Blown leads. Lackadaisical efforts. It’s been a constant theme for this Boston Celtic team this year. After another embarrassing effort in the 2nd half Thursday night, it seemed to be enough to push Danny Ainge over the edge. Ainge came out yesterday publicly criticized his starters’ effort in both Boston papers Saturday.
“It’s been a pattern that we have squandered leads against good teams in this league,’’ Ainge said yesterday. “I think the onus is on the starters. The good news is we are getting double-digit leads, but we are not doing a good enough job of finishing games.’’
“It’s been an issue, and the starters have to take the responsibility,’’ Ainge said. “They’ve been together, have experience, and it’s been a pattern the last month. We have to play with more urgency.’’
“We were flat to start the third quarter again,’’ Ainge said of Thursday night’s game. “And it’s not like there are different players coming out for the second half. We have to play with more focus and commitment. It’s effort. It’s there to start the game and it’s up to the players.’’
Most disturbing about Thursday’s defeat was the performance of Varejao, who finished with 14 points, 10 points, 3 blocks, and 2 assists in 31 minutes.
“I thought the star of the game of them was Varejao,’’ said Rivers. “I thought he was absolutely amazing with his energy, with his defense. He kept the ball alive.’’
Ainge had a different opinion.
“Anderson Varejao’s effort, [the players] should be embarrassed,’’ he said.
When asked if age was an issue for a team with four 30-plus-year-old front-line players, Ainge said, “It’s not age. It’s on the starting five, and performing with the best [teams] hasn’t been happening. I’m not panicking. I am just saying that’s what it is.’’
More damning quotes from Ainge in The Herald, including questioning the Celtics future as well as final thoughts on all this criticism, after the jump
Steve Bulpett in The Herald took it to another level with Ainge, talking about wholesale changes next year if things don’t change.
Ainge is watching the same things you are, and he’s well aware the time is coming when he’ll have to hold, draw or fold.
“I’m constantly thinking about that,” he said. “But I think what happens beyond this season will be based more on how this team performs from here on out than what’s happened to this point.
“I think we’ll know a lot more about this team over the next few months. All we can do now is speculate.”
And be ready to cut in widely divergent directions based on the findings.
“I’m prepared in either scenario,” Ainge said. “We’ll either add to this team or change it.
“And,” he added, “change it big or small. It will become more clear as the season winds down.”
For now, nothing is clear.
“My take is simple,” Ainge said. “My take is that we do a lot of things right. We’re getting leads against top teams on the road and at home. And then we’re doing a lot of things consistently wrong to let those leads go by the wayside.
“If we were not getting the leads, it would be a simpler conclusion. But we’re playing good basketball.”
And then the Celtics do not play good basketball.
“We’re somewhat consistent in how we respond to adversity, and that’s a big problem,” Ainge said. “When things start going in the other direction, we’re not doing a good enough job of stopping the bleeding.
Some final parting shots for the starters:
“Our starters have been together three years, and age is not a factor. They have to do a better job of finishing games and playing better as a unit. But they haven’t, and that’s the pattern that has developed. I do believe that pattern can be rectified, because I’ve seen it. But that has been the theme song the last month and a half – not getting it done when we have to.”
The question now is whether this is a team dribbling toward its demise like the Pistons of a few years ago or whether it’s one of those Celtics squads of the 1960s that stumbled into the playoffs and then just kept winning.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” Ainge said. “I don’t know what the real case is. I don’t know if we’ll know the answer until we get to the playoffs. Until this team runs its course, all we can do is speculate. The playoffs is when this team will be defined, and I still have hope.”
Great piece by Bulpett all around. Three thoughts on Ainge’s rants
1) It’s about time someone said something…..Doc has gone easy on these guys until now…..well done Danny. Is this a risky maneuver by Ainge, calling out a veteran laden team like this? Perhaps, but he really had no other recourse at this point. Whatever Doc is doing clearly isn’t getting through. Someone needed to try to light a fire under these guys….the man calling the shots is a good enough choice to do that.
2) How much accountability, (if any) does Doc Rivers deserve in all of this? I have no idea, but it’s clear the team hasn’t responded to his pleas in the past 2 months.
3) Regarding the wholesale changes Ainge is referring to during the offseason if this team doesn’t show some improvement; It’s another interesting play by Ainge. We have looked long and hard at how little flexibility the Celtics have with their payroll this offseason. With 63 million committed to just 6 guys, there appears to be little tinkering that could be effectively done with the foundation.
Here’s the thing with Danny Ainge though….he isn’t afraid to blow it up….I mean really blow it up. He did it by dealing Antoine Walker once he got into town…..he dealt fan favorites Eric Williams and Tony Battie in the midst of a winning streak a few years back as well when it was clear they weren’t part of a Championship core.
Given this, Zach Lowe and myself just went back and forth discussing what kind of changes Ainge might mean with this squad. As already noted, Zach believes that Ainge’s options really are limited given the fiscal situation. KG isn’t going anywhere, thanks to his massive contract. Paul Pierce isn’t going anywhere. Sheed could be dealt obviously, but that’s not a pretty contract either. The other three players under contract are all youngsters (Rondo, Perk, Baby).
Naturally, not re-signing Ray Allen is a natural option for Ainge, but let’s be honest he hasn’t been the problem, not lately anyway. So who does that leave? Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins? Two guys that are incredibly young and have tremendous potential. Perk will be a free agent after next year, so we will find out pretty soon where Danny stands on him….I’m fairly certain he is a fan. That brings us to the man the team just made a long term investment in: Rondo. We all know how often Rajon Rondo has been throw around in trade talks this offseason and how he’s made incredible strides this year.
The problem with Rajon is he has been falling apart in the 2nd half of games, especially against elite opponents. Rondo as well as Perk are starters, as well as the building blocks for this team’s future. Is it blasphemous to think that Danny would consider trading either of those guys? If Ainge doesn’t see them as a future part of a Championship core, I wouldn’t be so sure.
Either way, this team has a lot of questions to answer over the final 30 games of this season. They start this afternoon at 1pm against the worst team in the league. Will they continue to go through the motions and eek out a win against one of the worst teams in NBA history? Or do they come out with a sense of urgency Danny Ainge and the rest of the Celtics fanbase has been desperately craving for a full 48 minutes?
I have no idea which team will show up, but I will be watching very intently to find out.