I think a real key for Boston this year is for both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to play about sixty 24- or 28-minute games. For the past two years Doc Rivers has tried to keep Garnett on a 5-5-5 limit for each half. That has worked pretty well although as injuries mounted the fives became six or seven’s and the fourth quarter too often saw Kevin on the floor for the final eight or ten minutes. This year I think the need is more extreme, and includes Paul.
Dateline: August 30, 2012––31 days until the start of training camp!
I’d like to see both our aging All-Stars held out the middle of three-in-five’s and one of each back-to-backs. That should limit them to around 70 games apiece. For the games they play, I hope Doc employs a 5-5-4 scheme—pulling them both around the 5-minute mark in the half, putting them back in for five minutes (broken up by the quarter break), and then letting them finish the last four minutes of the half or game. That type of approach should allow them to go full bore while on the court and still give them sufficient breaks to keep their legs fresh without letting them cool down. I hope also to see a lot of 24-minutes games where the Elder Two fore go their final stint since the game is well in hand.
In addition to using our older players to best advantage during the regular season and husbanding their bodies for the playoffs, this approach has some additional benefits for the remainder of the squad. Playing time is the coach’s coin of the realm. Getting into games is the payoff for working and practicing hard. Earning minutes is the reward for building the coaches’ confidence in you by performing when given the chance. If the instructional bark of the coaches’ voices in practice is the stick, then minutes of game time is the carrot.
The typical conundrum is that Doc won’t play you until he feels confident you can contribute and not hurt the team, but you can’t maximize development without playing. Add to that the fact that it is hard to stay ready with a steady diet of inactivity. Even eliminating the four rookies, there are eleven players eager to play in the game (and I don’t think most of us want to eliminate the four rookies). Now there are some caveats: Avery Bradley may not be allowed full basketball activity until mid-December, Fab Melo may spend much of the season in Maine (although I’ll bet he gets some time in November before the Red Claws get started), Dionte Christmas may find himself the fifth string shooting guard, and Jason Collins may have a “Use only in case aircraft carrier sighted” sign around his neck. Still there are a lot of moving parts to coordinate, players to motivate, and tools to use. Spreading around the minutes will address a lot of issues that can help get the utmost production over the next nine months.
Cutting back on the stars’ minutes is an excellent formula for getting the most out of Paul and Kevin, and also for forging the strongest supporting cast and team overall.
Boston, and all points beyond