|Irish Coffee: Limiting Doc Rivers’ Celtics lineup options||10.19.12 at 5:21 pm ET|
Celtics coach Doc Rivers has options. Kind of like Leonardo DiCaprio has options. It’s hard to choose from the depth and versatility of talent at his disposal, so he tries every combination at his disposal. Eventually, the cream rises to the top, and that appears to be what has happened over the C’s past two preseason games against the Nets. In other words, Rivers may have found his Gisele Bundchen, Bar Rafaeli and Blake Lively of lineups.
In the first three-plus quarters of the two games against Brooklyn — before Micah Downs, Kris Joseph, Robert Kurz or Fab Melo made obligatory fourth-quarter appearances — Rivers used 23 different lineups. Other than starters Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Jared Sullinger and Kevin Garnett, no unit played longer than 8:36 together. Before making any observations, here are the combinations, playing time and plus/minus statistics.
|Fast Break: Spencer Hawes, 76ers slap Celtics silly||10.15.12 at 9:30 pm ET|
The Celtics started Rajon Rondo, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Jared Sullinger and Darko Milicic, marking the fourth different Doc Rivers starting lineup in as many preseason games. In Philadelphia, few showed up — namely Sixers fans, centers Kevin Garnett and Andrew Bynum, and the C’s cohesiveness.
When all was said and done after an atrocious 107-75 C’s loss, only Pierce (16 points) and Brandon Bass (11 points) reached double figures, six different Celtics committed at least two of the team’s 20 turnovers and Milicic left in the second half with a sore wrist. All that said, let’s sort through the ugliness.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Turnovers and turnover: As analyst Tommy Heinsohn said at halftime, when the C’s had already coughed the ball up 14 times (Pierce 4, Milicic 3, Rondo 3, Sullinger 2) and experimented with roughly 9,736 different lineups, “There was no chemistry. It was boiling over into turnovers.” Few if any lineups appeared to have any continuity. Given the Celtics are only midway through the preseason, it’s probably too early to be concerned about excessive experimentation, but the earlier Rivers can discover which units work best together, the better.
Off center: Without Kevin Garnett, who would normally treat Spencer Hawes like Hulk treated Loki in “The Avengers,” Rivers turned to Sullinger and Milicic to guard the Sixers center. Often, the former proved too small and the latter too slow to challenge the rangy 7-footer. Understandably, the Celtics didn’t want to play Garnett in back-to-back nights, and Rivers likely wanted to experiment with his big Garnett/Milicic lineup against Brook Lopez and the Nets on Tuesday night. Still, Monday was further evidence how important KG is to the C’s chemistry.
Project Green light: Green may have guarded everywhere from the 2-4, but that didn’t mean he did it successfully. While NBA plus/minus statistics aren’t always the best indicator, he was a team-worst minus-28 against the 76ers. After reaching double digits and shooting better than 50 percent in his first three preseason games, Green made just 3-of-9 attempts, missed all three of his long-distance attempts and committed two turnovers. Outside of an unchallenged slam dunk, he failed to take advantage of a matchup against offensive-minded Nick Young.
|Kevin Garnett’s daily dose of veteran wisdom||10.12.12 at 1:57 pm ET|
WALTHAM — For whatever reason Kevin Garnett has been unusually chatty with the press so far in training camp. He’s always willing to impart a bit of knowledge and he’s rarely better than when he works himself up into one of his Uncle KG routines about life in the league.
Here’s a Garnett quote from Friday about Rasheed Wallace coming back to the NBA:
“I’m a big fan of veterans. More importantly, the league being full of young guys probably needed a little more just to teach some of the young guys on work ethic, being consistent with your work ethic, and loving this game and giving 100 percent and not just bull[bleeping] and going through half-assen, entitlement, respecting, earning what you get and really, really setting yourself for the future. Not just riding off potential but actually becoming something. That’s why I’ve always been a big fan of veterans and I’ve always voiced that. Y’all know that.”
|Irish Coffee: Grooming Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger||10.11.12 at 8:00 am ET|
Jared Sullinger isn’t easily fazed. Not even when they called him and the other Celtics rookies in front of the entire organization during a team dinner and made him sing his favorite song: Jay-Z‘s “Public Service Announcement.”
