Boston Celtics: 3 Adjustments Doc Rivers Must Make to Compensate for Their Age
It seems as if the Boston Celtics have finally found a rhythm.
After falling behind early and struggling against elite teams, the Celtics are winners of six of their last eight contests, including a home-and-home series with the Orlando Magic that saw both a fourth-quarter 87-56 trouncing in Boston and a 27-point comeback in Orlando.
At 10-10, the Celtics are hitting their stride and beginning to move up the Eastern Conference leaderboard, all of this in spite of boasting one of the oldest, if not the oldest, core of players in the NBA today. Despite the talent the Celtics possess, the miles are adding up, and it seems as if Boston can no longer compete with the likes of Miami and Chicago, both led by superior, younger talent.
Regardless of what happens in free agency this upcoming summer, there's still a season to be played. The Celtics will need to compensate in the short term in order to stay in playoff contention until future moves can be made.
Doc Rivers has already made a few adjustments, but what else can he and the coaching staff do?
Continue to Utilize Brandon Bass's Versatile Game
Brandon Bass was brought in by the Celtics primarily to try and shore their interior defense and give Kevin Garnett meaningful rest as a part of the team's new "five minutes on, five minutes off" strategy.
So far, Bass demonstrated not only the ability to play solid interior defense alongside both KG and Jermaine O'Neal, but also the ability to step out and hit mid-range jump shots. Bass presents as a sort of "KG-lite," as despite his short stature (by KG standards), he retains a great ability to score and rebound down low as well as out on the perimeter.
If Doc Rivers can effectively use Brandon Bass as not only a stopgap to reduce KG's minutes but also utilize his prowess at both ends of the court, the Celtics can retain two potent weapons for use down the stretch.
Continue to Give Mickael Pietrus Minutes as He Improves
As Brandon Bass is to Kevin Garnett, so too should Mickael Pietrus be to Paul Pierce.
Mickael Pietrus is a valuable asset; he's a seasoned veteran, but he's still fairly young at 29. He's similar to Paul Pierce in style and body type (although Pietrus is slightly smaller), and can shoot from nearly any range and play decent defense as well. A knee injury from last season hindered his ability to perform, but now that he's gotten back to playing shape, he's finally producing at a level becoming of the Celtics.
Doc Rivers should give Pietrus a fair amount of minutes either in the place of Paul Pierce or Ray Allen. Pietrus can play the defense and shoot from the mid-range like Pierce, but can also get free on the wings and in the corner and shoot threes like Allen (not quite like Allen, but you know what I mean).
Much like Bass can buy KG valuable minutes down the stretch, Pietrus can do the same for Pierce.
Continue to Develop Greg Stiemsma
He's still young, and he may be rough around the edges, but he's shown that he can produce when called upon.
Greg Stiemsma has shown flashes of brilliance at various times during the season, coming up big for the Celtics in the place of the injured Jermaine O'Neal or Chris Wilcox. Stiemsma has demonstrated an ability to block and rebound effectively, and his stellar defense certainly makes up for his hit-or-miss offense.
Although limited, Stiemsma can be a potent ingredient on both ends of the floor for the Celtics, and if Doc Rivers can use him effectively in spurts in order to relieve JO, KG and Chris Wilcox, the Celtics interior defense can remain strong through the end of the year until the front office can reconsider their options.