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It Ain’t About Fightin’

 

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.

  • Guest

    We need a better back-up point guard. Why not get Delonte West? He sure isn't soft.

  • High Rollers

    I don’t get why Rondo would get an extra game or two for making it “spill into the stands.” He didn’t make it spill into the stands. He shoved Humphries, and Humphries pulled at him from there, right into journalist row and beyond. I sure hope the penalty for this weak “fight” gets evenly distributed between our instigator and theirs. Why make it bigger than it was? One game each and get on with business. Sheesh.

    • Phil

      The refs themselves said that Rondo was the instigator. The fact that Humphries' reaction is the reason it spilled into the stands doesn't change that. There's only one instigator.

      Rondo also has a growing history with this kind of stuff that could lead to more than a game.

      • High Rollers

        Well, however you define instigating, it seems pretty foolish of Humphries to go sending out barbs via tweet within a few hours of it all. At least when Rondo's playing time is imperiled he wisely becomes a man of few, very restrained words, and only when asked.

        And what is this about if you're a superstar you step aside to let your minions do the dirty work of establishing your identity and toughness? I'm talking to one A-Woj at Yahoo! here. Woj gets the big picture same as everybody else that the C's need Rondo on the floor. But his otherwise self-protectionist, if-I-am-a-superstar-then-I-can't-be-found-at-the-bottom-of-a-scrum-at-any-time stance seems like a good way to sabotage a team, not build one.

  • Normhimself

    Obviously we can't defend the P&R properly, but really our guys look disinterested. The only players I see playing with any heart is KG and Rondo. PP was complete garbage last night, we had sloppy play bringing the ball up court (resulting in face palming turnovers), and we were being out rebounded by a long shot. They were boxing us on on THEIR FREE THROWS. I definitely think we have a lot to work on, but I am beginning to wonder if everyone outside of the big 3 core want to work on it? Is it just me or is Jeff Green looking like hes sleep walking out there? I think there needs to be a few trades made if this team is going to work out, because as it stands I don't see where this group is going to come together to beat MIA or NY in the playoffs.

  • Normhimself

    Right now if I were Danny, I would be shopping a package deal of Jeff Green/Courtney Lee/Fab Melo around and see what can come out of it. I think Josh Smith needs to be at the top of our list, or Verajao if he becomes available. Josh Smith and Rondo are good friends off the court and I think they would have great chemistry both wearing green. Well, I guess thats my rant. I'm not hitting the panic button because as a long time C's fan I know we play the slow and steady race game, but man come on. We need a sense of urgency right now!!!

    • Phil

      A general rule of trades; if you're looking to trade the players on the team you'd most like to see gone or think the team could most afford to lose, you're not getting anything back. Why would any team want to give up a second round pick to pay 15m for the <10 points and nothing else that that package offers? It's a whole different level to actually give up a good player like Josh Smith in return.

    • bkbk

      that trade is not happening. why on earth would any team trade for $15M of contracts and give up a josh smith quality player? what does atlanta gain from that trade? if you package sully and bradley and a 1st rounder, then maybe you have something that could land a smith or cousins

  • Phil

    I don't really get the logical leap from the Hump twitpic and him forfeiting his reputation. I thought it was a relatively humorous post. I think his reputation around the league was already pretty solidified anyway.

    As far as Doc's comments, I'd like to know where his opinions end and his scorched earth attack on the team begins. That was definitely his yearly attack on the team to motivate them. The difference is that this one seemed a little more apropos than the ones of years past. He said a lot of prescient stuff, and we just have to hope it sticks. We may have to start asking ceiling questions soon, but it's also obvious that the Cs can play better than they have so far.

    I am a little confused with who he's calling out as well. I think the biggest underperformers this year have been Green, Pierce and Bass after his hot start, and I don't think any of them qualify as likely 'non buyers in'.

  • CG12

    I also found Doc's comments about guys "not buying in" to be a rather silly and transparent ploy to motivate guys. Hey, Doc, you know how you motivate guys to play harder? You sit them when they screw up or dog it. Not necessarily after one mistake, I think you get ONE and then to the pine with you. Doc talks a lot about accountability, wearing the green, blah blah blah, but all he ever does is roll out the same rotations for the same minutes, regardless. I would personally be delighted to see Rondo and Pierce both play less. Pierce was terrible last night. Awful TOs, bricked FTs in big moments, getting owned on D. I just don't understand why, during a game last night, he doesn't just throw something like Barbosa, JET, Lee, Green, and Sullinger out there and try and muck things up. The Cs continue to talk about running, but they have run very little this year and have relied on grinding out games, having almost no stretches where they have just blown the other guys off the floor.

    I have in the past lauded Doc for his steady hand and not making big changes based on the normal ups and downs during a season, but it is getting harder to see where continuing to do the same thing is going to produce different results this year. KG and Pierce are getting old and have lost about 15-20% from last year. Rondo still isn't maturing and his been disappointing this year. The new guys who will be key both this year and, especially, for the future, can't get any extended burn to get a rhythm going. Something has to give.

  • Sophomore

    Brendan, you said "It's not hard to figure out who those guys are."

    For me it is. Who is he talking about? I haven't noticed anybody on the Cs who's been flawless, and it doesn't seem to me the newcomers are failing for lack of effort or toughness. There's something missing, but I'm not sure it's that.