Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
The Celtics showcased a deep roster with two lopsided wins against European squads in Milan and Madrid last week. While we wait to see whether Boston can maintain that success stateside against NBA competition, the Celtics are embracing the notion that their depth and evenness is more of a blessing than a curse.
“A reporter after the [Madrid] game said, ‘What’s the strength of this Celtics team this year?’ and I kinda had to think about it for a second. And the answer is ‘depth,'” said David Lee. “We’re legit 2-deep, sometimes 3-deep, at every position. And if we can use that to our advantage by everybody playing at a feverish pace and challenging one another, and — when you’re ready to slow down, putting your hand up and the next guy comes in and continues right where you left off — that can be our advantage against teams that are not going to play as many guys. Let’s use that as a strength. I think that that’s going to be a good thing for us this year.”
“No one cares about who scores, who’s the leading rebounder — none of that,” said Celtics big man Jared Sullinger. “The system is going to spread out who is going to score that night, depending on the other team’s defensive schemes.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has said he expects to run with a 10-man rotation and that could mean someone in Boston’s overstocked frontcourt is not going to play — or at not least play a lot — when the team is at full strength. But Stevens has pleaded with his players to view the team’s depth as a positive and not necessarily a negative.
Sullinger, who was one of the final bigs off the bench at times overseas, said the in-team competition can only make Boston players better.
“I just think overall, [the competition] helps our basketball team,” Sullinger said. “All five [big men] have been starters in this league. Playing from me, to D-Lee, to Tyler [Zeller], to Kelly [Olynyk] and Amir [Johnson]. That’s a big challenge to tell somebody who is so used to starting that, ‘Hey, you are coming off the bench,’ or, ‘Hey, you might not play tonight.’ Brad’s best interest is the team and, at the same time, we have to accept that — whoever that guy is being benched or starting. We just have to accept it and play our role.”
Remeber that pretty lame promotional campaign from 2013, which tried to drum up optimism after the departure of Paul, KG and Doc?:
Firstly, you can tell that a majority of those guys just don’t want to be in that ad (hey, Rondo, Courtney Lee, Gerald Wallace). Secondly, that team didn’t really “run deep.” There was depth, yes, but it was depth in the same way as saying your shoe game has depth if you have 20 pairs of old sneakers in your closet that all have holes in their soles.
This Celtics team is the equivalent of a bunch of new shoes– mostly bought on the discount rack. Definitely an improvement. Depth past 9 or 10 players in the NBA is supposed to be the kiss of death.It leads to botched line-ups, unhappy players and stressed out coaches who are trying to find the secret formula to winning and preventing malcontents.
Lee and Sullinger are saying all the right things two weeks into the pre-season, and the simple fact that there isn’t anyone trying to send messages to Stevens about picking a line-up and sticking to it bodes well for team chemistry. Let’s see what happens when the season is a month old and Sully is playing 12 minutes a game, or KO logs back-to-back DNPs.
Green definitely runs deep this year. It just might lead to a few capable players drowning in the deep end: on the bench.
On Page 2, so who might those bench-warmers be?
After starting the same lineup (Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, David Lee and Tyler Zeller) during both games in Europe, Stevens discussed what that group does well but did not commit to keeping it together in the future.
“I think those three guys on the perimeter are all really good defenders and can get into the ball, and David can kind of act as the point forward that we’ve talked about with that group,” he said. “So at the end of the day we’ll see if that stays or we’ll see if that changes. I’m not dead set on it by any means.”
Despite leaving the door open to changes, Stevens said he’s starting to figure out the lineup combinations he wants to use.
“I’ve got a pretty good feel now for who I want to play with whom,” the coach said. “There might be two options at one spot that we’ll have to figure out as they compete against each other in practice. But as far as who I want to play with what group and what their skill sets that complement each other are, I’ve got a pretty good feel for it.”
Stevens could have easily told reporters that the starting group in Europe is no indication of what things could look like on opening night. Instead, he offered justification for why he made the decision he did. That still doesn’t mean that the five who took the court will be the same five that give dap to Philly’s starters in two and a half weeks, but Stevens has a vision for what his first five will look like, and this is currently it.
One of our former writers put together a projection of Stevens’ rotation this summer and went so far as to leave Zeller out of that rotation. That speaks more to the Celtics’ depth and the labyrinth Stevens must navigate (although, leaving out a capable 7-footer who finishes at the rim and knocks down mid-ranger jumpers at a rate well above the league average is head-scratching) than it does any writer’s ability to guess the Celtics’ line-up, but it shows just how many options the Cs have with which to work.
So, if this line-up were to hold through the pre-season slate and into the regular season, what would that mean for the playing time of guys on the bench – specifically the bigs?
Bench minutes can be divvied up between Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko and Jordan Mickey. While Mickey seemingly has a spot here in the future, he probably goes to the D league for playing time. Jerebko can slide in and play the three when needed. Johnson didn’t come here to sit. That leaves Sully and Olynyk, either one of who could make some sort of leap in years four and three respectively. Sully is entering a “prove-it” contract year where he’ll need to show he can stay healthy. Olynyk is coming off a strong showing for Team Canada and it still feels like he’s tapping into his reservoir of dynamic offensive talent.
It’s possible Stevens finds minutes for both. Maybe Lee slips out of favor (although the way this pre-season has started, I doubt it). Maybe there’s a trade coming before October 28th. Perhaps Johnson, who is signed to a low-risk deal, doesn’t get the playing time most assumed he would get. As the Cs get set to play real, NBA teams this week, the front-court logjam will continue to merit a close watch.
Related Links: CSNNE – Stevens has ‘good feel’ for Celtics lineup combos
And finally, the return of PJIII while Rozier sits
Rookie guard Terry Rozier (knee swelling), who played well during Boston’s two-game trip in Europe, did not practice with the team.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Rozier’s injury will likely sideline him for 3-5 days, which means he will most likely not travel with the team for games at Brooklyn and in New York on Wednesday and Friday, respectively.
In addition, Perry Jones (attending funeral of family member) was not at practice. Stevens said he knew in advance that Jones would not be with the team on Sunday, adding that he anticipated Jones returning to the floor for practice on Monday.
Minutes will be hard to come by for Perry Jones, but it’ll be fun to watch the final 7-8 minutes of the fourth quarter this week. That’s likely where Jones will get his chance to fight for a roster spot.
After his strong performance against Real Madrid, here’s hoping Rozier’s knee isn’t a recurring issue, especially this early in the season.