Everyone is in a panic over what's going on with the Celtics. People are snapping their ankles jumping off the bandwagon. So I assembled some of the finest minds… on short notice, by the way, so thanks to them for that… to discuss the current state of the Celtics.
- Zach from Celtics Hub
- Jeff from Celtics Blog
- Nick from North Station
- Brandon from Hardwood Houdini
- Justin from Celtics Stuff Live
- and Loscy from… Loscy
We did it over email and I did my best to piece it together and maintain a logical flow. Some guys were on phones, so I didn't change any abbreviations. You guys can get the hint.
Me: the Celtics are absolutely driving me insane with these third quarter
collapses…. but I think this is all in their heads. I keep saying
that if it was age, they'd come out of the half strong and then fade.
What do you guys think?
Brandon: Very good question John. Right now I'm at the point where I'm not sure
what it is. This team has my mind going in every direction possible.
Some people bring up chemistry issues, some people bring up age, and
some bring up focus. Right now I'm going to be honest and say I don't
know what it is. I'll put it this way, it's "something".
Nick: Their is def a lack of "fun" in these guys. No emotion at all. They're
not having any fun and they look numb. I point mainly at chemistry
issues between the "oldsters" and the "youngsters" and Doc's inability
to unite the two. I don't think Doc playing Rasheed more minutes than
Perk is helping the cause either…
Zach: I don't like to speculate about this sort of thing since I'm about
three degrees removed from the actual players and coaches. I don't know
how KG's knee feels beyond what I see and what he tells the press. I
don't know what it means to have played more than 35,000 minutes, as
Paul Pierce has.
struggles, whether it be in the 1st or 3rd quarter. We can all see KG
is struggling to get back to where he was one year ago. Overall,
though, there is just a sloppiness and lack of focus to this team that
has not been there before. The team just isn't as good at as many
things as it used to be. The turnovers have always been a problem, but
they are a full-fledged crisis now. It's harder to make up for an
ungodly number of turnovers when you don't shoot the three as well (35
percent, down from 40 percent) and don't protect the defensive glass as
It's a combination of talent and focus.
Brandon: I find it very hard to blame this on the lack of talent of the squad.
Obviously the talent is there to play with teams like the Lakers,
Magic, and Cavs because we have, for the most part, outplayed these
teams for 36 minutes in each game we played against them. It is that
one quarter, usually the third, that kills this team. Because it is the
third quarter I also find it hard to blame it on being tired. You
shouldn't be tired after you just sat in a locker room for 20 minutes
between halfs. The only thing I can think of here is focus and with 32
games left I'm hoping they can turn this around and play a full 48
minutes of basketball come playoff time, because after all that's when
Loscy: As I see it, there are a few issues here. The first is that the team is
CAPABLE of playing good basketball. Sound defense, moving the ball, and
hitting shots. There is a lack of discipline or just a lack of giving a
crap about keeping that kind of energy up for an entire game. Is that a
coaching problem, or a player problem? Probably both, actually. I'm
becoming sorely disappointed with the fact that no one has stepped up
in the last month and a half in that locker room to say let's just hit
the reset button and go back to the basics and fundamentals. And I'm
not even talking about fundamentals like making the right rotations or
making the extra pass… I'm talking about hustling, playing hard,
helping guys up, committing hard fouls to stop runs, and playing like
we care about winning. Just to push them a little to be hungry, and to
remember how much fun it is to get big wins against good teams and blow
bad teams out of the water. Be the team that everybody hates, instead
of being the team that everyone thinks wil fold in the second half.
A second issue: the team is just lying down when teams are making a
run. In every game, there are going to be runs. But we just look flat
when it's happening. It's like the players start thinking, "Now is the
best time to do everything that I'm not supposed to do as a
professional basketball player." Seriously.
A tangential issue: we are showing almost no fight at times. Once the
lead is given up, we look defeated. Like someone just stole our lunch
money. Last night, there was a glimpse of that FIGHT left in KG. When
KG knocked the ball off of David West with under a minute and still
down by 6, he pumped pumped his fist, screamed the classic KG f-word
expletive, and ran down to try to get a quick bucket. That's what I
want for an entire game. Whether it's intensity, focus, or discipline,
I think this team is really missing leadership. Leadership from all
corners: the front office, the coaching staff, and veteran presence.
I'm not convinced that this team can win a title as it's
constructed, but on the same token, I'm not convinced that this team
can't win a title as it's constructed. I just don't know if a trade
will really do anything, but I feel like people are just desperate for
answers and a trade is the easiest fix. But, like all things in the
world, the quick and easy fix might not be the best one. Maybe we need
a front office/coaching summit during the all-star break an the players
need a team vacation. Just the players together, just the coaches
together, and when we return next week, priorities are just re-aligned.
