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O'Brien is now thinking deep

The word "depth" may replace "defense" as the one most frequently uttered around the Celtics' practice facility. They are so deep that veteran starters have been moved to backup roles at center and small forward, that coach Jim O'Brien can feel comfortable using everyone on his active roster, that a player expected to be a solid contributor (Jumaine Jones) can miss all of training camp and not really be missed. "In the four years that I've been here as coach, I've had four different teams," said O'Brien. "That's just the nature of the NBA. You just adjust.

"I'll feel comfortable playing any 12 guys."

A closer look:

CENTER -- The Celtics are so stocked in the middle that it seems not a day goes by without Tony Battie being mentioned in a trade rumor. For now, Battie will back up Mark Blount. But there's more. Much more. Depending on matchups and what O'Brien desires from his center, he could go with newcomer Raef LaFrentz, Vin Baker, or even Walter McCarty in a pinch. Waiting in the wings with proverbial upside and obvious rebounding talent is rookie Kendrick Perkins.

POWER FORWARD -- Many of the names at center can also be penciled in at power forward. Baker will start. Regardless of the center/power forward combination O'Brien employs, the Celtics can be assured of greater size. They will also have much better rebounding capabilities. Speaking of rebounding, rookie Brandon Hunter may see most of his minutes in practice, but in every workout, his near-constant presence on the glass reinforces the importance of hitting the boards.

SMALL FORWARD -- O'Brien chose Kedrick Brown to start over Eric Williams. That is very good news for the second unit, which inherits a hard-nosed defender and strong leader who will not permit the reserves to let down on either end. During the last couple of exhibition games, Williams also showed he could score when needed. Jones remains the unknown at small forward. But since O'Brien did not place him on the injured list to start the season, it's clear the coach wants to work him into the rotation quickly.

SHOOTING GUARD -- Only two words matter here: Paul Pierce. He will play 36-38 minutes per game at the position. The rest of the time can go to Brown and newcomer Jiri Welsch. Although Welsch started learning the Boston system from the point guard position, he certainly can shoot. During each of his two seasons in the Slovenian League, Welsch shot better than 50 percent.

POINT GUARD -- When the Celtics executed a draft-night trade to acquire Marcus Banks, it was widely assumed he would be the point of the future. Clearly, that future is not right now. Two years of defensive drilling with Pat Riley in Miami gave Mike James a distinct advantage. Banks has a lot of maturing to do, but if he plays well on any given night, expect O'Brien to keep him in.

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