Doc Rivers: 10 Reasons Next Season Will Be His Most Challenging in Boston
Losing a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals is tough, but what the Celtics' Doc Rivers has to do next season will be all the more difficult.
Boston's organization has made a bold statement this offseason by bringing back Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass as well as agreeing to terms with Jason Terry. It is clear these Celtics want to compete for an NBA championship now.
Not only do the Celtics add these talents, but they also had themselves two strong first-round draft picks in Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo. Add in the fact that Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo are still under contract, and there is no question this team has championship potential.
However, it will be anything but a walk in the park for Rivers and his Beantown talents. In fact, this is easily the most challenging season of Rivers' coaching career. The expectations are set as high as they have been for him in Boston with this especially talented roster.
These are the reasons why Rivers is set to face the most difficult season of his coaching career.
New Faces Mean Adjustments
Any team bringing in new personnel has to make the necessary changes in order to best fit the team's needs.
The Boston Celtics will feature a plethora of new players next season, and it will take Rivers' top-notch coaching to make it work. Priorities include figuring out with what lineups Sullinger and Melo will be most effective up front, how Terry and Bradley's minutes need to be split up and how to insert Jeff Green in the mix after he sat out the entire 2011-12 season.
Rivers has plenty of pieces to work with next season. The talent is certainly there. But whether or not Rivers can best utilize each player's skills still remains to be seen.
However, based on his resume, he should be able to get things going quickly for Boston.
An 82-Game Season, Not 66
In spite having a longer, less condensed season, the Celtics will still face the wear and tear of an 82-game season.
Last year's 66 games may have meant less rest time for the Celtics, but ultimately an 82-game season will be worse in this regard. The team is now practicing and playing games for six months as oppose to the four they played last season.
It will be interesting to see how Garnett and Pierce in particular differ in their production with the greater number of games. Getting these guys to adjust back to the 82-game schedule will be certainly be something Rivers needs to do sooner than later next season.
When a team with seven wins averages more rebounds than your team, there are issues.
The Boston Celtics were officially the worst team in the league in this department last season at 38.8 rebounds per contest. Even the 7-59 Bobcats averaged more with an average of 39 per game.
At times it seemed as if Kevin Garnett was the only player grabbing rebounds for the team. Point guard Rajon Rondo was averaging the second-most rebounds in the postseason at 6.7 per game. Having the team's PG be the second-best rebounding threat is bad news for Boston.
Next season, this will have to change if the Celtics expect to compete with the best of the East.
Getting KG off to a Strong Start
Kevin Garnett was nowhere to be found during the first half of the season, and it cost the Celtics basketball games.
And that's putting it mildly.
Prior to the All-Star break, Garnett had just nine double-doubles in those 32 games. The "Big Ticket" responded with four double-doubles in his first five games back and 12 total in the 34 remaining games.
Before the break, the Celtics were just 15-17 and lost their last five games. After the All-Star celebration, the Celtics responded by winning 24 of the team's last 34 games.
When Garnett plays explosive basketball on both ends of the floor, the Celtics win basketball games. Boston will need that production early on in the season, and it will be Rivers' job to make sure the future Hall of Famer plays his best ball.
No True Backup PG
Rajon Rondo looked outright exhausted in the team's final press conference following Game 7. It was clear he needed the help of a solid point guard to give him some rest.
The Celtics lost an Eastern Conference Finals in which they held a 3-2 advantage over the Heat, and it was a series in which Rondo was on the court far too long.
He logged a whopping 45.1 minutes per game against the Miami Heat, 42 per contest against the Atlanta Hawks and 40.9 against the Philadelphia 76ers. His average of 42.6 minutes per game for the entire postseason was second only to LeBron James, who played 42.7.
The year the Celtics won an NBA championship in 2008, Rondo had Sam Cassell sharing the load with him at the spot. This was a big reason Rondo was able to stay healthy and constantly lead this team to victory.
Currently, the Celtics don't boast a player that stays true to the PG spot behind Rondo. Avery Bradley, Mickael Pietrus and Jason Terry are all better shooting guards than they are point guards.
This is no shot at Rondo's talent by any means. Rondo is young and athletic enough to play the type of minutes he was playing in the 2012 postseason. But there is no question he shouldn't be in the game for as long as he was.