Check out my swag’ yo, peep the way I wear it
No matter where you go, you are what you are player
And you can try to change, but that’s just the top layer
Man, you was who you was ‘fore you got here
Fitting. Sullinger isn’t intimidated by a team full of headstrong veterans whose system has produced one championship, two NBA finals appearances and three Eastern Conference finals showings in the past five years, and that’s because his basketball journey started almost from the day he was born.
|Kevin Garnett: ‘I don’t really talk a lot’||10.10.12 at 8:15 pm ET|
“If you’re sitting over here bullsh@tting, they tend to bullsh@t,” he said. “That’s why I don’t really talk a lot. I like to be the example. Anything after practice that I can help them with, I kind of pull them to the side and show them different things. We watch a lot of film in the locker room and talk. For these young guys, man, I just try to be there for when they need me. I’m not a guy to push myself on anybody, but anything that they want to know, anything that they’re having trouble with, I try to be accessible to them.”
I’m not sure Charlie Villanueva, Zaza Pachulia and the entire city of Philadelphia would agree Garnett “doesn’t really talk a lot.” To be fair, I think he’s claiming he doesn’t force advice upon younger players unless asked for it, but still — this is a guy who has talked to inanimate objects before every single game of his 17-year career.
|Irish Coffee: Kevin Garnett keeps Celtics’ championship heart beating||10.05.12 at 11:20 am ET|
On the bus after Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, Rajon Rondo sat next to his ‘closest friend on the team’ and asked Kevin Garnett the obvious: ‘What are you going to do? I’d really like it if you would come back.’
‘When he made the decision to come back,’ said Rondo, ‘I was really excited.’ Along with every other member of the organization — from the brass to the ball boys, who bring out a jovial side of Garnett in the locker room that few others often do — and the millions of Celtics fans who waited anxiously for his June 30 announcement.
‘It was an absolute no-brainer,’ said Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca of the decision to commit $36 million more to a 7-footer who will be 39 years old by contract’s end. ‘It was a very short conversation. We were just really hoping Kevin would want to come back and finish out his career here.’
You could argue whether Rondo is the head of the Celtics snake on the floor, as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Josh Smith all have, or whether Paul Pierce is the face of the franchise, but any debate about who embodies the heart and soul of the grit-and-balls mentality that has come to define these Celtics begins and ends with KG.
|Irish Coffee: Making the most of Paul Pierce’s minutes||10.03.12 at 6:29 pm ET|
“We’re going to try some things with Paul in the preseason,” said Rivers, “and just see how that goes.”
Last season, Rivers instituted Kevin Garnett‘s 5-5-5 plan, playing his center in five-minute increments. While Garnett’s time on the floor each game barely changed (31.3 in 2010-11 vs. 31.1 in 2011-12), his minutes were less taxing, and that paid dividends in the playoffs, when he enjoyed perhaps his greatest stretch in a Celtics uniform.
The plan is to execute the same plan for Garnett and a similar one for Pierce this season, although both the Celtics captain and Rivers admitted playing that duo on the same 5-5-5 schedule might not benefit the team.
‘Doc is the coach around here,” said Pierce. “I trust his judgment and everything he does. We’ve been together a long time. I’m giving myself to the team. Whatever’s going to be best for the team, that’s what it’s gotta be. I think with me and Doc, we’ll figure things out, because if I’m on fire the first five minutes I can’t come out. Simple as that.”
‘I’m all for it,” countered Rivers. “Paul is a gym rat. Paul is a guy I’ve never really worried about with minutes, but I’m going to watch his minutes. Obviously, if we can keep [Rajon] Rondo‘s minutes down, we will. And Paul’s minutes down. It doesn’t mean we will. It would be nice. I like our bench.’
That last addendum could be the difference this season. Despite approaching his mid-30’s, Pierce’s minutes per game haven’t changed much the past three seasons (34.0, 34.7 and 34.0, respectively), and that can largely be attributed to having Marquis Daniels, Sasha Pavlovic and an ailing Mickael Pietrus behind him.
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