The perfect setup for a titanic battle, there was the young athletic rising star to be challenged by an incoming player just entering his prime but with twice as much experience. Both jockeying to be the main man at a primary scoring position, both with multiple offensive tools, and both touting their defense. Together they combine to more than adequately fill the shoes of a departing All-Star, just the minor kink of who is the 60 percent and who is the 40. Except Bradley will likely not see contact until after the season starts. Darn, had all the elements for an epic struggle, and one contender can’t pass the fight physical. Courtney Lee by default. So what is the next best pair of candidates to entertain and amaze?
Dateline: September 19, 2012––11 days until the start of training camp!
Well, there really aren’t any, at least not a head-to-head match-up. You might go with the 15th roster slot. Certainly there is plenty of motivation—paycheck times ten, home crowds times ten, bright lights on the parquet floor, Celtics green and white vs. Red Claws add some red, seats alongside Hall-of-Famers vs. hey turn around so I can get that name off the back. Yet, I don’t think this one is a battle at all, Dionte Christmas pretty much put this one away in Summer League. Jamar Smith is a long distance shooter, one dimensional and streaky. Dionte shoots nearly as well and does a number of other things include defend well. No contest. If there is a competition it is between Xmas and To-Be-Named and that might be in February. Next?
My bet for best camp battle is Jared Sullinger vs. the world. Really, he’s not going against a particular player so much as the whole gang in the front court. Sully is fighting to secure minutes, ten to start with, more if he can demand them with his production. Whose? He doesn’t care, that’s Doc’s job.
He’s not going to take away Garnett’s twenty-eight . . . except when Kevin sits out a second half, or half of a back-to-back—Jared says fine, I’ll take those (and that might be 500 minutes over the course of the season). The other participants in the 4/5 derby are, in approximate order, Bass, Wilcox, Green, Collins, and Melo. Bass played 30 mpg last season, but by season’s end he was about the only power forward left standing and logging closer to 40 mins. I expect to see him between 24 and 30 this season. Wilcox averaged 17 minutes but pushed 30 in his final stretch which coincided with Garnett’s leg injury. If Sully excels he may steal a half dozen from each of them. Collins will see 10 or more minutes against Philadelphia (4 games) and the Lakers (2 games). Beyond that he’ll have to get them the old fashioned way, earn them. Melo, who knows, but the odds are much higher in March than November.
Jeff Green is an interesting case. I think he’ll see 30 minutes a night, maybe more. I think 18 of those will be a SF, 36 if Pierce is sitting out. The other 12 (14, 18?), probably at PF with the Celtics going small; but he may see some time at SG against over-sized two’s, especially until Bradley returns.
If you figure the 4/5 minutes split something like KG 28, Bass 29, Green 16, Wilcox 23, then there are no “extra” minutes. Still, you can’t keep a good man down and I’m betting Sullinger pulls 10 out of that projected group. If he does so, it will be the battle he “won” in camp.
Boston, and all points beyond