Time will tell with Welsch
Good indications his role will grow
WALTHAM -- Jiri Welsch doesn't like to describe his game. He views himself as simply a basketball player and sees no reason to place too fine a point on his strengths and weaknesses. So he offers only the standard scouting report. He can make shots when left open. He can penetrate. Solid defender. Good passing ability. Versatile.
Welsch lets Jim O'Brien praise his play and potential.
"If you wanted to stereotype guys like Jiri that have been in professional basketball long before they came to the NBA, they just know how to play offensive basketball," said O'Brien. "They understand how to pass, move, and how to improve angles, how to improve people on their team with good offensive fundamentals.
"They're not necessarily enamored with one-on-one basketball as much as team basketball. It's a great trait to have, and it's why European players have been so successful of late. The more people that conceptually grow in the direction of Jiri's mind-set on our basketball team, the better off as a team we'll be."
That said, the numbers posted by Welsch are not an accurate indication of the important role he may ultimately play for Boston this season. The 23-year-old guard is averaging 2.4 points and 1.1 assists in 10.4 minutes per game. Don't forget, tomorrow marks the one-month anniversary of the trade that brought Welsch and Raef LaFrentz from Dallas for Antoine Walker and Tony Delk.
O'Brien is still figuring out ways to give Welsch more minutes. Currently, he gets four minutes here, two minutes there, usually while Paul Pierce rests.
Against the Knicks Monday night, Welsch made the most of his minutes, taking the court with 2 minutes 44 seconds left in the first quarter and helping Boston stage a 10-0 run. He also was on the court when the Celtics stretched their lead to 16 points early in the second, then to a game-high 17 shortly before halftime.
Welsch spends a large amount of practice learning the point guard position, though his ability to play both guard spots may be one of his bigger assets.
"Every day, every game, every minute I spend on the court, I feel better," said Welsch. "I feel more comfortable in our system. I've learned in the last month about my teammates. Now, I have a feeling about what I can expect from every player. The more I'm able to handle, the more minutes I can get out on the court. If I'm able to play both positions, that means more chances for me to go out there and get on the court.
"On the one hand, you can take a look at two- or three-minute stints as there's not much you can do. But on the other hand, you can do a lot. If you know you have that short period of time, you know you can go and give everything in those three minutes, try to bring some energy and really get up into people. You know that once Paul Pierce catches his breath he's going back out there again. I'm just trying to fill that hole when Paul is sitting on the bench. And give as much effort out there as I can, especially on the defensive end of the court."
O'Brien likes to have his players focused on defense. But he also likes what he sees on offense from Welsch. The 6-foot-7-inch Czech brings toughness and intelligence to the court. He intuitively understands what O'Brien wants done on offense. Welsch classifies himself as a "system player," who tries to "read the game" as much as possible.
"The flow of our offense is never better than when Jiri is in the basketball game," said O'Brien. "He has a great way of reading screens, of hitting the open guy, if he doesn't have a look. The offense just clicks."
More minutes certainly will come for Welsch, but regardless of when that happens, he is pleased with the move to Boston.
"Last year was a bit of a frustrating year for me in Golden State," said Welsch. "I didn't play. And that was the first time in my basketball career that I have ever been in that position. So, right now, I can twice as much appreciate those minutes that I'm getting.
"It's just that feeling when I'm coming to the game and knowing that I'm going to be there at least for a couple minutes. It's a much different approach than it was for me last season, so I'm definitely happy."
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.