Celtics

Brad Stevens is creating an important new norm for playing time expectations

USA Today Sports

Brad Stevens surprised no one on Tuesday night by sticking with his projected starting five of Irving/Brown/Tatum/Hayward/Horford for the regular season opener against the Sixers. However, that grouping played together a grand total of seven minutes in their 2018-19 season debut together, six of which came in the opening moments of the game. Over the final 42 minutes of the game, they spent just one minute on the floor together.

That strategy, at least early on in the season, is a planned one. With Gordon Hayward facing a 25-30 minute restriction in the opening few weeks of the season, Stevens has elected to bench the All-Star at the start of the second half. That second half adjustment should become a staple of the C’s gameplan going forward in order to keep Hayward from hitting his minutes limit too early in the second half.

It was Aron Baynes who got the call to start in place of Hayward in the second half, but Hayward’s replacement in the second half remains a fluid situation on a game-to-game basis, according to the head coach.

Establishing that strategy early on in the year using the backdrop of Hayward’s medical condition creates a norm early in the year that should help keep everyone within Boston’s deep rotation engaged as the season continues.