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Sad Sunday Notebook: Not Doc’s Fault, Loyalties of the Basketball Gods, Baby vs Shaq

 

• 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.”

Whoa. 

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 GarnettGlen 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!

  • rondoislove

    I honestly don’t put the blame on Doc. He has an odd rotation pattern, that can be extremely frustrated and questionable at times, but people forget that it also worked two years ago during the championship season, as well as last season when the team still managed to gut out a total of 62 wins, without KG since February and take an Orlando team to seven games. Anyone (it doesn’t even have to be a fan) who followed the Celtics during those two seasons (especially the playoffs) and is currently following them this season should be able to tell the difference. If you can’t tell the difference, please proceed to re-watch the Chicago series (minus Game 1, haha) or the 2008 Finals (particularly Games 4 and 6) and compare them with how they play now.

    For so long the team used the excuse of injuries to explain their embarrassing losses. At first I said to myself, “alright.. injury bug, that can cause teams to lose” but they stopped winning games… and the Celtics just aren’t so fun to watch anymore. I honestly don’t think it’s the talent they’re missing. Come on, this team went 23-5 to start the season. They have the talent. Sure, on the stat everyone’s declined… but if you play with no heart and no focus, that’s what happens, even to the best players.

    On Ray’s quote… my opinion is that they feel the way they do on that because if Ainge was to shake things up big time and make a huge trade, it’d open up their eyes. We know that most, if not all, of the guys want to stay in Boston… and of course, the fans want most of them to stay.

    P.S. — I love how everybody refers to the Celtics as thugs and bullies as if they’re the dirtiest team ever. You have to be kidding me. A Cavs announcer said that? Oh, please. LeBron pushed Perk after fouling him hard… and LeBron never gets called for technicals. Remember last season when the Cavs were in Boston, Baby committed that flagrant 2 foul on Princess Varejao and Big Z & LeBron all got in line and got in Baby’s face after pushing him up against the basket? Right, and that’s not bullying. The Cavs, I’m sorry, have to be the most immature team in the league that I’ve watched. From dancing on their bench during blowouts at home to all getting in line to get in the face of the guy who hurt their teammate (yes, that’s a very nice relationship they’ve got going on there… but look at the friendship between the Celtics; one does not see everyone pile up to attack a guy.. in fact with the C’s, you usually see them pulling people away from one another)… it’s all so immature and I’m sure they’d get extremely offended (I think Varejao would end up crying & flopping around the court and LeBron would pout his way into his locker room & not attend the press conference again).

  • CelticJay

    I’m not worried about how a Cleveland announcer feels about the Celtics…. actually I could care less.

    I am worried (not concerned) about the Celtics.

    Injuries are part of the game unfortunately… every team has to contend with them. Look at Portland this season. They have been decimated, but they still play hard and compete. I don’t see that intensity with the Celtics.

    I’ve been saying all year the problem is with guys like Rasheed Wallace. He’s a veteran but sets a really bad example. It’s one thing to be injured, but he has been out of shape since the Summer. He doesn’t hustle and he reaches for the ball on D rather than moving his feet & using his length. By the time he challenges a defender, the shot is already in the air or the guy blows by him. Also, he plays TERRIBLE help defense. I’m sick of watching him stand in the paint when he should be rotating towards the basket. This guy is 7 feet tall! Also, his lazy defense puts pressure on the other 4 players to pick up the slack. This creates mismatches which the opponent’s coaching staff easily see.

    On offense, he refuses to post-up. Even if he doesn’t shoot the ball…. at least post-up and create passing lanes on the strong side and allow the guards (Ray, Quis) to curl off the picks on the weak side for open J’s. By standing at the 3-point line he’s out of position for rebounding and the other team can easily beat us up the court in transition. Need Proof? Look at Wallace’s “Plus/Minus” %.

    Please give Shelden Williams a chance to play the 6th man role! Why did we acquire him, if he isn’t going to even play.

    This team can’t flip the switch.

    The fans are getting pissed off now.

  • Conall Mac Michael

    My biggest fear at the moment is potential splits and ego flair ups in the locker room. I’ve witnessed this type of stuff happening and it’s the same no matter what level you play on, it can poison a team and ruin an entire season. I t may not be the typical ‘vets vs. young guys’ that we’ve been hearing about, but if players start to blame each other then its game over. Lets hope the guys can get together and work out whatever the hell is going on right now. The nets game was seriously depressing and as a pessimist I’m starting to doubt this team. Some people would call that realism but i still think this team can win it all.

  • Cptn Bubbles

    Yes, the guys on the floor may not be executing, BUT Doc has the power to sub out anyone. IF Sheed is going on a 3 binge or Ray is off or Rondo is not pushing the ball or Paul is hobbling around or Nate is lost on D or guys are just standing around, or the ball is sticking (remember the famous lame sticking quote form the doctor), or there is a lack of energy……DOC has the power to sub out the offenders & TRY to get the guys to play right. DOC is allowing these bad habits and lackluster play to continue. DOC is an ENABLER. Instead of complaining & whining to the press, Doc should be actively subbing out guys who are not playing Celtic basketball. As it is, I see a lot of horrible play with NO immediate subbing. Instead, we have a wimpy coach who likes to talk about some 3rd party (basketball gods) affecting the Cs. Blame shifting. Instead of practicing more & making them dig deep & work hard, they are watching Bird movies & having dunk contests or just taking the day off. If you’re not practicing more & working harder then you deserve to lose. Danny should step up & make them practice more & play full court defense. Right now they are acting like it will get better naturally, without effort & hard work. That is sad. You reap what you sow.

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  • why

    Speaking as a detached observer …

    I think the guy you really miss from the last two years is Leon Powe who was beast on the boards – too bad he hurt his ACL. Rasheed may have the name and may be a future HOF however he brings less to the table at this point in his career han Powe did.

    If Powe regains anything close to the form he had prior to his injury, I don’t see anyone beating Cleveland

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    @why: I agree they miss Powe, specifically his ORB skills. The C’s don’t have that dimension without him. But I still understand Ainge’s decision

  • keith

    THE TEAM SHOULD WATCH THE USA HOCKEY TEAM THAT’S WHAT YOU CALL EFFORT . THE CELTICS GIVE UP ON EACH OTHER

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  • http://www.passiveaggressivehusband.com/ Reba Rimer

    I know what you’re writing about. I’m dealing with the same thing now… Thank you for sharing!

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