With 15 back-to-back’s and one three-in-a-row looming in the condensed schedule, you have to imagine that Doc is mulling over the options for resting the Antiquated Four. With that in mind I found myself watching the first preseason game imagining options giving Ray, Paul, Kevin, and/or Jermaine nights off. Considering that December 27th and 8th are both game nights, this means that the first trial comes at the end of the first week of the regular season with Miami and New Orleans on successive nights. Might we see an emerging strategy this early in the season?
I expect all hands on deck for Miami. However, might the two (active rosters at 13 to start the season) inactive players for the Hornets be KG and O’Neal? O.K., probably not. It will be hard to sit both of your starting big men with JuJuan looking timid in his late fourth quarter appearance and Stiemsma registering his entire box score line with his “game-winning” play cramming three offensive rebounds and shooting one of three into two and a half seconds and 18” of total shot length. It wouldn’t surprise me, on the other hand, if one of KG or O’Neal is given the night off.
I watched the cardiac kids “close out” (and Bargnani lost this game more than any Celtic won it although if Greg doesn’t wrestle those three rebounds away from himself and make that third rainbow tip-in then AB’s missed put back wouldn’t have mattered). Anyway I spent the fourth quarter thinking that if all four oldsters are given the evening off for the middle of the back-to-back, this quintet might actually see the floor together on April 14th against the Nets.
I also went away thinking that Keyon, Daniels, Green, Bass, and Wilcox would have been a much stronger second unit than the Celtics have fielded since putting together the new Big Three. But then every season they had a more potent second unit on paper than they ever were able to trot out onto the floor. Keyon, Daniels, Bass, Wilcox, and “winner” of the Moore-Brown-Bradley-Pavlovic sweepstakes doesn’t leave me with the same warm fuzzy feeling—nice set of complementary players without a go-to scorer among them. Hey maybe they can play the opposition to a scoreless tie?
If you pencil in Pavlovic as the fifth member of the second unit, you are indeed left with Moore, Bradley, Brown, Johnson, and Stiemsma as the third group. Now admittedly, barring injury, Rondo will probably pull sizeable minutes for almost every game. Now if you put him on the floor with Moore and Johnson (assuming JaJuan’s single timid shot in Toronto was rookie jitters) then the two rooks probably get some open shots. So maybe the Celtics can get away with sitting the Old Four for some games—NOH, DET (twice), WAS (thrice), CLE, and SAC all fall on one or both halves of a back-to-back.
So how about it, can Doc channel Greg Popovich this season? Will he sit oldsters singly, in pairs, or en masse? Will he play the rookies early enough, and often enough, so that he has second-year players to call on in May? If our health holds up, it may be a very interesting season to watch unfold.