9.16.2014

Celtics' Second Unit Impressing

11/28/04

WALTHAM - The education continues for the Celtics' second unit, primarily a collection of young, athletic, and energetic players taking a survey course in NBA basketball with every game. With midterms still months away, the reserves have proven themselves quick studies.

   After struggling to maintain leads, the second unit accomplished a noteworthy first against Cleveland Friday night when a combination of Delonte West, Al Jefferson, Ricky Davis, Tony Allen, and Walter McCarty extended the Celtics' advantage during the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. They played a significant role in the 16-0 run that put Boston ahead by 8 points. When they became too cautious, they exited in favor of the starters, but there was encouraging progress. Doc Rivers singled out the bench players for praise."I thought it might be the best our second unit played," said Rivers. "Delonte West was exceptional. You know what he did? He grabbed the ball and threw it ahead. Almost every time. Instead of having to dribble it up, he passed it up. And it allowed us to beat them up the floor, and we got some quick scores for that second unit.

"We don't want them running a lot of half-court stuff. I don't think that's healthy for them. But we do want them pushing and attacking.

"What they are is young. They're energetic. They're athletic. And if we can play that game, we're great. When we get that second unit caught in slow-down, half-court [offense], then it's scary. You can see them starting to think, 'Oh God, this is a good game here,' and they start playing safe. They're going to make mistakes playing safe, so I'd rather for them to play reckless."

Reckless is a word that does not come to mind when describing West. The rookie point guard is nothing if not the portrait of calm. Despite the decision-making demands of his position, West sees the game very simply. When asked about advancing the ball with a pass rather than dribbling, West said he simply followed the rules of fundamental basketball. According to Rivers, Marcus Banks must still learn the benefits of a well-placed outlet pass. That's one of the reasons West will likely fill the backup role in the future behind Gary Payton.

"Once I get it going up and down the court a couple of times, it's time to play," said West. "I'm in my groove. My team is in the groove at the time. It's the ABCs of playing basketball that if someone's up ahead, you get them the basketball.

"It's just player recognition. When you've got players running the wings such Tony Allen and Ricky Davis and Paul Pierce, I think it's good to get it up to them quick and let them create."

The addition of Davis to the second unit has made a big difference. His anything-goes energy fits better with the group than the more methodical play of Jiri Welsch. And unlike Welsch, Davis appears better at shrugging off mistakes by the second unit. Davis also enjoys his standing as something of a senior statesman among a lot of rookies. Among the reserves, only McCarty boasts more NBA experience.

"It's coming together," said Davis. "Guys are playing together. Guys are having fun. Guys are sharing the ball. If we can put it all together with the first unit and the second unit, we'll be all right."

Added Jefferson, "We're learning a lot of stuff every day. And we've got a lot to learn. We made our little run [against Cleveland] and there was a lot of energy out there on the court."

Above all, the second unit appears to enjoy playing together. Rivers likes the fire and fight the bench players bring to the court. And a group enthusiastic about playing together makes the learning process less arduous for everyone.

"We have a collection of athletes on the second unit with Delonte, Al, Tony, Ricky," said Rivers. "It's a track meet. You saw the good and bad with that [against Cleveland]. We changed the pace of the game, which is what you want in a second unit. We just need to make sure the score changes in our favor."

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