A lot has been made of the Celtics lack of a traditional point guard to back-up Rajon Rondo. No doubt this is largely fueled by a report that Celtics coach Doc Rivers sees a “glaring hole” at this spot on the roster. Well, when Doc says something, we always take him at his word, right?
Let me suggest an alternative way to think about Doc.
When Doc talks to the media, he’s not just answering questions. He’s sending messages to his players, likely messages that he’s already communicated in practice. Suppose, for example, Doc told the media that he’s not sure who’s gonna start at the 4-spot. At one level, you can take him at his word. At another level, he’s telling the relevant players competing for that spot that the competition is wide-open for the starting position. Doc is a big believer in competition. He used it with success for Glen Davis and Leon Powe, and he’ll likely use it again with Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass, who, I might add, grabbed 8 boards in 25 minutes coming off the bench in game 2 (an interestingly high number given past experience with B-squared).
Now let’s turn our attention to point guard. In the 2007-08 championship season, Eddie House and Tony Allen backed up Rajon Rondo (Sam Cassell wasn’t acquired until late in the season, and then was used inconsistently in the playoffs). Neither one of them is a traditional point guard. But for Eddie’s contribution to game 4 of the NBA Finals, however, I’m not entirely sure that series isn’t tied 2-2 heading into game 5. In 2008-09, the back-up point guard corps were the same, but, since Kevin Garnett got injured mid-year, not much can really be gleaned from that season, except for the fact that once again Doc was comfortable lumbering through the year with non-traditional players backing up Rondo.
In 2009-10, the Celtics added Marquis Daniels to the mix. Much was made of his experience at the point. Not sure how much any of that was accurate, but the Celtics didn’t experiment with him there for very long. So back we went to Tony Allen and Eddie House, who was replaced by Nate Robinson mid-season. The next year Doc went with Nate and Delonte West, and last year with Avery Bradley, Keyon Dooling, and E'Twaun Moore. You are forgiven if none of these names make you jump from your seat and scream Holy Tiny Archibald!
Obviously, then, Doc must have some comfort level with relying on non-traditional point guards to back-up Rondo. If we define the need at the back-up point to be a need for a traditional point-guard, sure, there is a glaring hole. But I suspect all that is going on here is that Doc is telling the players that someone needs to step up because there is a great opportunity here. “I want to see some heated competition, dammit.”
Let me make one more observation. Suppose when Avery Bradley returns, he earns his way back into the starting lineup. That would move Courtney Lee to the bench. Given Doc’s history, comfort level, and, I suspect, undeniable attraction to having shooters play the point, you don’t think Doc would love to sport a second unit consisting of JET, Lee, Darko, James Worthy, er, Jeff Green, and either Sullinger or Bass? Of course he would. Fourth fifths of that unit is young and athletic, and the fifth member still plays like he’s very young. Every one of them can score or pass, and overall, defensively, they have much to offer as well.
But you don’t get to sport that second unit if you sign Derek Fisher and his Steve-Nash like defensive abilities and line him up next to Jason Terry, making them both look even older than they really are. There is always time to make an emergency signing later. Along with Derek Fisher, Keyon Dooling is still available. Everyone knows this and thus the so-called hole is no big deal.