On Pro Basketball
BOSTON — Doc Rivers has to be feeling a little bit like a kid who just unwrapped all his gifts on Christmas morning.
So many toys to play with, so little time.
The last time we saw the Boston Celtics, they were only a shell of the team that brought back banner No. 17 to the Garden two seasons ago. Kevin Garnett sat out most of the second half of the season with a knee injury and missed the playoffs. The other two-thirds of the Big Three were overworked as a result.
By all accounts, it was a disappointing exit in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Now, however, there's a championship feeling back in Beantown — and last night's 92-59 wipeout of the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2009-10 home opener showed exactly why.
The early returns say KG is healthy again, while Paul Pierce and Ray Allen look re-energized.
The once-young role players — Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo — are now bona fide starters. In fact, Rondo is in the midst of contract negotiations that could lead him to cashing in as one of the highest paid point guards in the league.
The real key in the Celtics expected resurgence, though, is a bench that should be as good as any in the league.
Oh, and the best toy of all in Rivers' new collection is a 6-foot-11, 230-pound, three-point shooting, technical-foul-waiting-to-happen machine named Rasheed Wallace. He'll be the sixth man for a bench that will also feature players like Marquis Daniels and Shelden Williams.
Those three, in addition to holdovers Eddie House, Brian Scalabrine and Tony Allen, will allow the Celtics to create mismatch nightmares every night.
And when "Big Baby" Glen Davis gets healthy, smartens up and starts playing again, you'll be looking at the Eastern Conference front-runner.
"That's our goal; we don't want to settle for anything else," Daniels said."We just want to go out there and play hard and continue to get better."
While the acquisition of Wallace clearly got the most attention, Daniels' addition could be Boston's biggest move of the offseason. No longer will we see Pierce and Allen run ragged by the time the postseason rolls around; Daniels can play both the shooting guad and small forward positions, and he's expected to help Rondo with the ballhandling duties at times.
His flexibility means the Celtics can create mismatch problems for opponents or develop lineups that respond to certain mismatches they faced last year.
"That's something I'm definitely looking forward to," Daniels said. "Whether it's backing up Rondo or Paul or Ray, I'm just looking to come in and help out."
Wallace, meanwhile, is that famous player who you hate when he's not on your team, but love when he's wearing your colors.
There was a buzz already circulating in the crowd last night when Wallace caught the ball at the top of they key for his first open shot in front of a Garden crowd as a member of the Celtics. When he buried the three, the crowd erupted into a "Sheeeeed" chant.
The tandem of Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James in Cleveland may have many so-called experts picking the Cavaliers to win the East, but Cavs coach Mike Brown is probably already trying to think of lineups that could be the defensive answer to a C's fivesome that includes both KG and Wallace.
"I just think he is a solid player who can stretch the floor for us," Rivers said of Wallace. "(Tuesday night against Cleveland) we anticipated that they would put the 5 on Kevin and the 4 on Rasheed. That allowed Kevin to get in an isolation situation. Last year, we couldn't create that."
Last year Boston couldn't get bigger off the bench ,either. Wallace and Williams will certainly help with that.
Williams, who impressed with a 12-point, nine-rebound outing last night, was a highly-touted power forward when he came out of Duke four years ago, but his NBA career has not exactly lived up to the hype. He's now driven by a hunger to make a name for himself at the highest level of basketball.
He feels slighted, and his first step toward rejuvination would begin quite nicely by playing a solid role off the bench for one of the NBA's best.
"It's very frustrating knowing that I didnt get the chance from the get-go," Williams said about his early days in the league. "I'm a competitor and I want to go out there and play hard and compete. When you're not able to go out there and compete, it's like you've got your hands tied behind your back."
Rivers is a believer.
"Shelden was a high draft pick for a reason," Rivers said. "My job, our staff's job, is to get that out of him, because it's in there. I think he has a great opportunity here with this team"
What Rivers and his staff needs from their new subs is exactly what they got last night. Their stats may not have been earth-shattering — Daniels had two points, four assists and two rebounds, while Wallace added nine points and five boards — but their ability to contribute will keep the stars fresh for strong second halves of games.
Maybe the most interesting stat from last night was that Allen was the only starter who played more than 30 minutes.
"We have a lot of key guys at each position, and there are guys who could be starters on any team," Daniels said. "Having a little depth on this team is going to help out a lot."
Matt Jenkins is a staff writer at The Salem News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-338-2648.