According to Frank Dell’Apa of the Boston Globe, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said,
But if we can’t win with [Garnett] off the floor, we just won’t win. And I told our bench that. We’re going to play the minutes that I’m giving them, and the bench is going to play the minutes they should get. And they’ve got to do something or we won’t win — it will be that simple.
That’s not the tone of someone who is open to discussion, and in this matter, he shouldn’t be. If we’ve learned anything about the Celtics in the last few years, it’s that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Last year, they started awful and finished in the Eastern Conference Finals, coming just a game away from the NBA Finals.
Over the last five years, the Celtics have won more games than any team in the East. Only the Spurs and Lakers have more wins in the NBA. So you’ll have to forgive Rivers if he’s not rushing to beat on the proverbial panic button after a mediocre start.
The team has thrown in a lot of new cogs into the machinery, and it’s handing the on-court reigns to Rajon Rondo to continue his gradual ascent from role player, to star, to being a part of the “Big Four” and a leader of the team, to being the leader of the team.
The Celtics added Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa through free agency. They’ve added Jared Sullinger and Kris Joseph (as well as Fab Melo, who is playing in the D-League right now) through the draft. It takes a bit of time for a team to work all of that out.
It also takes some sense to figure out why they made all those moves, namely to get younger. They were getting so old, the Knicks were making jokes about them.
That youth is going to take time to develop and coalesce and not just time in terms of days and weeks passing; they need time in terms of actual minutes playing on the court.
Certainly, the team would be better now if Kevin Garnett were on the court more. The Celtics outscore their opponents by 7.7 points per 100 possessions while he’s on the court as opposed to being outscored by 26 while he’s on the bench.
But now is not the goal for the Celtics. Their top concern is later, in the postseason.
The Celtics’ success then isn’t going to be determined just by how Garnett and Paul Pierce do, but also by how all of the new players do.
There’s also the fact that Garnett still isn’t getting younger. In fact, he’s even older, 36, than he was last year, when he was only 35. A career-low in minutes is a good thing for a player who is a career-high in age. Sorry for the repetition, but some points need to be belabored.
No matter how big of a Celtics fan you are, you can’t ignore that Old Man Time is undefeated. Even Bill Russell got too old to play.
Garnett’s not there yet, but you’d rather get the best of his minutes in the postseason than right now.
The C’s might not be rolling yet, but history shows they will eventually, and they’ll be better off for it.
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