The Celtics had their worst game of the season last night. The 20 point loss to Detroit on the road was bad, but not this bad. This was at home. This was against a divisional opponent. But most importantly, this game was marred by both bad play and poor judgment. The Rajon Rondo/Kris Humphries altercation is the obvious black-eye, but the more troubling aspect is that the Celtics are continuing to showcase that they cannot learn from their mistakes and have yet to adequately address the problems that they have.
I’m not interested in discussing where Rondo and Humphries land on the “Toughness Scale” after Humphries tweeted this photo with the caption, “Anyone know where I can get a quick Tetanus shot in Boston?” He’s completely forfeited any reputation he had for being tough. I’m more interested in what this means for the Celtics going forward, both tangibly and metaphorically.
As far as Rondo’s reputation is concerned, this is one of the more benign altercations he’s had and is similar to throwing Kirk Hinrich into the scorer’s table a few years back. As Doc Rivers quipped after the game, “Usually he goes after the refs, this time it was another guy so that’s better, I guess.” It is infinitely better. Going after another player should almost be common. Basketball is an emotional and physical game. Every player feels that drive to confront another player/coach/ref/fan at one point or another. Doc doesn’t believe Rondo’s any different than anyone else in the league. “Rondo’s emotional but I don’t think he’s any worse or better…it was a play that happened and he regrets it, I’m sure, but what can you do about it?”
That is the most important question. What can the Celtics do about it? It starts with having enough swagger to not resort to pushing and shoving (like this). The Celtics also need to figure out, as Paul Pierce put it after the game, “what kind of team [they] want to be.” It’s clear from the post game press conferences that there is some disharmony in the locker room, or at the very least, not everyone has bought in. Doc almost said as much after the game:
“Kevin, Paul, and Rondo, you know, a couple of other guys, it’s almost like they understand the jersey they’re wearing, and the pride and everyone else, well not everyone, it’s almost like they think because they put the jersey on, they are something. You got to earn it here.”
It’s not hard to figure out who those guys are. That kind of attitude manifests itself in lack of aggression, not making the right defensive rotations, not defending the three point line, and not protecting the glass. If the Celtics want to avoid anymore ejections, suspensions, and losses they NEED to fix their three point line defense or their rebounding issue. They won’t win anything this year with both of those being problems. Furthermore, if the Celtics fix those issues, the locker room, the lack of toughness, and the softness will be taken care of as well.