|Celtics notes: Doc Rivers announces, ‘If we can’t win with [KG] off the floor, we just won’t win’||11.06.12 at 2:32 pm ET|
WALTHAM — It’s been a recurring theme of the first week of the season. The Celtics need more out of their bench — much more.
Doc Rivers underscored that after open practice for special guests and clients on Tuesday. Rivers has told his team he’s not going to lean on Kevin Garnett for more minutes when he’s already trying to conserve the big man for an 82-game season. Rivers hinted the same could be said for Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, though he feels he has some more wiggle room with them.
“No, no, I’m not going to let him do more. I’m going to play Kevin the same amount of minutes,” Rivers said. “With Paul, Rondo you can go anywhere but if we can’t win with him off the floor, we just won’t win. And I told our bench that. We’re going to play the minutes that I’m giving them. The bench will play the minutes they should get and if they’ve got to do something or we just won’t win. It’s that simple.”
Garnett is averaging a reasonable 29 minutes a game in the first three games. Pierce is at 35 minutes and Rondo is playing 41 minutes per contest. Rivers has not yet seen the consistent production he would like from Chris Wilcox, Brandon Bass and Jeff Green but he feels it will come.
“Not yet but when you take Kevin out, you’re not going to get Kevin,” Rivers added. “That’s why he’s on the bench. But I don’t think that’s been an issue. When he’s been off the floor, like last year, when he was off the floor, it had a dramatic [effect]. I don’t think that’s been the case so far this year at all. I think the guys that have come in have tried to do what they should do. I think the other guys with him have to do more.”
Tuesday’s practice featured detailed instruction from defensive guru Mike Longabardi, who was teaching trapping principles and defensive rules within the system, especially important to the newer players, like the three rookies and Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa.
“Today was just a practice,” Rivers said. “It’s easier here because it’s in your natural surroundings. It was a good practice.”
Rivers again preached patience when talking about the newer players picking up the defensive scheme.
“We’re getting it,” Rivers said. “It’s just going to take time. I thought we were a lot better today. We’re working a lot of principles and tendencies. Offensively, it’s just moving the ball. Defensively, just running the coverages and talking. It just takes time.
“There’s no date,” Rivers added when asked if there’s an expected time by which everyone should be on board. “Every group is different because if one guy doesn’t get it, it brings the whole team down. Every year, it’s a different group. There’s no expiration date on anybody. It’s just takes time.”
WALTHAM — It wasn’t so much a complaint as it was a statement of fact.
Brandon Bass was asked after Monday’s practice how much of a challenge it will be for him to go from starting role to the bench and back.
“That’s life, man,” said Bass. “You wake up, you don’t know what to expect. Sometimes it’ll be like that. You’ve just got to make the best of it.”
He started the first two games this season before being swapped out to the bench for rookie Jared Sullinger Saturday night in Washington.
It’s not like Bass didn’t see this coming as Rivers informed him that the Celtics would use at least three different starting lineups this season, based on matchups.
“You know what? We have so much going on,” Bass said. “If it’s going to be my role to come off the bench, then once when get the bench chemistry down, and put the ball in the right player’s hands, then I think it will benefit us as a unit and as a team.”
“It’s expected when you have a new group with a bunch of new guys.”
Bass also gave an indication of what Doc Rivers expects from him this season.
“For me to grow here, I have to be more active. We have a bunch of options. Doc said to me, it’s Rondo, Paul and Kevin and Jeff they’re going to go through so I have to be more active in everything on both ends of the ball.”
|Doc Rivers: Celtics are ‘probably behind’ where they need to be||11.05.12 at 5:43 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Doc Rivers can see what every Celtics fan sees. The team is 1-2 to start the season and not playing the basketball everyone envisioned when they brought back Kevin Garnett and added Jason Terry, Jeff Green, Leandro Barbosa and Jared Sullinger to a cast that lost to Miami in Game 7 of the Eastern finals last June.
“Probably behind,” Rivers said after Monday’s practice. “We have a great first half in Washington, that is what we needed to see. But I didn’t think we sustained it. I just think everyone is starting to figure out that, to be a good team, you have to actually work at it. And it’s hard work. You just don’t show up because you have good names on a piece of paper and become good. You have to work at it, and you have to work hard at it. And it’s exhausting.”
Is conditioning all that’s missing from the team’s trademark D?
“Yeah, but I think we’re in good enough condition to be a good defensive team. I think that’s more of the buy-in and the trust and the communication.”
The Celtics finished Monday’s two-hour practice with conditioning drills in 5-on-5 sets. Rivers is clearly concerned with his team’s ability to finish games defensively, after the Wizards erased two double-digit deficits in the fourth quarter only to have Paul Pierce save the game with a 3-point shot with under three minutes left.
The first half, when the Celtics raced to leads of 17-2 and 26-10, was a different story – one that after watching on film – made Rivers think the team is close.
“I thought we played defense, we got into the ball, there was ball pressure, there was talking,” Rivers said. “The first seven or eight minutes, [Washington] struggled to get a shot off, let alone score a basket. Then as the game went on, you can see us slowly moving away from it. I don’t know if that’s breaking old habits from other places, or if that’s conditioning. When you watch it on film, you think it’s a little bit of both.”
|Box and 2: Inside Celtics, Bucks and Wizards, oh my||at 2:39 pm ET|
— Called upon by Doc Rivers Friday night to protect the paint against the Bucks, when smaller lineups weren’t working, Darko Milicic played 4:30 of the first quarter. He missed his only shot — an air-balled baby left hook — and committed more turnovers (2) than he totaled rebounds (1) or blocks (0). Then, he didn’t play Saturday.