Developing the Draft Picks
Doc Rivers has to be ecstatic with two talents the Celtics were able to grab with the No. 21 and 22 picks in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo are two big men that will make quick transitions in the league, and it will be up to Rivers to make that happen as soon as possible. Sullinger is producing promising numbers in Orlando this summer, while Melo has the body that the Celtics need defensively.
Sullinger is already proving his worth at the team's summer-league games in Orlando with his special scoring and rebounding ability. In the first four games, Sullinger is averaging a team-best 13.8 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per contest. The rebound mark is the second-highest average of any player in Orlando.
While Sullinger has put on a show, Melo has certainly had his fair share of struggles. He will certainly need time to develop in the league. But with a thin frontcourt rotation, Rivers will have to make this one of his priorities this offseason.
The Pressure Is On
Last year was supposed to be this team's last shot at NBA title. But now this season's roster gives the Celtics another shot.
According to ESPN.com's Chris Forsberg, the Celtics agreed to terms with Jason Terry and are bringing back Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass. It is now clearer than ever that Danny Ainge had other ideas when people said the Celtics were moving on to a post-Big Three era.
Yet not only will the Celtics have to get back to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2013, but they will have to do it against a significantly stronger field.
The Chicago Bulls should have Derrick Rose back and healthy, while the shameful Nets are now loaded up with talent after this offseason. The New York Knicks have also amped up their rotation. They will have a Jason Kidd and Jeremy Lin backcourt to assist Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire next season.
The Celtics will have to deal with this competition as well as a championship-winning Miami Heat squad. With time, these young teams will only get better. In turn, this team knows they must win now if they expect to win an NBA title.
No Ray Allen in 2012-13
It's difficult to replace the best shooter in NBA history. It's that simple.
When the Celtics needed a quick bucket, an early shooting spark or a big-time time bucket down the stretch, this guy delivered.
Ray Allen stands as arguably the most proficient shooter in league history and will certainly be missed in Beantown. Age took nothing away from his shooting touch. Allen shot the ball a career-high 45.3 percent from three-point range. He hit 2.3 of the 5.1 three-point attempts he had per game, which were both team-high marks last season.
Losing a knock-down shooter of his caliber will hurt the Celtics immensely next season. It will take strong shooting from Jason Terry, E'Twaun Moore and Avery Bradley to try to fill this major void.
Finding a Fit for Jason Terry
He's a veteran superstar in the league, but he will undoubtedly need the proper time and coaching to find his place on this team.
It could be a situation that plays out a lot like when Boston acquired Jeff Green. Doc Rivers had an utmost difficult time working Green into the team's rotation. In fact, he even admitted in the 2010-11 season that he was having trouble getting the top-notch swingman into a role he could excel in.
Unlike Green, Terry is a proven player in the league. Time and time again, he brings his A-game offensively and is a top-scoring talent in the league. Last season, Terry posted 15.1 points per game while shooting 43 percent in his 31.7 minutes per contest.
The talent was there for Green, as it certainly is with Terry, but a new system can always be difficult to adjust to. Rivers will surely figure out when he should utilize Terry. What remains to be seen is just how long this adjustment will take.
Getting Bench Points
To put it lightly, the Celtics' bench play during the 2012 postseason was atrocious.
Boston was notorious for being a team that struggled to maintain consistency offensively. Yet the reality was that the bench wasn't doing their part to help the starters. The Celtics were faced with a 0-2 hole against the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, and it was because the bench players couldn't buy a bucket.
In the first two games, the Celtics' bench was outscored 41-21 by the Heat's. The Game 2 loss was the arguably the worst performance of the postseason for the second unit. They scored just seven of the team's 111 points in the 115-111 loss in overtime.
Jason Terry will provide a solid 12-18 points per game off the bench, which will be a great help. Yet it will still be just as integral to get talents like Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Marquis Daniels scoring the ball as well next season.
If one things for certain, this is the one area where Rivers needs to fix sooner than later. A seven-point outing in the postseason is a recipe for failure for this veteran Celtics team. No bench production will mean no championship in Beantown. There is no question about it.
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