NBA Development League standout Greg Stiemsma has the opposite problem, lacking NBA experience entirely, and his partially guaranteed deal is more of a flier than a sure thing.
That leaves Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox, and rookie JaJuan Johnson — none of whom are true centers — to back up O’Neal. Should O’Neal get hurt — which is probably more of a foregone conclusion than a long shot — one of those players may have to fill the starting role at a position they’re not used to.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he isn’t worried.
“We have a bunch of guys,” said Rivers. “Kevin can play center. Kevin has played center before. I think he can absolutely play center. Brandon Bass can play center and he’s done that as well.”
Two things stand out about Rivers’s statement: the mention of Garnett, whose minutes are bound to decrease again this year, and the lack of a mention of Wilcox. Do you really want Garnett banging with Dwight Howard or Andrew Bogut for 15 minutes per night?
On the surface [the schedule] looks like a recipe for disaster, but Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge took a more diplomatic approach.
“It’s the same for everybody,” he shrugged. “Everybody has the same type of schedule. We have a lot of young guys, too. I think that we’re just gonna have to play more people in a condensed schedule. That may be a good thing.”
It could be, though it’s hardly been Celtics coach Doc Rivers’ philosophy to go deep with his rotations.
“I’d rather keep it at eight or nine, but I’ve done 10 before,” Rivers said of utilizing his bench depth. “I usually do it early in the year, anyway. This year you have to do it to win the games — you have to win the games and [play more bodies].”
Four years in and going on five, the big three are still standing. While they won’t approach the legacy of the original Celtics’ trio of Bird, McHale and Parish, they are well past the point of a novelty act. But their time is coming to an end and everyone knows it.
“We’re not goofing around, I hate to say it that way, but we want to win now and literally our window is closing,” Doc Rivers said during the team’s media day on Tuesday. “There’s no doubt about that. We have to take advantage this year.”
“I like his motor,’’ Rivers said of Bass, who will earn $4 million per year the next two seasons. “I like his consistent elbow jump shot. I like the fact that we can lean on him at times, offensively. He’s an offensive player. I like his speed.
“I think you can see when he first got there with Stan [Van Gundy], he wasn’t known as a defender in Orlando,’’ Rivers said. “But by the time he left, he had become one and I think, basically, in my opinion the more Stan taught, the more you have to be a willing participant, and I thought he became that.’’
Bass accepted the perception he was replacing Davis, but he was quick to point out the differences between the two.
“Baby, he’s a little heavier than me, but I play more above the rim,’’ Bass said. “I think we play with the same amount of energy and passion and things like that. But we’re different in our own ways.’’
“Timing is everything, and chemistry isn’t something you just throw in a frying pan and mix it up with another something, throw something on top of that, put it in a tortilla, put it in a microwave, then give it to you and expect it to taste good,” Garnett said at yesterday’s Celtics [team stats] media day session. “For those who can cook, they know what I’m talking about.”
Team president of operations Danny Ainge said he expected more relief and anticipation from the lockout than ill feelings about the conditions and the delay. That may be the case, but the players are definitely annoyed with the compressed training camp and schedule and how the league is handling the impending free agency of Chris Paul.
“I think we’re in a rushed league right now,’’ Garnett said. “I think everybody’s paying attention to the Chris Paul situation. I don’t know why everybody’s shocked. Commissioner Stern’s been pretty adamant about how he wants to do things and how he does things, and now everybody has a voice about it.’’ …
“This year will test everybody’s endurance and their willingness,’’ Garnett said. “This will be more mental than physical. But again, we’re dealing with limited time with major issues to resolve and we’re in this period of transition and everybody’s going to have to adjust to it. I’m not coming off mad. I’m not coming off as emotional; I’m coming off as a professional.’’
[JaJuan] Johnson has also seen a decrease in what the Celtics will demand from him. In the past few days, the club has acquired Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox, both of whom figure to get ample opportunity at power forward. Even with free agent Glen Davis leaving via a sign-and-trade, Johnson’s place on the depth chart has to slip a bit.
“It’s definitely going to be a learning experience,” he said. “It’s something I haven’t had to deal with before, (But) I’m definitely used to competing.
“Obviously I want to play, and I feel like I’ll definitely play still. But I just have to compete and hold my own, and it starts in practice.”
“Right now my motivation is to play longer than Ray,” a laughing Pierce said during media day festivities Tuesday at the Celtics Training Center at HealthPoint. “I think he’s gonna play another five years, so I don’t know if I’ll make it. But he’s definitely been my inspiration, just the way he’s been consistently great, even at his age of 42. He’s amazing. He’s just a genetic wonder.”
The smile on Marquis Daniels’ face belies what he went through to have a lifelong neurological condition rectified this summer through surgery.
“They shaved down a couple of vertebrae and they cut through my spine and put in three screws and a sling,” he said. “They widened it up. The surgery took two or three hours. I know they had to give me a double dosage of whatever the medicine was. When they put me under I was fighting it. My tongue was bleeding because I was biting it, but they said that’s all right.”
Now he’s entering a year his coach says could well be the last for the veteran core of Pierce, Allen and Kevin Garnett. But while the other two are up after this season, Pierce has next year and a team option with a buyout for 2013-14 on his contract.
“I really didn’t even put any thought into it,” he said of Rivers’ proclamation, “because I really see Kevin and Ray playing past this year — hopefully with the Boston Celtics, even though their contract is up.
“So (if) Doc wants to use that as motivation, then I will.”
[Keyon] Dooling was asked whether he had been able to make amends with [Ray] Allen after that scrape. The league suspended Dooling for five games and Allen for three.
“The Sonics? Is that even a team anymore?’’ Dooling joked. “That’s ancient history. When Ray and I saw each other the next time after the fight, we had a conversation and we embraced each other. It was the heat of the battle. I have a lot more respect for him and he has a lot more respect for me. Sometimes you know a man better when you fight. He’s been nothing but a phenomenal influence since I’ve been here.”’’
Asked who won the fight, Dooling said, “The NBA won, they got all the fine money.’’
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