Division clinched, Dooling, bench will get more time

738888.jpg

Division clinched, Dooling, bench will get more time

ATLANTA Judging by the way Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers has strategically shut down his core players recently, it's clear that rest will continue to trump a run at home court advantage now that the Atlantic Division title - and the fourth seed in the playoffs that comes with it - is wrapped up.

That means the bench will get in plenty of end-of-the-year reps, a chance for some of the lesser known youngsters to play major minutes.

But veterans such as Keyon Dooling, who will be 32 years old next month, will benefit from increased playing time as well.

Dooling has missed 20 games this season, 16 because of a sore right knee (seven games) and a right hip pointer (nine).

The injuries made the transition to playing for his new team tougher than it should have been.

Because of that lack of court time, it has taken him longer than he would have liked to have gained the full confidence of head coach Doc Rivers.

Now that he has that, it's just a matter of making the most of his opportunities to play.

And with Rivers insisting that he will continue to find ways to rest guys between now and the playoffs, that means Dooling will have something now that he hasn't had all year - assurances that he'll play consistent minutes.

Now in his 12th NBA season, Dooling is averaging 14 minutes per game with Boston. It is his lowest minutes per game average since he averaged 11.1 minutes while appearing in just 14 games with the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2001-2002 season, his second year in the league.

"It's magnificent when you know (you're playing)," Dooling told CSNNE.com. "When you don't know, it's hard. Even when you're my age, my experience, when you don't know for sure if you're playing, it's very tough. But it's reality. You have to prepare like you're going to play. But it's definitely tough."

But if the playoffs are anything like the regular season, being ready to play at a moment's notice should be a given for this group.

A long laundry's list of setbacks have hit the C's all season, forcing guys few anticipated would even play, to suddenly be thrust into a role of prominence.

Greg Stiemsma was considered a longshot to make the Celtics roster.

Today, he's one of the top rookie big men in the NBA, and has established himself as a reliable back-up center.

Avery Bradley has emerged from being a combo guard that Doc Rivers was not comfortable with playing long stretches at the point guard position, to a defensive menace with a blossoming offensive game that has him on every team's scouting report.

"It's a neat group; I've talked about it all year," Rivers said. "They just kind of figure it out."

Having that ability bodes well for a Celtics team that understands that for them to have a deep playoff run, it'll require every player donning a white and green uniform.

"We don't know who will be in the rotation for the playoffs," Dooling said. "Hopefully we'll have MP (Mickael Pietrus) back. But at the end of the day, they may need us for three minutes, four minutes here or there. We want to be able to contribute, whether it's on the defensive end, in the hustle categories, whether we have to make a shot, whatever it is you have to be mentally tuned in and focused. You can't think about your own personal situation. You have to be bigger than that. That's what's different about this team. That's what's so awesome about this team."

Mayock: If I'm Cleveland, I'd be 'stoked' to land Garoppolo for No. 12 pick

Mayock: If I'm Cleveland, I'd be 'stoked' to land Garoppolo for No. 12 pick

NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock quarterbacked a marathon conference call with reporters from around the country on Monday in order to shed some light on the prospects who will compete at the combine later this week. One thing that stood out? He's not ready to crown anyone in this year's crop of draftable signal-callers.

As a result of the dearth of pro-ready talent at quarterback, Mayock recognized Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo as perhaps the top target for any quarterback-needy team. Garoppolo might interest the Cleveland Browns in particular, Mayock noted, because of the number of picks they have near the top of the draft.

"In my opinion," Mayock said, "if I'm the Cleveland Browns and I've got No. 1 and No. 12, if I came away with either [defensive end Myles] Garrett or [defensive tackle] Jonathan Allen at No. 1, and gave up the 12th pick in the draft to get Garoppolo? I would be stoked.

"I would feel like I had a difference-maker on defense and we had a quarterback on offense. Now let's get to work. We got five in the first 65 picks. Let's get to work. From my perspective, especially looking at the quarterbacks this year, if they gave up No. 12 and could get Garoppolo, I'd be all over that."

Haggerty's Morning Skate: NHL teams aren't just making trades for themselves ahead of deadline

Haggerty's Morning Skate: NHL teams aren't just making trades for themselves ahead of deadline

Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading while feeling like Warren Beatty took the sneaky way out by handing that wrong Academy Award card to Faye Dunaway last night. Clearly he knew something was amiss and he let her step into it. Kind of a weasel move if you asked me.

-- An interesting letter from FOH (Friend of Haggs) James Mirtle about the pay wall involving The Athletic sports website in Toronto.

-- Dean Lombardi and the Los Angeles Kings dealing for Ben Bishop is about more than just an insurance policy for Jonathan Quick.

-- FOH Mike Halford has the Minnesota Wild going for it with their trade for Martin Hanzal, but also keeping him from the other teams in the West.

-- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the Penguins are in great shape after winning the Cup last spring, and it’s clear they’re in good hands after Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle opted not to sell the franchise.

-- Kyle Quincey is being held out of the lineup in New Jersey because of pending trades, and the wonder is who else in New Jersey might be getting dealt.

-- Gabriel Landeskog and his Colorado Avalanche teammates know the trade deadline is coming. It would certainly be weird if they didn’t.

-- The San Jose Sharks feel fortunate for the timing of their bye week as it was clear that they needed a break.

-- For something completely different: Gronk was busy doing Gronk things at the Daytona 500 over the weekend.