While we're still a few weeks away from training camp, I'm getting more and more excited to see what this team will be. And reading these posts about our reserve players are making me even more excited not because I think we have the best bench or even the deepest in the league, but I think we have probably one of the hungriest group of players (both starters and reserves) out there. I read an article a few days back where Bill Russell voiced his opinion on the new look Celtics:
Bill Russell on the new look Celtics: "You don’t know how they will play together. Getting a better player doesn’t necessarily make you a better team. That may sound kind of weird. You may acquire a player with better statistics but may not make you a better team. Red Auerbach and the Celtics, we used to talk about that all the time."
"The question you have to ask yourself, ‘How does his style fit with what you are going to put him with and will it make you a better team?’"
My thoughts on this after the jump:
While I agree wholeheartedly with Russell that chemistry is important and it doesn't grow on trees, I think this year's Celtics team will be different from the previous pack because of a few key advantages.
Our Starting Group
Our starting five (minus Bradley) is still intact for this year so I don't expect too much drop off from production. In fact, the style of play from our shooting guards compliment the starting unit much better than what Ray offered us the past year. Don't get me wrong, I did love to watch that silky smooth 3 pointer, but the fact remains that Ray's production has gone down sharply since the Kendrick Perkins trade. Since he's a perfectionist, Ray had an issue shooting the ball without a proper (or illegal) screen. Once Perkins left and Shaq went down, all he had was Glen Davis' big body to set him good screens. Now with no Big Baby, we saw Ray barely getting 7 to 10 shots up per game. It wasn't because they weren't looking for him, it would just take entirely too long for Ray to run off a million screens in order to get open and we'd waste a possession. Without that liability, we'll finally see some consistent type of play from the shooting guard position with a mix of 3 point shooting, mid-range shots, and drives to the basket from Bradley, Lee and Terry. This style of play was successful when we first added Bradley to the mix last year and will compliment Rondo-Pierce-Bass-KG very well.
Doc Rivers is the most important Celtic each year in my opinion. He has the knack for getting players to play to their strengths and that's what a coach is supposed to do. Players want to perform for this guy and that's important. A team like the Knicks for example had loaded up on talent last year and they also had a secret weapon that they didn't even know about (Jeremy Lin), but they didn't win as much as they should have because they didn't play well together. Mike D'Antoni is a great coach, but the New York team he coached last season did not respect him. They didn't want to win for him and so they didn't.
From the interviews we've heard this summer, almost every single incoming player has stressed how much it means to them that Doc had contacted them or cited a special relationship with Doc, and that's key because it truly makes me believe that these guys are going to do everything it takes to perform for Doc. Jason Terry is learning Ray Allen's old routes, Jeff Green has something to prove and wants to be more aggressive, Sullinger is talking rebounding, etc. These guys know they are here to fill certain roles and that we won't have any divas complaining about playing time or starting. (Cough, Ray Allen)
The Reserves Know They Have Something to Prove
This reserve unit is the first in a while that will actually get a full training camp without a key player missing. Avery Bradley is our starter and he's sidelined for the start of the season, but I think having Courtney Lee fill in will be an easy transition because of their similar style of play. While Lee has proven to be a bit more consistent with his jumpshot and is a better overall offensive player than Bradley, they both provide the ability to defend the guard position well. With that being said, no one's job is guaranteed to them so everyone is working hard to show that they deserve their playing time. The reserve unit players and rookies have already been in Waltham for a few weeks getting to know each other's playing style and hammering out some chemistry issues, which I think is HUGE considering that our main issue in the past (besides our atrocious rebounding numbers) has been bench performance. I'll never forget that in Game 7 of the ECF, our bench scored 2 points (a layup by Ryan Hollins). If they can continue to have the drive and focus to be better collectively and mesh well, I think we definitely have a shot.