Delonte Gets the Nod

October 12, 2005

Somehow, the official announcement that Delonte West would start at point guard before the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Celtics, 96-86, in last night's exhibition opener at Mellon Arena lacked the expected pomp and circumstance. There were no trumpeters outside the Celtics locker room. After all, the point guard rotation has been hyped as the great mystery of training camp 2005.

Rivers further diminished the significance of the move by announcing that Dan Dickau will probably start Friday night's game against the Raptors in Manchester, N.H. So, point guard -- like the rest of the rotation -- remains very much in flux.

"I'm probably going to give them both a crack at playing with the starting lineup, and even Marcus [Banks], too," said Rivers. "Don't read a whole bunch into it. Delonte was here last year. There really wasn't much more to it than that. And I think Delonte defensively did more things to help the team and we're going to need that presence early. My focus was more defense, and I think that's what Delonte does better than all of them. Marcus probably pressures the ball better, but I think Delonte does more things on the defensive end than all of them."

The Celtics' starting lineup also featured Mark Blount at center, Raef LaFrentz at power forward, Paul Pierce at small forward, and Ricky Davis at shooting guard. The only prolonged pregame analysis of the starting lineup came from the Cavaliers' locker room. Damon Jones, who is competing with Eric Snow at point guard, expected to face Dickau. LeBron James wondered aloud, "What happened to Marcus Banks?"

Still, Rivers may have hit upon something with the lineup. The first unit sprinted to a 17-2 lead before Boston entered halftime trailing, 45-41. Pierce was the unquestioned leader among the starters, with 12 points and 5 rebounds by intermission. Davis had four assists.

Rivers went big with the second unit, playing Kendrick Perkins at center, Brian Scalabrine at power forward, Ryan Gomes at small forward, Justin Reed at shooting guard, and Dickau at point guard. Rivers particularly likes Reed and Gomes on the floor at the same time. They give the second unit a toughness and defensive intensity that was lacking last season.

"I don't know if we can outrun anybody [with that second unit], but one of the things we made a concerted effort with with that group is to play a little power basketball," said Rivers. "That's what we're going to try to do. It works against us. But that doesn't say a whole bunch."

When asked about Reed guarding the opposing shooting guard, Rivers added: "I think Justin can guard 2s. It will be a tough guard for him, especially if it's guys who move without the ball."

Reed had no doubt he would be up to the task.

"As long as defense is involved, I'm up to it," he said.

But combinations are sure to change when Al Jefferson and Tony Allen return. Jefferson (sprained left ankle) still hopes to play Friday night. Allen (right knee surgery) will not be back until at least mid-November.

"I'm not even thinking about [starting]," said West. "We're still trying to click as a team, trying to work on our offense. That's what preseason is about. Right now, we never know with Coach. He's trying different lineups, throwing guys here, throwing guys there. We're just trying to click as a team and win some games."

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