Pregame: Bass starts vs. Knicks

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers moved Brandon Bass back into the starting lineup alongside Rajon Rondo, Jason Terry, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett for Saturday's tilt with the New York Knicks at the XL Center. This is the third different grouping Rivers has tossed out in three exhibition games.

"I just want to see them play," said Rivers. "I’m not looking for one thing or another, I want to try different lineups, and eventually we’ll like one a lot. We’ve liked both that we’ve tried, but I just want to get different guys in different spots."

With increased depth at both shooting guard and in the frontcourt, Rivers is mixing and matching his available personnel with the goal of concocting lineups that will strengthen both the first and second units (particularly after the bench struggled to generate offense last season). With Avery Bradley sidelined until what Rivers projects as mid-December, it adds a layer of difficulty to hammering out a lineup plan.

But Rivers seems confident the lineup situation will play itself out and wants to get a feel for how his new faces operate with different personnel.

A couple other notes from the pregame:

* Celtics rookies serenaded Doc Rivers (51) and Paul Pierce (35) with a rendition of Happy Birthday as the team emerged from its morning film meeting. "It was fun," said Rivers. "Usually they have to be alerted, but I think Jason Terry or somebody must have told them about [the birthdays], so right when Paul and I walked out they started singing. It was nice."

Did Rivers get birthday gifts from his players?

"I’m going to give them gifts, I’m going to give them playing time today," quipped Rivers.

* Rivers applauded the moves by the Knicks this offseason, particularly the acquisition of veteran bodies.

"They’ve surpassed us as being the oldest team, that was a nice move; We enjoyed that," joked Rivers. "We enjoy being called the new kids on the block. But all of them can play, they all have great knowledge. And I think they’ll help them."

Can the Knicks compete for the Atlantic Division crown?

"I think it’s a deep division," said Rivers. "I think obviously New York is one of them. I think Philly has improved, when you add a[n Andrew] Bynum to your team, you’re a better basketball team. Brooklyn has improved; it’s going to be a hard division. We preferred it the way it was two or three years ago. Now, listen, you gotta fight to win this division."