The nagging question for fans all throughout the lockout was "who will back up Jermaine O'Neal at center?" So far, the team has added some nice, young big men, but no true centers - unless you count the camp invite-then-cut list. (Greg Steimsma actually has a shot to make the team - he's a D-League defensive player of the year) So the question still remains - who's the backup?
"We have a bunch of guys," said Rivers. "Kevin can play center. Kevin has played center before. I think he can absolutely play center. Brandon Bass can play center and he's done that as well."
Two things stand out about Rivers's statement: the mention of Garnett, whose minutes are bound to decrease again this year, and the lack of a mention of Wilcox.
I think there's some debate over Chris Wilcox's ability to play center. He seems to think he can play there a little bit, but while he's tall, he's not very thick. On the flipside, Brandon Bass has more meat where he lacks in inches top to bottom. So if you are talking technically, I think you have to list Bass as the primary backup center at this point.
I'm not dismissing the Kevin Garnett notion right away, but consider me somewhat skeptical. I appreciate Kevin's statements that he'd be happy to play center and Doc's willingness to use him there, but experience has taught us that KG is moving away from the basket a lot faster than he is towards it. He's probably the most polished post player we have, but he's shooting more and more jumpers the older he gets. Part of that I'm sure is career preservation but I think a lot of it is mental as well. Even when the coach urges him to be more aggressive, it doesn't take long for him to start taking more long range shots.
So that leads us back to the (correct but unsatisfying) explanation that 4's and 5's are somewhat interchangeable at this point anyway. There aren't many "true" centers left in the league, and for ever Dwight Howard there's 5 Jason Collins type players. You aren't going to stop Dwight Howard even with a "true" center (even Kendrick Perkins had a lot of trouble with him the last few years) and the rest of the "centers" in the league aren't scaring anyone.
So what about Bass? He actually logged a lot of practice minutes playing against that same Dwight Howard in Orlando. What does he bring to the table? Let's see what Doc has to say.
"I like his motor,’’ Rivers said of Bass, who will earn $4 million per year the next two seasons. "I like his consistent elbow jump shot. I like the fact that we can lean on him at times, offensively. He’s an offensive player. I like his speed. "I think you can see when he first got there with Stan [Van Gundy], he wasn’t known as a defender in Orlando,’’ Rivers said. "But by the time he left, he had become one and I think, basically, in my opinion the more Stan taught, the more you have to be a willing participant, and I thought he became that.’’
Sounds like a pretty good place to start, and a nice upgrade from the high energy but low jumping Glen Davis.
Still, all the options seem somewhat temporary in nature. Like a bandage solution rather than stitches. The analogy might be apt too. We are discussing the uncertain nature of the backup center spot while the starting center has put off surgery that might end his career and was shopped this week for another power forward. How long before the backup center concern becomes a concern about the starting center position?
Ainge still has time to add another veteran minimum guy to the roster if he can convince anyone to take it, but for now this might be all that we've got. Do you think it is enough?