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Ainge: Players Don’t Understand Urgency Of Current Games

 

Danny Ainge was on WEEI this afternoon talking about Boston’s recent struggles. He made the point that in the Celtics’ loss to Memphis last night, the Grizzlies, in a hunt for their playoff lives, were playing like it was a playoff game. “I don’t think we are [lately],” said Ainge. “I think a lot of it is effort.”

Ainge also suggested his team wasn’t as attentive as it should be to the pursuit of the number one seed, their minds wandering perhaps, to the coming playoffs.

“I sense that when you watch us play, [the players] don’t understand the urgency of the games we’re playing right now,” said Ainge, specifying turnovers and offensive execution as prime culprits for recent struggles.

There’s been a ton of speculation the emotional impact of the Kendrick Perkins trade has sent this team into a funk. Over at the ESPN mother ship, Chris Sheridan and Marc Stein say exactly that:

Sheridan: Yes. The Perkins trade did a number on their chemistry, their bench is a collection of cast-offs whom the Heat, Mavericks and even the Nets didn’t want, and Shaq will not be in game shape when the playoffs arrive. Defensively, the Celtics are not what they once were.

Stein: Yeah. The self-proclaimed toughest team in the league is still feeling sorry for itself more than a month removed from the Perkins trade. Get over it, fellas. Danny Ainge didn’t make the deal because he didn’t believe in you. You guys aren’t supposed to be this fragile.

Ainge, however, assigns blame to something more tangible: ineffective play from Boston’s big four.

“Our main guys have to play really well,” said Ainge. “When they play average, then we’re an average team. It’s that simple to me.”

So, which is it? The starters playing poorly or an emotional morass? Or both?

Some thoughts, after the jump…

***

It’s indisputable the Celtics offense is under-performing right now and that can be laid at the starters’ doorstep. As Brian noted this morning, the first quarter has been a particular struggle, and the offensive efficiency numbers have sagged over the last 8 games.

But you can’t directly tie that to the trade without jumping through some hoops.

Remember, the Celtics’ offense has been mediocre all year. On the upper end of mediocre, yes, but mediocre nonetheless (Boston is 13th in the league in offensive efficiency). And even if the C’s hadn’t made the moves they did, they’d still probably be in an offensive slowdown.

Do we really think replacing Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green with Kendrick Perkins (and his standard 20%+ TOR) would help this team score points?

So are Stein and Sheridan completely wrong?

They might have a point if you’re willing to attribute the bad offensive (and periodically, defensive) output to the Celtics’ starters sulking. The theory being, then, that the big four are allowing themselves to be outplayed because they’re, what? Sad? Grumpy?

I’m far more inclined to tie the slump to things physical, like injuries and waning stamina, both catching up with an aged team 70 games into the season. Plus, and as Ainge notes, the bad games could just be the short term effects of a veteran team conserving energy and looking towards April instead of being fully engaged with what’s happening in March.

That doesn’t help with the quest for the number one spot in the east, or seeding for a potential finals rematch with the Lakers. But it might explain it.

  • Batman

    :( My feelings right now about the Celtics
    :IO What my feelings will be when Shaq comes back :) My feelings when Rojan Rando is killed by Rondo once and for all over the summer

  • Phil

    Sheridan's quote doesn't make much sense to me, really. So the bench is made up of castoffs that the Heat and Mavs didn't want. How is that different from when the bench was made up of different castoffs that those teams wouldn't want. I didn't know the demand for Daniels and Robinson was so high. The Celtics have played their best this year with Shaq, and saying that he won't be ready for the playoffs is just a guess. Defense hasn't been a huge problem during this slump, and a side effect of losing the 1 seed is that the playoffs will probably go 76ers/Heat. Shaq would've been crucial to the almost guaranteed match up with Howard in the second round before, where he just helps against the Heat. He has plenty of time to get into playoff shape, assuming he comes back soon (and I think its likely he will.)

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again; I don't believe that a veteran, championship level team has been put in a month long slump from a chemistry shakeup. Its just a convenient story line. It seems more likely to me that the team pushed themselves too hard when they were getting the new guys integrated, and its led to a break down in the coming weeks. At this point, packing it in and taking the second/third seed seems like the better plan. I voted for the #1 seed being the top priority in the poll on the right, but like the recap said last night; go all out and get the 1 seed, or rest. At this point, even going all out, the 1 seed looks unlikely.

