With several other teams making smart moves to improve their squad for the shortened season, the Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers has several things to be concerned about.
The acquisitions of Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox and Keyon Dooling helped the Celtics shore up some of the problem areas that the Miami Heat exposed in last year's playoffs, but there is still much to be done if Boston hopes to make a run at the title.
With a couple weeks left before the Christmas Day slate, Danny Ainge has been noncommittal about whether the Celtics will look to make more moves.
This, however, is not something that Rivers is fully in control of. This article is about the different components that Rivers will need to weigh in order to give the Celtics the best shot possible.
As with any veteran coach, Doc Rivers knows that the Boston Celtics players in their mid-to-late 30's are more susceptible to injury than ever.
At 34 and 35, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have been through their fair share of injuries, the worst of them being Garnett's 2009 knee injury, which ended his season as well as the Celtics' hopes of repeating as champions.
Ray Allen is 36, but, thanks to excellent conditioning, has managed to avoid injuries for most of his career—fingers crossed.
The condensed 66-game season will bring more back-to-back games than ever before, and Rivers will have to make the necessary preparations to ensure that the veteran players don't carry injuries into the postseason.
Whether Jermaine O'Neal will be a part of the veteran composition once the season starts is unknown—after the Celtics almost got rid of JO in an attempt to acquire David West. If O'Neal is still on the roster, that will give Rivers more chunks of fragile minutes to be concerned with.
The Celtics entered last year's playoffs with multiple nagging injuries, and that didn't include just the older players—Rajon Rondo spent the entire playoffs ailing at less than 100 percent.
Figuring out how to dodge the downfalls of past seasons and come into the playoffs healthy will be a difficult task for Rivers. Unfortunately, this sort of thing depends on luck as much as anything.
The 2011-12 season will bring several new components to the Boston Celtics team. Along with the condensing of games, free agency has been pushed into a much, much smaller window. If you combine that with the extra time that players usually have to adapt to new teammates, you have one tough issue to deal with.
So far, the newest members of the team are Brandon Bass, Keyon Dooling, Chris Wilcox, rookies E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson—subject to roster approval, and camp invite Greg Stiemsma.
Reacquainting himself with the old squad is Marquis Daniels, who seems to have been victorious after a bout with a massive spinal injury that ended his 2010-11 season, leaving him available for the Celtics in the free-agent market this season.
A healthy Daniels would bolster the defensive mentality that the organizations seems to be shooting for, once again.
According to ESPN's Chris Forsberg, the Celtics veterans have been irritated with the impact that the lockout/brief training camp has had on the overall feeling of togetherness amongst the players.
"Timing is everything,” said Garnett. “Chemistry is something that you don't just throw in the frying pan and mix it up with another something, then throw it on top of something, then fry it up and put it in a tortilla and put in a microwave, heat it up and give it to you and expect it to taste good. You know? For those of you who can cook, y’all know what I’m talking about. If y’all can’t cook, this doesn’t concern you."
Ray Allen also spoke on the subject.
“I feel very rushed,” said Allen. “I can’t say that I’ve been particularly happy with the way things have transpired over the last two or three weeks, but I think everybody is in a situation where we just have to do the best with what we have. We have to adjust to the situation at hand, and it’s a challenge for all of us. We’re all going through it, so there’s nothing more you can do about it but prepare yourself physically and mentally."
The Celtics aren't the only squad that has work to do in terms of meshing things together, but they have been one of the more active teams in free agency.
Rivers will need to do everything in his power to tie the new players together, both on and off the court. After all, the best defensive teams are marked by their ability to operate as one, cohesive unit.
In only 66 games, it will prove to be a daunting task.
With the addition of Brandon Bass, the Boston Celtics replaced Glen “Big Baby” Davis with a player that has proven to be a physical force down low defensively.
However, the addition of the veteran Chris Wilcox from Detroit may prove just as important as the season drags on.
At 6'10”, Wilcox has two inches on Bass, and is just one inch shorter than teammates Jermaine O'Neal and Kevin Garnett.
Doc Rivers and the Celtics also have hopes that JaJuan Johnson might be able to have an impact at 6'10”, but Johnson's frame does not give him the physical presence to push bigger players around down low.
According to Gary Dzen of the Boston Globe, Rivers isn't too concerned.
"We have a bunch of guys," said Rivers. "Kevin can play center. Kevin has played center before. I think he can absolutely play center. Brandon Bass can play center and he's done that as well...it's not like there are a lot of great centers out there," said Rivers. "You've got Dwight [Howard] and [Andrew] Bynum and a couple more. After that you're not throwing the ball down to five's at that position. The important position is really the power forward position.''
Rivers is absolutely right. The days of the 90's center are behind us, and as for true centers, there are few that remain. Having a large degree of depth at the power forward position is almost as good as having one solid center—it allows the Celtics to cycle several big men in and out of the position.
Had the Celtics been able to acquire the skills of David West, this would be even less of a worry.
Thanks to Wilcox and Bass, the Celtics will be able to pick up more fouls without the concern of losing significant size on a game-to-game basis.
Rivers will have to be tactful in how utilizes the minutes of his different big men, as well as how he cycles them around in different situations. Naturally, the most useful combos will be exposed as the season runs along.
Anything could happen for the Celtics in these last 12 days before Christmas, as we keep our eyes open for potential changes to this year's roster.