Jeff: For lack of a better definition, they are lacking their "mojo." I
don't call it confidence, because they know they are capable of great
things. But when things sour, or when you think your teammates are
banged up, even if you know you can do better you end up worrying that
you won't and that worrying is a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is why
I still maintain that they can pull it together down the stretch. Once
they get a few quality wins under their belt, they'll gain confidence
and get their mojo back. Or they won't. Which, as a fan, is quite
mental focus. Right now I think this team has it in the back of their
minds that they can't play 48 minutes of basketball. Who can blame them
though right? They have media chirping up their "you know what's" 24/7
reminding them and questioning them on their inability to play a full
game of "Celtics basketball".
Like Jeff said, once this team finally gets on a winning streak,
and I mean more than two or three games, I think they will put all of
this behind them and move forward. It's just going to be painful to
watch until that happens.
Me: Jeff… so are they cocky then? It seems like they're still telling themselves
they are capable of great things. They keep talking like they have a
switch that can be flipped.
I mean… is that it? Maybe the
way age is affecting the Celtics is it makes them not WANT to play
during the January/February doldrums of the NBA schedule… as opposed
to them not being ABLE to play. Are the old guys on the team just
apathetic right now? Maybe this has all been an extended preseason for
Jeff: I think they all have that "shooters mentality" so to speak. Think
about what goes through Ray's mind when he's on a bad streak shooting.
He KNOWS he's the best shooter alive in his heart of hearts. But he
knows it isn't going in right now. But he's going to keep shooting
till they go in again. Maybe he'll try to drive to the lane more or
try more mid-range shots first, but if he stops shooting, he's dead.
This team knows they have to "keep shooting" but things aren't working
like they normally do, and that messes with your mind.
Switching gears a bit, I have to focus on the trust element for a
bit. The Celtics defense is founded on trust. Perk knows he can help
on the pick and roll because he knows for sure that KG has his back and
KG can rotate because he knows that if the ball is swung, Pierce will
face up his man until he can get back. Now, jostle the lineup with
constant injuries, take a step of speed away from just about everyone,
and backs aren't covered as well. Perk starts to wonder, "can I leave
my man, or will that be an easy layup for him if I do?" As soon as
trust is questioned, defense fails.
Fix the defense (trust), and watch the shots start falling (metaphorically and practically speaking)
Me: Interesting point, Jeff.
There have been some possessions
where I've seen guys shrug and look at other guys on the floor as if to
say "where were you?" or "what was that?"
Is it possible that
the injuries that have forced guys like Tony Allen and Rasheed Wallace
into the starting lineups caused this funk? And if so… can they work
through that in practice and snap out of it?
Justin: I think there are just too many convenient excuses. The injuries piled
up and when they began to lose the chemistry was suffering, but they
didn't realize it because they had an easy scapegoat. Now it's caught
up to them, but the injuries are still there. Sean Grande brought up a
great point on our show; KG isn't as comfortable being the vocal leader
when his play can't back it up. The team has suffered from that, and
Doc has not been able to replace that aspect of motivation.
Zach: We've certainly seen the "flip the switch" issue before. I think back
to that game before Thanksgiving against the Sixers, who were missing
Lou Williams, Elton Brand and Marreese Speights. Boston almost lost
that game–at home–but "rallied" to win late, and it was clear they
lacked a sense of urgency over the first 36 minutes.
certainly isn't as air tight as it was in '08 and pre-KG injury in '09.
But the C's still lead the league in points allowed per possession. The
offense, though, ranks 14th in that category. It's league average, and
that just hasn't been good enough. 2) We can talk about the talent on
the team all we want, but that talent, collectively, just hasn't been
as good in certain areas as it was last year and the year before.
They've gone from an elite defense rebounding team to an average one.
They've gone from the best three-point shooting team in the league to
an average one. They've gone from a top-10 offensive rebounding team to
a terrible one.
You just can't ignore those numbers or chalk them
up to a flipping the switch mentality. Even when the switch is flipped,
they aren't doing as many things well as they used to.
Me: Zach… Is it possible that the two are related? Flipping the
switch relates to rebounding and defense. The shooting? That's
different. Maybe as Jeff said, with defense will come offense. Think
about how many 3's the C's hit in transition. That's where they're
really deadly… when Rondo pushes off a steal or rebound… dives into
the lane… then kicks it to Ray or Paul for 3.
Plus, there's the issue that Justin brought up about KG and being vocal while being unable to back that up with his play.
the answer lie simply within KG's right knee? Healthy and able to move
equals vocal leader and improved play… vs. the inability to play like
he used becoming an emotional drain on him?
Zach: Sure, it's possible that a lack of urgent effort
might be responsible for rebounding problems during the dog days of the
season. But I think it's equally possible that two of the team's best
defensive rebounders–KG and Sheed–are getting older and just aren't
as good anymore. Pinning the team's problems on a "flip the switch"
mentality is too easy. There are deeper issues here.
