First, I need to mention that I'll be away and without computer access until late Sunday evening. I hope you'll continue to use the blog to make comments during that time. Please don't be afraid to stray off-topic on any thread; it's definitely NOT a problem on this blog. If you encounter any comments by taunting interlopers, please do NOT respond. Leave me the pleasure of zapping them mercilessly upon my return. (It's so rewarding.) I will be monitoring the blog on my BlackBerry, but I can't "zap" with the BlackBerry, and my blog comments will be limited by oversized fingers trying to adapt to a tiny keyboard.
The quest for the best record requires intense, unremitting focus by the coach. Doc has never been the type to relax the winning quest; and contending for the best record and championships has only reinforced that trait. It SOUNDS good to advocate playing young guys in December to rest older guys for the stretch run. But Doc knows that one dismal five-minute stretch in December, due to inexperience, could lose a game that would cost them the best record at the end of the season.
During the past two seasons, he has steadfastly insisted that young guys prove in practice that they were ready to be tested in prime time. He has not compromised a winning mentality. He obviously feels that, when a game is still on the line, it's not a time for the floor to become an experimental laboratory except at garbage time. Yes, there have been times when his hand has been forced by injuries and certain young guys (Gomes, Baby) have performed well when thrown to the wolves. But who can say they would have done as well if Doc hadn't held them back for seasoning as long as he did?
This guy knows what he is doing, and he has become a championship-level coach as a result. He's got a squad that's at least 11-strong with veterans, and that's no accident. He has confidence in veterans, and veterans do win championships.
BUT this season could be different. Despite the plethora of veterans on the team, the veteran depth is strongest in the so-called "power positions." Consequently there could be some wiggle room for J.R. Giddens to earn "prime time" minutes more quickly than some of his predecessors. With Tony a question mark (although he unexpectedly did go through the entire practice yesterday) and Walker out (at least for now), and with no open roster slots, the Celtics are thin at the backup SF, SG and PG positions.
Scal, Daniels and Eddie currently are the only veteran candidates to fill these three needs, and Scal (against the more agile SF) and Eddie (against the taller SG) have their limitations in terms of the types of opponents against whom they match up reasonably well. Yes, Doc can always extend the minutes of Pierce, Ray or Rondo to include some stints with the bench. In terms of endurance, Rondo might be a reasonable possibility, but we've seen what can happen if Paul and Ray are over-used. And Rondo would create a small trio in the shooting and point positions (most likely with Daniels and Eddie).
If Tony does not wind up in game shape (and possibly even if he does), there is potentially a golden opportunity for Giddens to provide a taller alternative to Eddie at SG. The second unit has already shocked doc in terms of rapidly developing chemistry. The situation could be nearly ideal for J.R. to experience rapid growth at backup SG within a veteran "womb." He wouldn't have to be the primary rebounder, the primary shooter, the primary floor general, the primary floor spacer, the primary slasher. He could seek his own "role level" in complementing the others on the floor...perhaps concentrating on the defensive end at first.
It will be interesting to track Tony's hopeful progress while ascertaining whether J.R. can hop on the fast track and become an exception to Doc's policies of the past.
And, by the way, the news on KG continues to very positive, as he went full-speed through yesterday's two-hour practice (although he described himself as "80%-85%" afterwards. He even survived a kick in the bad leg, shook it off, and returned to action. Apparently, martial arts are helping Baby gain muscle strength. Rondo was described by KG as "sharp." And Eddie missed something like one shot in practice. Maybe they're just keeping the bad stuff from us, but it all sounds good so far.
See you in a few days.