Celtics showcase ball movement early in preseason


One must keep a certain degree of perspective when the topic is progress made during the NBA’s preseason.

Most teams are not going to show much if at all what they plan to do when the games truly count. It’s more about evaluating which talent to keep, or kick to the curb.

But with these Boston Celtics, one thing is becoming crystal clear: all this passing we’re seeing from them, is no passing fancy.

Three games into the preseason and the Celtics sit atop the NBA in assists with 28.3 per game.

Beyond the obvious which is them moving the ball effectively, the Celtics’ assists numbers are part of a deeper, richer narrative about how they are figuring out ways to be successful offensively with a roster that’s talked about more for its parity than playmakers.

Three games – all Celtics wins – have produced three different assists leaders.

And Evan Turner, the man that led them in assists last season with 5.5 assists per game, has not been one of them.

Boston’s high assists numbers isn’t just limited to the team’s guards, either.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has praised 6-foot-10 big man David Lee for his ability to embrace a point-forward role for the team this season.

“If the coach wants you to dribble, find guys in transition, what am I gonna do? Say no?” quipped Lee. “It’s all about finding ways to be successful and coach has the confidence in me that I can play that role, and in doing so hopefully it’ll help us win.”

And the assists numbers coming from just about every player who checks into the game for Boston, has contributed to the team’s increased scoring potential.

The Celtics, one of six still-undefeated teams in the preseason, are averaging 114.7 points in three games which trails only Washington (122.3) in preseason scoring.

Again, the praise has to be put in perspective when talking about preseason play. But for the Celtics, the success now offensively provides a glimpse into the potential they have. And that potential may become the blueprint for what they hope will be a successful 2015-2016 season.

Keep in mind that this is a Celtics team that last season, while among the league leaders in pace (98.40, 5th in the NBA) was still among the league’s worst at shooting from the field (44.3 percent, 21st in the league) and from 3-point range (32.7 percent, 27th in the NBA).

Increased ball movement facilitates easier shots and thus a higher shooting percentage from the field.

And the way Boston is distributing the ball now, with assists coming from seemingly every player on the floor, keeping them from scoring in bunches should prove more difficult than it has in past seasons.

However, players are cautious not to put too much stock into what’s happening now. That’s because they know what they do now will be long forgotten at the end of the season. The Celtics will be remembered for what they did in the regular season and potentially the playoffs. But the foundation for their play during those times, is laid out now.

One of the core bricks in the building of this team will be their ball movement, which has been a key player in Boston’s ability to remain undefeated here in the preseason.

And as they go forward, it will remain a vital part of any success they have this season.

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