Will the Celtics ever find “it?” | Red's Army - The Voice of Boston Celtics Fans
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Will the Celtics ever find “it?”

By Rob G.

In almost every instance of the Celtics melting down this season (or, if you prefer, you could view the last two months as one collective meltdown), they have had ready-made excuses, primarily injuries. And so it was again last night with Paul Pierce not playing. But it’s clear now that whatever is causing this sustained mediocrity (to be charitable) rises far above injury issues.

It can’t be simply a lack of enough physical talent, 1 through 12, can it? It’s actually very hard to file an indictment against this group and be certain that it’s fair and accurate. Is it a lack of a killer instinct? Is it a lack of maturity? Is it a lack of chemistry born of losing some glue guys the last couple years and adding guys who didn’t bring their own Elmer’s? Is it simply that the majority of their best players are old and just can’t be expected to play 48 good minutes every night? It could be any or all of those. I tend to dismiss the last one since, as Gary Washburn noted in the Globe today, they haven’t been getting anywhere near 48 good minutes in most of their match-ups with good teams. Even fogeys can hold it together for three quarters. I think the fairest way to pin down this team’s problem(s) is to say very generally that there’s no “it” factor.

(One thing we can safely surmise: Rasheed Wallace is not "it," does not
have "it" and is unlikely to bring anything resembling "it" to the
table for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs. That is,
unless "it" turns out to be threatening the welfare of rims around the
league with ill-timed and ugly attempts from three-point land and a
general malaise from every other spot on the court.)

The more, let’s say, “optimistic” contributors (read: unrepentent suck-ups) to Redsarmy.com – not to mention John’s name – would have the world believe that the Celtics have been on cruise control. “Coasting” is the word I have heard from that camp. Well then, let it never be said that the 2009-10 Celtics need work on their coasting. They have beaten exactly two elite teams since opening night, and one of them was the Lakers, sans Kobe Bryant, by one point. Stand down, John. (Rob pats John re-assuringly on the head.) I’m not taking anything away from them; I’m merely pointing it out. Yes, yes, John, I understand the Celtics have been ravaged by injuries. Yes, yes, surrrre, they’re right in the title mix…)

They have also lost the majority of their games against second tier teams, and they have basically sworn off winning at home. I’m going to save John some work here by informing the Redsarmy readers how he likely interprets the latter fact: “They know they have no chance at claiming home court in the playoffs against any of the title contenders, so what’s the point of winning at home? They’ll have to win on the road in the playoffs. It’s a pre-meditated and brilliant strategy!” If the Celtics continue to circle the drain, I may have to make the “Celtics Facts-to-John Glossary” a regular feature on Redsarmy.com.

For now, let’s hope the team finds “it” fast… whatever “it” is.

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  • thetitleisours

    I guess the “It” that is missing from the past is Ubuntu
    Sometimes a team will drop to the least hardest worker as well as they can raise themselves to the highest.
    Have constant injuries prevented them from jelling or getting fired up from their leaders, or is there a player or two dragging the rest down?
    Who knows

  • Double P Reppin the B

    I hate to say it but I just find it hard to believe this team is coasting and they are still a contender. Yes they have had many of these “elite” teams down by double digits in most games at some point, but what does that really say about this team? That they can get up big on the best teams in the league, or that they can’t close out games for the life of them? I am just not beginning to lean to the latter. It’s hard to see this team blow ANOTHER big lead on a great team. I am starting to think they are simply not contenders anymore

  • *now instead of not

  • Lakerhater (FD)

    “IT” is featured prominately in the photo. What could “it” be….I wonder…

  • Lex

    Possibilities for “IT”
    1. Ability to play four quarters.
    2. Ability to crank up their quality of play when the other team has done so.
    3. Ability to execute on 0 when it counts.
    4. Ability to dominate on the glass
    5. Ability to make PP or RR a fourth quarter go-to guy.
    I’m gonna say this team goes down in the first round.
    I was wrong about the west coast trip.
    Hopefully I’ll be wrong with this prediction, too.

