BOSTON - Not drafted? No problem. Phil Pressey went unselected in the 2013 draft. But that provided him the opportunity to control his own future, which ended up starting in Boston.
"[Being undrafted was] the best thing that ever happened," Pressey said before his Boston Celtics faced the New York Knicks Wednesday. By the time pick 35 rolled around, Pressey was hoping to get passed up so that he could choose his team and not be locked into a non-guaranteed long term deal that could see him shipped overseas like 2013 second-round pick Colton Iverson.
After all of bad good luck, Pressey finds himself filling in as the starting point guard for Rajon Rondo Wednesday.
But he will be next to Jerryd Bayless, who continues to start at the two with Avery Bradley out, who is still hoping for a Friday return. The question of whether Bradley was still on track was put to Brad Stevens Wednesday.
"Obviously, when we got back last night I spent all my time on the Knicks and getting ready for tonight," Stevens said. "I have not talked to anybody, but I hopefully will find out that answer by the end of the night."
While Bradley will not play against the Knicks, he was in the locker room before the game. Bradley has missed significant time for the third straight season due to an ankle sprain.
A SORT OF DIFFERENT TRANSITION PHILOSPHY
If there is one rule of Doc Rivers' that everyone knew, it was to get back on defense. The Celtics spent the entire Big Three era hovering at the bottom of the league in offensive rebounding, with the thinking that getting back on defense immediately would be more beneficial. But Brad Stevens runs things a bit more fluidly and conventionally.
"I think my biggest thing personally is you've got to balance that well with transition defense," he said. "But transition defense can't be - you can't give up on that. I mean, that's got to be a huge part of what you do. Right now our transition defense has gotten significantly better in the last two months and overall has been pretty good."
Not surprisingly, Rajon Rondo's return has a lot to do with that. But that is as much due to the return of a defensive leader as having a more potent offense that minimizes difficult transition scenarios.
"Really since Rondo's been back, we've been really good," Stevens continued. "And offensively, there's gonna be games where you're not making shots and if you can get a putback or two to stem the tide, it's important. And we do have guys, especially in Humphries and Sullinger, are really good offensive rebounders and you certainly don't want to take that away from those guys and you want to encourage - anything we can do to try to get a basket, I think we need to try to do it."
But there is more to just deciding whether you want to crash the boards or get back. Much of the decision each time there is transition is done on a quick analysis of the location of the defenders on the floor and the initial action by the offense.
"There's a lot to it," said Stevens. "You have a plan to who goes back automatically on the shot. You have a plan on when somebody is driving it, does somebody else take that place? You'll have thought on if you're above the free throw line, you're automatically back no matter what position you are."
MIKE WOODSON AND J.R. SMITH MAKING PROGRESS
This season has been an unmitigated disaster for the Knicks. With the team taxed out beyond flexibility, first-round picks shipping out every other year and Carmelo Anthony hitting free agency, the imperative for the Knicks to compete for a title was greater than ever. Then the season started and everything fell apart. Mike Woodson, who hasn't been willing to sit here and talk about most of the issues the Knicks have had this year, opened up about the failed expectations Wednesday.
"Well again, I mean every year we as coaches go into a season with high expectation and it should be that way," Woodson said. "In New York, it's even higher and with the injuries early on, and I thought with missing JR early on, we just weren't able to set the tone like I thought we could have coming out of camp. The chemistry just wasn't there.
"We've been fighting with injuries and guys being in and out of rotations that we've had so many lineup changes. This time last year we had a set lineup and we had a nicely set rotation and it just hasn't been that way. So in that regard it's been frustrating from a coaching standpoint, but again, I'm not one to complain. I'm going to keep pushing guys to try to get over the hump and see if we can get this eighth spot."
The Smith spat is a notable point, as Woodson did his best to smooth things over during J.R.'s hectic and erratic first half. But with improved shooting improving recent performance, all these divisive issues are magically losing potency. Woodson discussed the change with CLNS Radio.
"Early on it had a lot to do with it, plus he had the knee surgery as well. Then we had our little blow up. It's kind of been a roller coaster ride to J.R. and he's playing much better now. I mean, in this stretch he's shot the ball extremely well. We've played much better as a team and the results have been W's. So we just got to hopefully stay on that path and see if we can finish these last 18 games on a good note."
While there is time left for some silver linings to solidify for the most optimistic Knicks fans, the only goal that matters at this point, making the playoffs, is just about out of reach.