Gerald Wallace was not acquired by the Celtics explicitly to play alongside Jeff Green. But now that both of them are here, the Celtics might as well give it a shot.
Wallace, who has played some power forward in his career in addition to his natural small forward spot, shared the court with Green for several stretches in Sunday’s preseason loss to the Timberwolves at the Bell Centre. In a “big” lineup in which Green essentially played the off-guard position, the Celtics put together their best run of the game in the second quarter of the eventual 104-89 loss.
“Based on how that went [Sunday], it’s probably something you’ll see again,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters in Montreal.
For all their individual weaknesses, Wallace and Green bring their own benefits to the pairing. Neither is an outstanding shooter, but both are traditionally just good enough at the rim to present some uncertainty for the defense. When paired with one or two of the Celtics’ shooting bigs like Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass or Kelly Olynyk, Wallace and Green could have lanes to utilize their slashing abilities.
The Wallace-Green combo will have to adjust on the defensive end, though, since both are at their best in the open floor. That’s where things could get tricky. Wallace is a solid defender, but his aggressive style of play has taken its toll on his body at 31 years old. Green seemingly has the tools to be a great defender, but he never has been. They were teamed with Olynyk, Sullinger and Avery Bradley in the most successful stretch on Sunday, giving them virtually no back-line help on defense. On the offensive end, Bradley’s lack of shooting ability made it tougher to find open lanes in the half court.
All things considered, Wallace and Green probably are the Celtics’ two best players as long as Rajon Rondo is injured. It is therefore a great sign for Stevens if the two of them show signs of being able to play together and not just serve as substitutes for one another.
MarShon Brooks can score, or so they say. So far he has not been the knockdown shooter some scouts billed him as coming out of college and after his impressive rookie campaign in New Jersey. With Jordan Crawford and Courtney Lee demonstarting more reliable offensive skills, Brooks could find himself marginalized in the shooting guard rotation.
That is why doing the little things, as Brooks did against the T’Wolves, is vital for the third-year guard. Even if their shots aren’t falling, Lee and Bradley can fall back on their defense and Crawford still has his creative — if sometimes ill-advised — court vision. Brooks is going to have to find his own niche, and on Sunday it was hustle. Brooks went in among the trees for a pair of layups off offensive rebounds in the first half and attempted another putback in the fourth quarter.
Although his last attempt failed, the simple fact that Brooks was willing to get down there was a promising sign for a player who needs to be put his nose into tough situations from time to time.
Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio almost makes getting NBA League Pass worth it all by himself. If you haven’t gotten a good look at the injury-plagued point guard — and it’s tough to, seeing as he plays in Minnesota and has missed substantial chunks of the last two seasons — rest assured that he is every bit as nasty as his cult following says.
His set-shot (it’s not really a jump shot) could use some work, but he did drill a corner 3-pointer against the Celtics. His defense could use a lot of work, but quite a few dazzling ballhandlers and playmakers managed to have pretty good careers without ever being able to cover the ground with a tarp. Until then, just appreciate the unique ways he compiled seven assists on Sunday and hope he can stay healthy.
There is a place on the Celtics for Vitor Faverani, even as Bass, Sullinger and Olynyk play well enough to deserve their playing time.
The problem with Bass is that he’s still just 6-foot-8, which means he gives away as much as five inches if he plays in the post on a nightly basis. Sullinger still needs to get back into shape, and he is only 6-foot-9 anyway, so he is not a full-time solution at the pivot. Olynyk doesn’t have the girth to bang with true bigs down low — and it’s probably not in his or the Celtics’ best interests for him to gain that weight.
Faverani becomes a factor against opponents like the Wolves, who have two hefty big men on their front line. Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic are 500 pounds of pure stone, and they tossed Sullinger and Olynyk all over the place. Enter Faverani. While nine points and three rebounds won’t cause anyone to drop the box score in amazement, Faverani showed no fear in challenging two of the NBA’s bigger bodies. He even muscled up with Love and got dunked on for his troubles, but at least he did not back down from one of the league’s best power forwards.