Faverani may have played his way into starting role

Faverani may have played his way into starting role
October 24, 2013, 12:30 am
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(AP Photo)

BOSTON — Vitor Faverani has now officially thrown himself into the mix as a possible starter at center for the Celtics when they open the season at Toronto next week.

After a strong performance in Boston's 101-97 win over Brooklyn in the preseason finale, Celtics coach Brad Stevens has little choice but to give some thought to having the 6-foot-11 rookie play with the first group instead of Jared Sullinger (illness), who was not with the team on Wednesday.

Faverani, making his first NBA start Wednesday night, had 15 points, seven rebounds and a game-high six blocked shots in the Celtics' 101-97 win.

"I don't know when Jared comes back if we'll start Jared or bring him off the bench," Stevens said. "But I think generally we needed more length on the interior."

Sullinger is a solid rebounder, but at 6-foot-9, opposing centers have had success against the Celtics around the basket.

The insertion of the 6-11 Faverani as a starter seemed to provide the kind of interior presence at both ends of the floor that Stevens and the Celtics have been searching for.

"Having that length at the beginning of those games ... [not having] that hurt us in a couple of these preseason games," Stevens said.

Brooklyn center Brook Lopez did not play on Wednesday, but the Celtics and their undersized frontcourt had no answer for him when the two teams met earlier this month. Toronto's Jonas Valanciunas and Minnesota's big men Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic had success around the basket against Boston as well.

Earlier in training camp, Faverani talked about defense being the one area that he felt he needed to improve upon in order to see playing time.

 "Today, I think I did things good," said Faverani whose six blocked shots on Wednesday was just one less than the Celtics leader [Jeff Green] in total blocked shots this preseason. "I worked hard all day."

Faverani also felt added pressure to play well because Stevens was giving him an opportunity to start.

"The coach give me the confidence to start the game because Sully's not here," Faverani said. "The most important (thing) for me that I can give back, is the confidence to him (Stevens). That's very, very nice for me."

Even if Faverani gets the starting nod going forward, Sullinger will still play a vital role in this team's success.

Although his rookie season ended prematurely because of back surgery, Sullinger was among the best first-year players in terms of rebounding.

In fact, his rebounds per 36 minutes played (10.2) were equal to the top overall pick in his draft class, New Orleans center Anthony Davis.

Along with Sullinger, the Celtics may opt to bring Brandon Bass off the bench as well.

Against the Nets on Wednesday, Bass had 16 points to go with a team-high nine rebounds.

"Brandon and Jared are both going to play huge roles on this team," Stevens said. "And whether they start or come off the bench doesn't really matter."

When asked if he preferred to start or come off the bench, Bass replied, "I prefer to get a win. I'm excited about us getting a win."
 
And doing so just might become easier with the team's only true center, Faverani, on the floor to start games.

"I think it was very good for us to win the game," Faverani said. "We played well together. This is very, very important for the next games."

But it remains to be seen if the success Boston and Faverani enjoyed Wednesday night can carry over into the season opener.

"Now, you know, the challenge for Vitor is coming off of success, how do you handle that?" Stevens said. "And I think that he's shown nothing but a good maturity about him thus far, and I don't have any reason to think he won't handle it well."