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Lockout Casualty: Celtics Youth Movement

The word "aging" precedes the Celtics in so many publications (ok, this blog as well) that it is starting to sound like part of the team's official name.  Yes, the core group hasn't exactly found the secret of Benjamin Button but if you give them enough rest they should be able to carry the team into the playoffs once again (where anything can happen).

How they get that rest is up in the air though.  Danny has quite a few roster spot to fill once the lockout lifts but we already know of 3 names that will most likely be on the roster.  Avery Bradley, JaJuan Johnson, and E'Twaun Moore each has the potential to contribute but only Bradley has seen NBA court time and that was mostly garbage time minutes.

We've already lost training camp, the whole preseason, and the first two weeks of the season.  More could follow but even if they came to an agreement today, there would be at best an abbreviated training camp and a rush to start games.

In one sense, the Celtics are well positioned to get up to speed quickly with their core group of several years returning (minus one Beast).  But if that group intends to have any lasting impact on the next season (especially if there are extra back to backs and a squished in schedule) the kids are going to have to play.

Avery Bradley has at least had a year of practice in Doc's system.  He's got the defensive chops to "Tony Allen" himself into the rotation but he needs confidence in his offense to stay on the floor.  Fans don't have much to go on with him and most of us are afraid that Danny might have swung and missed on another tweener guard (see J.R. Giddens and Gabe Pruitt).  Obviously that's not fair to Bradley.  He is his own man and will have his own shot to stick around.  If all goes well, he could be in the rotation along with Rondo for years to come.  But this is a critical year for him.  He's no rookie anymore.  His team needs him to step up.  Can he handle the pressure, not to mention the glares that Doc likes to give youngsters that flub his plays?

And what of JJ and Smooge (that's Moore's nickname - it is easy to forget after all this time)?  What chance do two rookies have of contributing when they've spent maybe a rushed afternoon with Doc.  They were handed playbooks and some tips on conditioning and sent out the door before the gates shut on the league.  There's only so much you can learn from a book.  Moore is playing in Italy and Johnson is trading dunks in showcase games but that's not going to mean much when they miss a defensive assignment and Kevin Garnett's nostrils are flaring in their general direction.

There's a decent chance that the team will sign Delonte West, Jeff Green, and Big Baby and go with a relatively short rotation for the first month or two, which would allow the youngsters some time to practice with the team.  They could ease their way into the lineup.  The problem is, Doc is naturally slow to trust young players and there will be precious few practices for them to get acclimated.  As it is, if the schedule is shortened and involves large numbers of back-to-backs, the team might go a week or more between real practices (as they have in the past).

One other complication is the potential roster turnover.  If Ainge doesn't bring back all his free agents, Doc is going to have to get most of the roster up to speed.  That won't allow as much time to spend with the kids.

Of course all this could be hand wringing over nothing.  But what else are we going to do with our time.  Hey, it could be worse.  Just be thankful that Doc didn't get fired and Danny didn't leave to take over the GM job in Chicago with rumors of beer and Popeye's Chicken being consumed on game days in the locker room. 

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