Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 11/19/14
Picimg_sixersmagic_986e
The vaunted Celtics free agent class of 2012 so far has failed to live up to its billing. Jason Terry has suffered more long shooting droughts than hot streaks, Jeff Green has been largely ineffective, Darko Milicic is no longer with the team and Chris Wilcox has battled illnesses and injuries. There is still ample time for them to improve their grades, of course, but the midterm report on the Celtics’ offseason signings is a resounding “needs improvement.” Then there is Courtney Lee, whose performance this season, like the Celtics’ performance as a whole, is a work in progress. Lee has been far from bad. He has been solid, even excellent at times, despite playing time that has fluctuated based on matchups, the availability of the rest of the guards on Boston’s roster and his own effectiveness. As Avery Bradley works his way back to form after missing the first 30 games to recover from double-shoulder surgery, Lee’s place in the rotation is only now coming into focus. Lee began the year as the starting shooting guard, which has been the plan all offseason while Bradley recuperated, then shifted to the bench after five games. He has started six games since then, mostly to fill in while Rajon Rondo served a suspension or dealt with minor injuries, and as long as Rondo and Bradley stay healthy, Lee is likely to remain on the bench for the foreseeable future. Rather than taking his removal from the starting lineup as a demotion, Lee has welcomed the predictability that will come with knowing his place as a reserve. “As far as my role, my role’s always been the same,” Lee said. “But as far as the rotation, that’s been different. I started, came off the bench, started, came off the bench, sixth man, seventh man, you never know. That’s the only thing about it. Other than that, my role’s always been the same.” Lee’s role as a pressure defender and an athletic occasional scorer with ability to perform spot duty bringing up the ball has made him somewhat redundant with Bradley, who is a superior defender but a bit less polished on the offensive end. This has led to Lee being mentioned in trade rumors, since the overlap in talents with Bradley would seem to make Lee expendable. That assumption, however, is deaf to the lesson the Celtics have already learned with another of their superlative defenders. Kevin Garnett is every bit as good an interior defender as Bradley is on the perimeter. Considering all the extra responsibilities a big man has, Garnett may be even more valuable. Yet the Celtics encounter a massive problem when Garnett leaves the court. They have no big guys capable of performing anywhere close to Garnett’s level on defense — or offense, for that matter — and the drop-off results in the Celtics performing, on a statistical level, on par with the worst teams in the NBA. Those struggles have brought all sorts of panicky proposed solutions. There was the early-season nibble on Marcin Gortat, the ongoing fascination with as-yet-unsigned 35-year-old Kenyon Martin, and the temptation of DeMarcus Cousins, who allegedly just needs a swift kick from Doc Rivers to put him in line. This is where Lee supposedly comes in. If the Celtics already have a ball-stopper in Bradley, they can deal away another decent ball-stopper to shore up the middle. Still, if the Celtics had a backup big man who was Lee’s equal as a guard, they probably would not be in such a dire position. By removing him, the Celtics could be fixing one problem while creating another one. If Bradley experiences a setback, the perimeter defense could be right back where it started at the beginning of the season — or worse, since Lee would be gone, and Terry and Leandro Barbosa have never been known as shutdown defenders. Lee has started to find his way in the Celtics’ system of late. After he chipped in 13 points and five rebounds in Friday’s win over the Pacers, Rivers, Bradley and Paul Pierce noted how Lee is gradually beginning to look comfortable in his ever-evolving role. “Courtney’s really been playing well as of late the last few weeks,” Pierce said. “I think he’s starting to understand what we need from him. He’s picking his spots. He’s getting to where he’s going to get his shots from. He’s playing terrific defense. He’s getting out, running the lanes on offense. I think he’s getting more and more familiar, more and more comfortable with the system, and he’s just going to get better as time goes on.” Lee himself admits that he is not nearly the defender Bradley is. If the Celtics must decide between dealing one of them, it really would not be a very hard decision. Yet there is value in being able to give Bradley a rest and replacing him with another capable defender, especially when that defender is a professional, 27-year-old veteran who accepts and embraces that role. “Avery’s a tremendous defender,” Lee said. “I mean, the stuff he’s doing, I’m out there looking at him like, this dude’s crazy. He’s turning them. He’s right there. He’s quick. I was like that my first couple years, but a few years in the league get to you. He’s a great on-ball defender, man. He’s doing a lot of good things, and when I come in, I just want to pick up defensively where he left off at.” As Lee continues to grasp what the Celtics expect of him, games like Friday should become more frequent. Do not be so eager to declare Lee expendable yet. Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Bryant attends Cowboys OTAs despite not signing contract

Are Dwyane Wade and the Heat headed for a split?

Good news for the effort to bring an NHL team to Vegas

Adrian Peterson goes on social media rant regarding contract

Report: John Wall, friends kicked off plane in Las Vegas

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Broncos OT Ryan Clady suffers torn ACL in practice

Report: Buffalo Sabres to hire Dan Bylsma as head coach

Marc Trestman will make Joe Flacco a Pro Bowler

Could Tyrod Taylor be the Buffalo Bills’ savior?

Chicago Bulls fire Tom Thibodeau after five seasons

LeSean McCoy refuses to return Chip Kelly's calls

Dee Gordon thought Marlins’ manager hire was a joke

Which MLB teams are most changed since Opening Day?

Seattle Mariners: Back to .500

JJ Watt doesn't care for chance to be on 'Hard Knocks'

McElwain compliments Muschamp culture at UF, previous staff 'snakebit'

Montreal mayor to meet Manfred in hopes of getting a franchise back

Five things we'd like to see on 'Hard Knocks' with the Texans

Chipper Jones challenged military veteran to fight

President Obama answers NBA questions on Twitter

'Entourage' creator rips Eli Manning for ditching movie

Ronda Rousey upset with Bethe Correia for suicide comments

The Cleveland Cavaliers are top (under)dogs

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Are Dwyane Wade and the Heat headed for a split?

Good news for the effort to bring an NHL team to Vegas

JJ Watt doesn't care for chance to be on 'Hard Knocks'

Ryan Clady suffers torn ACL

'Entourage' creator rips Eli Manning

Brandon Marshall, Geno Smith are roommates

The Cavaliers are top (under)dogs

Bryce Harper on his breakout

WATCH: Jon Lester sets MLB hitless record

Six moves that made the Warriors NBA title contenders

USA Soccer, CONCACAF losers in FIFA’s ‘World Cup of fraud’

The 3-point shot has become a divisive metaphor in the NBA

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.