Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 10/22/12
BOSTON -- Parse the details all you like, from screen-and-roll execution to shooting percentages, but the Celtics offense has added a simple wrinkle that could do wonders this season. And it is largely due to Courtney Lee. Lee's uncomplicated contribution: running. Yes, running. By simply taking off downcourt as soon as the Celtics secure a rebound or turnover, the 27-year-old combo guard turned at least two of Boston's exhibition games into track meets. Straightforward as that is, the Celtics seldom got easy baskets in that manner last season. "I kind of knew their situation last year, when they thought they played a little too slow," Lee said. "They worked a lot of halfcourt sets, and they said they want to get easy ones. That meant getting buckets in transition. That's something I like to do. I like to get out and run, so playing with [Rajon] Rondo, he's going to find you every time." Rondo has looked almost giddy at times when he runs up the court and, instead of finding himself running all by himself like he did last year, he sees Lee either beside or ahead of him. Rondo has long been a fast break-style point guard trapped in a system that has to stay at a deliberate pace to accommodate the veteran stars around him, but that could change this season with the additions of Jeff Green and Lee -- but especially Lee. "I'm going to make sure we get the stop," Lee said. "Once I see that we secure the ball, I'm out." Lee's hustle is not confined to offense, either. During Saturday's game against the Knicks, the Celtics spent long stretches doing nothing but recovering on defense after committing one of their 20 turnovers, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers put together a video of his team's efforts to get back on defense in that game. It was the ultimate effort to make highlights out of lowlights. The video showed several Celtics players sprinting back on defense, and the star of the group was Lee. "Those are the little things, when you look at our team, that you love," Rivers said. "We showed them seven turnovers before the game, and Courtney Lee is incredible how he gets back and saves the play. Jeff had two. Jet [Jason Terry] had one. They don't give up on plays. That'll bode well." Lee has played with a variety of point guards in his four professional seasons. He started with pick-and-roll specialist Jameer Nelson in Orlando and last season in Houston he got a workout alongside Kyle Lowry, who pushed the pace with as much vigor as Rondo. One of the criticisms of Lee's game is that he is cannot create his own shot, but his success with so many different types of floor generals shows that Lee does not need to dominate the ball to find ways to score. In fact, that is a shared trait among the Celtics guards this season. Avery Bradley made a mark offensively by cutting without the ball last season, and Terry built his career on finding scoring opportunities on plays that were not called specifically for him. With Rondo likely to handle the ball whenever he is on the court, the Celtics need crafty scorers like Bradley and Terry. Neither needs the ball in his hands to cause problems for the defense. Lee acknowledges and even prides himself on the fact that he is an opportunistic scorer as well. "You've got to play the game," Lee said. "If the defense sags off and gives me the three, I'm going to shoot it. If they pressure me, I'm going to drive it to the hole. You've got to pretty much play the game and see what the defense is giving you." So far, the knockdown corner 3-point shooter the Celtics hoped they were getting in Lee has not shown up. The "corner three" is one of the most popular shots among coaches, since it is only 22 feet from the hoop and therefore is one of the most efficient shots in the NBA. Once he becomes comfortable with the new system and his new teammates, the Celtics hope Lee starts draining the long balls with regularity again. Until his stroke reappears, Lee simply will run for daylight to get the one shot that is even more efficient that a corner three -- a wide-open layup -- and much easier to make, too. Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.
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