NEW YORK — Despite scoring 13 points in 17 minutes and sparking a stagnant Celtics offense Monday in his first extensive minutes of the season, James Young was inactive for Wednesday’s 89-81 win over the Nets, a difficult move for Brad Stevens.
With Marcus Thornton returning after an 11-game absence because of a strained left calf, the Celtics had 14 healthy players for 13 spots. Stevens, who did not promise Young increased playing time after Monday’s effort, decided to ice the rookie. Young, who has playing in just six games, was not in uniform.
The question for the Celtics is whether they should shelve a veteran such as Gerald Wallace or Jameer Nelson or a younger player such as Phil Pressey to make room for Young, the 17th overall pick, who may be Boston’s small forward of the future.
Stevens labored over the decision.
“James was a really hard call because he’s coming off of a really good game,” Stevens said. “We’ve talked a lot about it. We’re really pleased with his development. We’re really pleased with his work ethic, but those older guys that have been ahead of him have had really good moments, too. And having Marcus Thornton come back, we thought that was the appropriate call. That was a difficult decision, for sure.”
Stevens said the position most affected by Thornton’s presence is backup point guard, meaning Pressey’s minutes could be reduced.
When asked what it will require for Young to get more minutes, Stevens said: “He’s earning it. He’s earning it. He’s right on the cusp. We talked about it this morning. This is the most unique situation in my coaching tenure in that we had to make a decision who’s inactive rather than the decision was already made because of injury.
“Along with others, I tossed and turned and spent a lot of time thinking about it. Those guys that are active deserve to be active. [Young] does as well but I think he’ll be active more than not as we move forward.”
Better starts sought
After Monday’s 104-95 loss to the Hornets, third-year forward Jared Sullinger said he and his teammates were guilty of playing “hero ball,” and added players are doing too much individually trying to help the team.
The Celtics’ starters have started poorly over the past few games with a lack of energy and defensive intensity, but Stevens kept the lineup intact Wednesday. Sullinger said the starters must improve.
“The last couple of days have been all right, we’ve been practicing hard,” he said. “Guys have been talking to one another, trying to figure out what we can do to help this team win. Everything is getting better.”
Despite being just 22, Sullinger is one of the senior members of the team.
“At times, [I can take a leadership role] but it starts with the whole starting five,” he said. “The last couple of games we’ve been getting off to a slow start and our bench has been pretty much digging us out of that hole in the first couple of quarters. Every starter has to step up their game to another level and be prepared to win.”
The Celtics are in a difficult stretch, including games against Indiana, Toronto, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Chicago, a slate that could define their season.
“It could go either way,” Sullinger said. “But we’re fighting. We’re trying to play our best basketball. We have no quitters on this team. The reason why I was so negative [Monday] was how Charlotte outplayed us. They played harder than us. Those are things we can control as a team. That’s where all that negative stuff came from. You can control the controllables.”
Sullinger explained why perhaps the Celtics didn’t play as hard as they should have Monday.
“Sometimes when you step into a game and you see that Al Jefferson’s gone [injured] and Lance Stephenson’s gone, mentally you think it’s a cakewalk,” Sullinger said. “I’m not speaking from my perspective. I’m just speaking in general. You think it’s a cakewalk and the next thing you know, they come out and play harder than you and now you’re in a dogfight and next thing you look up and you’re down 20.”
Nelson ready to go
Nelson missed the previous two games with a sore right foot but worked out before Wednesday’s game and looked nimble. While he wouldn’t reveal his condition, he indicated that being placed on the inactive list was Stevens’s decision.
“As long as I’m here, I’ll do what the team needs me to do,” he said. “Me and coach, we’re on the same page. I was inactive. I didn’t say why or I didn’t complain to him. My foot is pretty good. I practiced [Tuesday and Wednesday], I worked out. Just staying ready. If they need me, I’ll go out there and play as hard as I can.”
Nets guard Deron Williams, who has been turned into a reserve over the past few weeks, missed Monday’s loss to Dallas with a sore left side but returned Wednesday. Williams was scoreless in four minutes . . . The three Celtics who were left out of the rotation were Pressey, Wallace, and Brandan Wright.