Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
“We’re not playing with effort,” said Gerald Wallace, who led the Celtics with 16 points. “Guys are being selfish and the opponent is playing with effort, giving their all regardless of how the night is going. Tonight we ran into another team who just wanted the game more than we did. We had some good spurts, but when it came down to it, they were determined to win the game and we weren’t.”
Wallace added, “We’re professionals. So our main thing is, you should go out every night and want to win. It shouldn’t be a question of the effort. You’re going to miss shots. You’re going to turn the ball over. Things aren’t going to go your way. But it shouldn’t be because you’re not playing hard, you’re not giving your all.”
But according to Wallace, they no longer can use the word “preseason” as an excuse.
“You know what, the first couple games, you can say that,” Wallace said. “Right now, you can’t say that. We’ve got one more preseason game before this thing really starts up. If guys really think they can just wait until the Toronto game to be able to turn the switch on, it’s not that easy in this league. You’ve got to start building yourself off and get some momentum going into it. We’re not doing it right now.”
Wallace added, “We’re playing teams and we’re concentrating on it being ‘preseason.’ We’re trying to make an excuse. We’re playing lackadaisical. These teams are coming out wanting to win and get better. Right now, we’re not doing that. We’re just going through the motions, it seems like, without effort. We can’t afford to do that.”
Boom. Message sent. Now… what’s going to happen next?
A few things make this extremely interesting.
1: The timing. With one preseason game left to go, most of us figured this is just part of the deal. Confused players are struggling out there, bumping into each other in frustrating, yet hilarious fashion. It’ll get better, right?
Well, Wallace isn’t waiting around for it to get better. He doesn’t like what he sees out there. And if it truly is a lack of effort, then some guys had better get their heads on straight. We can all excuse the team sucking for a while because we know they don’t have any great players that can help carry the burden right now. We can’t excuse not giving it their all out there, though. In fact, it’s pretty stupid not to. Most of these guys are playing for their next contracts.
Then again, it’s that playing for their next contract that might be what’s causing the “selfish” talk.
2: That it’s Gerald Wallace. He’s the new guy. We haven’t heard from him all summer, and now he’s here and immediately calling everyone out. That’s a little surprising to me.
But he’s a 12-year veteran who just happens to be the Celtics best player right now. He has an obvious impact on games, and he’s clearly not being hypocritical when he talks about the effort because he’s out there giving it everything he has the whole time he’s on the floor.
So Wallace has now assumed a leadership role with the team, and he’s using it to send a very public message.
3: He wasn’t alone. Jeff Green parroted some of the comments
“We need to focus a little bit more now, treat this next game, these next couple practices, as the regular season, because I think it’s too late to blame the whole ‘working out kinks’ statement that we’ve been making for these past couple games,” Green said. “At this point, we know what to do. We know our offense. We’ve just got to go out there and play. We can’t come into this thinking, ‘It’s preseason, we can [play half-heartedly].
“We’ve got to be ready to play. Teams are getting geared up for the regular season. We can’t allow ourselves to feed into it just being preseason.”
“I thought we competed again until a certain point, and then we’re not playing well enough,” Stevens said. “It may be my substitution patterns. It may be that we’ve got to get better over 48 minutes. Whatever the case may be, we’ve all got to look introspectively and figure it out.”
And it isn’t the first time Stevens has mentioned it.
So Wallace and Jeff Green are now making public comments about the effort. Brad Stevens has touched on it a couple of times. What now?
Well, with one preseason game left, it’s time to start watching for who’s going to start getting more minutes, and who won’t be. There’s a very simple way for a coach to deal with a lack of effort: sit the player down. It’s the most basic of coaching principles. Beyond the 2-man and 3-man +/- breakdown, beyond the matchup vs. matchup statistical analysis, there is a simple rule in coaching where players who don’t try don’t play.
Brad Stevens is just getting his feet wet as an NBA coach. He’s learning just like the rest of the guys are. Now he faces his first big challenge. What is he going to do about the lack of effort that he, Wallace, and Green are talking about? How much rope is he going to give the players who are at fault, and will he let those players hang themselves with it?
Stevens is, if nothing else, a smart guy. He knows who’s doing what out there. He’s got eyes that see things and numbers to back those things up. If he’s going to sit a selfish slacker, he’s going to be armed with the evidence to make his case. His level of preparedness for such a confrontation isn’t really a question.
What IS a question, though, is the manner in which he handles this. The difference between college and the pros is Stevens can turn to a college kid, tell him he’s effing up, bench him, and then keep tabs on him as he sulks around the campus. In the NBA, there are bigger egos involved. There’s money involved. Guys playing for their next contracts won’t take a benching very well. There is more potential for it to go haywire.
That’s not to say Stevens needs to baby anyone. But he needs to be prepared to handle the backlash. One good thing for him here is his own six-year contract. Everyone in that locker room knows the team is committed to Stevens, so Stevens has that added leverage of guaranteed franchise support, which is key in this situation.
I’d expect this is where Ron Adams earns his money as an assistant. Adams is the “NBA guy” on this staff. He’s been in the NBA trenches for a while, and he can brief Stevens on what to expect in situations like this. I’d also expect Walter McCarty to play a role here as the former player. If I was Stevens looking to discipline an NBA player, I’d go to those guys first. Adams can give him advice from the organizational side, and McCarty can tell him how he’d like to hear that news as a former player. Danny Ainge would also probably be involved, since he’s been on both sides of that coin too.
So Stevens has the tools and people he needs to handle this situation. It’s now up to him to handle it. Fans will pinch their noses and take their medication when it comes to watching this team lose, but they will not stand for lack of effort. Half-assing it will lead to some very ugly times in Boston this season, so this problem needs to be fixed pretty quickly.
The rest of the links:
Globe: Highlights: Timberwolves top Celtics | CSNNE: Parish: You just have to be patient with the C’s | Celtics fall to 1-6 | Wallace gives C’s a jolt of energy | Rapid reaction: Wolves 104 Celtics 89