The Celtics could use all the help they can get having five preseason games in the next seven days, but backup big man Chris Wilcox appears out of commission.
Back spasms kept Wilcox out of Monday night's game against the 76ers. In fact, they've kept him out of every C's preseason game and practice dating back to before their trip to Europe.
You know the saying, "No news is good news." Well, that doesn't exactly apply to Wilcox's situation.
"I don't even know, honestly The way I look at it, if Eddie Lacerte, the C's trainer is talking to me about Wilcox, that means he's close," Doc Rivers said Monday. "The fact that he hasn't mentioned Wilcox's name over the last four days, means he's not close."
Wilcox looks to be a big part of Boston's season, especially at the way opposing teams have had success when Kevin Garnett isn't in the game. Wilcox's absence allows other bigs to get more reps, and despite questionable results at times, Rivers likes what he sees.
"Jared Sullinger is playing phenomenal, Jason Collins has been fantastic, we just haven't played him a lot. I don't want to overuse him. Darko Milicic has been better than advertised, so maybe that's a blessing it's giving some of the guys that may not have played a chance to play more."
With no practice or playing time, and no news on his health, there's no chance Wilcox will play Tuesday night against the Brooklyn Nets at the C's preseason home opener at the TD Garden.
When you’re an NBA rookie or early on in your career, there’s so much to learn, especially when it comes to playing defense.
Despite having at least two players with a year or less experience in the starting lineup and at least three or four other rookies who see regular action, Boston’s top-ranked defense has been able to do the seemingly impossible – defend without fouling a lot.
Boston comes into tonight’s game against Atlanta averaging 19.8 fouls committed per game which is the ninth-lowest total in the league.
Celtics guard Kyrie Irving has some ideas as to how the team has been able to defend without fouling a ton.
“Our length, being able to communicate on the fly, having a system that’s predicated on shrinking the floor, just being very active,” Irving said. “Obviously, we’re going to foul. But the times we don’t foul, we limit teams to some tough shots, some tough two’s or some tough contested threes; I feel we put ourselves in great position. And then when you have guards down there rebounding as well as bigs down there boxing out and staying active it makes all our jobs easier, all five connected out there. We understand the importance of valuing each possession.”
The qualities that Irving talks about make sense when you’re talking about the qualities of an elite team defensively.
But for the Celtics to have so much youth tossed into such prominent roles, it is unusual to see everything seemingly come together so quickly.
“They utilize their length appropriately,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “They’re both long for their positions; that helps. So, you’re not playing Jaylen at the 3 (small forward) as much, and Jayson (Tatum) at the four (power forward) as much. You’re playing them at the two (shooting guard) and three (small forward) a lot. So, they can use that length rather than try and have to battle.”
Irving points out there’s added incentive to play at a high level defensively without fouling.
“If you don’t, you’ll be on the bench,” Irving said. “Brad has made that very clear. If the effort isn’t being put out there, and you’re not paying attention and you’re not preparing the way all of us should be preparing, that goes from the head coach all the way down to the 15th guy, if you’re not preparing the way you should and not perfecting your craft outside the game and that’s being very diligent, understanding what we’re trying to do in strategy, understanding our system, why it works, and why we’re doing it, then why the hell would you expect to play? So, he made it very simple. All the guys understand that. We’re a young team, but what we’re trying to accomplish will take a lot of energy and effort and focus. They understand that at a very young point in the season.”
You know who else - besides Charles Barkley - isn't impressed by the Celtics' 14-game winning streak?
At the shootaround in Atlanta before the Celtics attempt to make it 15 in a row tonight against the Hawks, Brad Stevens told reporters, including ESPN's Chris Forsberg, that his team hasn't played well enough to make the streak "valid."
“We haven’t played well enough to consider this win streak to be valid in my opinion,” Stevens said."We’ve figured out ways to win games. We gotta play a lot better.”
The Celtics have come back from double-digit deficits a number of times in the streak. Stevens said they're fortunate those rallies have kept the streak going.
"We've got to be better, and we know that," Stevens said. "We can't get so caught up in the results of all these games and ride that emotion. We've been fortunate to win a lot of the games in this streak, including Thursday night [92-88 over the defending champion Golden State Warriors]. If we dig ourselves a 17-point hole every other game, it's not going to be as much fun as we've had recently."