Division clinched, Dooling, bench will get more time

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Division clinched, Dooling, bench will get more time

ATLANTA Judging by the way Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers has strategically shut down his core players recently, it's clear that rest will continue to trump a run at home court advantage now that the Atlantic Division title - and the fourth seed in the playoffs that comes with it - is wrapped up.

That means the bench will get in plenty of end-of-the-year reps, a chance for some of the lesser known youngsters to play major minutes.

But veterans such as Keyon Dooling, who will be 32 years old next month, will benefit from increased playing time as well.

Dooling has missed 20 games this season, 16 because of a sore right knee (seven games) and a right hip pointer (nine).

The injuries made the transition to playing for his new team tougher than it should have been.

Because of that lack of court time, it has taken him longer than he would have liked to have gained the full confidence of head coach Doc Rivers.

Now that he has that, it's just a matter of making the most of his opportunities to play.

And with Rivers insisting that he will continue to find ways to rest guys between now and the playoffs, that means Dooling will have something now that he hasn't had all year - assurances that he'll play consistent minutes.

Now in his 12th NBA season, Dooling is averaging 14 minutes per game with Boston. It is his lowest minutes per game average since he averaged 11.1 minutes while appearing in just 14 games with the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2001-2002 season, his second year in the league.

"It's magnificent when you know (you're playing)," Dooling told CSNNE.com. "When you don't know, it's hard. Even when you're my age, my experience, when you don't know for sure if you're playing, it's very tough. But it's reality. You have to prepare like you're going to play. But it's definitely tough."

But if the playoffs are anything like the regular season, being ready to play at a moment's notice should be a given for this group.

A long laundry's list of setbacks have hit the C's all season, forcing guys few anticipated would even play, to suddenly be thrust into a role of prominence.

Greg Stiemsma was considered a longshot to make the Celtics roster.

Today, he's one of the top rookie big men in the NBA, and has established himself as a reliable back-up center.

Avery Bradley has emerged from being a combo guard that Doc Rivers was not comfortable with playing long stretches at the point guard position, to a defensive menace with a blossoming offensive game that has him on every team's scouting report.

"It's a neat group; I've talked about it all year," Rivers said. "They just kind of figure it out."

Having that ability bodes well for a Celtics team that understands that for them to have a deep playoff run, it'll require every player donning a white and green uniform.

"We don't know who will be in the rotation for the playoffs," Dooling said. "Hopefully we'll have MP (Mickael Pietrus) back. But at the end of the day, they may need us for three minutes, four minutes here or there. We want to be able to contribute, whether it's on the defensive end, in the hustle categories, whether we have to make a shot, whatever it is you have to be mentally tuned in and focused. You can't think about your own personal situation. You have to be bigger than that. That's what's different about this team. That's what's so awesome about this team."

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

BOSTON -- Compared to most high draft picks, Jaylen Brown doesn’t log a ton of minutes for the Boston Celtics.
 
Playing on an experienced team with legit hopes of making a deep playoff run, rookies seeing limited minutes is a given.
 
Knowing playing time will come in a limited supply, Brown understands all too well the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity he gets on the floor.
 
He did just that on Saturday in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia, and he hopes to do more of the same on Monday when the Celtics take on the Houston Rockets.
 
When you look at Brown’s stat line, nothing about it looks impressive. He played 15 minutes, scored two points with one rebound and one blocked shot.
 
But beyond the stats was the fact that he was on the floor for seven minutes in the fourth quarter in a close back-and-forth game on the road. Rookies on the floor in crunch time is not the norm in the NBA.
 
“It means a lot,” Brown told reporters after Saturday’s win. “I try to be as best I can be for my team; try to put my best foot forward every night out.”
 
And he did just that on Saturday.
 
In the fourth quarter with the Celtics leading 87-83, Brown blocked a Gerald Henderson shot that wound up in the hands of Jae Crowder. Moments later, Jonas Jerebko hit a 3-pointer that gave the Celtics their largest lead of the game, 90-83.
 
And just two minutes prior to the blocked shot, he was out in transition following an Isaiah Thomas steal and threw down a dunk that pushed Boston’s lead to 86-83 with 7:11 to play.
 
Brown acknowledged making the most of those opportunities bodes well for him and the franchise.
 
“It’s great for our team in general; not just for me,” Brown said. “Those plays helped us to pull the game out in the end. So I’m glad we got the win. I think we should have played a little better than we did.”
 
The continued pursuit of self-improvement is a hallmark of what Brown’s focus and desire are at this stage of his pro career. He has talked often about not wanting to be just one of the best in this draft class but also one of the best in the NBA overall.
 
But he’s also learned that to get there takes time and experience developing both physically and mentally. Part of that mental growth entails having the right approach to games.
 
“Usually you try to tell yourself not to mess up,” Brown said. “Now that I’m getting more comfortable, it’s just play basketball, bring energy, things like that; come out and do what you’re supposed to do. A lot of times you try to tell yourself to not mess up and it’s counteractive; just come out and play basketball and have fun.”
 
And by doing so the minutes will come.
 
“You can’t control that. I just have to control what I can control,” Brown said. “I trust coach (Brad Stevens); I trust my coaching staff. I have to come out and in the minutes I get, play my hand as best I can and take advantage of what I do get and impact this team as much as possible.”
 
This season, Brown is averaging 4.8 points, 2.0 rebounds while shooting 41.9 percent from the field.

Zolak: Bennett helps with Gronk loss, but Pats need to manage him

Zolak: Bennett helps with Gronk loss, but Pats need to manage him

Scott Zolak said on Pregame Live Sunday that the Patriots are better-suited to survive a season-ending injury to Rob Gronkowski than they were a season ago. 

Zolak said that given the health of Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and the signing of Chris Hogan, the offense has more stability at other positions to make up for the loss of Gronkowski, whose season is over due to back surgery. As for the tight end position, Zolak said he feels the Patriots traded for Martellus Bennett to protect themselves against scenarios like the one they currently face. 

“This offseason they [acquired] Martellus Bennett, I think for this very reason: to prepare for what really happens year after year, is some sort of issue comes up with Rob Gronkowski and you have to play without him,” Zolak said.

Bennett was questionable with an ankle injury for this week’s game, but is expected to play. Asked about the health of Bennett, Zolak said that he believes the tight end is good to play, but that his importance to the team with Gronkowski out means the Pats will need to be careful. 

“I think he’s healthy enough to get through about 30-35 snaps,” Zolak said. “They’ve got to balance him now moving forward.”