Boston Celtics rookies JaJuan Johnson and ETwaun Moore dont know exactly what to expect each game, other than at this point in the season, they will be playing increased minutes as their veteran teammates rest before the playoffs.
With the postseason starting this weekend, teams around the league have been putting abbreviated lineups on the court to cut back on their starters minutes and try to heal and prevent injuries.
In Friday's loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett got the night off for rest while Rajon Rondo (back), Ray Allen (ankle), and Mickael Pietrus (knee) were out with injuries. Moore played nearly 19 minutes and Johnson played 15. Both are averaging less than eight minutes per game this season.
Other teams are in the same situation. Tuesdays upcoming opponent, the Miami Heat, has been resting Chris Bosh and LeBron James recently and Dwyane Wade (finger) has been limited as of late. On Sunday, rookie Norris Cole got just his second start of the season and played over 37 minutes for the Heat.
But then there are games like Friday when the Hawks went with their starters. These rookies have little certainty of who they will see on the court. Preparing for the unexpected poses challenges, especially for young players with limited experience. Moore has played in 36 games while Johnson has appeared in 34 this season.
You just prepare for everyone that plays your position because theres a chance you could play against all of them, said Moore. Youve just got to look over the scouting report every game.
Scouting reports, packets of stats, facts, and details about the opposing team distributed to every player, are integral to the rookies preparation this season as they give athletes more in-depth breakdowns of their opponents. The players receive the reports in advance of the game, sometimes the previous day or, in other cases, hours beforehand depending on the schedule.
One piece of information both Johnson and Moore look for are their opponents tendencies. These points help them anticipate the competitions plan of attack.
Is there a certain way they like to drag or which hand they like to use? Johnson said. Stuff like that I really try to remember and then the other things kind of fall into place.
The scouting reports can serve as supplements to the game film players watch on the opposing team. As the rookies are learning about others in the league, these reports allow them to zone in on particular players who may not frequently appear on game tape, especially at this point in the season when more and more reserves who have seen limited playing time off the bench are on the court to spell minutes.
I like a mixture of both because when you watch the game tape, its more generalization of what everybody can do on the team, Johnson explained. Its not just your position. When you at the scouting report, you can choose which person you want to look at and focus on.
In some instances, going up against an experienced opponent is actually easier for the rookies. Even if they have never faced the veteran before, they have studied his game as they made their own ways to the pros.
When youre playing against the starters, you know their tendencies, said Moore. You know dont know the tendencies when youre playing against some of the other guys sometimes and itll be a surprise.
Echoed Johnson, I think its easier to play against players youre used to seeing because you grow up watching certain players or watching their film. Its harder to get film on players who really dont play, so you dont know what to expect.
At this point in the season, any lineup on the court could be a surprise. But with their scouting reports, the rookies can better expect the unexpected.