Going into the season the Celtics had a lot of questions about the rotation and how Brad Stevens was going to split up minutes. The front court was stacked with capable players who all deserved minutes, and some people in the Boston area were concerned that there would not be enough to go around.
Although Stevens has proved to be one of the brightest coaches in the game, his hands are going to be full with figuring out how to manage playing time and find the right combination on the floor. We saw a number of different five-man units during the preseason, as Stevens tried to determine who played best with who. After finally settling on a starting five going into the season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers last night, Stevens quickly had to change course after that unit got off to a slow start.
Brad Stevens on tonight's win: "We found ourselves in a hole, which isn't all that bad in your first game, and we responded."— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 29, 2015
And respond they did. Stevens went to the bench early on, calling on Jared "The Afterthought" Sullinger to come in and make an impact on both ends of the floor. He then went small for extended chunks of time, moving Jonas Jerebko to the four spot in order to have a quicker trap defense on rookie Jahlil Okafor who had been dominating Tyler Zeller earlier in the game.
The C's versatility will allow Stevens to think outside the box and try different lineups and schemes that he may otherwise not be able to pull off. While some may think that having this many quality players who need minutes could cause some problems, Stevens has shown the ability to find what works best and make the necessary adjustments when things aren't going well.
Via Jay King of masslive.com:
With another coach, the excess of options might cause concern. But in a TD Garden hallway after the Celtics crashed in waves over the Philadelphia 76ers, 112-95, one Celtics staffer noted how quickly Stevens spots what works and what doesn't. The organization holds a deep trust that the man in charge will shuffle the cards to deal his team the best possible hand every night.
"Just as we are asking the team to be flexible and malleable, I have to be," Stevens said before the game. "I don't think I can take the easy way out and say I'd like to have a set rotation every night. I need to be thinking outside the box and I need to make sure we utilize that depth. Obviously, (players) have to continue to play well to stay in the mix of guys that are playing, but I need to be able to adjust on the fly too. That's as much on me as anybody else."
There are going to be times, much like early on in the game against the 76ers, that the starting unit for the Celtics will fall short on both sides of the ball. When that happens, we can be confident that Stevens will be able to find a way to spark the team and put the right players on the floor together. This team will take many shapes throughout the season, sometimes during a single game, and that may be one of its biggest strengths. King says:
Meet the Boston Celtics, an unselfish, hard-working basketball chameleon that will take on different colors depending on the situation. Jahlil Okafor is stomping on the new parquet floor for layup after layup? Bring in the guy most people expected to be the fifth big man in a four-person rotation. Need more double teams? Slide Jerebko over to power forward and go small for 15 straight minutes. Zeller and David Lee aren't getting the job done as a pairing? Split them up and/or call on Amir Johnson to defend the paint.
Will Stevens be able to work his magic on a nightly basis and find lineups that an fix any problem that arises?
Photo Credit: Brian Babineau/NBAE
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