• The discussion among the player’s of Saturday’s disastrous loss to the Nets sounded a lot like their discussion of Thursday’s disastrous loss to the Cavs. A narrative is beginning to form, and if you boil it down to two over-arching themes, they are these: 1) This is not the coach’s fault; 2) The talent on this team is still there, but the effort/motivation/focus/whatever-you-want-to-call-it is not.
Some sample quotes from the Nyets post-game:
Perk (via ESPNBoston): “How many wake-up calls you going to get?” asked Perkins after the loss. “We’ve got a lot of them, to be honest with you.”
Kevin Garnett (via the Globe): “Doc gives us direction,’’ Garnett said. “Guys have to go out there and follow the plan and execute. That’s all it is.’’
Rasheed Wallace (via the same Globe story): “We can’t sit up here and say, ‘Oh, it’s Doc’s fault that we lost.’ Or ‘Doc’s not doing this’ or ‘Doc’s not doing that.’ Doc’s not on the floor. It’s the five guys that’s out there. So we have to come up with ways to win.’’
KG again, via the Herald: “We’re a team that takes a lot of pride in getting stops,” Garnett said. “We got to get back to that. Hearing it is starting to make my ears ring, but that’s what it is. And we will. We have no choice.”
In a way, the players almost sound like fans—almost. As this team has struggled since Christmas, the most passionate commenters on this site and others have harped on the players’ effort and motivation—on whether the C’s are waiting for the post-season to “flip the switch” and therefore playing without focus now.
There’s a part of me that is beginning to read these quotes and comments and wonder: What if we’re all over-looking the obvious: that the talent just isn’t good enough?
• And if you read carefully today, you find players and coaches addressing the possibility that larger changes might be necessary if the C’s don’t turn things around. Here’s Ray Allen in Scott Souza’s piece in the MetroWest Daily News:
“I don’t think anyone here would be against changes if they need to be made,” Allen said. “But we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves and start thinking we need an overhaul. We just need to get better.”
And here’s Doc Rivers in the Herald, addressing the possibility of a major overhaul—something that seems shocking now considering this team was 23-5 just two months ago:
“I could care less about anything past this season, because as a coach you have to coach this year. I’ll let Danny, Wyc (Grousbeck, the C’s co-owner) and all those other guys worry about the future. But this team is built for right now.”
• Count the author of that piece (the Herald’s top-notch Steve Bulpett) in the early “This isn’t Doc’s fault” camp. (Via this piece in today’s paper, entitled “Doc’s Coaching Not an Issue”):
Rivers isn’t perfect, but the coach isn’t this team’s problem.
To those who claim the fault lies not in the stars, we say only this: The hell it doesn’t…
Quibble with Rivers’ substitution pattern if you like, but there is no reason that whatever quintet is on the floor should choose not to execute the plans as set forth by the staff.
Placing blame in basketball is such a complicated thing. This is a game in which five players on the floor have to work together, using a combination of strategy, feel and instinct, to battle an opposing five players using the same combination of game-planning and reacting on the fly. And this all happens over the course of an 82-game regular season, a season so long there will inevitably be patches when motivation is lacking, injuries hit or the team suffers a bad shooting streak.
It’s a sport uniquely susceptible to passive-aggressive personality conflicts and subtle stuff that’s hard for an outsider to see.
Who or what is at “fault” for the team’s sub-.500 performance over the last 30 games? I agree with Bulpett in the sense that answering that question requires a much more rigorous analysis than, “Fire the bum!” I mean, let’s just take one problem: Whose fault is it that the C’s continue to be the most turnover-prone team in the league? Is it the coaching staff, since the problem persists as bench players rotate in and out of Boston? If so, what are they doing wrong?
Or is it the players’ fault for lacking focus, gunning for highlight plays or whatever else it might be?
Good luck answering that question.
• I enjoyed Doc’s take (via the Herald) about why the C’s late-game comeback tries fell short against the Nets:
“I talk about it a lot with our guys, ‘Those are the basketball gods punishing you. You have no right to get back in this game.’ I thought all those little breaks went to them, and I thought the basketball gods were saying that they deserved to go to (the Nets).”
I just enjoy when coaches invoke the basketball gods as an explanation for the irrational.
• Paul Pierce will travel with the team and may play Tuesday against Detroit, according to the Globe. But he also may not play:
Rivers said Paul Pierce will travel with the team for Tuesday’s game at Detroit but left the timetable for his return to action vague, calling it “sometime next week.’’
Remember Paul Pierce? He’s sort of awesome.
• From the same Globe notebook, the flu that started with Pierce and Marquis Daniels has spread:
The flu bug that bit Pierce and Marquis Daniels is making its way around the locker room, to various extents striking Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis, and Perkins.
• Speaking of Big Baby, he is accusing TNT and ESPN of some out-of-context editing to make it appear as if he tugged on Shaquille O’Neal’s thumb after Shaq’s initial injury Thursday. Commentators hinted that Davis was playing dirty, and Cleveland’s Heinsohn-esque TV announcer, Austin Carr, nearly had a stroke accusing Davis of crossing the line (via the Cleveland Plain-Dealer):
“He crossed the line,” Carr said. “When I played, if a guy had a hand injury, I would go aggressively after the ball and try to knock it away. If I got his hand, too, it happens. I would not try purposely to hit his hand.”
And on the Celtics:
“They try to win at all costs,” he said. “That’s the way they function as a franchise. They try to bully you, and if you don’t step up and push back, they always will.”
I’m sure the Cavs don’t also try to win at all costs.
Shaq remained in the game for two Cleveland possessions and one Boston possession after the initial injury before leaving the game for good. The first Cavs possession lasted four seconds, and Davis and Shaq barely came into contact on Boston’s intervening possession.
That leaves Cleveland’s final possession, when Shaq posted up Davis on the right block and received an entry pass. Once the pass comes in, Davis takes a swipe at the ball, but he does not tug on Shaq’s thumb. However: The two guys make extended contact before the ball comes in, and it’s tough to tell what Baby’s hands are doing during those few seconds.
Big Baby is claiming innocence (via the Herald):
“I was like, ‘That’s false,’ ” Davis said. “They edited that. That was before he hurt his hand.”
But he does admit to tugging on Shaq’s thumb at some point:
“I was just messing with him,” said Davis, who is friendly with O’Neal, a fellow LSU alum. “I wasn’t trying to hurt him.”
What did you guys think?
In any case, let’s hope Shaq comes back soon and this passes without further controversy.
Enjoy Sunday and the hockey game. My girlfriend is from Croatia, but her family moved to Canada when the war in Yugoslavia broke out in the early 1990s. She is now a Canadian citizen as well as a Croatian citizen. Suffice it to say we will be watching the game today not only in separate rooms, but in separate states—I went home to Connecticut to visit my Mom for her birthday, while my girlfriend stayed in New York City, stuck with a pile of work.
This was planned two weeks ago. I swear. U-S-A!