Young Celtics take back seat as veterans make most of minutes

Young Celtics take back seat as veterans make most of minutes

BOSTON – Getting back to the playoffs for the third straight year is among the goals for the Boston Celtics this season, and their play of late has certainly looked the part of a postseason club.

But there’s something different about this team of late that speaks to the win-now mentality that’s steadily creeping into their everyday way of doing things.


While Boston is still intent on developing its young players, getting wins is of greater importance which is in part why the team’s youngsters spent most of Tuesday’s 113-103 win over Memphis watching while the team’s veterans handled their business against a seasoned Grizzlies squad.

The most noticeable change has to do with 30-year-old Gerald Green who is in the rotation now, ahead of second-year guard Terry Rozier.

Green proved coach Brad Stevens made the right decision by scoring a season-high 19 points against Memphis, and doing so in less than 19 minutes of court time.

Grizzlies coach David Fizdale was an assistant in Miami last season when Green played for the Heat. Fizdale wasn’t the least bit surprised to see his team get lit up by the veteran wing.

“That’s Gerald; Gerald can get it going at any time,” Fizdale said when I asked him about Green. “I know what Gerald is capable of. He’s definitely a guy that we had labeled on the scouting report as a ‘hot guy,’ a guy that can really get it rolling. He did, what he does. Gerald is a confident player. He can shoot it. He can put it on the floor. He’s one of my favorite guys.”

His Celtics teammates feel the same way about him, even Rozier whose minutes have been gobbled up by Green.

In the last two games, Green has averaged 13.5 points in just 15.5 minutes per game, shooting 62.5 percent (10-for-16) from the field.

This season, Green has appeared in 15 games while averaging 5.0 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 11 minutes per game.

Prior to appearing in the last three games, Green did not play in 13 of the Celtics’ previous 15 games with all but two being coaches decisions (he was inactive for two games due to an injury).

To his credit, Green waited patiently for his turn to play and has made the most of his opportunity.

“It definitely came and he was ready for it. That’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “That just … I can do the same thing. It’s probably harder for him because he played in the league longer. For him to stay positive and him being one of the loudest on the bench when he wasn’t playing and keeping everybody encouraged, he finally gets his time on Christmas and steps up. That’s just big to see that. He’s a great locker room guy. It’s something I want to take note of and stay positive.”

Rozier isn’t the only young Celtic whose playing time has taken a dip lately.

Jaylen Brown, drafted by the Celtics with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft, has also seen less time on the court recently.

He averages just over 13 minutes played per game this season.

But during Boston’s current run of six wins in seven games, Brown’s playing time has been 13 minutes or less in six of the seven games.

His dip in minutes is due to a healthy Jae Crowder who will log most of the minutes at small forward. And while Brown has shown he can play some power forward as well, the Celtics have been inclined to go with a power forward rotation of starters Al Horford, Amir Johnson, and Crowder playing some power forward, with Jonas Jerebko seeing time some spot duty at the four-spot off the bench.

However, considering Green’s emergence the last couple of games and how seemingly every year there’s a certain ebb and flow to guys being in and out of Stevens’ rotation, Rozier understands that eventually he’ll get a chance to play his way back into getting regular minutes.

And the second-year guard is intent on being ready for his opportunity.

While Rozier has played with a chip on his shoulder since like, forever, he doesn’t see his slide out of the rotation adding to that added motivation that he plays with on a nightly basis.

“I’m just going to be ready to play when I get in there,” he said. “I’m just going to come out aggressive and just play my game and do what I can do to help this team win."

Rozier added with a grin, “I won’t say it’s any more fuel to the fire.”

WATCH: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans

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WATCH: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Pelicans in New Orleans. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 5:30  p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Pelicans preview: Can C's slow down Anthony Davis?

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Celtics-Pelicans preview: Can C's slow down Anthony Davis?

As the NBA trade deadline drew near, Celtics Nation was hoping tonight’s matchup between Boston and New Orleans would be Anthony Davis returning to where his pro career began.

He’s still with the Pelicans, doing what Davis has done for most of his career – dominate play.

But there’s a new twist now … he’s also winning. 

That’s why the 6-foot-10 Davis is no longer seen as a player that might be on the move anytime soon. 

He’s not just one of the league’s best players, but a bonafide MVP candidate whose stock as an elite player is even greater since New Orleans lost DeMarcus Cousins (ruptured Achilles tendon) for the season on Jan. 26. 

Since Cousins’ season-ending injury, New Orleans (39-30) has a 12-9 record with Davis averaging 31.1 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 2.3 steals per game in that span. 

Davis is also averaging 7.8 free throws per game which ranks fourth in the NBA, although you wouldn’t know he was among the league leaders in that category based on the postgame rant by his coach Alvin Gentry following New Orleans’ 107-101 loss to Houston on Saturday night. 

“A.D. (Anthony Davis) never gets a call,” a visibly angry Gentry told reporters following the loss. “He never gets a call. We talk about them holding him. We talk about them grabbing him on rolls. We talk about them coming under him on post-ups. He never gets a call; not one. And you know why? Because he doesn’t (bleep) complain about it. He just keeps playing the game.”

Regardless of how often he gets to the line, Davis is still putting up MVP-caliber numbers this season in Cousins’ absence. 

But it’s not like Davis’ stat line this season overall – 28.0 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.5 steals – didn’t stand out for all the right reasons, either.

However, Davis’ shine isn’t quite as bright now with the Pelicans losing four of their last five games which has dropped New Orleans (39-30) down to the eighth and final playoff spot and just 1.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers (37-31).

So, the Celtics come into town facing not only one of the better teams in the West, but a club that is absolutely starving for a win.

While Boston (47-22) certainly wants to come into the Big Easy and get a victory, its impact on the Celtics’ playoff hopes is non-existent. 

Boston has the second-best record in the East and trail Toronto (52-17) by five games with 13 remaining. They face the Raptors two more times this season, but even if they win both of those games and thus the head-to-head series, it likely won’t come into play because of Toronto likely finishing with the best record in the East. 

And behind Boston in the standings is Cleveland (40-29), another injury-riddled team that’s seven games behind the Celtics in the standing and has shown no signs of threatening to gain ground on Boston. 

So regardless of how the Celtics fare, it’s likely they will remain sandwiched between Toronto and Cleveland in terms of playoff seedings are concerned. 

And that might factor into who plays – and who doesn’t – for Boston in these final few games of the regular season. 

Boston’s Daniel Theis suffered a season-ending torn meniscus injury in his left knee, and Marcus Smart’s right thumb injury will keep him out for the rest of the regular season with the earliest he might be back being the latter stages of the first round of the playoffs, or sometime during the second round if the Celtics advance that far. 

Boston must also make sure Kyrie Irving and his sore left knee, are good to go for the playoffs. In addition, the Celtics must work Jaylen Brown back into the fold after he suffered a concussion that has kept him out of Boston’s last three games. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has made a point of not allowing himself or his players to use their injury situation as an excuse for not playing good basketball. 

But he knows good basketball for his injury-riddled roster, involves players elevating their play.

“We’re going to be in the process of really looking at ourselves and redistributing responsibility on our team without guys going outside of what they do best,” Stevens said, adding, “We’re going to have to figure out how to play our best basketball.”