|Posted by paul on October 16, 2012 at 9:20 AM|
I have to say that even my crazy optimism about this season got dinged a little bit last night. On one hand, even though I expected this team to start the season strong, I thought they'd go through some troubles in pre-season, especially with Mr. Glue, Keyon Dooling, gone. The changeover from last season is massive. Not only do we have a very large influx of new players, most of them young; we also lost the one guy, Ray Allen, that our offense was built around for the last five years.
Danny has done a great job reshaping the team. Everyone seems to agree on that. Everyone also seems to agree that the guys worked hard this summer to build chemistry, to build and maintain a strong sense of purpose, and to develop a feel for each others' games. Unfortunately, now that the hammer has hit the anvil, the iron seems to have shot off into the flames, where it is melting with the cinders into a slaggy mass. We stand at 1 - 3 after four games, and it hasn't been a particularly pretty 1 -3 either.
Now I have to make it clear that I don't get NBA TV, so I haven't watched games. I pick up what I can from blogs, chats, box scores, following NBA Gamechannel, etc.. You can pick up a lot that way, but of course, you can get pretty confused too. There was one play in the highlights last night that made me think about this. Jrue Holiday was bringing the ball up, and he ran Rondo into a screen and then sprinted to the hoop; that's standard NBA basketball these days, especially for the likes of Jrue Holiday. In today's game, the perimeter pick is the equivalent to what the post-up used to be in the old NBA. It's the bread and butter.
There really is no good way for the defensive player on Holiday to handle that play. It would have been easy, following along on NBA Gamechannel, to blame Rondo for Holiday's easy penetration and ultimate pass inside for the easy slam, and God knows Rondo has been guilty often enough in the past. I still think he should pick up his man earlier and pressure him harder, before he ever gets to the pick, but I also know that one man can't do EVERYTHING. Point guards run the floor more than any other players. Even the best point guards aren't made of titanium.
But in fact, Rondo played the situation well. He plastered himself against the Big setting the pick, which inhibited that guy's movement, while allowing Rondo to minimize Holiday's advantage, his ability to choose which direction to go in, jetting off, leaving Rondo tangled up with the Big. Rondo played it well, but Sullinger was guarding the Big and was completely ineffective at slowing Holiday down when Holiday jetted around the pick. Rondo did a good job of catching up with Holiday, but he needed Sully to give him just that fraction of a second that would allow him to get back to his man. Sully totally failed to do this, Holiday penetrated, and had the easy dish for the easy hoop.
The good news is that we know Sullinger will get better at pick and rolls. It's one of basketball most complicated situations, and it challenges a player's footspeed too, and we might be a bit shocked that Sully seems to handle it so poorly, but we know he will improve. So there's that. If I were Rondo, I'd spend hours with Sully before and after practice, running P and Rs until both guys are sick of them and sick of each other. Take responsibility, Rondo. Be the leader. Do the same with Darko, lobbing him passes, working on his hands. Do it day after day.
I don't know what all is involved in being an NBA player. I know it can be hard in a lot of ways. But in the end, you get what you work for. It's that way in any walk of life, isn't it? Rondo worked hard this summer, it seemed, to embrace ancillary aspects of leadership, such as relations with the media and public profile. He seemed to claim the role, and then he confused us all by declaring that he was NOT the team's leader. One tried to see the zen in that pronouncement, but it was worrying. Now I find myself wondering; does this team have a leader?
it doesn't seem to, at this point, does it? Another thing that worried me this summer was Rondo declaring that the Celtics approach to the season would be increasing the tempo, and 'keeping it simple'. In a way, that sounds ok, depending on how it is actually carried out. Keeping it simple may mean that you have a well-honed plan. Or it may mean that you have no plan at all. Right now, the Cs seem to be a team with no plan. Regardless of what one thinks of Ray Allen, he was the guy our offense was built around. Even at his worst, he attracted a lot of defensive attention, and this seemed to help free up his teammates. What surprises me now is that the Celtics don't particularly seem to have much of a plan for how to run the offense without Allen.
Commentators are blaming last night's confusion on KG being out. Well, my goodness, if we can't play better than that without KG, we don't seem to be much of a team, do we? I thought the whole premise of this season was that Rondo would lead us, and that we would surround him with carefully chosen role players. Right now Rondo doesn't look like much of a leader, and the guys around him look like mediocrities.
Now is the time for leadership, on both ends of the floor. It's good to see this comment from Rondo:
"Our main focus right now is communication; our communication with obviously Kevin missing (against Philadelphia), was way down," said C's guard Rajon Rondo. "Kevin's not always going to be there for us, so somebody has to pick it up including myself."
But Rajon, it's not 'including you'. IT IS YOU! Dude, if it's false modesty, stop it. If it's fear of failure, then please, sieze the moment. Remember that this is the moment you have spent a lifetime in basketball preparing for. We need leadership, we need communication, and above all, we need someone with a vision. That's the heart of anything in life. Someone has to have a vision. Rajon, you, Doc and Danny put this team together. You had to have had an idea, a vision, for what it would be. You were like a sculptor, polishing an artwork in your mind. Well now it's time to carve it in the marble, and that can be hard work sometimes. The marble is hard, and unforgiving, and doesn't want to yield to vision. But it will yield, if the sculptor's passion is strong enough.
It's time to see some passion on the basketball court, and the formation of a vision.