Arroyo in to take heat off Rondo
WALTHAM — The way the Heat drew it up, Carlos Arroyo was supposed to be the backup point guard for a championship contender.
At least that much is still true.
He was supposed to be the “competitive and efficient’’ worker bee that Heat president Pat Riley re-signed in the offseason for the veteran minimum to play behind Mario Chalmers. He would supplement the free agent constellation the Heat formed with LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade as they try to dethrone the Celtics in the Eastern Conference.
After 49 games, that plan changed, and the Heat waived the 31-year-old to make room for veteran floor general Mike Bibby, an upgrade in their eyes.
Enter another title contender.
With Rajon Rondo playing close to 40 minutes a night for nearly two months, the Celtics were in the market for a true point guard at a low cost, and Arroyo, playoff-tested from his days with the Pistons, was precisely the spare part they needed. They had interest in signing him before the 2009-10 season, and they got him this weekend as the last investment in their push to the playoffs.
Arroyo finds himself in the same situation he was at the start of the season. Only now the job is to defend the Eastern throne, not take it away.
“It’s been a roller coaster,’’ Arroyo said. “But I’m excited to start a new career here in Boston. It’s a great opportunity for me in my career. I’m going to try to do whatever possible to help the team win, whatever the coach needs me to do out there to get the guys involved and in the right spots.’’
He joined the Celtics yesterday for his first practice, a short, open session in front of a handful of season ticket-holders at HealthPoint. The setting was slightly different from the frenzied hype machine he had gotten used to in Miami, where the Heat held a championship-sized bash simply to celebrate the formation of their All-Star trio.
The Heat, who have lost to the Celtics in each of their three meetings this season, are finding the hype difficult to live up to. They lost to the Blazers last night, their fifth straight setback.
For Arroyo, the circus was overwhelming, especially compared with his first season in Miami, when the Heat went 47-35, earned the fifth seed, and bowed out quietly to the Celtics in the first round.
“It was just too much at times,’’ Arroyo said. “Media everywhere, fans everywhere. It was a lot. It was a lot, like people say, like being the Beatles.’’
His first function will be to give Rondo a chance to breathe. Arroyo is the first true backup point guard the Celtics have had in a long while.
“He’s been a point guard all his life,’’ said coach Doc Rivers. “So I think some of the stuff he’ll pick up pretty quickly. And all the nuances of things, that’ll just take time. But he knows how to run a team and that’ll be great for us.’’
How much he plays in the postseason depends on how well he auditions over the next 21 games.
“We don’t know yet,’’ Rivers said. “If he plays great during the rest of the year, then he’ll answer that question.’’
On the shelf Delonte West was riding an exercise bike and Glen Davis was wrapped in towels at practice, clear indicators that neither will return to the court immediately.
Davis, who strained his left patella tendon last week against the Suns, has missed the past two games and will miss the next two, said Rivers. West has missed four games after spraining his right ankle in a walkthrough on the West Coast trip. Rivers said he could return Sunday against the Bucks.
Davis, who said the knee has been bothering him since last season, expects to practice within days.
Meanwhile, Von Wafer, who strained his calf Friday against Golden State, was walking around in a boot.
“Von’s going to miss a while,’’ said Rivers. “He’s nowhere close to coming back.’’
The First Fan President Barack Obama, who was in town yesterday, met privately with several Celtics, including Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rondo, and Rivers. Team co-owners Stephen Pagliuca and Jonathan Lavine organized the meeting . . . Troy Murphy sat for more than a month with New Jersey before joining the Celtics last week, and his timing and conditioning are noticeably off. He’s still looking for his first field goal as a Celtic and spent extra time taking shots after practice. “That’s just going to take time,’’ Rivers said. “Even today, we ran a play for him, he was wide open, and the fact that he didn’t shoot tells you his timing’s off.’’ . . . Along with reducing Rondo’s minutes, bringing in Arroyo should have an effect on Allen and Pierce’s load as well, according to Rivers. “Hopefully, Carlos will help,’’ Rivers said. “Right now, each night you have to choose between Ray and Paul — who’s going to play the 38-minute night? — because we just don’t have enough bodies.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.