Celtics' roster shuffle yields familiar result

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Celtics' roster shuffle yields familiar result

BOSTON Well before the Boston Celtics were struggling, head coach Doc Rivers was giving some thought to putting Brandon Bass in the starting lineup ahead of Jermaine O'Neal.

"I've been thinking about it since camp," Rivers said.

Rivers trotted out his new lineup on Friday, and the result was an all too familiar loss as the Chicago Bulls held on for an 88-79 win.

The C's (4-6) have now lost three in a row, and they're off to the worst 10-game start to the season since 2006 - the year before the Big Three joined forces.

"We're still young in the season," said Boston's Ray Allen. "We know what's in us, and we know what this team is capable of. The adversity has struck us early, but we're all in."

Part of being "all in" involves adapting to changes that Rivers believes will help the C's moving forward.

One of those changes was on full display Friday night as Bass made his first start with the Green team.

He had 10 points and nine rebounds while playing just under 33 minutes.

Rivers hasn't decided on whether he'll keep Bass in the starting lineup Saturday against Indiana, but did say that it's a lineup that you'll see "70 percent" of the time.

"There will be nights where I think size will be a factor," said Rivers, who added that Saturday's game against the Pacers is one of those games. "I'm not sure which way we'll go. I just sat JO and Brandon down and I said, 'you two will be our starters.' And that there will be nights when one starts, and there will be nights when the other starts."

Bass' play certainly is a major factor in Rivers' decision to play him at times with the first unit.

But as Rivers points out, it also gives the Celtics more depth in the middle.

"I thought it gave us more versatility and I thought our rotations were easier when you bring Jermaine in for Kevin (Garnett) you stay big," Rivers said. "And what I'm trying to do is always have Jermaine or Kevin - just size on the floor more."

Garnett recognizes, understands and appreciates Rivers' willingness to do whatever he has to do in order to get the C's on track this season.

"Doc's going to play with different lineups, do what he feels is best for the team," Garnett said. "And we're going to support whatever that is. Anybody that's going to be part of that transition, will understand what it is. We're all in here, trying to figure this thing out together.

Garnett added, "these are dog days; these are the days where you're going to really see who is with you, who is fair-weather, but we're going to continue to work. Whatever Doc feels is best for the team, we're going to support either way."

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

Brady allows himself to enjoy win: '[Bleep], you've got to be happy now'

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady can be his own worst critic. That's why last week, after beating the Texans in the Divisional Round to move on to the AFC title game, he wasn't thrilled. He didn't play up to his standards. The offense struggled at points. He wore his frustration like a five o'clock shadow.

Winning is not everything for Brady, most weeks. He has an idea of how he should perform, how the Patriots offense should perform, and when those ideals aren't met, he's generally displeased. 

PATRIOTS 36, STEELERS 17

On Sunday, after beating up on the Steelers, 36-17, that wasn't the case. It was a sound performance, but it wasn't perfect. It was explosive at times, but it shined a light on areas where the Patriots will need to continue to improve. 

Despite its imperfections, Sunday was no time to brood about plays missed or lessons learned the hard way. Screw it, Brady seemed to say. They were going to the Super Bowl. It was OK to smile.  

"It was a good day," Brady said. "I mean, we're going to the Super Bowl, man. [Expletive], you've got to be happy now."

The Super Bowl berth is the ninth in franchise history -- more than any other club -- and the seventh with Brady and coach Bill Belichick. By throwing for 384 yards and three touchdowns on 32-of-42 passing, Brady tied Joe Montana for the most postseason games (nine) with three touchdown passes. 

Brady will also claim the record for Super Bowls played when he and the Patriots head to Houston. And if they win, he'll tie Charles Haley for most Super Bowl wins for a player (five).

Those are lofty numbers made even more significant, perhaps, due to the fact that Brady wasn't allowed to start this season as his team's quarterback. He was asked during Sunday's postgame press conference if it was personally satisfying to get back to the Super Bowl despite having to serve a four-game suspension due to Deflategate.

"Well, that's because of the hard work of a lot of people from my coaches to my teammates to our families that support us," he said. "It takes a lot of people, a lot of hard work and a lot of effort over the course of many months. This didn't start at 6:40 tonight.

"This thing started in April. It really started before that in free-agency when we were picking up guys like [Chris] Hogan and drafting guys like Malcolm Mitchell and guy who were in rehab like [LeGarrette Blount] and [Dion Lewis] and [James Develin] and Nate [Solder]. It's a lot of hard work. There are only two teams left standing, and I'm happy we're one of them."

They're going to the Super Bowl. He has to be happy now.