One second, the Boston Celtics are the hottest team in the league; the next, they’re quickly sinking their way into obscurity. However, the Celtics’ recent slump is the best thing that could have happened to them.
In fact, it might just be a blessing in disguise.
After reeling off six-straight victories, Boston had its fans oozing with confidence. And nobody could blame them.
Their beloved Celtics were riding their longest winning streak in over two years. Avery Bradley was back and anchoring the defense. The bench was finally becoming a factor in games. Jeff Green’s play was starting to back up his hefty contract.
Nothing else mattered.
Well… that’s just the flawed mindset one seems to take when the wins are rolling in.
Count GM Danny Ainge among the victims.
During an interview with WEEI radio, Ainge put his overconfidence on full display:
I feel like we don’t have any glaring needs when we’re playing the way we’re playing. Everyone’s playing their role; whether they’re playing well all the time is not as much of a point if they are accepting a role and giving an honest day’s worth of work.
He must have missed the part where opposing big men constantly had their way inside the paint. Where guards sliced through the Boston defense with ease to get to the hoop.
Opponents averaged 44.1 points in the paint per night over the last three games of the Celtics’ streak.
Ainge must have also overlooked how even if Boston did come up with a stop, opponents would essentially be handed a second opportunity. Sometimes, there would even be a third or a fourth.
The Celtics allowed 13.2 offensive rebounds per game throughout the duration of their streak.
But hey, let’s ignore the warning signs and celebrate the wins!
Ainge followed it up with this gem:
It’s taken us a while the last few years. Not just this year. We have been a playoff basketball team over the last two years much better than a regular season team, and I sort of feel like this team has turned the corner.
In fact, the last two times the Celtics reached the NBA Finals—2007-08 and 2009-10—they raced off to starts of 29-3 and 23-5 respectively.
So much for slow and steady.
Instead of being content with middle of the pack finishes, wouldn’t it be wise to start looking for that missing piece? To start looking for that player that can push them past the final hurdle?
Not according to Ainge:
Right now we don’t have a real need and we have players like Jason Collins and Leandro Barbosa who we really like and are hardly playing, so I don’t really see a need to bring someone else in, at least at this moment. We have plenty of bodies… I don’t think there’s any need to bring in someone right now to sit on the end of our bench.
Did he really just bring up Jason Collins and Leandro Barbosa as arguments against making any moves? If anything, they should be your argument for making some moves.
Surely players such as Josh Smith, Timofey Mozgov or Kenyon Martin wouldn’t have any difficulty surpassing the likes of Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox on the Boston depth chart.
Let’s get real, Danny.
But don’t take it from me. Take it from reality.
The reality is, your Celtics have now lost three straight games. All in embarrassing fashion.
They have been outrebounded, outcoached and outclassed. Paul Pierce is missing the rim, Rajon Rondo is missing his targets and Boston is missing its identity.
But maybe this could all be a good thing.
Maybe this is just what the Celtics needed to light a fire under them.
Head coach Doc Rivers seemed to take the hint, laying into the team during his postgame interview (via Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston):
I think this team wants everything easy. They want the easy way out. They want to win easy. And I told them the only way you’re going to win easy is you’re going to have to play hard. The harder you play, the easier the games become. We’re taking the wrong approach. I’ve got to either find the right combination, the right guys, or we’re going to get some guys out of here. It’s the bottom line. Because this group right now, they are not playing right. It’s in them to play right. But right now they haven’t been—either because I’m not getting to them, or they are not getting to each other. But at the end of the day, either we’ve got to do that, or we’ve got to make changes.
That’s a complete 360 from the mindset Ainge held almost a week ago.
But a coach can only coach. It’s up to the players to perform out on the court. But more importantly, it’s up to the team leader to lead.
Fortunately, Rondo was not too far behind Rivers (via Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe):
For me, it’s too lax, our locker room is too lax. Even though a lot of guys’ personalities are really laid-back, but we all got to this level by competing and right now the talent we have, our record is embarrassing. So until guys get sick and fed up with it, I don’t know if anything’s going to change. I gotta do a better job of being a leader. I can’t get on guys and hold them accountable if I don’t hold myself accountable first.
Rondo’s most mature comment of the season, and possibly his career, could not have come at a better time.
The team needs it. The team needs him.
And just like that, in a span of 24 hours, the team’s two biggest motivational leaders did something Boston has failed to do all season long: Admit there was a problem and shoulder the blame.
They say acceptance is the first step to recovery. Recognition is the second.
Whether it’s recognizing the team’s needs through free agency or the trade market, that’s out of Rivers and Rondo’s hands.
The rest of the Celtics can hear the alarm sounding.
It’s time you laid off the snooze button, Danny.
All stats used in this article are accurate as of January 21, 2013
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