Despite the fact that his Boston Celtics took LeBron James and the dangerous Miami Heat to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals last season, head coach Doc Rivers appears committed to mixing and matching in 2012-13.
According to Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com, Rivers has yet to announce his starting lineup for opening night. He did, however, state that there would be three different versions of the starting five, with the only regulars being Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Courtney Lee and Kevin Garnett.
That all seems well and good, but I have just one question for Rivers. Why tune up the machine when the formula works fine?
Sure, Boston is an old squad that needs to get younger in order to keep on contending for a championship, but let's not forget that the team appeared in the NBA Finals just two seasons ago and won it all just four years ago.
More importantly, as was mentioned before, the Celtics had the eventual champion Heat within one game of elimination last season.
Thus, just how is Rivers going to juggle the lineup without causing a team chemistry nightmare? More importantly, how is he going to put together three different starting groups?
Will it be Brandon Bass starting at power forward most of the time, or maybe Jeff Green? Maybe rookie Jared Sullinger has impressed enough to warrant some quality minutes.
No matter how you look at it, the Celtics certainly have the depth to keep on contending. Lee more than makes up for the loss of Ray Allen (ironically, to the rival Heat), and Bass proved last postseason that he can be tough and durable in the paint despite being on the smaller side at 6'8", 250 pounds.
So, why upset the apple cart?
Nothing against Green or Sullinger, but are they capable of playing starter minutes? Green was a starter in Oklahoma City before coming to Boston in the Kendrick Perkins trade, but he missed all of last season due to heart surgery, and while he has made a good recovery, it's still a tremendous concern.
As for Sullinger, can he carry his impressive preseason over to the regular games when he'll have to match up against A-list players rather than the second unit?
Simply put, while each of those three players is talented in his own right, their NBA skills could not be more different. Bass is a decent scorer who provides toughness in the paint, while Green tends to be more of a point forward/dunker, and Sullinger's greatest asset is his size.
Of the three, Bass is the one who can be counted on to provide the most consistent results.
By employing multiple starting lineups, Rivers is going to have a different Celtics team out on the floor every night. Sure, this makes for unpredictability and makes it harder for the opposition, but the Boston veterans have been playing together for a long time and are used to playing a certain style.
Rivers is asking them to adjust to three different players, one of whom they didn't start playing with until this year. All it takes is for one of the trio to have one or more bad games or fail in crunch time, and the system will be in doubt.
This is a perfect case of nothing being broken, but someone keeps on trying to fix it.
In this case, Rivers has gotten a bit too excited about the depth he has at power forward and is a bit too eager to use it. Rather than use three different starting lineups, he should let Bass be the primary starter and let Green and Sullinger split the bench minutes, depending on matchups and such.
By employing a bevy of different rotations, he is trying to teach an old dog new tricks, and given how well the Celtics have done in each of the past four years, there is no reason to do so. This team is talented from top to bottom and doesn't need to create constant mismatches in order to prove it.
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