BOSTON — During his college days at Duke University, Shelden Williams played his home games in the notoriously rowdy Cameron Indoor Stadium, where sitting down is seemingly not allowed amongst the Cameron Crazies.
Now in his fourth year in the NBA, Williams finally got the NBA's version of what it's like to play in a crazy home-court atmosphere. He suited up for the Boston Celtics last night against the woeful Charlotte Bobcats in the Green's 2009-2010 home opener at TD Garden.
The sellout crowd of 18,624 was certainly noisy last night and they went home happy, as the Celtics came away with a 92-59 victory. They improved to 2-0 on the young season, behind a balanced effort that saw Ray Allen lead the way with 18 points and point guard Rajon Rondo add a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists.
The theme of the night was "Reloaded," as Celtic green T-shirts were given away to each fan in attendance with that slogan underneath the C's logo. That was also the slogan at the beginning of the video montage on the Jumbotron before the game, symbolizing the fact that the Celtics are once again stacked and ready for another title run with a healthy Kevin Garnett and new additions like Williams, swingman Marquis Daniels and veteran all-star Rasheed Wallace.
Also before the opening tip, Celtics captain Paul Pierce addressed the crowd, calling the Garden "the best arena to play in with the greatest fans."
The 6-foot-9 Williams, who has had stints with the Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves, is accustomed to playing on mediocre-to-bad teams. He was understandably excited to play in front of the loyal Celtics Nation last night.
"I was definitely looking forward to it," said Williams, who was the fifth pick in the 2006 draft and is just 26-years-old. "I had heard a lot about the crowd in Boston and I want to see how loud it can get on a nightly basis. I know from playing as a road player here that there is great fan support, and sometimes you really need that."
Last night was the first chance for Celtics fans to watch the new additions in a real, meaningful game. Boston opened up the regular season Tuesday night with a road victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Everyone knows what kind of production the starting lineup will deliver. In 2008, it was an NBA title. Thus, the focus was on how the new key bench players would play, albeit against a pathetically bad Bobcats offense, which obviously took a step back from last season.
Thanks to the lopsided outcome, the reserves got plenty of minutes.
Wallace, known all over the league for his fiery antics and knack for getting called for technical fouls, drew a standing ovation when he entered the game late in the first quarter. The four-time all-star from UNC responded by draining his first two 3-point attempts. He finished with nine points and five rebounds.
Of course, it's expected that the 6-foot-11 forward/center will deliver plenty of offense both inside and outside with his 3-point shooting and back-to-the-basket game. He also should provide solid post defense, which he excelled at while with the Detroit Pistons.
Williams and Daniels were the most intriguing to watch.
Daniels was the first player off the bench for the C's, and though his stat line wasn't anything special, his versatility was on display. His ability to play either of the guard positions and the small forward will allow the Celtics to use a plethora of lineup combinations.
Coming off his best career NBA season last year with the Indiana Pacers, when he averaged 13.6 points and 4.6 rebounds, Daniels is only focused on helping the Celtics as a team and not his stats.
"Basketball is basketball," said Daniels. "I just want to help the team, and I'm just thankful for every day I get to play the game."
Williams probably won't be counted on to score 15-20 points very often, but what he will do is crash the glass. He did that plenty last night with 9 rebounds in 22 minutes. For his career, Williams has averaged 4.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in nearly 15 minutes per game.
The numbers don't jump out, but he was a premier scorer, rebounder and shot blocker at Duke, where he was an All-American. Throughout the year, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers will attempt to rediscover the dominance that Williams once displayed.
"Shelden was a high draft pick for a reason," said Rivers. "He was a dominant player in college. My job and our staff's job is to get that out of him. It's in there because it's been there. He has a great opportunity to get there with us. He's starting to understand what we want out of him."
For now, home game No. 1 and game No. 2 were both a giant success. And there's plenty of room for improvement.
Matt Langone is sports editor of the Gloucester Daily Times and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.