The gym wakes up in the morning to the thump of a light switch. It showers in the glow of florescence while humming the song of coursing electricity.
It is the only constant in any day in the NBA.
From there on out, everything is different. The order in which its occupants arrive, the order in which they exit from the locker room, the plan they execute, and the way they perform… it’s never the same. Each day, each month, each season, a team must find its way.
Basketball, in this sense, is Taoist
At the heart of Taoism is the concept that there is no set path for anyone to follow. You must find your own path, your own way, that works in harmony with the world around you. And this is what the Celtics are doing. This is what they must do.
We make a critical mistake when judging this team (or any team, for that matter). We lean too heavily on history make our conclusions. We do this because it’s easy. And many times, it serves us well.
But in select times, like this one, it does us a disservice. Because looking back gives us a picture too different to help us look forward. The past, to this team in particular, is fairly irrelevant. There are too many new players to make a fair comparison, and those players that are here are different. Roles change. Expectations change. Pressure changes.
Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.
– Lao Tzu
We hear the cries for change. It’s natural, especially in Boston, to demand immediate results from athletes who command significant salaries. But there is a reality that needs to be accepted by everyone before we can truly move on: This is very likely the team that we will see playing for the rest of the year.
But there also needs to be a similar realization on this team’s part.
Be content with what you have, Celtics. Be content with each other and your roles, and rejoice in the way things are. When you realize that, when you simply play basketball the way you’re supposed to, there is nothing lacking. The whole world belongs to you when you play, as we’ve briefly seen, simply the way you’re supposed to play.
The first step with this team, and our relationship with it, lies within that philosophy: Acceptance of what we have. I understand this requires everyone to take a giant step back and take a collective deep breath. The team must understand this requires the same of them. They need to take a step back and properly assess not what they’ve had or done in the past, but what and who they are now. Rejoice in the way things are, and only then you can start to move forward.
Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
– Lao Tzu
The journey does, indeed, feel a thousand miles long. With confusion and consternation raining down upon us like a monsoon, it feels impossible. But it begins with a single step.
What is that step? That’s what this team needs to figure out. And once they do, they need to figure out how to put that other foot in front of the first one, and march… forward.
We can all pretend to know the answers. We can point fingers at players and make somewhat convincing arguments to support our arguments. Maybe it’s more Barbosa. Maybe it’s less Pierce. Maybe it’s more Sullinger.
Those are all valid opinions. They are all worth exploring. But only when this team is honest with itself can they take this first step. Only when they can look in the mirror and say “this is what I can actually do every night” will they begin to make progress on this thousand mile journey.
Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.
– Lao Tzu
This is where this season will turn around, if it does at all.
One of the dirtiest words for this team is now “reputation.” A reliance on one will end this season far earlier than anyone ever expected. Individuals on this team should wipe their memories clean of what their individuals ones were. No one on this team has one anymore. This team doesn’t have one anymore. This coach doesn’t have one anymore.
Master yourselves, Celtics.
Master your current selves, Celtics. Not your past selves. Not your commercial selves. Not your social selves. Master the people and players you are when you lace those sneakers and stand up. Accept who you are now, not who you used to be or who you are supposed to be.
When that happens, this team, with these players, can take the first step in the journey. There is still time march that thousand mile path. There’s still time for these players to find the way. It requires trust and sacrifice. It requires brutal honesty with themselves. But the path is there if they want to find it.