|Posted by paul on February 11, 2012 at 7:20 AM|
As I understand recent Celtics history, Doc devised a rather brilliant offense for the Big Three in 2008 that brought us a championship. This offense brilliantly took advantage of the strengths of the Big Three. You had three disciplined veterans, very good at learning and running plays. All three were superb jump shooters. Their skills could be made to mesh beautifully. Allen's domain was the three point line. Paul ruled one elbow, and KG ruled the other. KG could post up at times, and Paul was the free lancer who could attack the basket, hit shots in traffic, and make it up as he went along when necessary. Allen needed screens to get open and KG was superb at providing them. All three players were fine passers. Doc devised a daring offensive scheme that minimized rebounding, especially offensive rebounding, post play, transition play and improvisation. It relied heavily on execution and brilliant shooting and teamwork and, above all, on defense. Jump shots don't always fall, and an offense that doesn't improvise and doesn't hit the offensive glass is vulnerable when the shots don't fall, but intense and consistent defense makes shooting doldrums less deadly. With Rondo mixed in as a young role player to handle the ball and add a little bit of transition offense and x factor to the soup, fueled by ubuntu, the Celtics served up a championship feast in their first year together.
Since then, disappointment has followed disappointment. How can fans legitimately feel disappointed by a team that has been in contention for four straight years? Well, they knew they had a team with three future HOF players, and after 2009 they knew they had a young rising star as well. This team should have won multiple championships. Bad luck and injuries - only one of them to a member of the Big Three - dogged us, and ubunto naturally faded, as such things do, but there was something more.
A lot of the blame was put on Perkins and Rondo. They were sometimes dismissed as underperforming youngsters riding on the coattails of the Big Three. If the offense flagged, it was because opposing defenses could always play off Perkins and Rondo, turning five on five into three on five at the offensive end. What was ignored was that Perkins anchored the Celtics defense, which gave the other four players more freedom to presure and gamble, and provided needed screens on offense. Even more ignored was that the team's offensive scheme did not suit Rondo's strengths. Rondo excelled at transition offense, improvisatory offense, attacking the basket and dishing to open shooters.
Instead of appreciating the brilliant way Rondo adapted to an offensive approach unsuited to him, and the way Rondo seemed to carefully pick his spots to insert his own style, and instead of GRADUALLY OPENING THE OFFENSE UP TO RONDO AS HE MATURED, the team and its fans and Doc in particular seemed to take it all for granted. Year by year the Celtics offense declined, quite naturally, as the Big Three aged, but instead of recognizing that the team needed to compete more on the offensive glass, and that it needed to provide more room in the offense for Rondo's game, everyone seemed to obsess more and more over Rondo's poor shooting. Meanwhile, Rondo seemed to fit less and less well into the roleplayer slot that he had been put into when he was a young player. As he matured, he grew as a player, but his role did not really grow. He seemed to chafe increasingly against the system and with the Big Three. He was no longer the kid brother happy just to be there. Increasingly he wanted and needed more room in the offense.
But instead he seemed to always play with a perpetual leash on him. The more the team struggled, the more Doc harped on "execution". Never did he say "Rondo is our main guy and he always has a green light to improvise". Not even when offenses around the league increasingly showed the havoc that an improvising point guard could wreck on defenses, NOT EVEN WHEN RONDO HIMSELF DEMONSTRATED THIS, was Rondo given the green light. Almost always he was to be found imprisoned beyond the three point arc, looking to start THE PLAY, the sainted, sacred PLAY.
This was visible last night in the play which led to the timeout where Doc yelled at the team. Rondo had the ball at the top of the arc and plenty of room to drive to the basket and make something happen, and he seemed to think about it, but an invisible leash seemed to hold him back, and he drifted around looking for the appropriate entry pass.
Doc has even contradicted himself, implicitly. One day he'll talk about how Rondo needs ten fts a game. Next day that seems forgotten as Doc talks incessantly about "execution" and about getting Paul involved. The implication of saying that Rondo needs ten fts a game is clear; it means he has to have a green light to attack, and that the offense has to feature him. But Doc never follows through on these implications, it seems, by actually opening up the offense for Rondo, and by actually demanding that Rondo go on the attack more consistently, shoot more often, improvise more often, and demanding that Rondo's teammate adapt to this.
Team after team around the league is discovering how powerful a point guard can be in today's game. WHY MUST WE CONTINUE TO SIT ON OUR OWN POINT GUARD, who is universally acknowledged as one of the most talented? Should we be surprised that our point guard is suffering from severe frustration? That the team chemistry is suffering?
I don't want to give up on Rondo. I love his game. I see his potential. I do not think that he is the only one at fault for the problems between him and the team and the inconsistency of his play. In fact, I think he has shown tremendous good will. He came back from the summer having clearly made a lot of progress in his shooting. When he came back from the Klieza mugging injury, he not only adapted himself to the Honey Badger Defense, but I thought he brilliantly incorporated it with his own gambling style of defense, making his own approach to defense even better. But I don't see how there is any option to trading him now. Too much water has gone under the bridge. Too many issues and resentments have never been honestly or caringly addressed. If a team is like family, this team is like a dysfunctional family.
UNLESS people wake up and realize that this situation can be rescued if people start talking to each other, respectfully, openly and honestly ... that could be the game changer that could make this team great again. We already had one fantastic intervention by the Honey Badger, Bradley, which in turn inspired Paul. We need another where the guys talk honestly to each other, and the need to finally adapt the offense to changing times and changing personnel is recognized. In particular, Doc needs to realize that he has been wrong to refuse to open up the offense to Rondo. How many teams have to learn the power of the point guard before this team, still lucky enough to possess potentially the best point guard in the league, learns it?
And Danny needs to stop constantly threatening Rondo and others with being traded. You don't build a team by keeping the players in a state of uncertainty and fear.