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Tidying up their House

By Frank Dell'Apa
Globe Staff / October 5, 2008
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NEWPORT, R.I. - Eddie House overcame pressure when it counted for the Celtics last season. Now, though, the Celtics are trying to make House's life uncomfortable on the court.

"We are trapping him and getting him used to more pressure," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of House. "I'm sure teams saw that last year and we are trying to get him ready for it."

House brings a different style to the point guard position than starter Rajon Rondo, his perimeter shooting threat changing the dynamic of the offense. In the playoffs, opposing teams tried to short-circuit Boston's offense by pressing House. Even if House did not surrender possession, the tactic reduced the amount of time the Celtics had to set up Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce in the halfcourt game.

"You've just got to slow down," Rivers said. "Point guards think when they get pressure they have to speed up - it's just the opposite. That's what they are trying to get you to do.

"It's not about using both hands. I was a one-handed player - I used my left, but I didn't want to. It's just, don't take it personally when they are pressuring you. Your job is to get the team in the set."

Rondo, House, and Gabe Pruitt have been handling most of the point guard duties in the preseason. Unless Pruitt can display more assertiveness, though, he likely will remain fourth on the depth chart behind Sam Cassell, or follow a path similar to when he played for Utah in the development league last season.

"The more you practice the more you get used to it," House said. "It becomes like second nature. Last year, a couple teams tried to pressure me and kind of took me out of what I do. I had to get my angles and get into the offense, and once I figured that out I was OK.

"I just have to get to where I want to go and not let somebody dictate to me. I need to dictate where I want to go and someone one-on-one should never take me away from that.

"Rajon and Gabe are great to go against, they're both quick and have long arms. Patience is about being comfortable, and if you aren't comfortable you are going to speed up and other things are going to be dictated to you that you really don't want to happen. You might be trying to run a play and because you are not comfortable with what you're doing you end up doing something different. Once you get comfortable, you can go out and do what you need to be doing."

Rondo last season became one of the few second-year point guards to help a team win the NBA championship. Cassell won NBA titles with Houston in his first two seasons.

"Eddie has been in the league a long time," Rondo said. "He did a pretty good job last year - we won 66 games and he played well. I am working with him and pressuring him and he's handled it well."

This is Cassell's first preseason with the Celtics.

"It hurt him that he didn't know the offense last year and, if you are an offensive point guard and you don't know the offense you tend to shoot," said Rivers. "That hurt Sam in the playoffs. Now, he has had a chance to learn what we're doing."

Pruitt is being groomed for the future.

"I just feel like I need to prove myself on defense, show that I can defend, be more vocal," he said. "That's one of the things Doc has been questioning, whether I can be vocal. So that's one thing I can show, that I can direct guys in certain spots. That's my main focus coming here. I have to come in and play defense. They already know that the offense is there. But my main focus is to prove myself defensively and running the team."

All four point guards have guaranteed contracts, Cassell signing for the league minimum salary last week.

Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com; Marc J. Spears of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

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