Yesterday I talked about the difference between the burn to
be great and the smolder to be mediocre. That seems a perfect lead in to discuss some
young Celtics with a real opportunity to dramatically improve. It doesn’t mean that they will, but early
signs are encouraging. Every great
player has come back the next fall with something new—physique, inside moves,
extended range, or an off hand that is no longer a liability. Examples are McHale (who came in a midrange
shooter but developed a plethora of inside tricks, hence becoming a torture-rack
for hapless defenders), Jordan (who lacked a three-point attack coming out of
college), and Jabbar (who in the pros developed the sky hook which is widely
held to be the most unstoppable weapon ever devised).
With this in mind prime candidates for most improved Celtic
include Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger. For each of these players this offseason might
very well be a game changer. Once again,
it does not mean that it will, but each of these guys has shown an eagerness to
put in the effort and it may payoff handsomely for them (and for the Celtics
and their fan-atics).
In Bradley’s case this will essentially be his first
offseason and camp to work on his game. He may be
a three-year veteran but this will be his initial opportunity for an offseason
workload and his first full speed camp. Coming out of college he underwent ankle
surgery, missed the entire offseason, and was still severely hampered during
training camp. The next year was the
lockout with no summer leagues and a greatly curtailed training camp. Last year it was double shoulder surgery and
he not only missed summer workouts, was restricted in training camp, but also
spent the first half of the season still rehabbing and never got completely
right. This past season many decried his
lost touch from outside and his awkward inability to finish around the basket. I think he spent the entire year recuperating
and this is a straightforward explanation of his offensive woes.
This summer is his first healthy and working one as a pro
and I believe we will see a jump in his game.
I am such a believer that I would like to see him get
similar to the one Perk got even though his first three years were hardly proof
of his worth. Here’s hoping Danny
can/will lock him up to a team-friendly long-term contract before a breakout
I recently saw a quote from Jared Sullinger about how he has
been dragging his right leg around for the past two years.
If the back surgery solves the dead leg and
constant back pain, it is not unreasonable to expect that we will see a quantum
leap in his conditioning and leg and back strength, Just cleared for basketball activities, his
work ethic should propel him into much better shape, and if so, better mobility
and jumping ability. As much as his
junk-in-the-trunk bolstered his war in the paint, I think increased strength
will do the same; and a leaner and quicker Sully would nicely complement his
already impressive array of weapons. This
will likely not be obvious in training camp, after all he is just beginning
basketball activities with just over seven weeks until Press Day; but will
likely become increasingly apparent as the season wears on.
So there you have it—my choices for breakout players; and due to a new lease on health and an opportunity to sweat up the summer. My secret hope is that Fab Melo comes back lean and with a transplant of mean—hey a guy can wish, can’t he?
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