Paul Pierce, Ricky Davis, and Pray for Rain

October 17, 2005

For all the influx of young talent and uncertainty surrounding their rotation this season, the Celtics still face a familiar problem. They remain all-too-predictable on offense. Option No. 1: Paul Pierce. Option No. 2: Ricky Davis. Option No. 3: Somebody, please.

   Boston understands the dangers of depending too much on a pair of scorers, especially when they could be separated on the first and second units. (Davis still may return to his sixth-man role, though that looks less likely with the chemistry developing on the second unit as is.) A team can survive the ups and downs of a scorer or two, but it cannot thrive. The pressure of carrying a mediocre team left Pierce frustrated last season. And believe it or not, all the Red Bulls in Boston will not prevent a Davis energy drought sometime during the season, especially if Davis, like Pierce, plays close to 40 minutes every game.

        "We're looking for certain guys to establish their roles," said Pierce, who along with the rest of the Celtics enjoyed a day off from practice yesterday after Saturday night's 116-97 loss to the Bulls in Chicago. "What are they going to be for this team? That's what preseason is about, especially with the team we have. A lot of guys didn't play last year and the guys that were here last year played sparingly. Obviously, we have a lot of young talent here. We've just got to figure it out as the preseason goes along. We're almost at the halfway point of preseason, so things are going to be happening pretty fast."

   The Celtics hope some answers will emerge soon. While coach Doc Rivers and his assistants must deal with more pressing (and more fundamental) concerns at the moment, finding consistent scorers beyond Pierce and Davis likely will be a long-term issue. The Bulls knew enough Saturday night to cover Pierce and Davis by cheating away from the other Celtics.

   In three exhibition games, Pierce and Davis have accounted for 53 of the Celtics' 212 shots (25 percent) and 91 of 290 points (31 percent). Those numbers are not exactly reason for concern. In fact, they might even please Rivers at this point. But don't forget, neither Pierce nor Davis has logged regular-season minutes in exhibition games. With more playing time, the pair will make up an even greater percentage of the team's offense during the regular season.

   But to be fair, Boston has played without injured Al Jefferson (sprained left ankle) and Tony Allen (right knee surgery). Jefferson hopes to be back this week and his presence will make a difference on both ends. If the second-year forward can generate points in the post, the Celtics are a markedly better team. If not, there's more pressure on Pierce and Davis.

   Still, Rivers generally claims to worry more about defense than putting up points. The Celtics know their strengths and weaknesses, and they want to run to create a high volume of easy shots for everyone. But in last season's playoffs, the Celtics' stalling offense led to a first-round exit. The newest Celtics are keenly aware that they must do their part to complement Pierce and Davis. In addition to youngsters Allen and Jefferson, Justin Reed and Ryan Gomes are candidates to score in double figures consistently. As far as veterans are concerned, Raef LaFrentz and a rededicated Mark Blount certainly will help, though shots will not be plentiful if they remain on the starting unit with Pierce and Davis.

   Players on the second unit have a lot of potential. Reed is averaging 11.3 points per game in the exhibition season, while Gomes has posted 9.6. But again, Reed and Gomes have averaged more minutes in exhibitions than they will during the regular season.

   "Everyone probably knows it's going to go to them [Pierce and Davis]," said Gomes. "So my guy defending me is going to cheat to them. I've got to make my guy guard me. I've got to be aggressive, but patient at the same time." Gomes acknowledged he is still trying to figure how best to keep his defender honest.

   On the other end of the equation, Davis is busy racking up assists. He believes it his responsibility to create shots for his teammates. Davis, who has seen some time at point guard, understands not everyone can create shots for themselves the way he and Pierce do. So far, he is averaging 4.0 assists, including six vs. Chicago.

   "Once guys get their minutes and everybody knows their roles, I think everything will starting coming into play," said Davis."Right now, guys are just out there playing. Me and [Paul], we've got to take it upon ourselves to get guys shots and get them going."

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