Think you've got your favorite team's rotation all figured out? You may be ahead of some head coaches.
The funny thing about training camps is that they have a way of creating as many questions as they do answers. Best-laid plans look antiquated the moment a young prospect breaks out or when an untapped veteran finds his niche. Whenever there's a clean slate and the opportunity to audition talent, rotations and lineups can change.
Given what we've already seen (and heard) from training camps around the league, this season will be no exception.
Here's a rundown of news that could affect a roster near you.
Boston Celtics Could Roll With Multiple Starting Lineups
With the emergence of rookie Jared Sullinger and the interest in using Darko Milicic against some centers, head coach Doc Rivers is considering mixing things up in Boston (via ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg):
"I'm not worried about our starting lineup; I'm far more worried about our second unit, and that's the lineup we're going to keep moving guys around," Rivers said. "I've said it before: If you can take a starter and put him on the second unit, that's good for the second unit. I don't know if we'll do that, but we may."
Reading between the lines, there's a good chance Brandon Bass will join Jason Terry on the bench as a scoring-minded reserve, the seventh man if you will.
The only real certainties are that Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will remain in the starting lineup. Outside of that, Avery Bradley's extended absence will create an opportunity for Courtney Lee to show what he can do at shooting guard, and that power-forward spot could become something of a revolving door.
Changing lineups is sometimes viewed as a threat to chemistry, but given how frequently injuries and matchups dictate changes anyway, making flexibility a hallmark of your rotation doesn't seem like such a bad idea.
With all the tools the Celtics have, it may be a pretty good one.
Brandon Rush Likely to Start at Small Forward for the Warriors
Golden State head coach Mark Jackson has more lineup options than he knows what to do with, at least at small forward. Though the front-runners for the starting job appear to be Brandon Rush and rookie Harrison Barnes, don't forget about veteran Richard Jefferson.
Though no decision's been made just yet, The San Jose Mercury News' Marcus Thompson reports that Rush has the inside track, noting:
Sources say Rush has advantage because... Rush is clearly the better defender at this point. The starting lineup needs someone who can really make it tough for opposing perimeter stars, and Rush is even better with Andrew Bogut backing him up.
Plus, to this point, Rush is shooting better.
We can safely assume that Barnes will get quality minutes regardless of whether he starts. Without a commitment to Rush being a long-term starter, there will remain some urgency to bring Barnes along given his potential to be a star (or close to it).
Jason Richardson to Start in Philly?
Head coach Doug Collins won't complain about how much young talent he has on his roster, but it wouldn't hurt to sprinkle a little veteran gravitas into the 76ers' starting lineup. Fortunately, the 31-year-old Jason Richardson—acquired in the same deal bringing Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia—may be doing just that, according to PhillyBurbs.com's Tom Moore:
Richardson is expected to join Evan Turner as the Sixers’ starting wing players this season, beginning with Thursday night’s preseason opener in Orlando.
“I’m thrilled (with Richardson),” Collins said. “He’s a great pro.”
The 76ers wouldn't need Richardson to produce at the same rate he yielded while still playing with the Phoenix Suns in 2010-11, but they would be thrilled if he got back to that 47 percent shooting.
Along with new additions Nick Young and Dorell Wright, J-Rich offers the rotation a reliable long-range shooter who will capably space the floor while Bynum goes to work in the post, keeping would-be help defenders glued to the perimeter.
J.R. Smith Is Unlikely to Lose That Sixth-Man Label
Though J.R. Smith is still pining for a more featured role in the New York Knicks' starting lineup, head coach Mike Woodson has other things in mind (via Newsday's Barbara Barker):
"I kind of like where J.R. is coming off the bench," Woodson said. "He could start, you never know. But everybody can't start. I have a nice mixture of guys at this starting unit and I have to have some offense coming off the bench, as well.
"There's nothing wrong with that. He could be the best player coming off the bench in this league and perhaps win the Sixth Man Award."
With shooting guard Iman Shumpert out for months and Ronnie Brewer sidelined at the moment, Woodson's options at the 2 are limited.
Two-year veteran James White reasons to be the most likely short-term solution. With just 10 career NBA games to his name, though, there's no telling how long that experiment might last. It could become pretty difficult to deny Smith those starting opportunities if Brewer doesn't make a speedy recovery.
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