  • FSantos33

    I totally agree with you D.P. I didn’t see “IT” until the LAL and Port games – Celts lost “IT” again once they came home. Very inconsistent. To sum up the word “IT” for this team means “Desire” lack of “IT”. Exception would be Rondo, Ray and Perk these three guys still want “IT” but they can’t do it alone.

  • NineSevenEight

    This is really long but I cringed when Doc said, “there’s nothing I can do about it,” in reference to the trend of poor second half showings during his post game. Really?
    No, I’m not asking for Doc to get on the court and coddle everyone through their assignments — they know their job is to execute. But it also falls on Doc’s shoulders to execute as a coach.
    If a teacher tells a five year old that 2 + 2 = 4 and he doesn’t digest the meaning behind it to fully understand it’s value, should the teacher throw up his or her hands and say, “there’s nothing I can do about it”? Seriously, who says that?
    Obviously this is a group of grown men, but the principle behind it is still the same. If Doc, as a coach, is throwing his hands up at the group he’s supposed to mentor, what are the players doing?
    I know the Celtics haven’t been able to put together a healthy roster ALL season with everyone running on ALL cylinders (and that’s been one of the major contributing factors to this team’s troubles), but damn, make some adjustments. Doc is still using rotations and substitution patterns from 2007/08. The players are the same in name only. Some have gotten better, some have aged.
    As someone who gives motivational speeches to other teams’ players, including the Red Sox, sure seems like Doc hasn’t a clue what to do to motivate his own team.
    Since he admittedly doesn’t, maybe he needs help.
    The first thing he could do is come up with a better rotation pattern than the sorry one he’s been using. This is a veteran team that is not built for a short roster. As many times as Baby has hustled for an offensive rebounds, he’s had his shot blocked 2 inches from the basket. Try Shelden for a change. The guy may have not have hands built for interior passes, but he can rebound and if he got the opportunity to take the shots that Baby does almost kissing the glass before getting shut down, he sure as hell has a better chance of them going in based on his height alone.
    Two. Rondo doesn’t need to be on the floor for 45 of 48 minutes, that’s why Nate was brought in, no? Rondo gave so much in the first half and had nothing to give by the time it was too late. Nate is a scorer, he showed last night that he can take his jumpers and make them. His job is to score, right? So maybe we should let him instead of nailing him to the bench for 31 minutes. Let Rondo recharge on the bench. Not a difficult concept. (Ditto for Ray)
    Three. You have the power of time outs — utilize them better. Get in people’s faces, call people out, sub people to make an example out of them, do what you have to do. It’s clear this team needs a few more kicks to the a$$ than most. I see it as having the -itis. Senioritis, veteranitis, whatever itis IT IS, get a handle on it.
    Four. Don’t throw your hands up at your team and say “there’s nothing I can do” when their struggling. That’s not a coach, that’s a critic. Take some responsibility and figure out how to adjust to the circumstances in an effective way. Not asking for him to turn back time, just adjust accordingly.
    If half the people that ever wanted something in life that seemed out of reach due limitations, whether personal or circumstantial, said “there’s nothing I can do” this country would be light years behind.

  • Time for a Blockbuster Trade Baby!

    Its over dudes. The reason why the celts are so broke in the second half is that most teams think the celts are DONE – aka old & injured. They don’t take them seriously in the first half. I’ve come to the conclusion that the celts wont exit the first round.
    I love em, but lets be realistic. They needed a shakeup at the trade deadline and nothing happened.

