NBA Free Agent Primer: Backup point guards

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NBA Free Agent Primer: Backup point guards

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

No one knows for sure when the NBA season will begin.

Even with that uncertainty, the Boston Celtics are no different than most NBA teams when it comes to having multiple plans on how to attack free agency, which will begin at some point after July 1.

Unlike the past couple of seasons, the C's went into the offseason needing to do very little on the free agent market other than shore up a position or two.

This season is a completely different story.

Boston has only five players on the books with guaranteed contracts for this upcoming season. That total does not include Ray Allen, who is expected to pick up his option for this upcoming season which is worth 10 million.

The Celtics will initially look to address some of their needs through next month's draft.

But success for this team next season will hinge heavily on the C's ability to acquire talent via free agency that can take some of the pressure off the Big Three of Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

"We have to give them a better supporting cast," Celtics head coach Doc Rivers recently said on WEEI. "We have to put the right pieces around them. We have to play them (Big Three) in a different way; not all of them, but some of them. Even if their minutes are the same which I hope that they're not -- but if they are, we have to do that differently."

Even Rajon Rondo, the youngest member of the Celtics' core group, could use some added support.

Having missed just 12 games in his first four seasons with the C's, Rondo missed 14 games this past season with an assortment of injuries. Although he didn't miss any games in the playoffs, Rondo did suffer a dislocated left elbow injury in Game 3 of Boston's second-round series with Miami, an injury that essentially left him as a one-armed point guard in the remaining two games.

Because of Rondo's age (25) and experience (73 playoff games, more than anyone from the draft class of 2006), finding a suitable backup that can hold things down while he catches a breather will not be easy.

The Celtics were hoping Delonte West would be the guy to fill that void this past season, but several injuries limited West to a career-low 24 games. Rookie Avery Bradley wasn't ready. Former Celtic Nate Robinson had a shot at the job, but it was clear that he was a better fit playing off the ball prior to the C's trading him to Oklahoma City.

Because Rondo plays more minutes than just about any other Celtic, signing a young up-and-coming playmaker wouldn't necessarily be the right fit behind him.

The C's are likely to look for a veteran playmaker who is willing to accept limited minutes coming off the bench.

While you won't find too many household names -- OK, no household names -- in the free agent pool of backup point guards, there are some decent ones who will be available that could certainly provide a lift for the Celtics.

Available point guards (team they played with last season):

Carlos Arroyo (MiamiBoston); Jose Juan Barea (Dallas); Acie Law (Golden State); T.J. Ford (Indiana); Mario Chalmers (Miami), Mike Bibby (Miami), Earl Boykins (Milwaukee); Marcus Banks (Toronto); Anthony Carter (New York); Antonio Daniels (Philadelphia); Aaron Brooks (Phoenix); Patrick Mills (Portland); Chris Quinn (San Antonio); Ronnie Price (Utah); Earl Watson (Utah).

-restricted free agents
Best of the bunch: Brooks, Barea, Chalmers, Ford and Watson.

Best fits for the C's: Ford, Arroyo, Daniels

Why Ford? Because he has Rondo-like quickness, but with a better jumper. That's a nice change-of-pace to throw at teams for those 15 or so minutes that Rondo's not on the floor. Things got a little ugly at times near the end of his tenure in Indiana, so a chance to be part of a winning organization like Boston would do him and his career a lot of good. The biggest hurdle for the C's? What else? Money. Even if a new collective bargaining agreement mirrored the current one, the C's would have a hard time fitting Ford into the pay slot that they have for a backup point guard.

Why Arroyo? He was a solid ready-when-called upon performer for the C's last year, and would not have a problem being Rondo's backup. However, if an opportunity to play a more prominent role elsewhere came along but with a team further away from a title, it would be a tough, tough call for this eight-year veteran. No matter where he goes, Arroyo's likely to get the veteran's minimum which means the Celtics, financially speaking, can compete with anyone else for his services.
Why Daniels? The Celtics had some interest in him prior to signing Arroyo in March. He has good size, decent athleticism and has a proven track record for being a solid locker room figure. The two biggest knocks against Daniels are the fact that he's a restricted free agent, and his age. He was essentially an injury-replacement for Louis Williams. So if he the Sixers decide to keep him, he's looking at being the team's third point guard which means no playing time unless someone gets hurt which may be a similar role with the Celtics depending on how Avery Bradley develops or whether the C's re-sign Delonte West. With the Celtics pushing hard to become more athletic, you also have to wonder if the Celtics will see the value in having a steady presence behind Rondo like Daniels whose athleticism isn't nearly what it was earlier in his career.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."