Don't expect set starting lineup for Celtics

Don't expect set starting lineup for Celtics
October 29, 2013, 9:45 pm
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TORONTO — When a strong showing in the preseason meets opportunity to start, it's the kind of basketball union fans love to see.

But for anyone who finds themselves married to the starting five of the Boston Celtics on opening night, you will be left at the altar, chillin' by your lonesome sooner or later.

That's because the starting five on opening night is more like the start of a string of starting fives that will no doubt make this season uh, different than what Celtics Nation has seen in quite a while.

Regardless of who gets to run with the first unit in the season opener, no one - not head coach Brad Stevens or the man that hired him, Danny Ainge - believes the opening night starters will last.

"Until there's separation there can't be a set lineup," said Ainge, the Celtics' president of Basketball Operations. "So I think most likely that it won't happen on the first crack, but the second or third crack we'll figure it out."

Stevens will likely play at least 10 players early on, but admits he would ideally like to have a nine-man rotation.

"And the crazy part is, I can get down to (nine players) but it's really healthy if they get down to it and they separate themselves in that regard and nine guys stand out above all others," Stevens said. "It's happened some, but it hasn't happened consistently."

Which is why Stevens' starting five should be written in disappearing ink all season.

"Everybody in the locker room is going to have an opportunity," Ainge said. "That's 14 players that are all going to get a chance. You know they're not going to get a chance on the same night."

Figuring out which players to have in and out of the rotation is complicated somewhat because of the team's across-the-board parity.

"The biggest thing when you talk about depth, depth can be a really, really good thing and it can also be a clear indicator that there's not a lot of separation," Stevens said. "I think it's both in this circumstance."

Stevens can look at different lineup combinations without too much concern about its impact because as he and anyone who has watched this team play this year, most of the guys in the rotation aren't that much better than the guys at the end of the bench.

Even with all the changes during the offseason, there was still a sense that guys would separate themselves in training camp and the preseason to where figuring out who to play would not be such a toss-up.

When asked about the separation of players from the starting of training camp until now, Stevens had to grin at the question.

"It's a little more separated," he said, smiling, "but not much."