Fielding a team bereft of knuckleheads is great — at least for camaraderie, teamwork, the willingness to sacrifice one’s own statistical output for the benefit of something more important, wins, and Doc Rivers’ sanity — but it really means squaw-douche in the NBA without talent. Put the ten NBA players in the late-1990s and early-2000s who got along the best on the court, place them opposite Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, two larger-than-life personalities who hated each other by almost all accounts, and the Lakers would still have won three championships in a row while almost everyone else was stuck at home during the NBA Finals, watching Los Angeles lift another Larry O’Brien trophy.
Throw Dennis Rodman into the pot for the first of those three championships and those Lakers teams were both combustible and crazy, a potent mix of insanity and veteran calm (think Brian Shaw), a group that needed Phil Jackson’s Zen attitude because otherwise the wheels might have collapsed under the weight of constant bickering. Those Lakers teams often didn’t like each other, yet at its most elemental level basketball is not about who smiles the most, but which team can put a ball through a rim more times than its opponent.
The Celtics have routinely discussed this season the benefit of ridding themselves of immaturity, the benefit of building a bench out of experienced, established players, and most importantly, solid people. Danny Ainge’s targets this offseason were all veterans who would be okay with playing smallish roles and probably wouldn’t fight each other during preseason practices. Keyon Dooling, Chris Wilcox, Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley, Mickael Pietrus, Sasha Pavlovic, Greg Stiemsma and Marquis Daniels surely will provide Doc Rivers with fewer headaches than his past benches (think Nate Robinson, Glen Davis, Delonte West, Stephon Marbury and Von Wafer), but the most important question still remains: Can they play? (ESPN)
“I think our chemistry is great. But listen, we can get along, but I want to win too,” Rivers said. “Chemistry is phenomenal, I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys. But I may be asking for a tougher group of guys. I’m not sure yet.”
He may be asking for another playmaker or two, also. Outside of Bass, who is scoring 16.9 points per 36 minutes, third-most on the Celtics, the Boston bench not only rid itself of immaturity but also the ability to create shots. (WEEI)
Small sample sizes abound, but there’s another trend developing through the first eight games. With one exception, every successful lineup the Celtics have used this season has included at least three of the four All-Stars. (The exception: Rondo, Allen, Marquis Daniels, Brandon Bass and Jermaine O’Neal, who have been their most productive lineup). …
The concern, as it has been since Danny Ainge hastily (and rather ingeniously) cobbled together this second unit, is that there simply isn’t enough scoring. The reserves are shooting just 42 percent from the floor and 31 percent from 3-point range and their offensive efficiency ranks 25th per HoopsStats.
“That’s on me,” Rivers said. “I’ve got to find something I can give them. They’re an energy group. They’re not a scoring group. We’ve got to come up with something. That’s not on them.”
Boston’s primary backup shooting guard and small forward (Bradley and Daniels) have combined to shoot 29.0 percent from the floor with one made three-pointer between them. Some of that inaccurate shooting is due to Daniels’ uncharacteristic yips in the painted area, but it’s still a troublesome sign moving forward. Boston’s second unit is a scoring-challenged bunch that always seemed destined to be so. Adding Pietrus should help, but there’s also the worry that he — like the rest of the bench, excluding Bass — is not a shot creator. Even Bass is more of a finisher.
That is why it was strange this offseason that Boston did not make a better effort to keep Delonte West. Based on reports, they hardly showed any interest in re-signing West at all. Perhaps the guard was a bigger behavioral problem than we realize, because the Celtics allowed a player who would have led their second unit to walk for just the veteran’s minimum. Danny Ainge was trying to purge the Celtics bench of all immaturity, but in the process he might have left that bench without the firepower necessary to thrive.
The loss of Jeff Green to heart surgery surely hurt Ainge’s quest to throw together a powerful bench, as did salary cap limitations. But once a team steps onto the court, basketball is reduced to its elemental level, and all that matters is whether one team can outscore its opponent. The Celtics bench is filled with players you’d want to befriend, but at some point, it’s also going to have to become more productive.