Sans Rondo, Celtics Still Have Options at PG
NEWPORT, R.I. – Rajon Rondo has been all but ruled out for the start of this season. So where do the Celtics turn at point guard?
In a few directions, actually.
Brad Stevens has a stable of guards that can and will handle the point guard duties until Rondo returns to the lineup, whenever that may be. We’re only three practices into the season, but the rookie head coach sounds as if he’s quite comfortable with all three of those options.
Option No. 1 is unquestionably Avery Bradley. Bradley, who started all 56 games he appeared in last season, filled in admirably when Rondo went down last season. Bradley believes that he can improve from last season and get the job done as the Boston’s starting point guard.
“My confidence level is high right now,” Bradley said on Wednesday. “Like I said, I’m going to continue to improve every single practice on my ball handling and shooting, every aspect of my game.”
For what it’s worth, the current version of Bradley seems to be making its mark on Stevens. The head coach has not named a starting point guard, but all indications are that Bradley is leading the way in that competition.
“I would say that Avery, certainly with his background and the fact that he’s had good success here, and the fact that he can change a game defensively, certainly he’s got a great opportunity to [be the starting point guard],” said Stevens.
Bradley, however, isn’t the only guard who has sparkled under Stevens’ watchful eye. Stevens also singled out Jordan Crawford and Phil Pressey following Wednesday’s opening practice.
Crawford's story is an interesting one. He was acquired at the trade deadline last season to provide a scoring punch off the bench. He impressed many with his passing abilities, but he also frightened many with his shot selection. The fourth-year guard has apparently reeled it in during the offseason and found a great balance between the two.
“Yesterday he didn’t take any questionable shots. He only took good ones,” Stevens said of Crawford. “He’s a good ball handler. He’s got a nice feel for the game passing the ball. And the last four weeks that he’s been in town and working individually, and then playing yesterday, he’s been nothing but a consummate teammate.”
Stevens followed that up by clearly stating that Crawford will get his time to shine.
“I just think he’s going to have to play because he can score the basketball and pass the basketball, and he can play off pick-and-roll,” the coach said. “There’s three real positives right there. So whether it’s at the point, the 2, wherever, he’s going to have his opportunities.”
To be quite honest, it might not matter whether those minutes come at point guard or shooting guard. Bradley described Stevens’ offense on Tuesday and made it sound as if he and Crawford would split the point guard duties if they happened to be on the floor together.
“This year it’s a different system,” Bradley said. “You can bring the ball up or the 2-guard can bring the ball up. It’s like everybody’s interchangeable. I’m not always initiating the offense.”
When Phil Pressey is on the floor, however, he is the man initiating the offense. Pressey is the only true point guard that is active on the roster right now and he’s proving as much during practice.
“First of all, Phil’s a guy who can get you into offense,” Stevens said Wednesday morning. “He’s a guy that can play pick-and-roll, and he’s done as good a job as anybody thus far of directing the ball on defense. He’s got a good pulse on it.”
Additionally, Stevens noted, Pressey is playing like a guy who has something to prove.
“Phil’s a rookie with a chip on his shoulder because he wasn’t drafted,” said Stevens, “and a rookie with an extensive NBA background because he lived in a house with an NBA assistant coach his whole life.”
While it’s unlikely that Pressey will snag the starting point guard spot as a rookie, it’s certainly not impossible. The more likely decision, however, is that Stevens will lean on Bradley and Crawford to handle the ball.
Of course, on Day 2 of camp, these are all hypotheticals. Stevens doesn't have the answers yet, let alone us. What we do know is that as the point guard battle continues, Boston’s coaching staff will prepare all three of its options to play major minutes when the regular season begins.