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A glimpse at the last time the Celtics were in Orlando for summer league in 2010.ORLANDO, Fla. -- Greetings from The City Beautiful, where the Celtics kick off a 10-game summer slate this afternoon with the first of five games this week at the Amway Center. The lockout wiped out the league's summer slate last year, but this is a particularly intriguing year for Boston after adding three rookies in last month's draft (and that's a big reason why the team is participating in both the Orlando and Las Vegas leagues this year).
1. The rookies: Summer league offers our first glimpse of the league's freshest batch of players going against other NBA-caliber talent. While we always caution against reading too much into summer league play (both good and bad), you can get a decent read on where a player is during July hoops. For the Celtics, most eyes will be on first-round picks Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo. Sullinger comes with questions about his back and whether his game can translate to the NBA level, while Melo has been labeled a project, though his defense could hold the key to first-year floor time. The players with the most at stake, however, are often the second-round picks like Celtics' 51st pick Kris Joseph, who must prove he deserves a roster spot. Last time we were in Orlando two years ago, second-round pick Luke Harangody shot his way onto Boston's regular-season roster.
2. Progress for second-year players: By now you know how it goes in Boston: First-year players often spend most of their rookie seasons glued to the bench. Year 2 everyone watches to see if those players can make what we can now affectionately call the "Avery Bradley leap." With that in mind, Celtics second-year players JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore will be in the spotlight this summer. The Purdue duo saw limited floor time this past season, particularly in the second half of the year, but the Celtics are hopeful they can carve out roles next season. No one really expects them to do what Bradley did and leap into the starting lineup, but Boston would certainly benefit if the two showed signs of becoming legitimate role players. And they'll have every opportunity to do just that. After Ray Allen's departure, there's a void at shooting guard waiting to be filled by confident shooter like Moore, while Johnson showed flashes of freak athleticism last season and that's something this veteran team desperately needs.
3. Sean Williams:: Two returning Celtics players enter summer league on non-guaranteed deals: Moore and Sean Williams, the Boston College product who latched on with the Celtics late last season and even spent time on the active playoff roster during the run to the cusp of the NBA Finals. You won't find too many 2007 first-round picks hanging around the 2012 summer league, but Williams is auditioning for a callback. Stil only 25 years old, he is a low-priced option to add depth in the frontcourt and the Celtics gave themselves first crack at his services when he took Jermaine O'Neal's roster spot in the final week of the regular season in April. If Williams shows he can be a solid defensive depth option and someone who can clean up the glass, he might have a chance to stick around. He's spent the better part of the last two seasons toiling in the D-League while trying to earn a spot with the Mavericks.
4. The moratorium lifts: OK, so not all the excitement will be on the court. The league's moratorium on roster moves lifts Wednesday, allowing teams to formalize all those handshake agreements we've seen over the past nine days. The Celtics have plenty of moves queued up, including the signings of Kevin Garnett, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and Jason Terry. More importantly, restricted free agents (like Celtics center Greg Stiemsma) can officially entertain offer sheets from other teams (and Boston will have three days to match any offer sheet that Stiemsma receives, so long as it has the available cash to do so). Business around the league should pick up further and that will allow the Celtic to start adding some of the final pieces to this 2012-13 roster puzzle.
5. Basketball is back:: OK, so it's been less than a month since the Celtics were ousted by the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, but hoop junkies are enduring withdrawal (if you watched Nigeria vs. Dominican Republic last night, you're nodding your head) and the next couple weeks give us some honest-to-goodness NBA-caliber hoops to enjoy (before the doldrums of August and early September while we wait for training camp to open).
And, remember, the best part of summer league is the unexpected. Will one of the lesser known names on Boston's roster make a strong case for being added to the parent roster? Will others end up in the D-League playing for the now-Celtic-run Maine Red Claws? Enjoy the summer hoops.