Brandon Bass  was back in the starting lineup for the Celtics ‘ third exhibition game against the Knicks on Saturday night and C’s fans should probably get used to some uncertainty with the starters. Whether it’s Bass or Jared Sullinger at the 4 or Jason Terry  or Courtney Lee  at off-guard, or even Darko Milicic  at center, the days of the set starting lineup may be a thing of the past.
It’s not just matchups, although that will play a significant part. If Doc Rivers  wants to have his team in peak condition for the playoffs in the spring, he’ll need them to be healthy and somewhat less exhausted then they have been in the past. In order to do that, Rivers will need as many as 10 different players to perform significant roles and play major minutes.
Bass didn’t do much with his opportunity, however, scoring just 5 points on 2 shots in 18 minutes, while Sullinger scored a team-high 14 points to go with 7 rebounds in a 98-95 overtime loss. None of that changes the dynamic, which will continue to evolve throughout preseason.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The big lineup has potential: Rivers turned to Jeff Green  midway through the first quarter and had him on the floor with Paul Pierce , Bass and Milicic. It’s an intriguing look because it will get more minutes for Green, help a thin backcourt rotation — until Avery Bradley returns, Rivers have only three veteran guards on his roster — and also add some scoring punch when Kevin Garnett  is off the court. What’s still to be determined is whether the lineup can play successfully.
They did some good things in their time together and helped the C’s get back in the game after a rough start. It helped that Green was able to guard James White instead of J.R. Smith, who didn’t play. There’s more on the look in this post .
Speaking of Green: Another solid outing for the forward as he poured in 12 points to go with 4 rebounds and had another highlight-reel dunk. Some in Celtics land have been comparing him with James Worthy , but let’s pump the brakes on that kind of talk. If Green can average 20 and 6 for the next 4 years then fine, but Worthy is a Hall of Famer. Green is a decent player trying to find his way. Maybe he should be allowed to do that first.
Rajon Rondo , preseason MVP: It’s not just that Rondo continues to make his free throws: he hit three more and is now 13-for-13 in their three games. Or that he’s making jump shots and looking smooth and unhurried while doing so. Rondo is also in complete command of the offense and is playing at a controlled pace. He finished with 9 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and zero turnovers.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Rebounding, rebounding, rebounding: It might be the single biggest issue for the Celtics this season and it’s all on the defensive glass. The C’s were crushed on the boards in the first quarter and fell into an early hole on the scoreboard. They rebounded, so to speak, in the second and built an 8-point lead at the half. Still, the Knicks had 11 offensive rebounds and the Celtics had exactly zero at the break. That can’t continue.
Offensively, it was a drag: All the usual caveats about preseason apply, but the C’s had almost no rhythm throughout the game. The Celtics have five more preseason games in the next 8 days so there is ample time to work out the kinks.
Jason Kidd , Steve Novak and Pablo Prigioni played crunch-time minutes: Playing without several key players including Amar’e Stoudemire, JR Smith and old friend Rasheed Wallace , the Knicks turned to a handful of veterans in the fourth quarter against a Celtics’ lineup that featured rookies and undrafted free agents. Not surprisingly, that allowed New York to get back in the game.