  • Rich

    I'd be shocked if guys like KG, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce, are this emotional about trades at this stage of their careers.

    These guys have been through EVERYTHING. I truly doubt they're still sad. I think they're just playing bad.

    Rondo, on the other hand? He is young, so I don't get why he is so exhausted. He hasn't been playing well in my opinion. So he might be sad, or confused, or who knows what.

    However, I truly agree with Danny Ainge. The Celtics are playing like they don't understand the urgency behind these games, especially the new guys (not Jeff Green. I've liked Green so far). I don't think most of them don't understand how hard they need to play each game, perhaps because they've never been in a situation like this one, so they're learning and in the process we're losing games :/

    • Rich

      most of them understand*

      • talesofJP

        he could be injured

  • Steve B

    Like Danny said, "our main guys have to play really well, when they play average we're an average team". Not to compare this team to the Heat but they are similar in some respects. The Heat overly rely on Lebron, Wade and Bosh. If those three don't all play well they are average. You might get the anomaly where House, Jones or Miller has a big game to offset that but that is more rare. Night in and night out both teams rely on their stars playing well. If you can pencil in Paul for 20 points, KG for 15 pts and 10 reb, Ray for 18 points and Rondo for a dozen assists and 2 TOs, things would be much different. When one and especially more than one of them struggle, it's going to take huge bench play to offset that. That's why all was well when Nenad was playing well and Green was getting 18 off the bench, that overcame the big 4 numbers. Having said all that, who else would you rather be counting on, than this group of starters, to "play really well" through the playoffs?

  • Morpheus

    I think the problem is Doc's running them-Ray, KG, Pierce, to the ground. They're burning out.

    Look at the Spurs Big 3, minutes per in comparison.

    Manu: 30.8
    Parker: 32.4
    Timmy: 28.3

    Cs Big 3 minutes per:

    Ray: 36……..WTF!!! That's a sure way to burn Ray's legs out in time for the playoffs.
    Pierce: 34.6
    KG: 31.6

    I said at the beginning of the season: A fresh legs Ray for the playoffs is a dangerous Ray. That was my primary concern. Doc needs to sddress this QUICK, or we might see Ray shooting us out of the playoffs altogether.

    • Phil

      The Spurs have an advantage that the Celtics don't, they've all but clinched the #1 seed already. Thanks to the injuries throughout the year that the Spurs completely avoided until the recent ankle injury for Duncan, they're way out in first, while the Celtics are now behind in a tight race. I fully agree that the starters need to play way less minutes, but that almost certainly comes with the side effect of saying goodbye to home court in the finals/conference finals, and possible the semifinals as well. I think we've seen Doc pushing for the 1 seed, and the frustration comes from the fact that they're trying and failing to get the top seed, opposed to conceding and waiting for the playoffs like last year.

  • talesofJP

    Honestly, beyond the obvious problem of the big 4 not playing their best, Big Baby might be the biggest culprit. Are we having this conversation if they win last night, aka if Rondo doesn't make the horrible decision of a floater with 20 seconds left, and baby doesn't jack up a 3 at the end of the game? Baby hasn't played all that well in my opinion. His play effects the team to a large extent as well.

    • Bingo Banana

      Nonsense, Baby was our best player against NO.

  • skeeds

    yeah it's probably a physical thing.
    Even if the organisation is insisting on locking on the first seed, the vets don't see it that way. After a long stretch where there played constantly without support, now guys are back. And I have no problem with KG, Paul or Ray or even Rondo taking it easy. They need it, they've earned it, and the bench needs to step up and play more minutes to get it together anyway.
    Why fight for the #1 seed to the end, if you risk facing Miami, and the Bulls, (after a series against a young athletic team like the 76ers) banged up and out of breath?

  • I_Bleed_Green

    Trade Rondo for Jimmer Fredette…

    • Batman

      Get out. Terrible Joke.

      • I_Love_Green

        Jimmer Fredette probably won't make an NBA rotation next year.

        • Tom W

          Jimmer Fredette=Adam Morrison in NBA production.
          Note it.

      • I_Bleed_Green

        Yes that’s a joke but seriously which NBA starting point guard is playing worse than Rondo now? I rather have baron Davis for crying out loud.

