On to Vegas for Celtics summer leaguers

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LAS VEGAS – The second phase of Boston’s summer league tour begins on Saturday when the Green Team takes on the Portland Trail Blazers in the Vegas NBA Summer League tournament.

Boston comes into the 24-team event feeling pretty good about itself following an 85-71 victory over San Antonio on the final day of the Utah Jazz Summer League.

The victory itself was important, but even more valuable was the improved play of the team from one game to the next.

Finding ways to improve upon their performances in Salt Lake City, win or lose, is ultimately what summer league is about for Boston.

Here are three keys to Boston being able to build upon the positives they took from Salt Lake City:

SMART LEADERSHIP
Aside from his suffocating defense, Smart’s leadership has probably been the one trait that has been a smooth transition for him from college to the NBA. As a rookie, he had to strike a balance between being a leader while not stepping on the toes of more experienced teammates. For the most part, he did a good job.

But this season, more is expected of him in all phases of the game, on and off the court. It’s little things that he knows he must do consistently to set the tone for being this team’s leader. In most, if not all, of the Celtics' games, Smart has been the first to the gym. And when they have a morning shoot-around, he arrives on his own prior to the team bus leaving with the rest of his teammates.

It may not seem like that big a deal, but it’s the subtle things that help set a tone not only for his teammates, but also for himself.

It’s added pressure, something he has not tried to shy away from. It makes him who he is; a true team leader.


K.I.M – KEEP IT (THE BALL) MOVING
With Phil Pressey on the roster but not playing, the Celtics don’t really have a true playmaking point guard. Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier are handling the point guard duties for the most part, but it’s not either player’s true position.

Because of that and the fact that most of these players have only been together for a few weeks, ball movement hasn’t been nearly as crisp as anyone would want.

However, there is tangible progress along those lines for the Celtics.

In their first two summer league games, they had 22 assists with 20 turnovers.

In their last one, they had 21 assists with 11 turnovers.

And their two point guards, Smart and Rozier, totaled 14 assists, while turning the ball over six times.

REBOUND, REBOUND, REBOUND
You suspected Boston’s summer league squad would lose a little something on the boards when 7-foot Colton Iverson opted to not play for the team and instead pursue opportunities to play overseas.

But the Celtics’ rebounding problems have been greater than anticipated in all three of their summer league games in Salt Lake City with the average deficit for the three games being 14.7.

Ouch!

As much as rebounding is about size and strength and being physical, effort plays a major role as well.

It seems the Celtics finally got the memo prior to their game against San Antonio.

They were still out-rebounded (38-34), but the deficit wasn’t nearly as great in part because they had more players crashing the glass and getting a body on their opponent.

Second-round pick Jordan Mickey (nine points, nine rebounds on Thursday) had been solid defensively and scoring the ball in the first two games, but it wasn’t until Thursday did he make a significant impact on the boards.

Free agent C.J. Fair can score in a lot of different ways, but the Celtics need him to continue making strides defensively and give more help on the glass like he did on Thursday when he came off the bench and snatched seven rebounds.

As much as the Celtics want to win every game, true success lies in the progress players make from one game to the next.

And they will have ample opportunities to continue to improve their games here Saturday, Sunday (vs. Philadelphia) and Tuesday (vs. Miami) in Las Vegas.

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