Camp chronicles: Rookies get road map to playing time

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WALTHAM, Mass. -- Listen up, rookies. Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens offered a little advice on how to attack your first season in green before Thursday's training camp practice at the team's practice facility.

"First of all, I think [going from college star to fighting for minutes is] a hard transition, emotionally, but I also think that’s why we try to focus on the process every minute of every day," said Stevens. "We don’t gauge development in terms of minutes played here. We gauge development in terms of what you are doing before practice, what you’re doing after practice, how you’re progressing during practice. And then when you get your minutes, how do you play when you get those minutes? There’s a big difference in that.

"I think it’s easier to look from the outside in and say it’s always better to throw [young players] to the fire and play minutes. Well, there’s a lot of ways to get better. And I think that’s what these guys gotta embrace, regardless of whether they are playing or not -- that it’s all about growth. And I don’t anticipate any problems, but certainly it’s a hard emotional transition in some ways. More so for some than others, but that’s where I think you also have to take a step back, if you’re not getting opportunities, and say, ‘Wait a minute, I’m in the NBA.’ And to stay here and to make this be the best that it can be, I just have to keep improving and keep a good mind about it."

The Celtics added three rookies to their roster from June's draft in first-round picks Terry Rozier (16th overall) and R.J. Hunter (28th) and second-round pick Jordan Mickey (another second-rounder, Marcus Thornton, is stashed overseas playing in Australia). With Stevens having already acknowledged that he expects to utilize a rotation that tops out at 10 players, it means that younger players are going to have to either kick down the rotation door -- on a team noted for its depth -- or take full advantage of opportunities when they come.

It may be good for Rozier and Hunter to examine the path of 2014 first-round pick James Young, a player that spent much of last season getting reps with the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League but has earned lofty praise for (1) Embracing a stronger work ethic with a focus on the weight room late last season and (2) Showing the strides in camp this year that might help him compete for a rotation role.

Pressed on whether Rozier, who has earned raved reviews from teammates throughout camp, has a chance at carving out a role on a team relatively thin on guard depth (or, at least, not as overstocked as the frontcourt), Stevens used former point guard Phil Pressey as an example of an end-of-the-bench guy who ultimately saw an awful lot of floor time.

"[Rozier is] certainly in that [guard] mix where he’s competing for it," said Stevens. "But, hey, I think many people would say Phil Pressey was our third-string point guard for most of the past two years. He played 125 games and he was great. And the jolt he gave us on multiple occasions helped us win games. So there’s something to be said about a guy that always stays ready and is able to provide that lift."

Three more notes from Thursday's pre-practice access:

#SullyWatch: Conditioning in focus: Jared Sullinger, under the microscope this training camp, looked a little rusty -- basketball-wise -- during Tuesday's scrimmage. Stevens was asked if he was pleased with Sullinger's conditioning level after his much-publicized summer stint with coaching guru John Lucas in Houston.

"We’ve done some running, we’ve done all that stuff, and I think that [Sullinger] is running, especially in the running at the end [of practices], well," said Stevens. "I think we all probably need to continue to get into game shape. And I don’t expect anybody to be in game shape on Oct. 3. I think that’s part of the process of getting ready.

"He’s in a competition with a lot of guys for minutes, but he’s a good player and he’s done a lot of good things. I thought the other day he didn’t have the benefit of getting in the rhythm, because a couple of offensive fouls where -- the one he had Kelly [Olynyk] sealed and probably would have been a layup otherwise. And then our guys doubled him. He was the only guy they doubled in the post and he made great plays to Tyler [Zeller] and got Tyler a couple of open looks. So he’s playing pretty well, but again it’s stiff competition [in the frontcourt]."

Pressed again on Sullinger's conditioning, Stevens added, "I think he has improved conditioning-wise. He’s still, and I think I’ve heard him say this, that he still wants to continue to grow in that area."

Let's go to the film: What did Stevens think after reviewing tape of his team's open scrimmage from Tuesday night with his coaching staff?

"Your sixth practice is always going to have some positives, going to have some negatives. I thought, for the most part, there were a lot more positives than negatives," said Stevens. "I thought the ball movement, for the most part, was good. I think our defense needs to improve, specifically in handling actions. But I guess the good part is we are the ones running the actions. There's always a positive and a negative -- when you’re scoring, your defense isn’t good enough in intra-squad scrimmages; and when you’re guarding you can’t score.

Deadpanned Stevens: "I felt good about the Celtics winning, though."

Asked if any players in particular stood out, Stevens added, "Some guys stood out, but I think what we’re trying to do is find groups, not necessarily individuals. I thought that everybody had their moments. But I’m still much more focused now on the collective than I am necessarily on the who has a good night."

Praise for Young: Stevens has steadily offered measured praise to second-year swingman Young. On Tuesday he noted, "I’ve said all along, James has developed quite a bit, especially on the defensive end of the floor. I thought he did some good things [in Tuesday's scrimmage]. When he was in, the ball moved. He took a couple shots that I’m sure he would like to have back. But I think for the most part, he’s making real strides. I think any time that you’re in a position where you haven’t played as much and the natural human reaction is that you’ve gotta hit home runs and make plays just to earn time.

"In reality, here it’s much more about doing the job as well as you can and being reliable every minute. And he’s well ahead of last year in those terms."