Greg M. Cooper
Chris Wilcox is getting it done on both ends of the floor for the Celtics.Entering Sunday's game in Detroit, backup center Chris Wilcox sat as the somewhat unexpected top Celtics player in terms of plus/minus this season. Wilcox's +33, aided by Saturday's bench-led blowout of the Raptors, had surged him past alley-oop partner in crime Rajon Rondo (+31) and even Kevin Garnett (+28).
Sure, plus/minus is a somewhat flawed stat, but it's a decent barometer of a player's overall impact on the floor. And given that Wilcox was shooting 72.7 percent (16 of 22), attacking the offensive glass, and providing serviceable defense as the first big off the bench, it's hard to ignore all the good things that are happening when he's on the court.
Maybe more amazingly, Wilcox is still getting his conditioning right while rehabbing his way back from aortic surgery last March. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Saturday that he's taking advantage of every opportunity to stretch out Wilcox's lungs.
"I’m still trying to get him in shape, that’s part of the reason we are keeping him in for long stretches," said Rivers. "If we have a game like [Saturday vs. the Raptors] where you have a lead, I try to leave him on the floor until he almost [raises his hand to come out]. I’m just trying to run him in shape, and we have no practices, so right now you have to do it in the game, which is unusual as well. He knows what we’re doing."
Wilcox has been maybe the most pleasant surprise for the Celtics this season, considering his ability to carve out such an important bench role on a Boston team that spent the summer revamping its roster. It took Wilcox a while to get going last season, but was playing his most inspired ball before the heart woe cropped up. Now he's showing he can be that same sort of player this season.
The Celtics identified early on that a Brandon Bass/Jared Sullinger frontcourt pairing wasn't sustainable as opponents exploited that undersized combo, leaving Rivers scrambling to find someone that could provide a sturdy frontcourt presence when Kevin Garnett went to the bench five minutes into the game. Wilcox has emerged as a vital frontcourt presence and has had success regardless of who's paired with him.