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Irish Coffee: A brief Kevin Garnett lesson on chemistry and evolution

12.20.12 at 10:44 am ET

Celtics coach Doc Rivers rolled out his sixth different lineup in 25 games when he again flip-flopped Jason Terry and Courtney Lee while inserting Jason Collins into the spot normally reserved for Brandon Bass alongside mainstays Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Wednesday night’s victory against the Cavaliers.

While the C’s ended a three-game losing streak, Garnett didn’t exactly sound pleased with the constant change.

“It’s a process,” said KG. “Chemistry is something else. It’s not something that’s just going to happen. I think it’s just something that’s going to evolve. The quicker, the better, with this lineup thing, so we can establish who we are and what we’re going to be. Doc has a vision of what he wants, and until he has it this is what it’s gonna be.”

Here’s how those six lineups have performed this season (record-wise): plus-minus per

  • Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (9-4): plus-35 in 197.0 minutes
  • Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (0-5): minus-9 in 57.9 minutes
  • Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Jared Sullinger, Garnett (2-1): plus-13 in 33.9 minutes
  • Terry, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (1-1): plus-16 in 39.1 minutes
  • Leandro Barbosa, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Garnett (0-1): sample size too small
  • Rondo, Terry, Pierce, Bass, Collins (1-0): sample size too small

One thing we know for sure is that Lee shouldn’t be starting. The only reason Rivers inserted him back into the lineup in Chicago was to get Terry readjusted to playing off the bench, but the former Sixth Man of the Year attempted just two shots against the Bulls, so the Celtics should keep starting him until Avery Bradley‘s return.

“One of our key guys has not played yet, and Avery is not Bill Russell, but with that plus all the different changes, guys buying into different roles, it does take time,” Rivers told WEEI in his weekly radio interview Thursday morning. “Did I think it would take this much time? I didn’€™t. It also takes time for us as a staff to figure out the right combination ‘€“ not just the rotations, but the right group of guys to play every night and the right group of guys that can be consistent together every night — and I still think we’€™re searching for that.”

Of course, switching the starting lineup every few nights doesn’t exactly lend itself to consistency, but Rivers would argue he doesn’t know what he’s getting from his players in any given game. “”Every night,” he said, “there’€™s one or two guys that don’€™t do their jobs.” Here’s looking at you, Jeff Green.

The hope is, as we discussed in this space on Wednesday, Bradley provides that consistency, even if that means a seventh different starting lineup.

“Honestly, Avery had a practice the other day in Chicago, and half the team was asking, ‘€˜Why is he not playing tomorrow?’€™ He was that good in practice,” said Rivers. “But we can’€™t forget it wasn’€™t one shoulder. It was both shoulders, and there’€™s a timeframe that [Celtics trainer Eddie Lacerte and team physician Dr. Brian McKeon] won’€™t go under, so I think we have to be patient with him.

“The practice was really important, because they wanted to find out if he could take hits, and he did. It was a very physical practice, and he came out looking great, but I do know that’€™s a big factor: They want to make sure those shoulders are strong enough to not only take one hit but to take continual hits.”

As Garnett said, “the quicker, the better.”

(Have a question, concern or conception for the next Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett
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