WALTHAM Justin Reed admitted yesterday he once barked like a pit bull at an opponent while playing for the University of Mississippi. Reed's intimidating intention was to illustrate just how ferociously he played defense.
He knows it sounds a little crazy, but it takes someone a little crazy to enjoy defense as much as Reed does. It's no wonder the rest of the Celtics generally consider Reed the toughest defender on the team.
"I come from a college where we didn't score much, but we stopped people a lot," said Reed. "I guess you've got to be a little crazy to like defense. I love it, though. You've got to like beating up guys, making guys uncomfortable. I enjoy it because I do it well. It's a lot of attitude, confidence, knowing you can get in someone's head, knowing you can stop them half the time when they're on offense. I love it.
"I've always done it and I'm going to keep doing it."
In his second season, Reed has improved his jump shot, but it's his defense that will earn him playing time. In the wake of poor defensive performances against the Pistons and Sonics, coach Doc Rivers has thought about using more defense-oriented players on the second unit. While Rivers did not want to give names, that probably would mean more time for Reed, Orien Greene, and Kendrick Perkins. Dan Dickau and Brian Scalabrine's minutes will likely decline.
"Right now, since our second unit is challenged offensively, there's a lot of thought to make it a defensive unit," said Rivers. "If we score, we score [with the second unit], but we have to stop the other unit. If we do that, then it would be a completely different thing. We will probably do that [make it a defensive unit]."
With winless Toronto in town tonight, Rivers can experiment with different combinations and see what works as he searches for the best way to round out his rotation. For now, he plans to leave the starting unit intact. He likes the chemistry, though with reserve Al Jefferson improving with each game and Mark Blount struggling defensively, changes are possible if the results don't improve. Moving Blount to the bench, however, would seem to go against plans for making the second unit a defensive-minded crew.
The Celtics spent yesterday watching video of Wednesday's loss to the Sonics, taking a closer look at where they failed defensively. It was clear Boston struggled with its transition defense, missed assignments, and rebounded poorly, in part because players thought too much about transition offense.
In the last two games, Detroit and Seattle shot a combined 51 percent (90 for 178) from the floor against Boston. The two teams also outrebounded Boston, 86-74. On the glass, the big men were not solely to blame. The video session revealed that culpability for missed rebounds also rested with the guards. In other words, everyone on the team has played a role in the Celtics' defensive problems. With that in mind, Ricky Davis was intrigued with the second unit becoming a more defensive unit, but he didn't see that completely solving the problem.
"I think the second unit has been defense-oriented," said Davis, who plays much of his minutes with the reserves. "I think [the problem is] more with the defense by our main guys, the starters, the vets, because we're in the game most of the time. We just have to take the initiative to stop their starters. I think that's the key. The second unit needs to work on defense, but not as much as the whole team."
If the second unit makes a habit of shutting down opposing bench players, then Reed might bring his bark back.