Luke Jackson and Brian Grant are gone. Allan Ray, Michael Olowokandi and Leon Powe are still here. The season starts Wednesday against the Hornets.
|Delonte West and his new tats figure to be a big part of the rotation, but who else? (Jim Davis / Globe Staff)|
Doc Rivers has said all preseason that he probably wonít establish a regular rotation because the young guys (read: everyone but Paul Pierce and Wally Szczerbiak) need time to prove themselves. That means Pierce, Szczerbiak, Delonte West, Sebastian Telfair, Rajon Rondo, Ryan Gomes, Kendrick Perkins, Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Tony Allen, Gerald Green, Brian Scalabrine, Olowokandi, Powe, and Ray should all get playing time.
Does this sound like a problem to anyone else?
What the best teams in the NBA have in common is an established rotation. A couple of key role players off the bench. Eight, nine guys tops.
Iím no actuary, but I count 15 players in Docís current non-rotation rotation. Maybe Ray and Scalabrine donít play much if at all. Someone (Ratliff somes to mind) will always be hurt. But that still leaves 12 players competing for a total of 240 minutes. Divided equally, thatís about 20 minutes per guy. Factoring in 35-plus minutes for Pierce, Szczerbiak, and West, that number becomes much less for the other nine.
The problem is that I like all 13 players. Each one of them is incomplete, but they each bring something valuable (rebounding for Powe, defense for Allen, etc.) to the table. And I suspect this is Danny Aingeís main dilemma right now. He probably wants to package a few of these guys into a deal for a veteran player, but he doesnít want to sell three future stars for a washed-up Kenyon Martin, either.
As Celtics fans we are biased by seeing our young players every night. We think Rajon Rondo plays like Bob Cousy, and then Tommy Heinsohn tells us six times every game that indeed he does. We drink the Kool-Aid on all of our young playersí potential.
But NBA GMs around the country donít see our players the same way. A three-for-one deal that brings in Kevin Garnett or Allen Iverson sounds awfully nice on our end, but Iím sure those kinds of offers are met with laughs on the other end of Aingeís phone line.
That leaves the Celtics with one option: develop the players they have and hope they get much better. But young guys donít develop with nine minutes per game off the bench. Bostonís future stars need to be a significant part of a consistent rotation to show any sort of improvement, and the team as a whole needs that consistency to be successful as well.
Therefore, Iím calling on Doc Rivers to resist the temptation to play 13 guys every night this season. Pick nine, maybe 10 guys and stick to them. Someone may disappointed, but those players will work even harder in practice to prove to Doc that he was wrong. Meanwhile, the guys who are playing will benefit from the consistency of knowing who is on the weak side on defense, who covers the outlet man on the break, and whom they can consistently rely upon to bury that 18-foot jumper.
Or just play Ďem all at once and see what happens. That sounds like a solid plan, doesnít it?