The 2012-13 Boston Celtics are not the same club that won the NBA championship just five seasons ago. They're not the team that went back to the Finals two seasons later. Heck, they're not even the same team that lost a physical seven-game series to the eventual champion Miami Heat some six months ago.
It's easy to expect more of the same success given the familiar faces in important positions. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo still control both ends of the floor. Doc Rivers' raspy voice still runs the team's practices and in-game huddles.
But this team is a long way from the past performances of this quartet.
That championship team of 2007-08 housed the league's most intimidating defense. They held opponents to an NBA-best 41.9 field-goal percentage and allowed the second-fewest points per game with 90.3.
The runner-up bunch in 2009-10 allowed just the fifth-fewest points per game with 95.6. They also forced the second-most turnovers (15.6 per game).
Needless to say, a strong defensive effort has been a staple of Rivers-led Celtics teams.
So it's been disheartening for Celtics fans to watch their 6-6 team allow their opponents to shoot 46.3 percent from the field (tied for 26th in the NBA). And it's been equally frustrating to watch Boston corral just 35.83 rebounds per game, nearly four fewer than the league's second-worst rebounding team (Detroit).
Boston's offense has been mediocre at best (97.17 points per game, 16th in the NBA). So they don't exactly have the firepower to overcome their lenient defense.
Clearly, this team has some issues on their hands. And Rivers doesn't have a lot of options on his roster to help alleviate them.
But there are things he can do to coach his way out of his mess.
For starters, he can look for more minutes for rookie Jared Sullinger. Sullinger's not a defensive presence, but he would help the Celtics' rebounding woes. Despite playing over 10 minutes fewer than starter Brandon Bass, he's nearly matched the veteran in rebounds per game (4.4 and 5.2, respectively).
He could also lean more on backup big Chris Wilcox. Wilcox has inherited a reserve role behind Garnett, but his effectiveness through the team's first 12 games would warrant more than the 13.3 minutes per game that Rivers has thrown his way. Wilcox leads the Celtics in field-goal percentage (72.0), but he doesn't have the offensive pedigree to sustain that shooting. What he does have, though, is an imposing 6'10", 221 lb. frame that could provide the interior presence that this team has been lacking.
Rivers needs Wilcox to spell the 36-year-old Garnett to save the Big Ticket's legs for the team's annual playoff push. But he might need the duo to share the floor to give Boston the kind of daunting duo the club had with Garnett and Kendrick Perkins just to stay in the postseason race.
The rebounding responsibilities have to fall on the guards as well. Rajon Rondo is seeing the floor more this season than any other point in his career (38.3 minutes per game), but his 4.2 rebounds per game are the fewest he's collected in five seasons. Reserves Jason Terry and Courtney Lee are both below their career rebounds per 36 minutes (2.0 to 2.9 and 3.3 to 3.7, respectively).
The good news for Celtics fans is that this team has managed to tread water despite their early struggles.
But Rivers needs to get his team back to their fundamentals because treading water isn't acceptable to these players, these fans or that omnipresent Boston media.