Who's to Blame for Celtics Failures This Year?
The Boston Celtics are a great and proud organization. Many members of the current team were huge factors in the winning of the 2008 NBA championship. For what it's worth, that 2008 title team is among the greatest championship squads ever constructed—even if they did have a rocky road to the playoffs.
So, when we try to assign blame for a disappointing (thus far) 2012-2013 season, it's tinged with some admiration and some acknowledgement that even the esteemed can falter. It's also tinged with the suspicion that Danny Ainge has some sort of trade brewing, one that can potentially knock him off the "blame" list.
Danny Ainge: 40%
I just don't understand the Jeff Green contract, especially amid an offseason where Danny Ainge made mostly sound, smart, financially prudent moves. Re-signing Kevin Garnett at roughly $12 million per season over three years? That's a good deal. Getting Jason Terry for roughly $5 million per season? Sure, why not?
Throw in a Courtney Lee pickup and a Jared Sullinger draft pick, and Ainge was on fire this offseason. Unfortunately, it appears that Jeff Green was his Waterloo.
While I'm never quite know what people see in Green, a tweener who never played above-average basketball in Oklahoma City, Ainge certainly saw a whole lot. Jeff will be making over nine million dollars in 2016. He's currently shooting .411 from the field and playing bad defense.
Yeesh. Imagine if that money had been spent on, say, Carl Landry or even Andrei Kirilenko?
Jeff Green: 10%
Is it Jeff Green's fault that people expect so much from Jeff Green? Is Jeff Green to blame for Boston announcers insanely putting his name and James Worthy's in the same sentence?
No, he's not to blame, but as the recipient of such an odd amount of hype, Green has benefited in other ways (the huge contract, specifically). While I hesitate to assign Green's mediocre play to anything other than talent, my does he have a listless way about him.
Green tends to float aimlessly, when not principally involved in the offense. This seems to impact his poor rebounding numbers. Floating far from the hoop wouldn't be such a bad thing were Green a good three-point shooter. Unfortunately, he isn't.
Green's also a poor passer, especially after taking a dribble. His defense is poor, more so against power forwards than small forwards—but he isn't great against the latter. Other than that, good contract so far!
Doc Rivers: 20%
Doc Rivers is a smart, charismatic coach. His players love playing for him. Few are better at designing an offensive set out of a timeout.
There is one fair criticism of the Rivers era, though: His teams haven't been great on offense. That wasn't such a problem back when the Celtics were a top defensive unit. But after adding Jason Terry, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger, the C's haven't been able to convert these defensively deficient players into improved offense.
Boston was 23rd in offensive efficiency last season, and it has only been top 10 twice in the Big Three era (2007-2009). If the Spurs have been able to become great on offense with a similar roster, then why hasn't Boston? This question nags as the team diminishes in effectiveness.
Rajon Rondo: 10%
Well, I'm not going to blame Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, not when they're a million years old and playing at roughly the same level as always.
Rajon Rondo was getting bandied about as a possible 2013 MVP candidate before the season started. In fairness to Rondo, he doesn't control the hype machine. It's not his fault that people somewhat arbitrarily anticipated a breakout year from Boston's youngest star.
The funny thing about Rajon is that he's actually playing better than last season, and last season he received more praise. This is because Boston was good on D last year, and thus won more games. Rajon's the same Rajon in 2012-2013, but the Celtics have gotten worse around him.
I'm only attaching blame to Rondo because the team offensively struggles on a yearly basis. If he could shoot better, the team's offense would perform better.
Courtney Lee: 5%
This was a supposedly savvy signing that has yet to work out. Courtney Lee was beloved by basketball nerds the world over as a "three-and-D" specialist. Guys with defensive skill and a three-point shot are beloved in some circles and thought to be the ideal kind of role player.
There's still time for Lee to be that guy for Boston, but he's shooting near 30 percent from three this season. His defense has looked good, but so limited an offensive player has to at least be able to shoot. Otherwise, it's nearly as though Boston plays four-on-five on one end.
And while his defense is nice, there isn't such a glaring need for shooting guard D as to dictate that a team plays a bad offensive guy at the 2-spot.
Brandon Bass: 15%
Jeff Green wouldn't be such a problem if 2011-2012 Brandon Bass were playing up to par this year. Bass' deficiencies used to be tolerable because his shot was oh-so-deadly. This season, he's down to .437 from the field.
Now, the team doesn't have quite as much compensation for an undersized, slow power forward. Also, Bass' specialty of the long two-pointer can only provide so much spacing when he's not hitting it. Boston would be so much better served by a guy who can truly stretch the floor with a three-point shot.
Worse, Bass didn't appear to entirely be in shape in the preseason. Such assessments are subjective of course, but if Bass isn't producing due to his own conditioning, then blame unto him.