Camp fire: C's focus on small ball
October, 1, 2012
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Before their big European adventure, the Boston Celtics went small Monday with Celtics coach Doc Rivers suggesting that much of the team's third practice of training camp would be dedicated to undersized lineups.
With increased versatility on the roster this season, Rivers has suggested he'll engage in some heavy mixing-and-matching to find units that allow Boston to both match up with -- and exploit -- opponents this season.
"[Rondo] will be very happy. We put [the small lineups] in yesterday, but we didn’t work on it. Today, almost exclusively, we'll have small lineups on the floor," said Rivers. "We’re going to change them all around, so that will be fun. This is the first year that we’ve actually really worked on it. We’re going to work on it every day."
The Celtics like the flexibility available this season. Jeff Green can play either forward position, while Jason Terry can play both guard spots. Paul Pierce and Courtney Lee can line up at either wing position, while Kevin Garnett and Chris Wilcox have frontcourt flexibility.
Going small can help Boston achieve its goal of pushing the pace this season and could generate more transition opportunities with more speed -- and more players willing to run -- around Rondo. Boston flirted with smaller lineups at times last season, but has added versatility this year.
"We played a lot of small ball last year, with Paul at the 4 and Mickael Pietrus [at the 3], but obviously we have Jeff this year, a couple other guys, so, we can mix it up a little bit more this year, as far as depth," said Rondo.
Green might be the key cog in all of this. The Celtics have stressed a desire for him to play with more power as a small forward, but be an uptempo power forward, exploiting his athleticism. The Celtics can trot out a lineup like Rondo-Lee-Pierce-Green-Garnett, which puts a lot of shooting on the floor but also allows Boston to attack in transition.
"[Green is] the main guy when you talk about the small lineup," said Rondo. "He played the 4 in Oklahoma City. He stretched the floor with his shooting. He beat a lot of bigs down the floor as well, so he can go from the 4 to the 3, and, defensively, he can check 1 through 4, I believe. So, we expect a lot out of Jeff, but he's fine with that."
Green has expressed a strong desire to spend more time at small forward in Boston's system, but smiled and didn't argue when Rivers informed him Monday that the team was going small and he'd be at the 4 more for the session. Green is open to Rivers utilizing him multiple ways as long as it means more floor time overall.
"I mean, that's [Rivers] using me to the best of my abilities, being able to play multiple positions, and guard multiple positions," said Green. "Me playing the 3 at times, me playing the 4, is what I can do, and what he's going to put me on the floor to do. I'm looking forward to it."
Read on for a handful of notes from pre-practice access on Monday:
* Wilcox sits out session: Limited at the end of Sunday's practice, Wilcox sat out on Monday. Not only is Wilcox still working his way back after heart surgery in March, but Rivers said he took a pretty good hit in the first days of practice. "Chris is going to sit out today; took a pretty good hit," said Rivers. "There’s no other reason than that."
* Best practice of the year: Garnett said the team needs to maintain the momentum from the first days of camp when it hops overseas. "Doc said we had the best practice of the year yesterday, so we gotta keep that going," he joked. Boston, of course, has had a whopping two practices thus far.
* Ryder Cup fallout: Rivers, a huge golf fan, wasn't thrilled after the Europeans rallied to retain the Ryder Cup on Sunday. He noted he had been texting with not only USA's Keegan Bradley (undefeated until a loss on Sunday) and Europe's Ian Poulter (whose magical round Saturday gave his squad the momentum to start the improbable comeback). Said Rivers: "I talked to a couple of guys, Keegan and I texted back and forth today, so that was pretty cool. Unfortunately, Ian and I texted back and forth today, that was not as cool." Rivers is close with Bradley's trainer and said the golfer had visited the Celtics' facilities a few weeks back. Poulter lives near Rivers in Orlando and drops by Boston's locker room when they visit the Magic. Joked Rivers: "He’s no longer invited. That was awful what he did."
* Bags are packed: The Celtics depart for Istanbul and the first part of their European adventure on Monday evening. Both Pierce and Green took to Twitter Monday to express their excitement about the weeklong adventure that starts with an 11-hour flight. The Celtics will play an exhibition game in Istanbul before trekking to Milan, Italy, for another. Said Garnett: "From a basketball standpoint, we’re still getting to know each other. It’ll be bigger than that. I think Turkey will be more social; the trip to Milan will be more for the chemistry."