- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEWARK, N.J. -- A collection of leftover notes and analysis after the Boston Celtics kicked off a new season with back-to-back exhibition games in New Hampshire and New Jersey this week:
• KG wants to play: Celtics coach Doc Rivers has stressed throughout training camp that he wants forward Kevin Garnett to take more breaks during practices. Garnett hasn't obliged often, but Rivers does have the power to force him off the court in games.
Garnett gave Rivers some playful grief after being pulled less than five minutes into the second half Thursday night against the Nets. Garnett hadn't been particularly crisp and clearly wanted a little more action.
"Our starters kinda cruised into the game, but they did turn it on,"
said Rivers, whose first unit let New Jersey score the first nine points of the game, but atoned by building a comfortable cushion early in the second half with more inspired play.
"Coming out of [halftime], I told [the starters] you got six hard minutes. That's why Kevin was mad, because it was five minutes. He knew the exact time, which is good."
Garnett finished 2-of-8 shooting with five points, four rebounds, and a block Thursday. He missed all four shots he attempted Wednesday against Philadelphia. He's clearly still working out the preseason kinks, but he definitely has a hop in his step this season and has been particularly vocal on the bench, supporting Boston's reserves.
• Baby thriving in latest role: Celtics forward Glen Davis made headlines at the onset of training camp by expressing disappointment in the lack of a defined role. Rivers essentially squashed the matter by saying Davis should know his role or sit on the bench.
Two games in, Davis is utilizing the versatility of having played both near the basket and on the perimeter in recent seasons to thrive with Boston's new mix-and-match bench. For the second straight game, Davis got to the foul line for 10 attempts, generating points by drawing contact around the basket. On Thursday, Davis connected on a team-high six field goals while scoring 20 points in 28 minutes of action.
His role might not be defined, but not being pigeonholed to one area of the floor seems to be allowing Davis to flourish.
"Right now, he's scoring through the flow," said Rivers. "I don't like when guys are holding the ball and stopping the offense. I thought Davis was far better [Thursday]; he did a great job of passing up a shot, getting to the next play, then getting wide-open shots. When he starts doing that, everyone starts trusting him and he starts trusting the offense, and it becomes easy for him."
• West likes benefits of bench role: Watching Delonte West play, it's clear he could start on many teams in the league, but maintaining the bench role he's occupied for much of his career is fine by him.
"I have an advantage coming off the bench," said West. "You see what's going on out there, then you can go in and you know to help out. It's an advantage coming off the bench."
Particularly with West's versatile skill set.
"I'm a jack of all trades," said West. "I don't do anything great, but I do a lot of things good. [Thursday] we needed someone to put the ball in the hole. [Wednesday] I wanted to get my guys more involved."
Maybe more than anything, West brings a calming presence to the second unit and thrives in directing the offense. Rivers has raved about the pairing of West and Nate Robinson on that second unit, and thinks the way they complement each other is making the second unit click.
"[West] basically took the game over for us [Thursday]," said Rivers.
"It's nice to have a guy off the bench doing that. He still clearly calms us with his patience. He's in no hurry. I think the combo of him and Nate is absolutely terrific. It's high and low, no doubt about that."
• A cut above: If it seems like the Celtics are making a more concerted effort to cut to the basket so far, Rivers believes it's due to the emergence of a post game that was dormant for much of last season.
"We have more post guys, that's the reason you're seeing more slashing," said Rivers. "You're seeing the ball in the post and guys are making great cuts. That's big for us. We have post guys and floor spacing with shooters, so there should be a lot of cuts to the basket. The best thing, actually, has been the passing to the cutters."
Indeed, even rookie center Semih Erden has thrived in distributing the ball when the defense sleeps on a backside cutter -- like his pretty first-half feed to Davis for a layup Wednesday night in New Hampshire.
Rivers said he thinks those opportunities will open up even more as Garnett gets comfortable in the post.
"Right now, he still doesn't [have the post game]," Rivers said of Garnett, who has been demanding the ball in the post more during practice. "He'll get it. Shaq has it, and he's doing a great job. We still want to get Paul [Pierce] down there more because you can see he has his legs back for us."
• Shaq and roll: The Celtics know teams are going to run the pick-and-roll whenever Shaquille O'Neal is on the floor, but Rivers said it's Boston's guards who are crucial to the success of the pick-and-roll defense.
"It's all on our guards, that's the one thing we stressed," said Rivers. "If our guards can get up into the ball, turn, and get over the picks, then we can keep Shaq around the basket. If they can't, that's where we'll get hurt in pick-and-roll. That's what teams try to do against Shaq. It's what we tried to do against Shaq. Instead of putting the onus on Shaq, we put it on the guards. If the guards can fight over the screen, we're good in pick-and-roll."
• Quick hits: Picking up where he left off in summer league, Luke Harangody isn't afraid to shoot the ball. He's connected on only 2 of 10 attempts over 27 minutes of action in two games, but Harangody won't pass up a shot if he's got an open look. Von Wafer could learn from him, having not attempted a shot in 21 total minutes thus far. ... According to ESPN game box scores, Wafer is also a team-worst minus-8 in plus/minus so far, one of only two players in the minus category (Harangody the other). ... O'Neal is 8-of-11 shooting with 16 points through two games. When he gets the ball near the basket, you might as well put up two points if the opposing team doesn't foul (and sometimes even then it doesn't matter). While that's not a surprise given Shaq's track record, it's a nice little boost for a Celtics' frontcourt that struggled mightily at times last season trying to convert around the rim.
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPN Boston.
2dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann