WALTHAM (CBS) – The Celtics put the finishing touches on their preparation for the 2015-16 season opener at Tuesday's practice in Waltham after a very successful preseason. Boston's roster got through the past few weeks with a clean bill of health, but also found a nice chemistry among the team's crowded depth.
The starting lineup hasn't officially been announced yet for Wednesday's contest against the Philadelphia 76ers, but Brad Stevens appears to be leaning towards a unit with Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, David Lee and Tyler Zeller. That's the group he actually started on the first game of the preseason in Europe, and it provides a nice mix of defense and scoring that last year's starting five lacked.
Lee will miss receiving his championship ring alongside his former teammates in the Golden State Tuesday evening, but he's excited about the opportunity to bring his leadership and playmaking to a young Celtics squad.
"Without Isaiah being in the starting lineup, who, as you know is a guy that's very very aggressive when he's in there," Lee continued, "I think that I'm going to be asked to make some plays, whether it's for myself or for somebody else and continue to be aggressive. That's the way I like to play anyways. I'm looking to go out there and to press the issue a little bit and be aggressive and to help our team get off to a good start."
One player who has particularly impressed Lee in his brief tenure with the green is Smart. The 21-year-old point guard is set to take a strong leap forward with his game in his second season.
"He's a very good guard," Lee declared. "On the defensive end, he's a game-changing guard -- no reference to his Instagram name. And, on the offensive end, from seeing him play some in college and last year, and seeing his development, he's going to be even better offensively. I think the biggest thing for him is, pace-wise, knowing when to really push the ball and knowing when to get us into offense and that's part of being a point guard and maturity. I think he's done a great job, even in the preseason. He's done a good job of picking up those little nuances and he's a competitor. I think he's going to have an unbelievable season."
While Lee and Smart have set the tone for Boston early on, it's a group that does not have an alpha dog. Up to ten or eleven players could play on any given night, and the minutes are expected to fluctuate regularly. Stevens hasn't been shy about using his depth in the past and that's a situation that's poised to continue starting tomorrow night, in lieu of the team missing a face of the franchise-type player.
"Everybody is doing a pretty good job of taking over that leadership role," Stevens said. "People have asked me this a lot, and I've always been big on everybody has a role, everybody has to do their role reliably every single day. And that's the best leadership you can bring to the table. Obviously there are transcendent players like Larry Bird and Bill Russell, and those guys will always be followed because of how good they were on the court, and how competitive they were on the court. But I think if I had to answer, we would all agree it's Boston's team. So we're just trying to all play our role for the Celtics."
The journey begins Wednesday night.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.
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