OFFSEASON

Rivers concerned C's playing too many minutes

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Rivers concerned C's playing too many minutes

BOSTON When the playoffs arrive, it's a given that the best players will wind up playing more minutes than usual.

Still, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledges that this is a concern following Boston's 90-84 overtime win in Game 3 over the Atlanta Hawks.

Rivers is most concerned with the minutes of the Big Four - Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen (ankle) who returned to the lineup after nearly a month off.

Rondo (45.6), Pierce (44.2) and Garnett (40.4) are all averaging more than 40 minutes per game, something that you rarely see after this many playoff games. And Ray Allen, in his first game in nearly a month, returned to play 37 minutes.

Rivers' plan as far as dispersing the minutes, certainly worked for the Celtics.

Much like this season, it didn't go quite how he planned.

Rivers acknowledges that he's not thrilled with the idea that his core guys are logging so many minutes. All are certainly worth being concerned about, but Garnett's playing time is most disturbing.

Garnett is the charter member of Rivers' '5-5-5' plan which is designed to limit the amount of minutes Garnett plays to five-minute bursts to start quarters, take him out for a few minutes, and bring him back to end the quarter.

He was especially concerned with Garnett's minutes.

"I got stuck with Kevin, honestly," Rivers said.

The time that Rivers usually takes Garnett out, was just when the C's were starting to put some distance between themselves and the Hawks.

So rather than risk throwing the team's rhythm off, Rivers decided to ride KG and company out until the very end.

After Atlanta's Jeff Teague had a dunk to tie the game at 60 early in the fourth, the C's went on a 16-5 run to take their biggest lead of the night, 76-65, following a jumper by Garnett.

Rivers was anticipating that the Celtics could increase the lead even more and thus, allow Garnett and company to get some rest in the game's final stages.

He was wrong.

The Hawks battled back, and before you knew it, the C's wound up with the same lineup - Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Mickael Pietrus and Garnett - having played every single second of the game from the 53-second mark in the third quarter, until the final horn sounding.

"So sometimes, honestly, as a coach you take a gamble - you think maybe we can get this, put this away, and get guys out," Rivers said. "And it backfired."

When the game went into overtime, and Rivers saw a tired bunch heading back on to the floor, he had no idea what to expect in the extra session.

"I was really worried going in the overtime, just looking at Paul, Kevin and Rondo," Rivers said. "They didn't look fresh."

Then Rivers gazed upon the players that his unit was about to finish the game off against.

"They looked pretty bad, too," Rivers said of the Hawks who, like his team, were a physically and mentally exhausted bunch. "So that made me feel a little bit better."

While it wasn't the most ideal way to get the victory, you won't find Rivers or any of his players complaining - especially after he gave them Saturday off.

"Playoffs are hard," said Boston's Paul Pierce. "Sometimes the coach is going to ask a lot out of you. I went the whole distance again during the second half. It proved worth it."

OFFSEASON

Celtics must address needs with free agency on the horizon

Celtics must address needs with free agency on the horizon

BOSTON -- With more salary cap space than they've ever had along with a slew of clear and well-defined needs, the Celtics are sure to be one of the busier teams when free agency begins on Friday.

And while the Celtics’ needs may be all over the place, there is one thing that head coach Brad Stevens and the rest of the Boston Celtics have made no secret about wanting to come away with this offseason.

“The need for increased versatility,” Stevens said.

Indeed, Stevens envisions the NBA becoming more of a position-less league going forward.

When you look at the Cleveland Cavaliers rallying from a 3-1 deficit to knock off Golden State, of course LeBron James was brilliant as well as Kyrie Irving. 

But one of the more stealth keys to that series that factored into its outcome, was the way Cleveland's 6-foot-9 power forward/center Tristan Thompson was able to hold his own defensively against two-time league MVP guard, 6-3 Stephen Curry.

His play was as clear an example of the value in having players with defensive versatility as you will find.

It also has value on the offensive end of the floor as well. 

That helps explain why LSU’s Ben Simmons was selected with the top overall pick, a player with power forward size (6-10, 240) with point guard-like vision.

And in many ways it speaks to why the Celtics decided to draft Jaylen Brown with the No. 3 pick instead of a playmaker like Providence College’s Kris Dunn or sharpshooters like Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield or Kentucky’s Jamal Murray.

Brown stands 6-7, weighs 223 pounds and has a 7-foot wingspan with elite athleticism and quickness getting to the paint. 

“Very few guys can move like Jaylen, can move at his size and at his length,” Stevens said. “So the defensive versatility is a big piece of that; that should be transferable right away.”

As for free agency, the same mantra – seek out versatile players – will remain in effect for Boston.

Of course Kevin Durant is at the top of the Celtics’ free agent wish list after Durant reportedly included Boston on the list of teams he will meet with in New York shortly after free agency begins.

In addition to the Celtics and his current team Oklahoma City, Durant is also planning to talk with officials from the following teams: Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami and San Antonio.

Along with Durant, the Celtics are also expected to express interest in Atlanta’s Al Horford; New Orleans’ Ryan Anderson; and possibly Golden State’s Harrison Barnes who will be a restricted free agent which often serves as a deterrent for potential suitors. However, Barnes could wind up being an unrestricted free agent if the Warriors feel as though they will land Durant.

Regardless of which free agents wind up in Boston, you can count on versatility being one of their strengths.

“I only look at the game in four spots; ball-handlers, wings, guys that can play that three-swing spot (some power forward as well as small forward) and bigs,” Stevens said. “The more versatile, the more position-less, the better. That overall provides more opportunities than it does not. That’s a positive when you talk about guys that can do different things at different positions.”