Over the last few seasons the Boston Celtics have sacrificed personal statistics and taken smaller roles in order to put the team in the best situation to win.
The Celtics took this idea yet another step further in the preseason by experimenting with a series of starting lineups that were anchored by Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Marc D'Amico of Celtics.com reported that these lineup changes may even find there way into the regular season with a focus on matchup based rotations for the shooting guard and power forward positions.
In an interview with Mike Felger and Tony Massarotti of Boston's 98.5 The Sport's Hub, Doc Rivers revealed that he will indeed utilize the team's new-found depth with different optimal starting lineups based on the game's matchups. He indicated that a transitioning starting lineup on a very strong team is something that he has not really done in the past, but that he believes the talent he has will allow him to use three separate lineups to take advantage of mismatches.
The starting lineup changes will likely be limited to the power forward position by rotating Brandon Bass, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger depending on the game and how the team is playing. In addition, the C's have made a decision about who will start at the shooting guard position at the beginning of the season, as Doc indicated there is "no doubt" that Courtney Lee will start next to Rondo.
The fact that Doc Rivers is confident in the strategy of having multiple starting lineups shows the amount of confidence he has in the depth of the Boston Celtics. Furthermore, the Celtics will be able to utilize the varying skills of Bass, Green and Sullinger depending on the matchups they face on any given night, allowing Boston the opportunity to find the proper mismatches and keep opposing teams guessing on which lineup they will see.
The interview also reveals that Jared Sullinger has clearly gained the respect and trust of Doc Rivers in his first few months on the team, which is a rare feat as Rivers often is hesitant to give too much responsibility to his rookies. Sullinger did prove in the preseason that he is likely ready for a large role on this team, and he will certainly get a good share of minutes if he continues to perform with the same intensity he has brought in the last few weeks.
Hopefully the transitional starting lineup will provide only positive results for the Celtics and the players rotating in and out don't get carried away with the need to be designated a "starter," as most NBA players seem to obsess over the title.
If the Celtics can keep all of the players focused on playing as a team and ignoring individual needs, then these multiple lineups could be the key to getting Boston a strong playoff seed while keeping the team healthier over the long season.
Boston has been lucky to be able to put together one of the deepest rosters in the league this year by bringing in a group of talented and selfless players that will likely push the C's to an even higher level of performance.
If Doc Rivers can keep the team healthy and the players can work as a single unit, Banner 18 may not be as far out of reach as many analysts believe. It is a very long season and anything can happen along the way, but the Boston Celtics appear to be as well positioned as any other team to shatter Miami's hopes of repeating as NBA Champions.