The Boston Globe’s Baxter Holmes dropped this article late last night on Chris Wilcox and his new, better-defined role for the Celtics since Jason Collins was dealt to the Washington Wizards. (I apologize for the long block quote).
Shortly after the Feb. 21 trade deadline, Chris Wilcox approached Doc Rivers.
Wilcox wanted to know what role he’d be playing now that he was the only backup center on the Celtics roster [...]
“He told me that he wanted me to go out, play hard, be aggressive, and bring energy every night,” Wilcox said Sunday before practice.
“Since we made the trade, Chris has been pretty good,” Rivers said. “He’s playing with great effort. He’s running the floor, setting great picks. He’s been good for us.” [...]
On the day of the trade deadline, Rivers lamented the dealing away of Collins, saying, “We lost a very important guy in our locker room.” Rivers then said of Wilcox, “We’re putting a lot of pressure on Chris. Chris is going to have to play well.”
A day later, when Wilcox did play well against Phoenix, Rivers praised him, but said, “It can’t be one game and go have a parade. He’s got to keep doing it.”
And after Wilcox played well against Golden State, Rivers again lauded Wilcox, but added, “You’ve got to do it every night.”
We’ve heard before that Doc isn’t really a fan of Wilcox’ game, and it’s telling that Rivers feels the need to add a modifier behind every little bit of praise he hands out for the big man. Doc is an expert at motivating, so it’s likely that he believes Wilcox needs a kick in the pants to contribute on a day-to-day basis to avoid “having a parade.”
But there’s no denying Wilcox has been better since the trade, which is the main focus of the article. Wilcox has seemed more comfortable and confident since he knows what is expected of him, and since he doesn’t have other post players breathing down his neck for playing time.
Since his field goal attempts are nearly all at the rim, Wilcox has had a very high field goal percentage this season — indeed, he averages 1.2 points per possession (per Synergy Sports) which, due to a rather amusing quirk in small sample size theater, actually ranks first among all qualified players in the league. The only logical conclusion I see is to crown Chris Wilcox MVP of the season.
In all seriousness, it’s been interesting to see Wilcox thrive even without Rondo, who logically would seem to be his ideal running mate. Wilcox has played well both as the pick-and-roll roll man and in transition as a recipient of deep passes. As Boston’s offense has spread out a bit in Rondo’s absence, Wilcox has improved.
Wilcox’ defense still leaves something to be desired. While his rotations seem to be improving incrementally, he still comes up with just 4.9 defensive rebounds per 36 minutes. For an athletic 6’10 power forward on a team that struggles mightily on the glass, 4.9/36 minutes isn’t enough. Moreover, he shows an unfortunate tendency to switch onto opposing wings when defending the pick and roll. This got him into trouble at least twice against Golden State, as he ended up guarding Harrison Barnes one-on-one late. Against a team like Miami, who often run Bosh/LeBron pick-and-rolls, this would be unpleasantly dark comedy as Wilcox would be forced into one-on-one situations with the actual MVP of the season.
But Wilcox has shown encouraging signs on both ends ever since he inherited more minutes from Collins, despite his well-documented struggles within Boston’s defensive systems. Let’s hope he continues to come along. The size-starved Celtics desperately need him.
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