I not sure if people are going to appreciate, right away, the job Doc Rivers is doing. The ‘08 Celtics, while entertaining to watch and easy to root for in the Finals, seemed more like mercenaries than a team. Paul Pierce was the only Celtic with history, the only one who suffered on a crappy ‘07 Celtic team that couldn’t even succeed at tanking for the lottery. KG and Ray Allen had playoff futility as baggage but after gelling for 82 games, for all intents and purposes, Boston bought that championship.
Say what you will about gimmicks, but to get a bunch of dudes that make more money than you to buy into a selfless system that goes against all conventional thought of most NBA players is unheard of. Even Phil Jackson cannot say he did that with Kobe or Jordan. Phil had everyone meet Jordan/Kobe 90% of the way, whereas Doc keeps everyone on the team closer to the middle of the road. Last year, when KG got hurt, the Celts had no business beating the Bulls or taking the Magic to seven games. Doc’s “positive, so intense, so simple, so trusting in his team (quote from my friend JT)” coaching style was forged in those two series. All that theory was put into practice and even though the Magic beat them, you knew they bought in, you knew they cared about team over self, you knew it worked, and you understood that they were more than just mercenaries hired to win a championship.
Now, Boston has a better all-around team than ‘08 but most importantly those core guys (KG, Pierce, and Ray) care about winning more than anything, even at the exspense of not being “The Guy.” They are playing for legacy now and they all have come to the realization few selfish athletes do, that they can’t do it alone. They struggled this year with the emergence of Rondo as the team’s best player but at some point, it clicked and Doc’s “ubuntu” came to mean more than a word to break a huddle.
Fast forward to last night’s Game 4.
You will never see four starters cheering like high school players for their teammates during the 4th quarter of a must win NBA Finals game. Never, never, never. You will never see that again from another team, you just won’t. If you don’t think that the trickle down of Doc’s coaching style and philosophy over the last two years feed into Big Baby’s unwavering determination, Tony Allen’s defensive discipline, Sheed’s effort against Gasol, Nate’s realization that to get on the court he must play within Doc’s system, and Ray’s maturity during the 4th quarter last night, then you are insane.
Those guys knew Doc believed in them, they knew their team believed in them, they knew that every KG floor pound was genuine, and they weren’t shocked when Perkins came off the bench to pick Big Baby off the floor even though he wasn’t in the game. (Kobe’s teammates are dumbfounded when he helps them up. Notice, no one came to help Kobe off the floor when we took the block/and one foul from Pierce. That says something about the Lakers as a team.)
The dichotomy of the interworkings of the team concept between the Celtics and Lakers easily is the best part and hopefully defining quality of who will win the series.
Together. Everyone. Achieves. More.