  • The Savior

    Comrades and commissars, it is once again “that time”…duh-duh-duh-duhhhh…The topic of conversation is, has been, and will in all likelihood continue to be, the quandary regarding the question that has caused more flip flopping than John Kerry in a strip bar with 20 pairs of knockers in his face, “Are we [legitimate] contenders?” We fans clamor around our tv sets for every “big matchup”, treating them as litmus tests that we hope will shed light on that oh so illusive answer. And while our black and white (or shall we say pink or blue) assessment of the situation has consistently pointed us in the direction that we fear and refuse to accept, we wind up frustrated and grasping for any semblance of hope. In short, this is what we know my friends:
    Many of us have yearned and called for Doc River’s head. He was quite unpopular among fans before the Big 3 was assembled and even during the 07-08 championship campaign (mostly during series against the hawks and cavs). Most pointed to his ineptitude in X’s & O’s and his management of rotations. While it was hard to fault these claims, the team nevertheless won the ultimate prize. From that point on, it should be noted that Doc Rivers, for better or worse, was going to remain on board as Commander and Chief of the Boston Celtics at least through the Big 3 era.
    The rationale of the Big 3 was to bring home a championship, and having accomplished “The Goal”, it is irrelevant whether people believe he is squandering another shot at a title or not. It is also moot whether people believe the 07-08 won despite Doc or whether they were capable of winning with another head coach, no matter how much validity such arguments may or may not hold. The fact is, Doc Rivers, has his positives and negatives like every other player/coach on our team and in the league. We all know his capabilities and who he is, and we know when he’s at his worst, it can get ugly, and when he is his best he can win.
    The fact is, as our head coach is an important cog on the team (arguably the most important) and should be viewed in the same light as players such as Rondo, who is playing like an elite pg but struggles at the FT line/jumpers, KG who is our vocal leader/defensive backbone that is struggling with health and at times shies away from the big stage offensively, or Ray Ray who is an assassin but now streakier with age.
    At the end of the day, this 2010 Celtics team, I believe, has the answer to it’s question rest on the shoulders of our truest soldier, who has been here through it all. In 07-08, true Celtics fans knew the underrated talents and go-to ability of Paul Pierce, which he put on display carrying far inferior teams deep into the playoffs. He was discounted for that ability, but we knew something everyone else did not. In 08-09, the question was could we get 65-75% of KG, which is what many of us knew was all we needed to repeat. In 2010, the biggest question is, IMO, can Paul Pierce dig down to his last reserves and be a #1 for a 28 game playoff run and battle the likes of Lebron, Kobe, Carmello as he has done in the past, or is he now a #2. This remains to be seen and will likely only be answered “in the moment”. We can only hope some of the extra rest he has received due to injury will help, but I’m sure if you asked him, the warrior that he is, he’ll say “Don’t come around and tryin to gas me up, I like runnin’ on E”.

  • DRJ

    Actually, Paul is the last remaining real problem on this team. Will he get it together? We don’t know. He needs to.
    Other than that, nothing else can be concluded from all these regular season games… they don’t count, and the Cs know it. We must wait for the playoffs. Bottom line.

  • DRJ

    You (the author of the piece) say the Cs have only beaten “2 elite teams”. That statement depends entirely on your definition of “elite”. By one measure, they’ve beaten 2/3 of the elite teams in the league… if there are only 3 besides the Cs (Lakers, Cavs, Magic). Once you get beyond those 3, you’re making up who’s elite and who isn’t. So the statement means nothing.
    Bottom line is that you are assigning too much significance to these insignificant regular season games. The next game that means something will not be played until April. That’s a fact. More importantly, the Cs BELIEVE it’s a fact.
    They’ve shown that they can dominate any team, for at least 2 quarters. Without Paul, with Quis sick, and with Nate brand new.
    If Paul – the last remaining problem on the team – can get his act together – and NO ONE knows whether he will or not, except that we can say there’s a damn good chance he will – then there’s no reason not to be believe that this team can beat ANY other team in a series.
    We can conclude almost nothing from these games now. We must wait. Nothing has changed. What we do know is:
    – KG keeps improving, moving ever closer to 100%
    – Ray and Rondo are both playing the best ball of their lives,
    – Perk can be great
    – Quis is a terrific addition
    – Nate shows promise of being great on this team
    – Baby is playing very well
    – There’s good reason to think that Sheed will turn it around for the playoffs.
    – Paul is the only real question mark. (Not gonna talk about Doc… he is what he is.)
    The location and status of “It” is unknown and unknowable right now. Indications are, though, that It’s doing very well, thank you… just waiting for the real season to begin.

