SALT LAKE CITY (CBS) -- The Celtics got off to a disappointing start in summer league action on Monday night, dropping their opener 100-82 to an experienced Utah Jazz squad. Luckily for Boston, the final score doesn't mean much in summer league. Instead, it's all about the development of the youth on this team, something Danny Ainge bet big on by keeping all of his four selections in the 2015 NBA Draft.
With those four players, along with Marcus Smart and James Young, in action for the next couple of weeks, there is plenty to keep an eye on as the rebuild continues. Here are a few lessons learned after Game 1 in Utah.
Marcus Smart Gets Aggressive
The Celtics are handing the point guard reins to the 21-year-old this summer and the early returns were encouraging in Game 1. Smart led all scorers with 26 points, albeit on an ugly shooting night (6-of-20 from the field). Those numbers were overshadowed though by Smart's 13 free-throw attempts, a sign of the physical guard's new aggression in attacking the rim.
Instead of showing hesitancy in the pick-and-roll, Smart went to the rim and was rewarded with trips to the line. Getting to the line is an area the Celtics desperately need help in this offseason, so it's a promising sign to see Smart make strides in that department, as well as with his distribution (eight assists).
Summer league head coach Jay Larranaga was pleased with what he saw after the contest.
"He's going to be the primary ball-handler for a lot of these games, and he was not that for us during the regular season," Larranaga said. "Being able to balance handling the ball, attacking, getting the team into offense, knowing when to score and knowing when to pass, that's a learning process. And you're playing against very high level athletes that are trying to stop you from doing that. I thought it was a good first day for him. We'll watch the tape and we'll try to help him continue to learn. It's all about just timing and just finding your spots."
JORDAN MICKEY SURPRISES ON OFFENSE
The book on the second-round pick out of LSU was to watch out for his defense. We saw some of that against a bigger Utah front line, as Mickey held his own defending the pick-and-roll, defending the post and adding a few blocked shots (three) for good measure.
All of that was expected, but the 6-foot-8 forward brought more to the table.
Mickey also proved to be one of the few bright spots for the Celtics on the offensive end, posting 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting on a nice mix of jumpers and finishes around the rim. He developed a nice rhythm with Smart in the pick-and-roll as well, a polish that even the coaching staff wasn't expecting in just one week in the league.
"I felt I've adjusted well," Mickey said after the game. "Coming from college, it's a completely different type of game. Different philosophies, different rules, so you have to stay focused and try to pick up on things quicker. Picking up on the offense was a little challenging for me, but I felt like I did a pretty good job of it. I thought I ran it pretty well tonight, so adjustments have gone pretty well."
The Celtics have a crowded frontcourt in place, but if Mickey can keep up this kind of contributions on both ends, he may be able to use his athleticism to play his way into more than just a roster spot this fall.
A NO-SHOW FROM THE SHOOTERS
Outside shooting was one of Boston's biggest weaknesses last year and the Celtics have done nearly nothing to improve in free agency this summer by simply bringing back Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko. The team is banking on youngsters such as James Young and R.J. Hunter to provide spacing on the perimeter, but early returns were ugly in Game 1.
Young has bulked up, but the rhythm on his jumpers was off most of the night as he went 1-of-5 from downtown and finished with just 12 points. Rodney Hood and old friend Chris Johnson got the best of him all night, and the same goes for Hunter, who went scoreless in his debut on 0-for-5 shooting.
You can chalk some of Hunter's performance up to butterflies, but the former Georgia State star doesn't bring much else to the table besides his offense. He'll have to show an ability to get comfortable in the next couple of weeks if he wants a chance at cracking a crowded guard rotation next year.
-Terry Rozier did a little bit of everything in his debut (seven points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals).
-The Celtics got dominated on the glass (51-31) and some of that can be attributed to the lack of a big man. Colton Iverson left the team earlier this week to sign in Europe, leaving Boston with no promising centers on the roster. It's small or bust this week.
-Dante Exum vs. Marcus Smart will be a fun battle to watch in the years to come after being drafted back-to-back last year. It's still unclear who is the better prospect long-term.
--The Celtics are back in action Tuesday against the Sixers.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.
for more features.