Kevin Garnett: “We’re still playing with the chemistry. We have different lineups in which Doc is playing with simultaneously, and we’re still working. No one said this was going to be an easy process.”
Translation: “The Darko Experiment is called that for a reason. Let’s just hope it doesn’t blow up in our face.”
— Over the weekend, Brandon Bass finished a minus-11 in 40:52 without Jared Sullinger on the floor. The Celtics outscored the opponent in just two of his 10 stints sans Sullinger — by one in the final 3:53 of the first quarter against the Wizards and by two Terry free throws in the final 1:35 of that game. Without Bass on the floor, Sullinger finished a plus-14 in 33:29, and the C’s outscored opponents in five of those eight stints. (In case you were wondering, the two played 14:40 together, finished a minus-9 and only outscored opponents once in six stints.)
Rivers (via the Herald): ‘[Sullinger] brings a different component, more importantly rebounding. He knows how to play without the ball. He’s a great passer. He blends well with our starting group.’
Translation: “Sorry Brandon, but you’re going to see a lot more Sullinger in the starting lineup.”
|Doc Rivers doesn’t want Rajon Rondo ‘pacing himself’||at 2:18 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Sometimes, too much of a good thing is not healthy for a basketball team.
Well, take a look at Rondo’s minutes and what the Celtics expect from him and you could make the argument they should be just as concerned.
In the first three games, Rondo has played 44, 41 and 41 minutes, averaging 41.5 minutes per contest, nine minutes over his career average per game. Yes, it’s just a three-game sample so far and yes, that average includes a season of 23.5 minutes in his rookie year in 2006-07 and 29.9 the next, when he led the Celtics to an NBA title running the point. But still, one look at Rondo’s lean body and you see the need to preserve the Rolls Royce of the Celtics engine for all 82 games.
But Rivers took it a step further after practice Monday when he said it’s not the number of minutes but how Rondo is playing on the court that he has to watch closely. Rivers wants to be the one pacing Rondo from the bench, not Rondo himself.
“I’m concerned but not as far as him getting tired but I don’t want him to save himself on the floor,” Rivers said. “There’s a minutes number for him. We don’t know what it is yet. We’ll figure it out where he can play his minutes at full pace instead of knowing he’s going to be on the floor too long and then he starts pacing himself. We need him to be a fast, quick, aggressive player.”
And the number?
“I think it’s 39, 38 but it’s not much lower than 40 but it’s in that area,” Rivers added.
Rivers has said in years past just what a physical drain it is for a guard like Rondo to not only run the offense but play top-end defense that is a staple in the Celtics scheme.
The answers right now off the bench are Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa, with the latter coming to Boston in late October as Danny Ainge realized the need for ball-handling depth on the roster. Courtney Lee can also help lighten the load, switching from his starting role as shooting guard to the point.
But the biggest help of all will come when Avery Bradley comes back with two healthy shoulders – likely in December – to take a big defensive burden off Rondo.
Until then, Rivers will be watching Rondo very closely.
10. No self-respecting team loses to the Wizards: “I had said [Saturday night] was a must-win. The reason is when you play a team like Washington, which has had some injuries and might be short a man, you definitely want to win these games. These are the type of games you just have to win.”
9. The difference between Sully and Bass was negligible: “I know the starting lineup was changed a little bit with Jared Sullinger starting and Brandon Bass coming off the bench, but really I didn’t notice that much. Everyone who came into the game tonight was focused on our defensive coverages.”
8. Terry is clutch, according to Terry: “I was happy to contribute in our win with two free throws down the stretch. It’s definitely in my DNA to make big shots, especially when the game is on the line, whether that’s with free throws or making a play or an assist or a shot to win or tie the game — that’s just who I am.”
7. The JET hasn’t quite arrived in Boston yet: “I’m still trying to get comfortable within the structure of the team. I’m a work in progress. I’m very optimistic. I know we have the making of a championship team. I know we have to continue to grow and there are going to be some speed bumps along the way.”
6. For now, the Celtics are going to struggle against elite teams: “The Heat are the champions, and the core of that team has been together and had two full seasons for the most part. They’re going to know each other very well, while we’re still trying to figure it out. We’re going to struggle in a situation like that.”
|Rajon Rondo: ‘I’ve got to do a better job on the ball’||11.03.12 at 1:48 am ET|
Rajon Rondo pointed to himself as one reason for the Celtics 0-2 start to the season. Rondo finished with 14 points and 11 assists but couldn’t get his teammates into any consistent offensive rhythm for a second straight game as the Celtics lost their home opener, 99-88, to the Bucks Friday night at TD Garden.
“Just trust one another defensively,” Rondo said when asked what’s missing in the Celtics’ game right now. “It starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job on the ball and go from there.”
As was the case against the Heat, the Celtics were again beaten in transition throughout the game.
“I don’t know [if we trust each other defensively],” said Rondo. “I mean, we can say we do, but on the court it shows, we’re not pulling in weak side. But it’s a lot of things. We’ve got to start from somewhere. The good thing about it is we could start [Saturday].”
The Celtics play the Wizards on Saturday night in Washington.
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