Celtics

Celtics

WALTHAM - As reporters, we don't get to see much at Celtics practices.

Depending on if we get access before or after practice, we'll only see the first or last couple of minutes.

For example, at the beginning of practice today we watched the team stretch and mix in some basic dribbling drills.

Real riveting stuff.

If it's at the end, we may catch the end of a scrimmage if we're lucky. If not, it's just some of the players shooting around with each other and assistant coaches.

The point is, we can't say for sure what goes on, what the team is stressing, who looks good, and who doesn't.

We assumed that the depth of this team would make for some competitive practices.

It turns out we were right. In fact, it sounds like they're very competitive between the current first and second units (key word: current).

According to the C's starting shooting guard, Avery Bradley, the second unit has been giving the first unit some trouble in practice.

"The good thing about practice, the second unit pushes us every single day," Bradley said. "To be honest, some days they beat us. They own us right now. It helps us improve and we know what we need to get better at and that's the best thing about it. I'm excited about the game [Wednesday] because it's a challenge for us and we know that we need to get a win to get back going."

Wait . . . the second unit owns the first unit?

It shouldn't be much of a surprise. After all, the second unit is where the team's best player, Isaiah Thomas, plays on. They've also got another capable starter in Evan Turner, and a big man who may find himself in the starting lineup very soon in Jared Sullinger.

Through three games, the starting lineup (Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, David Lee, and Tyler Zeller) is averaging just seven minutes of playing time together per game. They're shooting 28.9-percent from the field and averaging a −4 in the plus-minus category. That −4 is tied for the third-worst plus-minus lineup on the team.

In two of the three games, Zeller has sat for much of the game. In one of the three games, Lee sat for much of the game. That partially explains the low amount of total minutes played by the unit.

So how do they improve? Stevens likes what he's seen from Sullinger on defense, and that's why he's been playing more minutes. But on the offensive end, the first unit is trying to find better shot opportunities, too.

"Share the ball. That's it," Bradley said. "Continue to share the ball and shoot easy shots. I feel like we're making everything hard on ourselves. We're one pass, one shot. It should never be that way. We know our strength in the first unit is sharing the ball. We have a lot of good players."

Bradley is nursing a sprained hand and sounds questionable for Wednesday's game. If he can't go, the starting lineup will obviously change for the first time this season. But with Zeller sitting for the majority of two of the the three games, some wonder if he too could be out of the starting lineup sooner than later.

"We have to move the ball a little more and attack the paint a little more," Zeller said of the first unit. "It’s kind of on all of us. I got to roll to the rim and attack it a little more aggressively. We just have to be a little more aggressive. I think we settle for jump shots a little bit too much sometimes. If we can get to the rim, I think we can create a lot of problems [for defenses]."

Before they try to prove they can take on other teams' first units, maybe they should prove they can beat their own team's second unit.