The Boston Celtics have had a considerably slow start to the season, but it's not too late to turn it around.
The Celtics' problem hasn't been a lack of talent or focus. Instead, the team's biggest downfalls are a lack of team chemistry and consistency. Boston made major moves to the roster in the offseason, so the new players are still trying to adjust to Doc Rivers' system.
The Celtics must be willing to leave their comfort zones in order to better the team as a whole. Jason Terry was thrust into the starting shooting guard role for a while, even though he's known for being the ultimate sixth man. In addition, star point guard Rajon Rondo is transitioning from a facilitator to a scorer.
If the Celtics can learn to work together under Rivers' system, the team's slow start will be long behind them by spring.
Here are five keys to the Celtics bouncing back from their slow start.
All stats are accurate as of Dec. 28.
Without a doubt, Rajon Rondo is the leader of the Boston Celtics. Although he has clearly mastered the role of floor general, he still isn't the scorer the team needs him to be.
Paul Pierce is currently the Celtics' leading scorer, with 20.2 points per game. However, if the Celtics want to improve, Rondo must step up and become the leading scorer. Rondo only attempts 11.4 field goals per game, but that number should be at least 15.
The star point guard's biggest weakness used to be his jump shot, but lately, Rondo's shots have been falling more frequently. He's shooting 54 percent from 16 feet to the three-point line, compared to 41 percent from the same range last season (per Hoopdata.com).
The Celtics are definitely missing Avery Bradley. The third-year guard has been injured since May and underwent surgeries on both shoulders last summer. After a long rehabilitation, Bradley is finally set to return on Jan. 2 against the Memphis Grizzlies.
While Bradley certainly won't be the Celtics' savior, he will definitely be a huge help. When he returns to the team, the starting shooting guard position will be waiting for him. Doc Rivers has gone back and forth between Courtney Lee and Jason Terry at shooting guard, mainly because neither player has shown consistency.
Hopefully, Bradley will return with the same consistency and firepower he possessed when he left. The Celtics haven't been the in-your-face defensive powerhouse that we are used to seeing. Bradley is known for his dribble penetration, especially along the perimeter. His defensive presence alone will take some pressure off the team's stars.
The Celtics were projected to have one of the best secondary units in the NBA. Unfortunately, their bench hasn't lived up to the hype thus far.
The talent is there, but the production is not. If the Celtics can increase their bench production, their game will significantly improve.
First, Jeff Green needs to be more consistent. After missing the entire 2011-12 season, it was understandable that he would need some time to find his rhythm again. However, the Celtics desperately need Green to rise to the occasion. His athleticism and scoring ability make him a key member of this team.
Second, Jason Terry should come off the bench instead of starting. He thrives in the bench role, and the Celtics need more production from the secondary unit. After a slow start, Terry is averaging 11 points per game and shooting 44 percent from the field.
Finally, Courtney Lee needs to wake up. He's only averaging 6.5 points in 24 minutes. In addition, he's only shooting 30 percent from beyond the arc—much lower than his 40 percent average in Houston. If Lee starts playing like we know he can, the Celtics bench will be a much bigger threat.
Out of the three rookies—Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and Kris Joseph—only one is making a real contribution to the current Celtics squad. Sullinger averages 18 minutes per game, while Joseph rarely sees any playing time and Melo is with the D-League Maine Red Claws.
Sullinger's biggest contribution is rebounding. He grabs five boards and scores five points per game. After an incredible breakout Christmas game, in which he put up 16 points and seven rebounds, expect the rookie to continue to improve in 2013.
On the other hand, Fab Melo has yet to play in an NBA regular season game. Over his past two games with the Maine Red Claws, he is averaging 23.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.5 blocks per game. More importantly, he's developing confidence.
Although general manager Danny Ainge told Boston sports radio WEEI that he doesn't want to disrupt Melo's development, the Celtics need to move him up to the bench soon.
Boston needs all the big men they can get.
Finally, the Celtics need to have confidence in their current squad. It's still early in the season, and there's plenty of time to turn things around.
From now until the trade deadline, plenty of trade rumors will be swirling. Most notably, Chris Sheridan proposed the Celtics trade Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo and Avery Bradley for DeMarcus Cousins and Tyler Honeycutt. However, the rumors need to stop because Boston has a solid team.
The individual talent is there. The Celtics just need to play as a team. Although the 14-14 start is disappointing, it doesn't mean the team should hit the panic button. The Celtics were 15-17 in a shortened season last year and ended up almost making it to the NBA finals. In 2010, Boston went 27-27 down the stretch and still almost beat the Lakers in Game 7 of the NBA Championship.
The Celtics just need to build chemistry and work as a team. Don't be surprised if they end up back in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2013.