|Posted by paul on August 30, 2012 at 8:15 AM|
We've heard a lot of talk this summer about how much better the 'second unit' will be, with guys like Terry, Wilcox, Lee (eventually), Sullinger and Green coming off the bench. Surely, the Cs will be a deeper team this year than we have seen in years, hopefully the deepest team in the league. But I think it will be crucial for our success this season that the team will not break down into first and second units as rigidly as we have seen over the past several years.
There are several reasons to think that this rigid breakdown into units will change, in my opinion. One is that it now seems clear that part of the mentality that pervaded the team before had to do with Ray Allen. Allen seems to be an admirable person and player in many ways, but he made it clear, I'd say, that he had very strong feelings about the divide between starters and bench. As much as we wish Ray had stayed, his leaving seems to have cleared the air, and made the situation more flexible.
KG has already made it clear that he understands that his role has had to change, and last year we saw him playing with both first and second units brilliantly. I think we will see much the same from Pierce this year. I'm pretty sure Pierce knows that he has to start scaling back the minutes, while carrying less of the load. I think he will start to follow KG's path. The two HOF vets will still be starters, but they'll blend more with the second units, creating a more flexible and fluid situation.
Meanwhile, we have some folks in the 'second unit' who are going to be needing and wanting some playing time and some responsibility. Just the fact that the Cs brought Jason Terry in shows that they are leaning towards a bench that plays a bigger role. Terry is a starter quality player even on an outstanding team. There's no question that he is a 'second tier' guy. Just bringing him on board means that 'second unit' doesn't mean what it used to in Celtics Land.
But look who is behind Terry! Lee. Sullinger. Green. Wilcox. These are all guys who are itching to bust out. They won't be sitting passively on the bench. They'll be restlessly waiting to get into the game. They aren't going to be aiming for starter spots, like Baby always seemed to be doing, in his head. They all seem to understand the team approach, and they all seem dedicated to it. They all seem more than ready to accept the leadership of the Big Three. But they don't seem to be guys who see themselves as second tier guys any more than Terry. They all seem to have a lot of pride in what they are doing, at this point.
And then you have Rondo. My goodness, does anyone think that Rondo will be content to be on the floor only with KG, Bass, Pierce and Lee/Bradley, then happily sitting down when Terry, Green, Sullinger and Wilcox come into the game? No way. NO WAY. Rondo will want to play with all those guys. He'll spend all his waking hours thinking about ways to make the most of all their talents and abilities. It will be hard for Doc to get Rondo to sit down! Frankly, he won't be sitting much. I saw a comment on Twitter, supposedly from Rondo (but not confirmed elsewhere), where he states that this year's team will be running a lot more. Well, that should be obvious, but it also virtually says that Rondo will be playing with the 'second unit' guys a lot, since they are the fleet ones.
It seems to me that Doc is the key here. He is going to have to be flexible and imaginative about working guys in and out of the game, changing player configurations on the run, managing everyone's minutes, and above all, making sure that Rondo gets some rest whilst not nailing him to the bench more than is necessary. We aren't that used to thinking about Doc as flexible, are we? But I believe that Doc learned a lot last season about trusting the players, about working the young ones into the mix, and about flexibility. THE LAST THING THIS TEAM NEEDS IS RIGIDITY. What makes us potentially ferociously powerful is that we have the ability to be deeper than any other team, and more flexible than any other team, and we have the ability to pound opponents into submission in waves.
Doc Rivers faces the greatest coaching challenge of his career, in my opinion. When we think back on what he did last year, with a team that started out the season staggered by Ainge's heedless and crazy moves, and then was devastated by injury over and over and over again as the season wore on, we surely have to be amazed. It was such a tough challenge, and he handled it incredibly well, and even allowed himself to grow as a coach in order to meet the challenge. The challenge this year is less one of adversity, and more one of amazing potential. But the challenge of great potential can be an even harder challenge. Adversity forces a person to change, to be open to new possibilites. A Stiemsma is given a chance because there is no other option. To embrace the possibilities of this year, Doc has to show that same ability to change and grow that he showed last year, but it has to come from him, and not from the circumstances. He has to have faith. Even if Sullinger, for example, gets crushed in the post repeatedly, Doc has to have faith in the guy. Even if Wilcox starts out slow, Doc can't bury him in the rotation.
This is a team that has to attack the opponents like a ferocious, pounding surf. To do that, we need the best coaching Doc has ever done.