BOSTON – If there’s one thing Brad Stevens has been consistent about since coming to Boston, it's that players aren’t given minutes – they earn them.
But there have been times when players have seemingly done enough to warrant more time on the court, but matchups for a particular game or Stevens’ gut/instincts/spidey sense - whatever you want to call it – tell him to go in a different direction.
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Getting minutes on the court will always be a battle, but the fight for floor time will be unlike anything we’ve seen in the Brad Stevens Era.
And while on the surface that sounds like a good thing, right?
It will be, depending on whether the individuals who constitute this roster come in with a similar mindset compared to previous Stevens-coached teams with players who know that their role, much like their minutes, will fluctuate as the season progresses.
Aron Baynes is one of those players whose minutes may depend heavily on the opponent.
At 6-foot-10, 260 pounds, Baynes is a physical player who you know is on the floor to provide defense and rebounding – two things the Celtics wanted to add in the offseason in their frontcourt.
But if teams go uber-small, as they tend to do more of these days, it’ll cut back on the opportunities Baynes gets to play, which is why he opted out of his final year in Detroit to become a free agent and ultimately signed with the Celtics for about $2 million less.
“I definitely think being in the NBA, everybody always wants to play more,” Baynes said. “I think if you don’t want to play more, well then you’re not in the right spot. So yeah, excited for the opportunity and hopefully I can go out there and earn some minutes and yeah, we’ll see if what I bring is what Brad wants. So yeah, I’m hoping it is and looking forward to it.”
Similar challenges will arise for just about every Celtic, knowing only three players – Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford and newcomer Gordon Hayward – are pretty much locked into playing major minutes.
The Celtics have two open starting jobs after shooting guard Avery Bradley was traded to Detroit and forward/center Amir Johnson signed a one-year, $11 million deal with Philadelphia.
Not even close.
The Celtics could slide Thomas over to the off-guard position and start Marcus Smart (who plays starter-like minutes anyway coming off the bench) at the point, or potentially have Terry Rozier or newcomer Shane Larkin whose agent told CSNNE.com that the Celtics had signed him to a one-year deal, join Thomas in the starting backcourt.
Boston’s options in the frontcourt seem endless when you consider they can go big with Baynes or rookie Ante Zizic at center to pair with Horford, or they can go down the big man spectrum with a first five that up front may include Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown or Marcus Morris.
And we're not even talking about the bench, which will give Stevens more options and flexibility - in terms of how he wants to play stylistically - than he has ever had before in Boston.
“They’re going to be interesting to watch this season,” an Eastern Conference scout texted CSNNE.com. “We know they have some really good players, but how will it all come together? Forget Cleveland. Chemistry is going to be their biggest challenger this season because they have so many different players with different skills that they can turn to.”