Keyon Dooling has not been nursing an injury or bothered by illness during his recent three-game run of DNPs. He simply has managed to play himself out of Doc Rivers’ now-eight-man rotation.
Allow Doc to explain. (ESPN Boston)
Rivers admits he’s leaning on his eight-man core (which will expand to nine when Mickael Pietrus returns, though Sasha Pavlovic’s minutes could get squeezed then) and Dooling is left waiting for an opportunity.
“It’s game to game with Keyon and that’s tough,” Rivers admitted. “I think that’s tough for the player, [but] that’s where we are right now. When teams are big at the 2 or 3, then those are not Keyon nights. When teams are smaller — playing two smaller guards — those are nights that Keyon will probably play. I can tell you he’s been a pro about it, he’s been great. He’s the first guy that talks in the locker room and on the bench, he’s a fantastic guy to have on your basketball team.”
After Avery Bradley displayed the ability to jump over large buildings in a single bound play either guard position well, it became clear that Dooling — who has struggled with his shot almost all season — would play a smaller role. I didn’t foresee that being the role of cheerleader, but Dooling was clearly competing a step behind all his other Celtics teammates — even Sasha Pavlovic, who has oddly given the Celtics great minutes for weeks now.
Rivers’ eight-man rotation is working. Everybody knows his specific function and competes within his limitations. Seriously, how many times per game do you watch a Celtics possession and say, “Damn, that was a horrible shot. What’s he doing, trying to impersonate Nate Robinson?” Almost never. How many times do you watch the Celtics defense and scream at the television, “Where was the fucking defensive rotation, asshole? What’d you take a lesson from Sheed?” Almost never. The Celtics are functioning as a reliable unit that generally works in cohesion for 24 seconds each possession.
Doc felt that Dooling wasn’t playing well enough to warrant minutes. I don’t mind that decision at all. But it was definitely strange during the waning minutes of the Philadelphia blowout when Avery Bradley played garbage time. Maybe Rivers just didn’t want to bruise Dooling’s pride? I don’t know.