CHICAGO -- Doc Rivers does not subscribe to the mad scientist, mix-and-match method when it comes to selecting a backup point guard. He does not want a rotation of Marcus Banks, Jiri Welsch, and Delonte West picking up the minutes Gary Payton leaves behind. He does not want the trio of young, inexperienced guards wondering about playing time in addition to positional responsibilities.
Before training camp ends, Rivers hopes one emerges. Until then, the Celtics coach will tinker with backcourt combinations. Last night, the Celtics lost to the Bulls, 95-92, as Rivers continued to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the 22-year-old Banks, the 24-year-old Welsch, and the 21-year-old West.
"[The order] will depend on how they play with each other," said Rivers. And it depends who the point guard is on the other team. If it's a small point guard, I don't want Jiri to bring it up under pressure." Rivers has put a lot of thought into the backup point guard position, but he has more questions than answers at this stage. During the exhibition season, Banks, Welsch, and West have had their moments. They also have looked lost running the team.
"I have no clue about who's going to be the backup guy right now," said Rivers. "It could fluctuate, but I actually hope not. I think it's easier and you're a better player when you know you have minutes coming than when you don't know if you're going to play."
Rivers recognizes the versatility of teaming Welsch and West, who are both excellent shooters capable of spreading the floor and presenting matchup difficulties. And West, in his first year, has proven a strong help defender.
Welsch (27 minutes), West (20 minutes), and Banks (22 minutes) got plenty of playing time last night. Banks overcame poor shooting from the field by going perfect from the line (7 for 7) and finishing with 15 points. But rookie Al Jefferson stole the show, making the most of his 20 minutes by grabbing 11 rebounds (5 offensive). Although Chicago placed all five starters in double figures, Gary Payton led all scorers with 21 points (7 for 12, 6 for 6 from the line). Paul Pierce had 16 points, playing with soreness in his left foot because of the removal of a small abscess.
The uncertainty is the development of Banks. The once-coveted, twice-traded Banks is clearly the quickest of the backups, but he must learn how to handle pressure and make his teammates better. He can get his own shot in transition, but struggles to get a teammate a shot. "This is my second year in the league and it's time for me to learn and accept my role on this team and do whatever I have to do to earn everything I can minutes-wise," said Banks. "Basically, I would like to come in and bring intensity and defensive pressure, just help the team win. I'm here to do whatever it takes."Despite entering the NBA after his junior year at Saint Joseph's, West shows considerably more composure than Banks. But inexperience has provided its own challenges. West prefers to look at the versatility he brings to the team.
"I'm a winner and that means knowing what it takes to win," he said. "That doesn't necessarily mean I have to be a scorer. Sometimes you've got to be a passer. Sometimes you've got to be a defensive stopper. I'm just a guy who wants to win and I know winning makes everyone look good. With Jiri and I out there on the floor, that's a deadly combination because both of us can shoot the ball."
Welsch may not be a true point guard, but he handles most of the responsibilities better than Banks and West. Welsch, at 6 feet 7 inches, also can see the floor better. The downside is that he struggles when pressured by smaller guards.
Late last season, Welsch spent time at the point. He never looked entirely comfortable running the team, but his ability to serve as floor general will earn him more minutes.
"I don't know if my role is expanding because I think they are still looking for the right lineups," said Welsch. "[Rivers] has tried to put me in different spots. I don't mind that, if that gives me more chance to be on the court. We still have [four] more exhibition games and we'll see how everything is going to work out."