Celtics coach Brad Stevens, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge happy to have too much of a good thing in terms of talent
Brad Stevens has a problem. There may be no truth to the “too much of a good thing” cliche in this case, but the Celtics coach will have a tougher job doling out playing time as he gets to the latter stages of his rotation.
He has a lot of people on the pine who can play.
“I think we’ll find some things out once the regular season starts and everybody’s playing their starters a lot more and everything else,” Stevens said. “But I trust all those guys to contribute with what they do best.”
We know Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier are going to play significant minutes pretty much every game. But Daniel Theis, Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele, Shane Larkin and Abdel Nader have also proven worthy of court time, as well.
And president of basketball operations Danny Ainge thinks the depth is even, well, deeper.
“It’s almost too early to say that, but those guys have played really well,” Ainge said. “We have a lot of good, young players, and I think any of our 14-man roster that we have right now, I think we feel comfortable if they’re out into position to play significant minutes. We feel good about it.
“And then the way Jabari (Bird, who’s on a two-way contract) has played real well. I think Brad would feel confident playing him in any situation right now. We also have a roster spot open, and we’ll continue to look and see if we can fill that in any way we need to. But we’re in no rush, because we like our guys and you can only have 13 dressed.
“I think we’ve got guys that will be playing most of the year in Portland, Maine, that can play,” he added. “I mean, there’s not a great deal of separation between the group that is on the end of NBA benches and guys that are trying to make it through the D-League (now G-League).”
One does need to run what we see now through the official NBA preseason filter. What we see now in terms of results isn’t always the complete reality, because the competition, particularly later in these games, could be less than stellar. But it is fair to judge a player’s physical capabilities and how quickly he reacts. So when you see Theis playing inside and out with good instincts, Yabusele finding his way to rebounds, Ojeleye in the right places on defense — and hitting five of his nine 3-pointers thus far — and Larkin running an offense with speed and calm, you get the feeling this isn’t just an October thing.
“Theis is legit,” Ainge said. “Theis can play. Theis and Guerschon are legit players. Semi has had a training camp and he had a good college career, but Daniel Theis has had like nine years of professional sports, and you can tell watching him play, not only about making or missing shots, but he knows where to be. He was the top defensive player in the German league last year. He really knows how to play.”
“Semi can defend multiple positions and he can make 3’s, and Guerschon is a pretty complete player, but he’s just young and he’s coming off of an injury. I’ve seen him play, but I don’t think our coaches have seen who he really he is yet, even though we’ve seen signs of it here in the exhibition games. He knows how to play. He’s got a chance to be a really good player. He can shoot and pass.
“I just don’t want to put a bunch of pressure on those guys too soon.”
Clearly Stevens doesn’t want to either.
“I think we’ve had a good group of the past couple of years,” he said. “Our depth has been one of our strengths. And I think one of the best things about our team is the guys that prepared for their time. I thought the way Gerald Green played last year in the playoffs proved that. And I think that obviously when you look at some of our bench players and how they’ve been able to really contribute in different ways but always be ready on call, it’s been one of our strengths.
“The season’s going to start next week, and we’re only going to play five guys at once because that’s what we’re allowed to play. Everybody understands that, and I think it’s our job to just keep everybody in the mind of, ‘Your time will come; just be ready for your time.’ ”
And as for how that time will be apportioned later in the mix, Stevens said, “It could be game to game.”