Looking for Breakthrough, Winless Celtics Simplify Offense

WALTHAM - After a tough 0-3 start, the Celtics have taken a step back and simplified the offense to keep their running game going and help some of the younger players concentrate on making plays rather than remembering them.

"We've been simplifying the offense and running two plays. [If] they make a shot, we run one play, if they miss a shot, we run another play," said Wally Szczerbiak, who noted that it's easier to play a running style in the preseason because most teams just aren't in shape yet. "We're just trying to simplify things so the young guys can pick everything up and stop turning the ball over."

Coach Doc Rivers said that aside from the last 20 minutes, Monday's long practice was satisfying. And that might just be because while the veterans on the team probably don't need the game simplified, younger players are generally more effective when they don't have to go deep into the playbook.

"It allows the young guys to play on instinct and at full-speed instead of playing while thinking," said Rivers. "In some ways it can hurt you but I think the benefits outweigh the negatives."

One of the benefits of simplification should be a reduction in turnovers; the Celtics committed 20 turnovers in Saturday's loss to Washington, 15 against Detroit and 19 on Opening Night against the Hornets.

Media Savvy

The 0-3 record isn't exactly inspiring, but spirits are certainly still high in Waltham these days.

The Celtics underwent a media training seminar after Monday's practice, but Paul Pierce and Szczerbiak seemed to think they know exactly how to handle a press conference, and they had a little fun with the media after finishing up on the court.

Pierce did his best Jeff Twiss impression - and he should stick to his day job, by the way - by acting as Szczerbiak's press agent, tapping him on the chest when it was time for Szczerbiak to answer an inquiry. If he liked Szczerbiak's answer, Pierce followed up with "Yeah, what Wally said."

While Pierce eventually responded a few times, he made Szczerbiak respond to most of the questions, talking about everything from Theo Ratliff returning to the practice floor to his 33-point game in Washington, D.C. on Saturday night.

"I just got aggressive," said Szczerbiak. "Paul did a great job of feeding me, and the whole team did a great job of looking for me. Unfortunately we gave up 124 and we scored 117. I think we've got some work to do on defense."

"That's exactly what I was going to say," Pierce added.

Ratliff Back in Action

Wednesday's game against Charlotte is still the target for Theo Ratliff's regular season debut. Ratliff practiced for the first time since training camp and said he felt good.

"I feel a little sore, but overall pretty good, I got to mix it up in there with the big guys," said Ratliff. "I'll see how I practice tomorrow, and we'll make that decision Wednesday."

Ratliff admitted that he's still a little rusty and his timing might be slightly off, but teammates and coaches alike seemed impressed with Ratliff's effort on Monday. And everyone seemed to notice that he's still blocking shots.

"We could see the immediate impact defensively," Rivers said of Ratliff. "It was amazing because White (the second team in practice) stopped driving. They were tired of getting their shots blocked."

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