WALTHAM — The Celtics spent nearly two hours Tuesday afternoon working on pick-and-roll coverages at their practice facility, according to coach Doc Rivers. Defense is Rivers’s primary focus this early in the season, and he utilized an entire increasingly precious practice session to try and get his team’s defense right.
“Teams take steps,” said Rivers. “To win titles you take a lot of steps. The first step for us was buying in, and I think we’ve done that. But now we’ve got to get it right. Second thing is pick and roll. It never stops. I would love to find that team where there’s perfection, and you show up and say, ‘Guys, we have nothing to practice on.'”
Why pick and rolls? At least in the early part of this season, there’s been an increased use of the play as quick guards take advantage of rules prohibiting defensive players from putting their hands on ball-handlers. Sunday night in Orlando, Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis ran an effective pick and roll against the Celtics that erased Boston’s second-half lead and led to an overtime game.
“You can’t touch anybody,” said Rivers. “You can’t touch above the free throw line. It’s brought the small guard back in the league, it’s brought the quick guard back in the league. I watched a game the other night and they never ran another play besides the pick and roll, and they won. It was unbelievable. The other team couldn’t stop it.
“Hell, I don’t know if I could play in the league with those rules. Or I could have been great.”
— Kris Joseph joined the Celtics at practice Tuesday. In two games with the NBA Development League’s Maine Red Claws Joseph is averaging 25.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Rivers said the plan is for Joseph and Melo to float between Boston and Portland as often as time allows to experience practicing with both teams. Melo was in Waltham Tuesday but did not practice because the Celtics had “too many bigs”, according to Rivers, who likes the arrangement.
“It’s been a pretty good thing so far,” he said.
Joseph said he is enjoying his experience with the Red Claws, who host their home opener Friday.
“Those guys down there are really good,” said Joseph. “Even if you think about the guys on my team, I have Shelvin Mack who played with the Wizards, and Chris Wright who got called to Golden State. There’s a lot of talent in that league. A lot of people, myself included, I didn’t know how good of a league it was before actually being a part of it. It’s been great. Being here and playing against these guys everyday definitely gave me a slight advantage, because I’m playing against some of the best in the world.”
Joseph said that at the end of the day he wishes he could remain in Boston, but he admitted the front office made a good decision sending him down to get more playing time. He said he won’t miss any Red Claws practices for Celtics practices.
— Feeding Kevin Garnett on the post has been an emphasis for the team in recent days.
“Especially if we think he has an advantage,” said Rivers. “I don’t think our eyes are trained yet to look down there. I think we have to train players’ eyes to look in the post off of pick and rolls and off of other actions. I think we’re starting to do that. I think we don’t do it enough. We’re a ways away.”
Said guard Courtney Lee, “If you get a post presence like KG on your team you’ve got to get the ball in the post. It makes everybody’s job a lot easier when we get Kevin started early. When he starts dominating down in the paint, it makes the other team have to send another body down and it frees up the shooters.”
— Jared Sullinger and Rajon Rondo spent time running pick-and-roll offense after practice. It’s a routine Sullinger said they’ve been doing for months.
“Rondo wants certain things,” said Sullinger. “You’ve got to know his tendencies as a basketball player. Sometimes they’re unexpected tendencies, but you’ve just got to know to expect the unexpected with Rondo. You’ve just got to keep playing and always have your hands ready.”