Backup Collins emerges as Plan C
December, 3, 2012
By Greg Payne | ESPNBoston.com
Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who's dealt with more lineup-related questions this season than perhaps ever, seemed ready to be asked about Chris Wilcox playing only three minutes in Saturday's loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Jason Collins, the Celtics' other backup center option, took the bulk of the minutes, with a season-high 14.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesJason Collins at work for the Celtics.
"Yeah, Jason gives us size and he's playing well," Rivers said afterward. "He played well [Friday], he helps out. Chris does his things, too, so I got a feeling it'll be back and forth all year."
It's worth acknowledging that Wilcox was in a bit of a funk the latter part of last week, dealing with a strange stomach bug that forced him out midway through last Wednesday's loss to the Brooklyn Nets and caused him to miss practice on Thursday. Even though he played Wilcox for 14 minutes in Friday's win, Rivers cautioned before the game that he wasn't looking to overextend him.
As Wilcox rights himself, he could easily re-obtain the consistent minutes he was getting before his illness, though two productive outings by Collins over the weekend could adjust Rivers' thinking a bit.
A productive night for Collins consists of solid defense and rebounding. His stats will never jump off the page; judging his impact on the game will be more about the eye test than anything. But with the team's defense still trying to catch up to its offense, Collins' knowledge of the rotations might take on a greater weight, particularly with Boston still trying to plug up some serious gaps when Kevin Garnett is off the floor.
Rivers' decisions in this particular case might not be as significant as some of his earlier ones, like his call on keeping Brandon Bass in the starting lineup over Jared Sullinger, for example. Both Wilcox and Collins have very specific roles, and playing inconsistent minutes shouldn't impact their ability to fulfill those roles the way it might impact some of Boston's core guys.
Whether he plays five minutes or 15, Wilcox will be expected to spark the second unit, run the floor, and connect with Rajon Rondo on an alley-oop or two. The same goes for Collins and his responsibilities. No matter the minute count, he's expected to be a presence inside defensively.
Rivers won't etch his plans in stone for either. As he alluded to after Saturday's loss, this could be a back-and-forth endeavor for the remainder of the season.