As noted earlier this morning here on Celtics Hub by Brendan Jackson, Marquis Daniels underwent surgery this morning to repair torn ligaments in his left thumb.
While the Celtics themselves are mum on a specific timetable, Tony Massarotti of Boston.com is reporting Daniels will be out for 8 weeks. In fact the situation is eerily similar to last year, when Tony Allen underwent surgery for torn ligaments to, you guessed it, his thumb. For the record, TA was out of game action for 8 weeks due to that injury so it makes sense that we can expect a similar timetable for Daniels.
Daniels’ role as one of the 2nd units’ primary ballhandlers creates a bit of a conundrum for Doc Rivers. With the absence of versatile Marquis, the Celtics are more or less left with the same bench options to as they were last year at the backup 1/2/3 spots.
There are several ways Doc can attack this situation during the next two months and we got a sneak preview last night into what we can expect out of his substitution patterns from a bench without Daniels. So without further adieu, let’s take a look at all the players involved, both starters and reserves and make an educated guess on how this may all play out.
Rajon Rondo: The Celtics point guard, could be the man out of the starters whose minutes might not only increase the most, but also may end up playing more with a 5 man unit comprised of mostly bench players.
Zach Lowe has touched upon Doc experimenting with playing Rondo with the bench unit in recent weeks and those tendencies came to the forefront during the Bucks game last night. Rondo was the first starter taken out of the game 8 minutes into the 1st quarter, and sat for the rest of the opening frame as Doc slowly inserted the rest of his bench unit in that time span.
Giving Rondo this rest early on, allowed Doc to play Rondo for essentially the entire 4th quarter, including 5 minutes of time with the 2nd unit. This trend continued in the 3rd quarter with Rondo sitting the final 4 minutes of the quarter and playing the entire 4th. In past years, Doc has tended to sit out Rondo for the early parts of the 2nd quarter, playing 4 reserves with either Ray Allen or Paul Pierce interchangeably. Clearly, that philosophy has evolved.
Now the question that has been posed about this arrangement is: does this Daniels injury jeopardize the new arrangement of Rondo leading the bench unit in the 2nd quarter?
I say no. In fact, I think the Daniels injury increases the probability of Rondo playing alpha dog with the bench unit. A close look at this scenario, and how Daniels’ absence could affect the rest of the C’s bench players, after the jump.
It’s clear to every Celtic fan that Eddie House is not at his best as a primary ballhandler with the 2nd unit. He is in a bit of a shooting funk as it is, and Doc has made it clear he wants him off the ball as much as he can afford to be, to create open shots for himself and help spread the floor.
With this realization and without Daniels in the fold for awhile, Rondo with the bench unit is really the best option Doc has to sustain a competent offense with the 2nd unit. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have shown the capability of taking on ball handling duties with the 2nd team, but their effectiveness is severely inhibited when they are limited to this role on offense. Defenses can key on them much more easily, as we saw at many points last year when the C’s bench came in and struggled. The addition of Rasheed Wallace obviously helps matters in this department but a lineup of Paul/Ray at the point with House, TA, Scal, and Rasheed can be stagnant if the outside shots are not going down.
With Rondo playing with the 2nd unit, setting the tone and getting out in transition, the Celtics have a better opportunity to create easier buckets for themselves, instead of over-relying on Pierce and Ray Allen to jumpstart the offense. It also keeps the ball out of the hands of Eddie House more, which allows him to be at his most dangerous on the floor.
So that rant went longer than expected but my point is essentially clear: I expect the trends from last night to continue as far as Rondo playing with the 2nd unit. Rondo is only playing 33 minutes a game at this point, so he can handle the uptick in minutes better than Ray and Pierce can. He has set the tone for this offense all year long, and it’s wise to incorporate that into the 2nd unit rather than let it philander without a true point in the lineup.
Let’s take a look at the other players, Daniels absence impacts:
Eddie House: I addressed him a bit earlier, but I expect his minutes to remain essentially the same. He will handle the ball some, but most likely in spurts with a couple starters on the floor to help hide his deficiencies with the ball as well as create more opportunities for him.
Paul Pierce/Ray Allen: A slight uptick in their minutes wouldn’t be surprising, but as I explained earlier, I would expect Doc to give the majority of the extra starter minutes to the younger Rondo. Both guys will still switch off playing with the majority of the 2nd unit at the end of the 1st and start of the 2nd quarters, but with their minutes at 35 each, I don’t expect Doc to put his foot on the gas much more with either guy, this early in the season.
Tony Allen: Opportunity has come a knocking for TA and a skeptical fan base is at the door, wondering whether they should keep it open for the inconsistent shooting guard. As we saw last night, TA will be given the chance to take at least some of Quisys’ minutes. He brings a lot of the same things that Daniels does to the floor with his penetration skills and defense, but his maddening lack of basketball IQ will likely prove to be his undoing as has been the case his entire career. Here’s hoping he proves us wrong but look for 10-15 minutes a game for TA, perhaps more in select games depending on the matchups.
Brian Scalabrine: Doc has tried experimenting with Scal some at the 3 with the bench unit as he brings to the table the exact opposite that TA does in terms of athleticism (none) and basketball IQ (high). Scal looked pretty terrible in this role last night, but in select situations I believe he can be a stabilizing presence with this unit and he can definitely spread the floor with his 3 point range.
Look for 10-15 minutes a game, maybe more before Big Baby comes back if Doc keeps Shelden Williams locked to the bench. Then again I’m an unabashed Scal supporter so my opinion on him should be taken with a grain of salt. Although, the Daniels injury is a great opportunity for him to maintain some regular minutes once Baby returns. Whether that is a good thing for the Celtics is another matter to consider.
J.R. Giddens: Buried down in the depth chart, he could be given a chance for select minutes if the team needs some athleticism and TA has become too frustrating and inconsistent for Doc to continue inserting into games. He will have to make the most of any opportunity he gets to be given any regular time out there, but given Doc’s lack of trust in him thus far this year, I don’t see that chance arising. In the interim, Brendan Jackson will have to start talking him up more to Doc.
Lester Hudson/Bill Walker: Both are buried too far down the depth chart to have any real impact here. Perhaps Walker will be brought back up from the D League to give the team extra depth at the 3 spot but don’t expect any real change in PT for either guy.