Jeff: I gotta admit, the rebounding concerns me a lot. Rebounding is a bit of
an art (to do it exceedingly well) but for the most part it is about
effort. We know our top 3 bigs have enough of the art to do it well,
but they aren't trying. I seldom watch things like this, but the one
time I watched the bigs "box out" when a shot went up the other day, I
saw KG with his hands by his side, shoulders slumped, and head craned
to see where the shot landed as if he was a spectator. And he wasn't
the only one. I'm dumbfounded to see stuff like that. Even if you are
15 feet from the basket, put your backside on the nearest guy not
wearing your jersey for crying out loud! I feel like this team is
collectively drunk on Mark Blount's port.
Me: Is it possible to go from great rebounder to crappy one in a season? I
don't disagree with the deeper issues, but I also don't know how the
drop off can be THAT huge.
What about the possibility that KG is not rebounding well because he's out of shape…. and in time he will improve?
Justin: I def think KG will improve with time and I think its easy to be
patient with his progress. But, it would be a sad statement if this
team could not motivate themselves without him at 90% plus.
Brandon: I'm a believer that KG will continue to get better without any
future setbacks. You have to remember this guy missed a great portion
of last season, and has missed a number of games this season. If he
continue to log quality minutes and become more comfortable on that
knee I expect his rebounding number to go up.
The question that I have been asking myself lately is: Where's
Perk? At the beginning of the year we were thinking he was capable of
being an all-star and lately he hasn't been doing squat. In the last
two games he has a combined 5 points and 10 rebounds, none of those
being offensive rebounds. Anyone else been noticing this and maybe have
Nick: Yes, perk has had two low stat games but he has also logged less mins
than rasheed who has plaYed far worse. In my mind, this team is broken
inside. Their are divides among the young and old players. Can it be
fixed? I'm unsure it can be without pierce and garnett reasserting
their leadership over the team while embracing rondo as the third team
leader. Maybe that can re unite the young and old factions. Also,
regarding perk, I think docs lack or trust in him (and the younger guys
in general) has truly hurt this team and has possibly made the younger
guys a bit resentful. I keep going back to rasheed at the heart of all
Justin: Let's assume that the division on this team is a function of young
players vs the veterans. I'm not sure who has dismissed Doc's
instruction/leadership. Any thoughts there?
Loscy: I really have to think that it comes back down to leadership. The
excuses are just a bi-product of lack of accountability. No one is
stepping up to take control and assume responsibility.
It's a shame
because the veteran-ness a few years ago is what we relied upon to get
the team through difficult game situations… yet right now, the
veteran presence seems to not be doing anything to remedy the problem
of bad basketball.
My question deals with starting line-ups and rotations. What's the
best answer at this point INTERNALLY if Danny in fact doesn't make a
trade: TA for Ray? Quisy for Ray? Or Keep Ray in and keep your fingers
crossed at the same time… ?
Zach: I think we wade into dangerous territory when we begin speculating
about things like a rift between older and younger players or
resentment on Perk's part. I, honestly, have no idea if any of that
stuff is true. None. I do know that Rasheed Wallace is slow to box
people out; that KG hasn't had 10 rebounds in a game since he came back
from injury; that KG looks slower than usual on hedge-and-recover
plays; that Ray Allen is shooting a shade below 34 percent on
three-pointers; and that the team cannot stop turning the ball over.
Does any of that stem from internal dissension? Resentment? I have no clue, but I'm dubious.
Me: Let's start to bring this into a little bit of focus.
We've brought up talent issues… which seem to be the lack of ability to do what they used to do.
brought up the chemistry issues… which seem to be an internal divide
of some sort that makes it harder to do what they used to do.
We've brought up the mental issues… which seem to be that for
some reason, there is a lack of motivation to do what they used to do.
percentage of each do you think is at issue here? I think it's 70%
mental… 15% talent, 10% chemistry and I'll give 5% to a wildcard…
which is Doc Rivers mishandling some things that let the rest get out
of control (i.e. minutes for the veterans).
Jeff: can't argue with those percentages really – I chalk it up to mostly mental
Nick: I agree w john and jeff, mental is majority of the issue here but I
also feel their strength has always been their ability to overcome
mental lapses, adv ersity through teamwork. Cohesiveness… ubuntu.
Their confidence always stemmed from the strong belief in the team.
When ray struggled in the 08 playoffs, everyone else picked up the
slack. You're just not seeing that now. I rarely see the guys slappin
hi fives of even rooting eachother on.
Idk, I chalk it up to chemistry and team mentality.
Loscy: Definitely mental.
95% mental, 4% health, 1% wildcard.
seen quarters and halves where this team has played very well. Then
quarters and halves where it looks like the team would be doing
everyone a favor by handing out their extra gatorade to fans close by.
They have the capabilities to play well, but something just isn't
There you have it. Most of us think this is a mostly mental issue with the team. Zach's brought up some concerns on the physical side… and there's no doubt that there has been some level of deterioration on that end.
I don't know if we're all too close to the situation to notice something else… but the consensus seems to be that the problem exists in the Celtics' heads. That could be encouraging… if the C's figure a way to get their heads straight.
Thanks to everyone for participating.