Celtics looking for production from new bench

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Celtics looking for production from new bench

BOSTON The Boston Celtics have four all-star players -- five if you throw in Jermaine O'Neal. It stands to reason that any shot at bringing home a championship lies with that group.

But when you look at the C's 2008 title run, it's clear just how important role players were to that team. James Posey's name immediately comes to mind.

If you examine the reigning NBA champion Dallas Mavericks' postseason success, you can't overlook the breakout season of former Northeastern standout J.J. Barea.

So as the C's began to gear up for the 2011-2012 season, their best shot at a deep playoff run likely has as much to do with their bench players as it does with their stars.

"We have guys that can do it for us," Celtics guard Ray Allen told CSNNE.com. "Anytime you do anything great, it requires a few of your players on your team to have their best years. That's what we rely on."

When you look at the Celtics roster, there are a number of candidates to be standouts off the bench -- guys like Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox and Keyon Dooling.

"We're excited about Keyon, we're excited about Brandon, we're excited about Chris . . . Those guys have proven that they're good role players coming off the bench, that can help us win," Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations told CSNNE.com.

And with injuries already taking their toll on the Celtics -- Rajon Rondo (right ankle) and Paul Pierce (right heel) have already missed practices -- the Celtics are more likely to use more of their bench than in past years.

"That's why I'm here, to help this team win anyway I can," Wilcox said. "Starting, coming off the bench. It doesn't matter. I've never been to the playoffs, so winning is all I'm about now."

And while the Celtics' roster as it stands now isn't star-studded when you look at the backups, there is a certain brand of toughness most of the C's second-unit players can bring to the floor.

That'll come in handy when the games come fast and furious this season.

"It is a lot of them (games), and they will be coming real quick," Bass acknowledged. "But the good thing is, we ain't the only ones that have to deal with it. Everybody in the NBA has to go through that."

With so many games so tightly wound together, it won't be that surprising if there are games when then Celtics find themselves being carried not by the Big 4, but a player or two from the second unit.

"You ride a hot player who you didn't expect to get hot in a certain moment," Allen said. "It's not a predetermined formula. As it happens, you just go with it."

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

Blakely: This could be the start of something big for Celtics

BOSTON -- Prior to this year, the Celtics hadn't been to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012. That trip served as a curtain call of sorts for the last great C's dynasty.
 
But this one, which ended with Cleveland's emphatic 135-102 Game 5 victory Thursday at TD Garden, is very different.
 
Rather than closing another chapter in the Celtics' longstanding legacy of greatness, it could serve as the beginning of a new narrative in the franchise's steady growth.
 
"For us to be in the Eastern Conference finals after the first year of this team really being together, adding additions like Al Horford and Gerald Green . . . I can go down the list of guys that we needed to learn to play with, and for us to talk about where we wanted to be and actually make it, it's a big-time accomplishment," said Avery Bradley.
 
Boston has been among the younger teams in the NBA, with the 31-year-old Green being the oldest player on the roster.
 
But what the Celtics lacked in experience, they made up for with great effort.
 
"The great thing about this is the experience," Bradley said. "We were able to go to the Eastern Conference finals, learned a lot about being in this position, and I feel like it's going to help us for next year."
 
But as we all know, the Celtics will look to strengthen themsevles this offseason, which means there's a very good chance they'll have a different look when they gather again in the fall.
 
How different is anyone's guess.
 
"It's difficult every year whenever you don't have guys back," said coach Brad Stevens. "I think you share a bond (over the course of a season)."
 
Stevens and this group have been together for eight months. Eight months of struggles, successes, frustrating defeats and euphoric victories that brought them to the conference finals, which is where their season came to an end.
 
But as disappointed as the players and coaches are inow, there's definite excitement about this franchise in the very near future.
 
Boston has the No. 1 overall pick in next month's draft, with all indications -- for now -- pointing to Washington's Markelle Fultz as their choice.
 
And their top first-round pick from a year ago, Jaylen Brown, seemed to steadily improve as the season progressed. It was one of the few times in his life where minutes weren't just handed to him, which he admits was a learning experience unlike anything he had ever had, yet he adjusted and played better as the year went along.

"I've had ups, I've had downs, I've had opportunities, I've had mistakes," said Brown. "So I've been learning and growing and improving all year and I'm going to continue growing and improving and prove people wrong, prove doubters wrong."
 
Having the season end the way it did has indeed left a bad taste in the mouths of many Celtics.
 
"I can use it as fuel," Brown said, adding: "I want to get back to the same place I'm at now."
 
Bradley, who was on the 2012 team that lost to the Miami Heat in the conference finals, knows the Celtics are going to do whatever they feel is necessary to give them the best chance at competing for a title.
 
"It's out of our control as players," Bradley said. "We had a great year together. If guys are here, if guys aren't, we all wish the best for each other.

"But I do feel this is a special group. We all gave our heart every single night, played as hard as we could. I respect all my teammates, and I really appreciated playing with all the guys I had a chance to play with this year; a special group."