  • Dropstep

    I didn't know that Big Baby, Delonte or Jeff Green played on the Nets, Heat or Mavericks. How much floor time has Troy Murphy, Sasha or Arroyo had? Yes something is wrong with the Celtics, but if we're going to say something it should be accurate, yes? Yes. I speculate like Stein does but I would hope that he is privy to more information than I am. I also think the Celtics are old, Rondo's been playing too many minutes all year, Pierce needs more touches in the offense and Krstic needs to give somebody a hard foul at least once. Yeah, there's some rationalization going on there but I'm no expert, I just cheer.

  • I_Love_Green

    What the hell has happened to this team…

  • smithjoe

    That is why Doc Rivers is a master coach…he has got all these people (you, me, the media, opposing teams etc) believing that we need home court to win a championship…

    When the only thing this team needs to do is MAKE PLAYS.

    When we get out rebounded in LA in game 7 it has nothing to do with home court it has to do with boxing out and playing team defense…

    When we can't make a bucket in the last 4 minutes of the game agains the Lakers in game 7 it has nothing to do with the home court basket of the Staples Center it comes down to not being able to hit shots…

    It helps yes….but it still don't give you an advantage at execution of the fundamentals.

    When the Celtics get back to the fundaments of what they do best (ie. team defense, ball movement, fastbreaking, making free throws)…THEN AND ONLY THEN will they get back to winning…

  • Jason

    I want to first see how the offense looks with Ray, Paul and Kevin getting the appropriate number of shots before I blame any emotional trade hangover. It's a dumb distribution of shots that's been the biggest culprit. There should not be halves where Pierce or Allen take like six shots combined. The Celtics are not gifted enough offensively to play away from their top weapons. It makes no sense. What other team distributes shots like the Celtics do? Take the Spurs, their top three guys are aggressive and take the most shots. There are too many nights of Rondo and Glen, two of the least efficient players not only this team but in the league, combining for more shots than Pierce and Allen combined.

    Doc was quoted in the paper today bemoaning about the Celtics not getting Pierce enough shots? Well, isn't he the coach? If he has affect a change, then who can? And why must Rondo be drilled to get Allen and Pierce more involved? He should stop pounding or holding the ball at the center, "directing traffic" like Ricky Davis did and just move the ball, get his teammates touches, make the offense fluid. It's horrible basketball to watch.

  • CG12

    All this hand-wringing and speculation is flat-out ridiculous. The comments by Sheridan and Stein are simplistic, press-friendly storylines that have little to do with reality. Do you really think that Rajon Rondo is bringing the ball up late in Q4 of a contested game thinking about Kendrick Perkins? Absolutely not.

    It isn't that complicated. The Cs need Shaq back to give them a dominant inside presence, even if only for short stretches. He will be back soon, at 75%, 90%, or whatever, and it will make a big difference. He doesn't need to be 100%. Rondo is the same guy he has been since he got here. He is somewhat moody, but ultimately has an enormous ego that means when the playoffs arrive he is going to be leaving everything on the floor, just like has every year in the playoffs. His rebounding numbers tell you a lot, and the 11 boards in the Memphis loss tell me that he is re-energizing. Ray has ups and downs, but always comes around. I'd rather him get his 15 "down" games out now, so that he will be on the rise in the late playoff rounds. He likes to play heavy minutes and is supremely conditioned. He is not burning out. The bench guys are still getting used to one another. A bench of DWest, Green, Baby, Krstic, and whoever else will be monster.

    Trying to parse comments by Doc and Danny is a waste of time. It may surprise some to learn that they don't actually offer their deepest insights to the press and public. They are part motivational ploy, part posturing for other teams. The second-guessing of these guys is endless, despite truly enviable records of accomplishment. The fact is, they know what they are doing, and have proved it over and over again. They have accumulated a deep reserve of benefit of the doubt with me.

    I will be far more surprised if the Cs don't make a strong, deep playoff run than if they do. Everyone should calm down and enjoy the ride.

    • Rachel

      agreed. it's frustrating to watch these losses now, but I don't think it says too much about how the Cs will execute in the playoffs. Number one seed would be great but ultimately not necessary to Banner 18.

  • Bert

    Paul Pierce was stabbed

  • kricky

    As much as I still hate the trade it would be disengeneous to put all the blame on it for the C's current struggles.

    Injuries are just catching up to this team. All the guys we signed in the offseason to give the team depth (Shaq, JO, Quise, Delonte, Wafer) are injured or coming off injuries and the starters are playing too many minutes.

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