CLEVELAND -- A relatively tranquil preseason, where the most common question might have been whether the 2009-10 Celtics could be better than the 2007-08 squad that won an NBA title, encountered a bit of turbulence before the team treked to Cleveland for Tuesday's season-opener against the Cavaliers.
Fist guard Ray Allen needed stitches after a freak on-court collision with center Kendrick Perkins at Saturday's practice. Then came reports that forward Glen Davis injured his right hand in an off-the-court altercation Sunday and is likely to miss significant time. Finally, guard Rajon Rondo's agent indicated Monday his client will not sign a contract extension before Friday's deadline, making him a restricted free agent after the season.
While none of these events were particularly good news for the Celtics, it should do little to temper the expectations and unbridled optimism that surrounded this team before the weekend.
Allen returned to practice with stitches over his right eye Sunday and joked about the incident. He's expected to be fine for tonight's game.
With Davis sidelined indefinitely -- and possibly suspended -- the Green will lean on forward Shelden Williams off the bench. The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Williams, the fifth overall pick of the 2006 draft, is on his fourth team in four years, but he's likely to be as serviceable as Mikki Moore, who assumed Davis's role off the pine when Garnett injured his knee last season.
Williams, who celebrated his 26th birthday last week, has averaged 4.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game over his career. That's almost exactly what Moore gave the team (4.8 points, 4.4 rebounds) in 24 regular-season apperances last season.
The presence of Rasheed Wallace further eases the loss of Davis, as will the eventual reutrn of Brian Scalabrine, who remains sidelined by a right ankle injury, but it does not appear serious in nature.
As for Rondo, he'll potentially join an All-Star free-agent class that should include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Ray Allen. That group could grow to include the likes of Paul Pierce, depending on which players opt out of their contracts at year's end.
Regardless, Rondo will be a restricted free agent and the Celtics will have at least the opportunity to match any offer he receives. Boston allowed Davis to go to restricted free agency last year before re-signing him in the offseason. Just because a player tests the market, doesn't mean the team won't be able to bring back the player at a deal that's fair to both sides.
With Allen's contract coming off the books -- and depending on Pierce's situation -- it would appear the Celtics will have some financial freedom in the summer of 2010.
If nothing else, the recent news items have taken some of the spotlight off Kevin Garnett's surgically repaired knee.