What's the mood around the team this season? Are people talking about the playoffs or is everyone kind of resigned to another lottery appearance?
The team is extremely positive, much more so than the beginning of last season. Everyone has completely bought into Brad Stevens' system -- you even have Marcus Thornton exerting energy on defense, which is something he hasn't done much at all the past few years. The roster has a lot of competitive, versatile players, and so far the guys are playing within their roles.
As for the fans, it's a mixture of emotions. A lot of fans still think it'll be another "lost season," but others think this team could win around 45 games. Realistically, it'll be somewhere in the middle, between 25 and 35 wins. But there is certainly reason for optimism, despite the reality check handed to them by Houston on Saturday.
Is Rajon Rondo back to 100% after dealing with injuries over the last two seasons? And what's the deal with the trampoline park? That's one of those stories that's almost too good to check.
I hate to give a copout answer, but it's too early to tell if Rajon Rondo is 100 percent. I'm sure that his knee is, but I think it'll naturally take a while for him to get back to what he was. His touch around the rim certainly isn't what it was pre-injury, but his passing is already at an elite level.
As for the trampoline park, Rondo dismissed all of it on media day, telling his full account of the story; he says he actually slipped in the shower.
How is Marcus Smart adjusting to the NBA and what kind of impact can he have as a rookie? I remember him winning state titles at Flower Mound Marcus - they grow up so fast! (Also worth pointing out that DFW has 2 PG's on the Celtics roster with ESD's Phil Pressey)
Marcus Smart might be the best rookie perimeter defender that I have ever seen. It's unreal to see him do the things he does, whether it's his off-ball awareness, his communication, or his obvious physical effort. You'll see tonight that, no matter whom he matches up against, he'll compete and bother the living hell of them.
However, as amazing as Smart has been defensively, his offense has been just as poor. It's a major work in progress. His passing has developed a bit since his time at Oklahoma State, but his decision-making must improve and his scoring is years away from being impactful. Click here for an article, where I fully discussed my expectations for Smart this season.
Smart has played with the ball in his hands most of his life. How is Boston using him when he and Rondo play together and can those two co-exist long-term?
It really depends on the type of offense Boston is running. With Rondo, they run a lot more high pick-and-rolls, so Smart will play off-ball anyway, but when they run their motion, the ball is more evenly distributed. In their limited time together this season, the ball has moved well, but it's early.
I'm honestly not convinced it can work long-term. Brad Stevens wants to spread the floor with shooters and Rondo has never been a reliable spot-up shooter. Smart is better off the catch, but he has a long way to go if he wants to be a consistent threat.
More than anything, I think it depends on how Rondo integrates himself into the motion offense. Even though he looked terrific in game one, playing a style reminiscent of Tony Parker, he went back into his old pound-the-ball habits against Houston. There will be bumps in the road.
How has the pairing of Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk worked? Which one of those guys gets the assignment on a front-court scorer like Dirk?
Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk play off of each other very well on the offensive end. They can both stretch the floor, they're both exceptional ball handlers and passers, and they are highly intelligent decision-makers. However, neither of them are rim protectors, so the defense suffers. It won't be long before Tyler Zeller is starting, in my opinion.
I think you'll see Olynyk draw the assignment against Dirk Nowitzki. He's a better perimeter defender and Sullinger can at least put his muscle on Tyson Chandler when he's rolling down the lane on a pick-and-roll. But if you remember, the Mavericks slaughtered the Celtics using the pick-and-roll last year, and a repeat of that performance wouldn't surprise me.
Given Danny Ainge's history of wheeling and dealing, this is almost impossible to predict, but I do think it's an interesting thought exercise. If you had to guess, how many players on this roster are in Boston three years from now? And is Brad Stevens still the coach?
Your guess is as good as mine. I assume that if Danny Ainge has it his way, then Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, and Jared Sullinger are the "locks" on the roster, and Brad Stevens would still be coaching. I do think Stevens is here for the long haul - he doesn't seem like the type of guy that would leave for a huge job offer, like Duke, but you never know. As for the players, I'll say that Bradley, Smart, Sullinger, Olynyk, and Young will be here three years from now; maybe Rondo, too.