By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON – On a Celtics team with arguably too much depth up-and-down the roster, Brad Stevens is already facing a daunting challenge two games into the season as he decides who is worthy of minutes. The third-year head coach isn’t the only one the situation is taking a toll on though. For some young players, opportunity is not exactly in the cards, thanks to the logjam of talent in front of them.READ MORE: Runner Who Suffered Heart Attack During Boston Marathon Hopes To Come Back Stronger
James Young is the most glaring example of this predicament. The 20-year-old is in his second NBA season and spent most of his rookie year suiting up for the Maine Red Claws in the D-League.
He has been praised consistently throughout the organization for his work in the offseason to add muscle and prepare himself for year two, but Danny Ainge still added two more guards to compete with him in an already crowded backcourt in Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter.
Both of those new youthful pieces outplayed Young during summer league and in the preseason, putting the rookies ahead of the swingman at the start of the new year despite their inexperience. Stevens has shown a strong willingness to go deep into his rotation, but two players must be left of the active list for each regular season contest. Due to that, Young has been watching the team from the bench in street clothes this past week.
Stevens detailed the challenge Young is facing as the team’s 15th man when asked about the situation before Wednesday’s opener.
“I think that James obviously is in a position where we have our five guys that are probably going to play a lot of minutes at the 1,2, and 3,” Stevens said. “We still have Jonas [Jerebko and Terry [Rozier] as well. So you’ve got really seven deep at those spots, and when you boil it down to the wing, probably even more.”READ MORE: Record Fall Warmth: An Unprecedented Autumn In New England
Young told reporters earlier this week he’s using the waiting game as fuel to improve his game.
“It just motivates me to keep working out and just keep getting better every day, a lot better than last year and just keep working,” Young said.
The former Kentucky star did show flashes last year in a few games, but he’s failed to hit outside shots consistently while facing NBA-level competition. With the Celtics struggling from downtown (30 percent) early in the year, the team could have a need for him and Hunter at some point.
In the meantime, Young is focusing on cleaning up other parts of his game to make him a more complete player that Stevens can trust on the floor.
“Just try to work on defense,” Young said when asked about his short-term goals. “That was my main thing, offseason, preseason, this year coming up, working on defense and just being more aggressive on offense.”
Young can work as hard as he wants, but unless he makes huge strides with his game in practice, this is a situation that probably won’t lead to many minutes until Ainge clears out some of the logjam in the backcourt. With the priority in the organization now firmly in the column of winning ahead of developing youth, Young must patiently wait his turn.
“I had some bumps, some ups and downs, and now I know I’m gonna have some ups and downs and I’m just gonna keep grinding through it.”MORE NEWS: As Pediatricians Get Ready To Give COVID Vaccine To Children, Some Doctors Say Review The Data
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.