BOSTON — Throughout training camp and the preseason, the Celtics saluted
Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and others for sacrificing minutes and shots for a
shot at a championship. When Terry signed, he assumed he would split time at
shooting guard with Ray Allen and Avery Bradley. When Lee agreed to a
sign-and-trade from Houston, he was aware of the players ahead of him on Boston’s
backcourt depth chart.
One thing Terry and Lee knew, however, was that they would
play. They might not get 30 minutes or 15 shots every game, but they were going
to be a major part of the Celtics’ plans this season. They would get a chance
to contribute. They were not merely some insurance policy stuffed at the end of
Leandro Barbosa has no such guarantee. The former NBA Sixth
Man of the Year, whose signing was announced Thursday and who stepped onto the
parquet floor at the TD Garden for the first time to warm up on Sunday, agreed
to come to Boston with no assurances that he will play anything more than
garbage time. Just last season, Barbosa, 29, averaged 11.1 points in 64 games
for the Raptors and Pacers, yet he will essentially fill a spot that would have
belonged to Dionte Christmas or Jamar Smith, who were waived last week.
Barbosa was aware of the Celtics’ depth when he signed the
reported one-year deal worth the veteran’s minimum salary, according to Celtics
coach Doc Rivers, and he accepted the reality of his role.
“He understood all the players in front of him,”
Rivers said. “He didn’t care and he kept saying that, which is refreshing. … I was very honest with him. He said, ‘I’m not here to ruffle any feathers.
I just want to be on a team that wins and hopefully I can help.’”
Barbosa said he received some interest from the Lakers and
that he spoke with his friend and former Suns teammate Steve Nash about playing
together again, but that those discussions did not progress past
“talks” between the Lakers and his agent. Barbosa’s debut with the
Celtics was delayed Sunday as he waited for his visa to clear, but he did don
green warm-up gear for the pregame shootaround and said afterward that the
Celtics’ depth was actually part of what attracted him to Boston.
“There’s so many weapons on this team that you just go
with the flow,” Barbosa said. “Whatever happens, happens. Anybody can
score, but the most important thing is defense. If we do a good job on defense,
the offense will come automatically.”
The Celtics’ stable of guards now consists of Rajon Rondo,
Terry, Lee, Barbosa and most likely Kris Joseph. Once Avery Bradley has
sufficiently recovered from double shoulder surgery to return to the court in
December or January, Barbosa will be pushed even farther down that list.
Despite the many capable guards on the roster, none of those
players has yet complained about a substitution pattern that was inconsistent
in eight preseason games. Lee, whose minutes might be the most threatened by
Barbosa’s presence (however minimally), embraced Barbosa’s arrival as more
proof that the Celtics are committed to pushing the ball this season regardless
of whether Rondo is on the court.
“Nothing changes. It only adds to our depth,” Lee
said. “We’ve got different rotations that we can attack teams with and
it’s only going to help us. He can come in, he can handle the ball and do
whatever and we can continue to play at that same pace because he’s fast
himself. It only helps us.”
For now, Barbosa claims he is happy to be the third guard
off the bench for the Celtics, should he get off the bench at all. The only
problems he wants to create are for opponents. If Rivers extends his rotation a
bit this season, though, there are few weapons as potent as a fresh-legged
Brazilian Blur racing around for a few frantic possessions. After a few mad
dashes up and down the court, a handful of minutes may be all that Barbosa, the
Celtics or the opposing team will be able to take.