quickly.