WASHINGTON – Brad Stevens stated an hour and a half before tip-off Thursday night that he was unsure whether or not newly-acquired big man Greg Monroe would be making his Celtics debut against the Washington Wizards.
The coach’s uncertainty was warranted, considering the fact that Monroe signed with the team only five hours before game time; thus, he obviously had very little familiarity with the Celtics’ system.
It did not take long, however, for Stevens to make up his mind.
Not only did Boston’s coach opt to have Monroe play; he had the veteran center play significant minutes, and even had him on the floor during an overtime period.
During 20 minutes of playing time, the 27-year-old was able to produce five points, six rebounds, two assists, a team-high-tying two steals and a plus-9 rating to help propel the Celtics to a 110-104 overtime win over the Wizards. Not bad for a guy who was making his team debut after not playing in an NBA game for 10 days.
“It felt good to get out there,” said Monroe. I just gotta get in the rhythm. I haven’t played in a while, but as far as getting up and down and everything, I felt good.”
Monroe first checked in at the 3:15 mark of the first quarter and immediately made an impact by snagging a steal during Washington’s first offensive possession with him on the floor. He missed his first two shot attempts of the game, but was then able to capitalize on a spinning, and-1 hook shot in the low-post for his first bucket as a Celtic.
Stevens liked what he saw during Monroe’s first stint, so he kept him on the floor for 11 minutes straight.
“We simplified what we were doing for the most part just to certain actions that we had talked to him about,” said Stevens. “I thought he did a really good job. We'll continue to get more used to playing with him."
Monroe’s teammates were also impressed with his debut. Kyrie Irving noted how hard it is for a guy to integrate himself on the fly, but the All-Star point guard saw potential in the big man and believes he will fit well within Boston’s system.
“I know he definitely feels that he can add something here, and that’s why he’s here,” said Irving. “For us, I just feel like we have a low-post presence, an incredible rebounder, and someone that we can definitely utilize for the rest of the season, which I’m appreciative of.”
Irving is also appreciative of the flexibility that Monroe brings with his ability to play both the 4 and the 5.
“It adds versatility,” said Irving. “That’s one of the positives we have on our team is our versatility from our wings and our bigs. It’s just incredible that Brad has more weapons to work with now.”
Monroe’s versaility will allow Stevens play with a number of new lineup combinations, some of which were featured Thursday night. One rotation that experienced some success was when the C's featured Terry Rozier at the point, Jayson Tatum at the 2, Marcus Morris at the 3, Daniel Theis at the 4 and Monroe at the 5. That combo was able to produce on both ends despite note having either Irving or Al Horford on the floor.
“One of the things you think about in adding Greg is that’s time that you don’t have to necessarily stagger Kyrie and Al,” said Stevens. “And so I think that that’s a positive moving forward. We still will (stagger Irving and Horford) some, depending on who we’re playing and the matchups and those types of things. But I felt good about the way that Theis and Greg played together.”
The next few weeks will be a testing period for Stevens as he experiments with different combinations around Monroe. It will also be a testing period for Monroe, himself, as he hopes to find a rhythm with his new team as soon as possible.
“I don’t think it will take long,” Monroe confidently stated. “I think that I’ll get comfortable with the plays and familiar with the calls, so it’s just about me getting into my own rhythm and then figuring out how to help this team with my skills.”
Thursday night was a big step in the right direction for Monroe, as he stepped in under short notice and showed glowing potential of what he has to offer for the Celtics.