Practice: C's ponder lineup tweak vs. Nets
January, 25, 2014
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com
Chris Forsberg/ESPN BostonThe Celtics wrap up practice on Saturday in Waltham.WALTHAM, Mass. -- When the Boston Celtics wrapped up practice on Saturday afternoon, Brandon Bass was among those clad in a green jersey that typically denotes a starter. While coach Brad Stevens would only acknowledge that there is a potential that the team will tweak its lineup on Sunday to better match up against a Brooklyn squad that's gone small in the aftermath of losing Brook Lopez, it would seem fair to expect Bass to have a larger (and potentially starting) role against the visiting Nets.
Looking for increased versatility, the Celtics could shift Bass into the starting lineup while shuffling Jared Sullinger, who dislocated a finger on his right hand during Friday's loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder and had the injury taped on Saturday, to a reserve role (or simply make Bass an early sub). The Nets dominated Boston near the basket in the teams' first regular-season meeting in December, but the loss of Lopez has changed the look of Brooklyn's lineup.
What's more, the Nets have won nine of their last 10 games while surging back into the playoff mix in the Eastern Conference.
"You saw it coming the last time we played them because they were all getting healthy," said Stevens. "Then they lost Lopez, and sometimes when you lose a guy of that magnitude, it’s hard to adjust, at least initially. And I think that’s what it was when they went on a little bit of a slide after we played them.
"But the deal is, they are playing [Paul] Pierce at the 4. So now you’ve got [Alan] Anderson, Pierce, [Joe] Johnson as 2, 3, 4, they are all interchangeable. They all spread the floor and you can play [Shaun] Livingston as a starter as kind of a jack-of-all-trades. You can play [Deron] Williams the majority of the minutes, who is now coming off the bench. Think about that for a second, Deron Williams is coming off the bench on that team -- that’s pretty good. You’ve got Garnett back at the 5, where he’s played a lot the last few years here. I think you’ve got a lot of guys that are really able to take advantage of their matchups by playing a position down. And their bodies would suggest that they are able to play a position down because they are so big and agile anyways."
Boston can negate some of that interchangeability by countering with a lineup that features Gerald Wallace, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries, all alongside Rajon Rondo.
Bass had started 36 games this season before recently being shuffled back to a reserve role with Boston utilizing Humphries and Sullinger up front at the start of games. For the month of January, Bass is averaging 10 points and 5 rebounds (just a tick below his season averages), but on only 23.7 minutes per game (four minutes less than his season average). At the start of the year, Bass was anchoring the Boston defense and the Celtics might be looking for a boost there, particularly with Sullinger dinged up and the team coming off a defenseless effort against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Some more notes from practice:
- BAYLESS DOUBTFUL VS. NETS: Stevens said guard Jerryd Bayless, who has missed the past three games due to a sprained toe in his left foot, went through only catch-and-shoot portions of practice on Saturday and, based on his limited activity, would deem him doubtful to return on Sunday. Bayless remains game-to-game moving forward.
- BRADLEY OBSERVES SESSION: Avery Bradley, who is nursing a sprained right ankle, sat at the makeshift scorer's table, his right leg elevated in a bulky wrap, and observed the end of practice alongside trainer Ed Lacerte. Bradley was expected to miss two weeks after spraining his ankle in a loss to Miami on Tuesday.
- 10-DAYERS IN FOCUS: The Celtics will have to make a decision on whether to bring back Chris Johnson on a second 10-day contract after Sunday's game. Asked about Johnson and fellow 10-dayer Vander Blue, Stevens offered praise for their efforts. "Vander had a good practice today," said Stevens. "We didn’t go live very long, but the part we did go live, he was really good and really aggressive. These days are days that those guys are going to be good because they’re trying to maximize that experience and this opportunity. I thought they both did fine [versus Oklahoma City on Friday]. I think you throw them to the wolves. [Friday] we had a backcourt of [undrafted rookie point guard] Phil [Pressey] and those two guys out there, all at the same time in the fourth quarter against a pretty darn seasoned group, even though [the Thunder] didn’t have their two best players. That was a great experience for them and hopefully they can build on it."