Although many Celtics fans may feel a slight sense of apprehension when it comes to the point guard position this season, the outlook may not look so bleak, especially if undrafted rookie Phil Pressey has a say in the matter.
“At the end of the day, all you need to worry about is playing the game,” the Missouri product stated in an interview with NESN this week. “My goal is not to be the primary backup. It is to start.”
With most of the training camp attention on All-Star starter Rajon Rondo’s recovery from his January ACL injury, Celtics reporters and fans alike may be overlooking the potential impact of the Pressey, who has scored numerous accolades of his own. The Dallas native, who has ties to the New England area from his time spent playing for Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, is known for his deft talent in the passing game. While playing for coach Frank Haith at top-25 Missouri, Pressey set all-time highs for the Tigers in career assists. In a nationally televised game against freshman phenom Shabazz Muhammad and UCLA, Pressey set an SEC record for assists in a single game, dishing out an astonishing 19 against the Bruins.
Stevens would be wise in giving the unproven rookie significant minutes behind presumed starter Avery Bradley, a defensive stalwart who is yet to develop a reliable offensive game in fourth season in the league. Pressey would be perfectly suited for situations calling for instant offensive production or stretches when Bradley goes through his habitual shooting slumps, some of which plagued the Celtics in games last season. Of course, this is not to put a knock on Pressey’s defensive talents. The diminutive 5’11’’ guard also hold the career record for steals at Missouri, and he led all Big 12 players in steals during the 2011-12 campaign, the Tigers’ last season in the conference.
An intriguing option would be for Stevens to place Pressey directly alongside Bradley, who in fact has more experience at the shooting guard position to begin with. A Pressey-Bradley background proves a fantastic counterbalance for offense and defense, and may even provide a glimpse into the future of the backcourt, especially with rumors swirling of a Rondo trade. It may seem blasphemous right now to pencil an undrafted rookie into the starting five, but given the glaring inconsistencies of Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford, the Green may be better served with a new player manning the offense.
Pressey provided a flash of his enormous potential Wednesday against the Knicks, leading the team with 13 points while coming off the bench. Pressey’s 28 minutes were also the most on team, showing that Stevens has trust in the guard. No matter what the rookie coach decides to do with the rookie guard, one fact remains: Don’t count the kid out.