When the GM talks openly about the early-season performance of his team—and mentions the ’86 Celtics in any context—the story gets pulled out of the notebook post and excerpted on its own. Ainge spoke to the Herald, and while he’s not exactly furious, the GM is clearly not happy with the team’s early play. The main problem: The team, according to Ainge, is playing with a looser-than-usual focus, banking on its veteran know-how and talent level to carry it through games that are close at the end. In other words: They are playing the Flip the Switch (ugh) game.
Here’s the most relevant excerpt from Danny:
“You can’t sit around and wait,” he said. “To be honest, I don’t see a lot of similarities between the ’86 team and this one.
“I don’t buy into those excuses,” Ainge said of the long-term argument. “The bottom line is that we’re a better team than (how) we’re playing. We’re just not showing it. We’re playing well some times, and not well at others. (The players) just need to focus like the coaches focus.
“If we’re not paying attention to that, and we’re thinking that we’re so good, then we’re in trouble. I see a difference in how we play when we have our backs to the wall, so you can tell that we have what we need, but it has to be more than that.”
“It’s not just effort and discipline. You have to focus on the little things in practice. You certainly can’t wait until January or February.”
But what does Danny mean by “the little things”? Boxing out? Deflecting passes? It’s hard to tell, and he doesn’t really elaborate. But Doc Rivers does, and he repeats something we’ve heard him say at least two other times so far this season: The C’s are playing undisciplined basketball, occasionally breaking plays on offense and disobeying orders on defense.
Per the same Herald story:
“But you can’t play the game in random, and that’s what we’re doing at times, on the defensive end, too. (Orlando’s) first nine points the other night were off of that, and I was like, ‘(Expletive), we just went through a walkthrough.’ We actually trapped Dwight Howard once, and we never trap Dwight Howard. It’s not like anyone is doing it to hurt your team. That’s just the IQ that’s been activated, but it’s not the time.”
This is obviously something that bears close, close monitoring. I try and pay close attention in games to find instances in which the C’s appear to break plays, but I’m sure I miss a bunch of examples.
Readers: If you notice something, drop us a line.
Enjoy the waning moments of your Thanksgiving weekend. We’ll have the Heat game covered here later.