Celtics

Celtics Quesiton of the Day: Which rookie will have the biggest impact?

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Celtics Quesiton of the Day: Which rookie will have the biggest impact?

For most of Doc Rivers' tenure as Celtics head coach, rookies have been no more than glorified spectators with front row seats. Like most coaches, Rivers needs to see more than just talent.

He has to see trust; specifically, trust among teammates.

For first-year players on veteran, championship-focused teams like the Celtics, that's not something that comes about automatically. It takes time which is why the rookies that ultimately contribute in their first year for the C's, usually begin the season at or near the end of the bench before working their way up into a meaningful role.

Last year at this time, nobody knew who Greg Stiemsma was other than the Celtics' brass who were simply looking for another warm body to get them through training camp.

Injuries and opportunity collided, which paved the way for the then-26-year-old rookie to play and parlay that chance into a two-year deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

There will be at least five rookies in the C's training camp later this month looking to have their own Stiemsma experience. That includes first-round picks Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo, along with second-round selection Kris Joseph who played at Syracuse University with Melo.

They will be joined by a couple of summer league standouts in Jamar Smith and Dionte Christmas.

While it's pretty clear that all of them will start off buried deep on the depth chart, it's not a stretch to think that at least one will emerge and help the Celtics some this season.

Who will it be?

As much as this Syracuse grad would love to toss out Joseph or Melo as the rookie to see the most action this season, that scenario is unlikely to happen.

The best rookie for the C's this season will be Jared Sullinger.

His play in summer league got many in Celtics Nation excited about his potential with the Green Team.

The most impressive thing about Sullinger never made its way on to the stats sheet. His court awareness maybe more than anything else, is why he has the best chance of any of the Celtics rookies of playing right away.

Despite questions about his size (6-foot-9, 265), one thing that's not an issue is his high basketball IQ. It is an intangible quality, but one that's pretty apparent in Sullinger when you watch him play.

At times, he'll draw contact on plays when he doesn't really have much of a chance at making the shot.

He's able to position himself for tip-out rebounds when he can't get good enough position to corral it himself.

There will be possessions when he'll ask for the ball on the post, get it, and recognize a double team before it comes and find an open teammate. He understands how to set opponents up for him to score, and he's wise enough to recognize when the pass is there to be made.

Those are the kind of plays that Sullinger is capable of making when given an opportunity, but seldom seen while at Ohio State because that wasn't necessarily the role they needed him to play.

"I can pass the ball," Sullinger said. "Score, rebound, pass, defend, whatever the team needs me to do, that's what I'll do. That's how I've always played."

From the days of Red Auerbach roaming the sidelines to the "Ubunto" era, doing "whatever the team needs" has been part of the foundation of all the great Celtics teams.

While that alone gives Sullinger a shot at playing early, he will also be motivated by the fact that so many teams passed on him on draft night in part because of concerns about his back.

Considered a lottery (top-14) talent, Sullinger fell to the C's who snatched him up with the No. 21 pick.

"I preach to the players it's not where you go, but being in the right fit," said Sullinger's agent, David Falk. "You wouldn't expect a player of his caliber to go 21. I think he's in a great situation. I'm thrilled that he's here. A lot of teams will regret they were intimidated by a lot of the information that was floating around about not drafting him."

For Sullinger, ultimately his play will come down to being ready when opportunity presents itself.

If you play for the Celtics and you are a big man, sooner or later a shot at playing time will come your way.

In recent years, the C's have seen their share of setbacks and injuries to post players that has ranged from a player missing a game here and there, to others being out for extended periods of time.

When those times roll around, players like Sullinger will be called upon -- and expected -- to contribute.

For a rookie, that's all you can ask.

Moving to power forward 'presents a different challenge' for Horford

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Moving to power forward 'presents a different challenge' for Horford

PHILADELPHIA – For the third time in as many games, the Boston Celtics will field a different lineup.

It will have a domino effect on Boston’s usual starters, but no one more than Al Horford who will slide over to power forward with Aron Baynes inserted into the starting lineup where he’ll be charged with trying to defend Sixers 7-footer Joel Embiid.

Meanwhile, Horford will be assigned to defend Robert Covington who is one of Philadelphia’s better perimeter scorers.

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“I feel like one of my strengths is being able to play multiple positions,” Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “It presents a different challenge for me, which is making sure I do a good job of covering him out on the perimeter, staying between him and the basket.”

In Philadelphia’s 120-115 season-opening loss to Washington, Covington led all Sixers with 29 points which included him going 7-for-11 from 3-point range in addition to grabbing seven rebounds.

While Covington will be Horford’s first defensive assignment, he knows he will also be called upon at times to defend Embiid who ranks among the best centers in the NBA despite having played just 32 games over the course of three NBA seasons.

In the loss to the Wizards, Embiid had a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Horford’s defense will be critical for Boston (0-2) to get its first win of the season, but the Celtics will also need him to take advantage of scoring opportunities as well.

“We have some guys down, but that creates opportunities for other guys to step up and contribute,” Horford said. “It’s going to all of us, the veterans, the young players, all of us to get that first win.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens agreed.

“I think that’s how we have to look at it,” Stevens said. “We’re going to have to make a few tweaks on how we do things, obviously. Hey, it’s gonna be something that we’re going to have to do really, really well on the fly.”

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