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Push The Ball! (Will The Celtics Run In 2012?)

Who will run with me?
Who will run with me?

The Celtics once again had one of the top defenses in the league by any measure.  The offense was where we ran into trouble.  One way to play better offense is obviously to bring in players that are more talented on offense.  The problem is, those guys are usually pretty expensive and the ones that the C's can afford have their own issues.   Ainge will do what he can to upgrade the talent on the roster at the right price, but the options will be limited.

Another way to add scoring is to make a commitment to the running game.  Every team talks about wanting to run when they show up at training camp, but by week 5 you pretty much know who will and who won't run consistently. The standard excuse used for the Celtics is the age and style of our star players, but something about that doesn't add up.

For one thing, being old and slow didn't stop the 1986 team from situational fast breaks.  They were never hyped like the Showtime Lakers, but they absolutely scored in transition with the best in the league.  Need a more modern example?  How about this year's NBA Champs the Dallas Mavericks?  Kidd is older than dirt and Dirk is, well, Dirk.  Yet they were able to get out and run and capitalized on other teams' mistakes.

Note: I'm not necessarily talking about "pace" because it is one thing to "use a lot of possessions" (the T-Wolves were tops in pace stats last year) and it is another thing to use them wisely.  In fact, it benefits a good defensive team like the Celtics to play at a slower pace because teams have fewer opportunities to win a low-scoring-shootout.  Still, the team needs to generate some offense and fast breaks would seem to be an answer worth exploring more.

The Celtics create turnovers, they force missed baskets, and they have a speedy point guard who thrives in the open court.  They even have perhaps the best trailing 3 point threat that ever played the game in Ray Allen (who's in better shape than most 20 year olds by the way).  I don't see why this team can't push the ball consistently and put other teams on their heels more.

Perhaps Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett won't be filling the lanes ahead of Rondo in a traditional fast break scheme, but there's no reason why KG can't pick a spot here and there to beat his man down the floor considering his agility compared to the guys he guards most nights.  Pierce actually delivered an unusually high number of "Wow" dunks this year, so he's still got some potential in this area as well.

With all that said, it might be difficult to teach the old dogs new tricks over the course of an entire season - especially when we're trying to "save them for the playoffs."  So why not make the 2nd team more of a running unit?

One of Jeff Green's greatest strengths is his ability to run the floor with Rondo, yet he only got brief opportunities to do so last year.  Delonte West has the aggression to fill the lanes on the break when he's running without a limp.  Avery Bradley could and perhaps should be brought in whenever the opposing team's point guard has any issues at all with ball handling.  Give him a few minutes a quarter ball-hawking and he'll create some turnovers.

Mind you, I'm not talking about a hockey shift here.  You can run a great fast break with Rondo, Delonte, Green, and a couple of starters (preferably ones that can grab rebounds).  You just have to commit to it.  And yes, if Danny can find a couple more youngsters with jets and hops in the draft or via free agency, that would help too.

Another example to look at from this last year is the San Antonio Spurs.  They prolonged their reign by injecting some youth into the roster and changing their style of play to accommodate those players' talents.  The early results were very promising as they compiled the best record in the league until the very end.  Of course by the end they were out of gas and had little left for the playoffs.  So there is definitely a downside to this plan - or at least a cautionary tale.

Still, if would make sense to at least try to generate some more points early in the game which could lead to larger leads and fewer grind-it-out games.  In short, there's a chance that the old guys could rest more by running more (or at least letting the kids run more).  Just a thought.

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