Doc Rivers' Celtics have not played up to potential thus far
The Boston Celtics have five concerns that need to be addressed, and they have been apparent through just 14 games in the 2012-13 regular season.
Before allowing panic to set in, remind yourself that the season is young, the team is full of veterans and has a coach who will stop at nothing to get the C’s on track.
So what exactly is it that Boston has to mend to achieve the level of play that the team and fans are expecting?
Click onward to see how Doc and the C’s can round into form without acquiring any new talent.
Kevin Garnett has become too much of a jump shooter
The Celtics seem to have lost sight of the easiest way to score: shooting from close to the basket.
GM Danny Ainge did a bang-up job of replacing Ray Allen’s perimeter efficiency by adding three solid guards in the offseason. However, his attention to the backcourt may have caused oversight of the importance of play in the paint.
With Kevin Garnett as their undersized starting center, the Celtics have not established any type of post offense. KG and Brandon Bass get open looks when Rajon Rondo exploits the pick-and-roll, but far too many are coming from outside of the key.
In order for the perimeter game to be operating at an optimal level—which Boston will absolutely need to win in the postseason—the Celtics need to force the ball down low early and often.
This can happen in a variety of ways, ranging from a modified coaching strategy to increased attention from the guards about feeding the big men.
The C's need to enjoy themselves and play together
Doc and the Celtics are thinking too hard about what it will take for them to be successful.
It’s easy to get caught up in what’s wrong when the team is losing, however, if the C’s stand any chance of having on-court success, they need to play freely and with unbound trust in each other.
At 8-6, the team is unsatisfied with its play. Still, it is far too early in the season to over-analyze failures and question the quality of the team.
Instead of searching high and low for an “answer” that will forever elude them, the Celtics need to put more credence into the difficulty of their schedule to open the season. Some of their failure must be attributed to the drain of playing seven games in ten days.
Until the Celtics begin to let loose and believe in themselves on the floor they will be standing in their own way.
Plenty of fresh faces have added to the lineup confusion that prevents consistency
Coach Rivers is responsible for putting the best lineups on the floor. To this point it has been very clear that Boston is still searching for combinations of players that will mesh and bring out the best in each other.
This early in the season, experimentation is still allowed and very much encouraged. As the team gets deeper into the season, it will be increasingly important for Doc to implement consistent rotations featuring the same pairings of athletes.
Obviously every matchup presents different challenges and the Celtics will need to adjust their system accordingly to handle each situation. However, at this juncture in the regular season, it is far more important for Doc Rivers to help his players gain confidence in their own system.
Once the players fully understand and buy into their specific roles, the Celtics will be able to impose their game plan on other teams. Lineup consistency should allow the players to grow more comfortable, at which point they can become the aggressors night in and night out.
The Celtics need their defensive agitator back in a big way
The Celtics will only go as far as their defense can take them. This team is founded on toughness, grit and a grind-it-out mentality that wears opponents down.
So far this season, the trademark Celtics toughness has been barely noticeable. They look older, slower and less able to lock down opponents than in any season since KG arrived.
Part of the problem is the slow process of integration of many new faces. This team has a completely new look to it and will need time to learn how to communicate and play together.
Having Rajon Rondo as a facilitator makes their current lack of chemistry less apparent on the offensive end; on defense, the Celtics stand a greater chance of getting exposed.
Unfortunately, the Celtics defense may not regain its teeth until Avery Bradley returns from offseason shoulder surgery. Bradley is exactly the kind of energetic pest that the C’s need to galvanize a better defensive effort.
Until then, Boston must focus on keeping opponents out of the paint. They can start by focusing on pick-and-roll defense in practice, helping off of screens and rotating to help defenders who get beat or wind up out of position.
Rajon Rondo battles for boards, so too should his fellow backcourt mates
The Celtics do not have a true center. In fact, since Kendrick Perkins was traded to Oklahoma City in the deal that brought small forward Jeff Green to Beantown, the C’s have lacked a pure, big-bodied center.
Without a tower in the paint to haul in all opponent misfires, it is hard for Boston to be a top-tier rebounding team. Further, it is harder for them to be a good defensive team because they often cannot convert their stops into possessions of their own.
In fairness, Kevin Garnett has done an admirable job adapting to his new position despite being smaller than most of the true centers he matches up against. However, the Celtics give up too many second-chance possessions while getting very few of their own.
This problem is a little bit more difficult to fix without going out and shopping for a true center. So what can they do?
Although they lack the one-man force in the paint, the Celtics do not have a shortage of athleticism. Guards and small forwards will have to increase their attention to crashing the glass to compensate. Rondo has shown he has a propensity to collect boards; he should emphasize the importance of post-shot activity to his fellow backcourt comrades.
Boston has always been a team committed to being back on defense to prevent transition buckets. This isn’t always possible, especially considering that the NBA is trending toward explosive athletes who can run the floor in just a few strides.
The C’s should devote more effort to fighting for offensive rebounds and trust in itself to still be able to operate in half court defensive sets. Coach Rivers could start by showing the team footage of Zach Randolph’s rebounding technique.