Rivers has no choice but to play rookies now

Rivers has no choice but to play rookies now
December 29, 2011, 11:10 pm
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BOSTON The Boston Celtics recognize the need to develop their young players. They also want to play the guys who give them the best chance at winning.

Three games into the season, and the C's may be moving closer towards doing both this season.

As the Celtics look for ways to get that elusive first win, the team's three rookies - JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore and Greg Stiemsma - may provide just the boost needed off the bench.

Very little went the Celtics' way in their 97-78 loss at New Orleans on Wednesday. However, the play of Stiemsma was among the few highlights. The rookie center had two points and an impressive six blocked shots, most of which came when the game was still up for grabs.

His play coupled with the struggles of Jermaine O'Neal, may open the door for his role to only grow. Establishing a defensive presence was Stiemsma's strength in college and in the D-League.

Not a lot has changed now that he's in the NBA.

Within seconds of entering the Hornets game, New Orleans center and former UConn star Emeka Okafor tried to dunk on him, only to have Stiesma reject the shot.

"I don't have to meet some of these super athletes at 12, 13 feet," Stiemsma said. "I just gotta meet them at 10-6, at the right time. I try to use that as my thinking."

And Moore, one of the best players for the C's during the preseason, has been battling Avery Bradley for the role of being the team's fourth guard behind starters Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen, and veteran Keyon Dooling.

The race isn't over yet, but Rivers told reporters following the loss to the Hornets that Moore has moved ahead of Bradley in the pecking order - a move that comes as a surprise to no one based on how the two have fared in the preseason.

How that translates in terms of playing time is uncertain, especially when you consider Bradley's minutes were limited.

But with Moore, the C's lose a bit of athleticism in comparison to Bradley.

However, they gain a player who can play both guard positions - Rivers said earlier this year that the team was only going to play Bradley at the off-guard position - and has had more big-game experience despite being a rookie while Bradley is in his second season.

"Basketball is basketball, no matter where it's played," Moore said. "That's how I feel when I'm out there on the court. When I go out there, I stay confident and go out there and play hard."

Johnson was the last Celtic to enter Wednesday's game, but he too might be in store for more minutes depending on how long Chris Wilcox (left shoulder) will be sidelined.

Throughout the preseason, Rivers has been impressed with Johnson's perimeter-shooting skills.

"He can really, really shoot the ball," Rivers said. "But he's a rookie; he's young. He'll be fine."