|Posted by paul on December 31, 2012 at 8:55 AM|
I've been working my way through the stages of the grieving process. First there was denial (we'll come around). Then there was anger (trade Rondo!). Then there was negotiation (just give us a new coach and we'll become bottled lightning again...). I think I've finally made it to acceptance now. This Celtics team isn't very good. It may be very bad.
Acceptance brings a more peaceful attitude. I can't say I love this Celtics team, but I do like them. I'm ok with it if they lose a lot of games. Even a bad Celtics team is still our Celtics team. And when you accept that your team is not good, it's easier to take comfort in the hope that they can get better. I still think that this Celtics team has a lot of talent, and I still think that Rondo is potentially a great player and someone you can build around. There's a lot that's wrong with this team, but there's nothing that can't be fixed, or got around.
I think that most of us knew that something was wrong after the first exhibition game. It's not just that we got handled by a team we really should have handled. It's also that the chemistry we anticipated was hardly there, if there at all. We also didn't see the kind of defensive pressure from the guards that I, at least, anticipated. I was sure this summer that we could not be a good team if our guards didn't aggressively pressure opposing teams on defense. Also, we didn't see much of the uptempo game that we heard so much about over the summer.
Sadly, if our first exhibition game gave us such first impressions of this year's Celtics, they have turned out to be all too prophetic.
Rondo remains at the center of the storm, of course. I think it is weird that fans are calling for Rondo to be traded after last night's defeat. Rondo clearly wasn't himself physically, as I understand it. I think that the time to call for Rondo to be traded, if at all, was after the Clippers game, in which I think Rondo's passivity was really appalling. I still think that Rondo should study that game carefully, Look at the way that Chris Paul consistently pressures opposing defenses. He forces them off balance, and that in turn opens up the game for his teammates. This is precisely what we need Rondo doing. We need him to be consistently aggressive, pushing at the opposing Defense. Our game should revolve around that.
If anything, Rondo's willingness to come back hurt for the Kings game impressed me.
The person who has disappointed me the most this year is Doc. I've been critical of Doc for a while. I feel that he is great at diagramming plays, great at buttering up his vets and the media, but generally maybe not so good at running a team. I think his success has depended a lot on great players and great assistants.
My main problem with Doc is that I think his approach is very rigid. What impressed me last year was that he seemed willing to adjust to the character of his team. I hoped that this openness signaled a change of direction for Doc, but this season, that willingness seems to have gone away entirely, despite massive and crucial personnel changes.
Really, I shake my head when I think about it. Doc's offensive system is built around the one player in league history who is best at running intricate patterns and knocking down Js off them. But Ray Allen isn't coming through that door anymore, Doc. I think we all expected Doc to change his system to accomodate the talents of his new players, and to make the most of Rondo. We - at least I - expected more of an up-tempo approach, based around making the most of the players' disparate talents, and keying off Rondo's aggressive play. I expected, too, that we would be surprised by some of the creative new ideas that would unfold. I thought we got a foretaste of that last year, when KG and Rondo made hay with endless versions of their two-man-game. I thought we saw a bit of it against the Nets, with Rondo posting up down low, only to draw double coverage, in order to pass the ball to Sully for easy baskets. Creativity is surely one of our strengths? Shouldn't we use it?
But Doc seems to be obsessed with his patterns, and his favorite word seems to be "execution". I think it's telling that he uses the word "random" for Rondo's off the cuff stuff. It's like he doesn't see, just doesn't see, that it's NOT random. It's creative. It's spontaneous. Far from random.
I do think that we need a new coach. But what we need more than that, what might be better than that, is a change of attitude. I don't know if it can happen. It's hard for people to look in the mirror honestly, and harder yet to share this with others. Can Danny admit that he screwed up badly when he took away our interior defensive presence? Can Doc admit that he has been too rigid, his approach to the game locked into the past? Can Rondo admit that he hasn't been aggressive enough on either end of the court? Can Pierce admit that he shouldn't wait for Rondo to fail and then step in like the returning hero? Can Bob Ryan admit that The Streak was great, and that he was wrong to belittle Rondo for it?
I continue to think that the ending of The Streak was the turning point of this season. Yes, we were struggling for much of the season, and it's true that we had some big wins after The Streak ended, wins that looked like they could be turning points, but I think The Streak was important. I think it gave Rondo something to build his game around, and his leadership of the team around, something that was founded on his core skill, passing. I think it gave the team something to build its character around too, something to make them believe, amidst their struggles, that they were capable of much more. At the very least it gave fans something to rally their hopes around.
The way the media savaged Rondo for The Streak is one of the most perverse things I have ever seen in sports. I still can't quite believe it happened. I think it confused Rondo, and confused the team, and created a crazily negative atmosphere - all so that the media could prove a point. They seemed to want to break Rondo's will, so that they could prove that they were the ones who must be catered to, petted. Doc knows this already. At first he defended Rondo, but soon he changed his tune, seemingly trying to appease the media. This was classic Doc, unfortunately. He should have stood his ground, asserting over and over again that assisting is Rondo's key talent, and the key to this team's hopes. But that would have been taking a big risk. I think the result of the crushing media attack on Rondo, and the end of The Streak, was that Rondo was confused, and the team was confused, and a season that looked like it was on the verge of going up or down zigzagged wildly for a couple of weeks, and then turned definitively down on this roadtrip.
This season isn't over. A lot can happen. Barring any trades, we still have a lot of talent, and we still have Rondo. But we need some kind of a change of heart, and some new ideas. Bradley won't be enough, though his return could be an opportunity.