has ever played a game of basketball, whether it’s a pick-up game or
competitive hoops, will know that not every person on the floor, at any given
time, can have the ball in his hands. This is true for most major sports like
baseball (the pinch runner), American football (the kicker and special teams),
even ice hockey (defenseman enforcers). In basketball, where there is only one
ball and ten players to share it with, the role player’s significance becomes
even more pronounced.
cannot, and should never understate the value of the role player: after all, we
can’t all be superstars. For every LeBron James, there will be a Mike Miller;
for every Paul Pierce, there will be a Glen Davis; and for every Kevin Garnett,
there will be more than one Brian Scalabrine. (For the record, I love Scal as a
person; as a player, not so much.)
the glut of role players, or ‘specialists’ that the Celtics have had over the
years, we can honestly look at most of them and say with certainty if they did
the job they were supposed to do, exceeded expectations or utterly came up
short in their bid to contribute.
memories are pleasant to remember; James Posey’s knockdown threes, Leon Powe’s
hustle, Tony Allen’s shutdown perimeter defense, Glen Davis’ toughness, and Sam
Cassell’s veteran grit. Others won’t be as pleasant.
that when I say role players, it means guys who won’t be playing most of the
minutes or starting every game: rotation players are out of the equation, as we
pretty much know what we will get with them anyway. I’m talking about the guys
who will have a specific role, some who will be specialists and some who will
be a bit of jack-of-all trades, doing everything well and nothing particularly
What can we
at least realistically expect from the Celtic role players this season? Let’s
round it up:
1 Jason Collins, C –Collins is a fairly steady player, who made waves when
he bumped, chucked, and basically took Dwight Howard out of his element when
the latter was still on good terms with the Orlando faithful, although the
“Dwight-stopper” nickname is a tad overblown. Now that he is in Boston, we can
expect Mr. Collins to play physical inside, allow no easy baskets, and play
acceptable post defense.
2 Kris Joseph, SF – I will be the first to admit that I have seen fairly
less of Kris Joseph, but from what little I have seen, the kid is a tremendous
athlete. He can finish around the rim and though his jumper is shaky, it can
improve. The main concern with him is adjusting to a man-to man defensive
scheme, and as we have experienced with Doc, the only way that rookies get minutes
is if they play solid defense. I see Kris being a legitimate NBA player with a
chance to contribute right away, which is tremendous value for a second round
3 Fab Melo, C – Ah,
Fab Melo. Admittedly I was puzzled with this pick, and was rooting for Danny to
take Perry Jones III from Baylor. Melo is an interesting pick, because it
signals faith in the Celtics development system. We know Melo is an athlete,
and his feel for the game needs more seasoning before we can rely on him to
protect the rim in the NBA level. Instincts for the game come naturally, from
playing the game at an early age, and though we have guys like Tim Duncan (who
was a swimmer before he picked up a basketball), it is incredibly rare for
athletes who have been playing the game for only six years to be NBA-ready in less
than two years.
4 Darko Milicic, C – Yes, in the latest edition of the Darko tour, the big
Serbian lands in Beantown. For the Celtics case, we all hope this will be more
than a one year pit stop and more of a two to three year resurgence circuit. Nevertheless,
the well-traveled veteran has a chip on his shoulder and something to prove in
Boston. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. To be honest, aside from his size, I really don’t
see any upside in his signing. Here’s hoping Darko proves me wrong.
5 Jared Sullinger, PF – Easily my favorite acquisition this year for the C’s.
Sullinger is a ground-bound big man, but he knows how to use his bulk and can
create angles for his shot. His lack of athleticism is balanced by his
knowledge of the game and natural instincts, sort of the anti-Melo if you will.
6 Chris Wilcox, C – A legitimate candidate for a Rondo Fastbreak running
mate, Wilcox is a solid offensive player. Not so sure about his defense, though
he may have a few post moves and can finish around the paint. He is coming off
heart surgery, so he may start off a bit slow.
why it is so exciting to follow the off-season signings of every team is
because we get to speculate and discuss how these new faces will fit in the
team’s philosophies and tendencies. We all know what we will get from our main
guys: it is the contribution of the role players which will tip the scales from
fringe playoff contender to championship caliber roster, especially for a
veteran team like the Celtics. Injuries will happen, games will be missed, and
starters will be benched, for various reasons. And for this reason, we need
competent role players who can come off the pine and give us quality
We can’t all
be superstars. Someone somewhere has to do their roles. And most of the time,
it is just as important.