The Alien is in the Fold


The Alien is in the Fold

Sam Cassell is a Celtic. Almost. While the team would say officially only that it's ``fully anticipated he will become a Celtic'' when he arrives in town today, sources confirmed the obvious.

``Obviously I'm thrilled to get Sam,'' coach Doc Rivers said. ``He's coming in with the right frame of mind. He understands that he's just coming in to fit in and be another piece of the puzzle that we're trying to put together to do something special.''

Cassell is expected to have his first workout with the Celts at tomorrow morning's shootaround, but it's highly unlikely he'll play that night against the Pistons.

The team spent last night making flight plans and rolling out the green carpet for the veteran point guard, who received a buyout from the Clippers last Thursday and cleared waivers yesterday. Meanwhile, Rivers made it a point to say the free agent signing is not a statement on Rajon Rondo.

``No,'' Rivers said. ``This is Rajon's team. That's not going to change. He's the point guard of this team. He's going to remain the point guard of this team. We just want to have backup.

``(Cassell) gives us another guy that's been there and makes big shots - and is willing to take big shots. He makes good decisions. I just think overall it gives us another skilled player with experience.''

While it's true that Cassell could usurp some of Rondo's minutes in crunch time as the Celts take advantage of his steady hand and experience, Rivers appreciates what Rondo has done in guiding the club to the best record in the NBA. In addition, he has seen the improvements the 22-year-old has made as this season has advanced.

``And he's just going to keep getting better,'' Rivers said. ``His biggest step is going to come later, though. As great as he's been, he's going to get another test. Rajon's never going to stop getting tested. That's what we always talk about.

``In the playoffs, they're going to really force him - I mean really force him - to beat you. They're doing it a little bit now. They do it more in the fourth quarters, but they don't do it for a game. In the playoffs, it's going to be for the game, the whole game. That's where he's just going to have to keep understanding that he has to get shots that the team needs, not the shots that they're giving him. That's going to be tough for him, but he'll be fine because he just keeps getting better at it.''

To this point, Rivers hasn't had too many difficult decisions to make while carving out his rotations. But with Cassell coming aboard and last week's free agent signee P.J. Brown about ready to join the mix, it is incumbent on the coach to hit on the right combinations.

``We have a lot of things to choose from,'' Rivers said. ``But as long as we all understand there's one goal and what we're trying to do is special, then it shouldn't be a problem.

``If any single person gets that out of whack, then that's a problem. But I don't worry about our team in that way. The key for us is trying to get everybody integrated in what we're doing so when the playoffs start, we're not still trying to figure each other out. We all have to be on the same page.''

Rivers is unable to speak about Cassell in definitive terms until he signs his deal for the prorated veteran minimum, but it's fair to say the Celts are pleased with what they've heard from the two-time champion with the Houston Rockets.

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