  • I understand you wanna believe that the Cs have shown they can beat these teams because they get a lead on them in the first half.. but you are completely over looking the fact that they are losing these games, and have shown NO composure down the stretch of games. Have a huge tendency to mail it in once they get a big lead and seriously cannot beat a quality team. They are playing horrible at home. Garnett is not neat 100% and it’s going to be very, very hard for him to ever get back to that with a chronic knee injury. Doc is losing his mind trying to manage the minutes and let’s players “talk” him into things like he claimed last night that Rondo talked him into letting him play all game. How ridiculous is that? Your the HEAD COACH!

  • DRJ

    – Agree that Doc is losing/has lost his mind. It’s a problem, but not insurmountable. Up to the players in the end anyway. Always was.
    – Yes, of course we all know they’ve lost 20 games so far. Yet they still have one of the best records in the NBA.
    – And the main point, the key fact… is that this is all one big PRACTICE SESSION. For the Cs. We must wait for the real season to begin before we draw any conclusions.
    – Meanwhile, the tendencies of the individual players are are positive, except for Paul, who remains an unknown.

  • BRADinLA

    Am I the only one that sees that the C’s aren’t really that dominant in the first half of these games? Seems like their opponents are LETTING them dominate the game until the second half when the Cavs, Magic, Atlanta, etc. turn up their defense and take away the Celtic’s opportunities to push the ball up the court and everything falls apart. Saying the Celtics are giving the games away is just overly optimistic, like the C’s are beating themselves. Aren’t they just being outhustled, outplayed and beaten?
    I’m a diehard Celtics fan but I wanna be realistic and I just think things are worse for the Celtics than anyone wants to admit.

  • Brittney M.

    Whatever “it” is I’m pretty positive it’s not about being old or anything. If that was the case, the Celtics would have been like this for a while not just part of this season. Another reason I think it’s not age or lack of physical ability, is that they still are one of the top teams in the league. That doesn’t happen by coincedence. Well whatever “it” is, they better find it and get it together.

  • Scott

    A couple problems with what you’ve said …
    1) Yes, Perk can be great. But he can also be a horrendous turn over machine when double teamed, and he has a tendency to become a black hole in the post. If he gets the ball, he’s shooting it. It is easily readable by the defense and that is a problem. Which Perk are we going to get night in and night out?
    2) Baby may be hustling his ass off and getting plenty of tommy points, but he is consistently getting rejected around the rim and without his outside shooting being a significant part of the offense due to KG’s return, he really hasn’t been that valuable in my opinion. I would like to see Shelden get some minutes.
    3) I don’t understand how you can say there is a “good reason” to think Sheed will turn it around for the playoffs. He has had a FEW bright spots throughout the season, but by and large has played like crap. I hope he does turn it around cuz that would be huge, but i’m not inclined to think so.

  • the-real-truth

    i love the celtics, but i have to say they done. they have been done since christmas. no chance. i hope the dallas mavs win it this year. jason kidd deserve a ring. the guy is a warrior.

  • Lee in Oregon

    I couldnt agree more. This isnt fixable. They’re old and the idea that they can get back to where they were is a pipe dream at best. The final hurrah was 2 years ago. It was great and now it’s time to move on.

  • Lee in Oregon

    They’re old & done. The last hurrah was 2 years ago. I was great but it’s over. Time to move on/ahead.

  • Lee in Oregon

    They’re basically the Spurs- aging vet team that squeaks out wins against crap teams and more often than not loses against good teams….will be lucky to make it out of the first round. The Spurs dont blow as many leads and play in a tougher conference, but they’re done too.

  • Just when it looked like the Green Koolaid jug was empty, here comes DRJ with a fresh overflowing jug wearing those funky glasses with the green lenses.
    All joking aside, I admire your optimism and, being a green Koolaid man myself, agree with many of your points (some may be slightly overstated). The exeption is your point about them being able to somehow turn “it” on for the playoffs, this seems illogical to me. The regular season is the time to develop good habits. The best teams in the playoffs, and the ultimate champions, are the ones that are very good during the regular season and then find a way to step “it” up in the playoffs.