The Boston Celtics nearly coughed up a huge lead to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night at Staples Center, thanks in large to a poor performance from Brad Stevens’ bench.
The C’s ultimately avoided disaster to secure a 121-113 win — Boston’s seventh victory in eight games — but the unnecessary tense moments down the stretch forced Stevens to put Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart back into the contest.
Kendrick Perkins wasn’t happy.
The former Celtics center delivered a strong message to the team’s bench players during NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage, pointing out just how important every opportunity on the floor is for them as they seek to carve out roles in the NBA.
“When you come into the game, you’re still fighting for your livelihood,” Perkins said. “We’re talking about guys who are still on rookie contracts. When you’re on a rookie contract, every minute is valuable. Every possession is valuable.
“You don’t know who’s watching. It’s not just Brad Stevens or Danny Ainge and the Celtics organization, but they have other scouts from other teams who are watching. Not only watching to scout the Celtics and send in a report sheet, but they’re watching to see other talent, who’s coming up for free agency, so they can keep their eye on them in case the Celtics don’t want them. So you’re always auditioning for a job in the NBA, especially when you’re a third string-type of player.”
This is a really thought-provoking perspective that shows the bench’s failing in the second half of Thursday’s game was more than just a mild inconvenience.
On top of preventing the Celtics from giving their starters valuable rest at the end of a hard-fought, three-game, West Coast road trip, the underperformance from guys like Carsen Edwards, Tremont Waters, Aaron Nesmith, Moe Wagner and Semi Ojeleye theoretically could be to their personal detriment.
Like Perk said, those fighting for minutes at the end of the bench simply can’t afford not to answer when opportunity knocks.