The Celtics landed in Boston this morning, fresh off their first three consecutive 18+ point losses of the “Big Three” era. The issues from that stretch are glaring. Their start point guard (Rajon Rondo) is nicked up with a right hip/quad problem. Their defensive specialist (Courtney Lee) is still trying to gain a firm grasp of the team’s defensive schemes 30 games into the season. One of the team’s prized offseason acquisitions (Jason Terry) has proven to be more of a defensive liability than an reliable offensive weapon. A 20-year-old rookie (Jared Sullinger) is the only member of the frontcourt who has given the team consistent production outside of Kevin Garnett. Sadly, I’m just scratching the surface here.
It’s been a tough couple weeks and needless to say, the team is facing a bit of adversity at the moment as KG spoke to last night: (Via The Boston Herald)
“We’ve got to play better, man. We’ve got to have some pride in ourselves,” Kevin Garnett (16 points, 12 rebounds) said. “We gave up 100-and-something points three games in a row — that ain’t even close. We’ve got to, at some point, take it personal, you know? It’s not all on the coaches; it’s on players.”
“We built something here,” Garnett said. “I’m not living in the past or nothing, but the reason why guys came back and made additions to this team is because of what we built here. We’ve been known to defend. For some reason we’ve gotten away from that, so we’ve got to go back to our origins and figure it out. I told y’all (Saturday) night, these are the times when you’re going to see who really wants it, who really is willing to work to change this.
Doc Rivers echoed those sentiments last night in his postgame press conference, in talking about coming up empty on the trip:
“We thought we could win them all. We really did. But when you don’t play well, you don’t win. The Knicks came in here and lost the other day, so it’s not like we’re the only team. The NBA, you can lose every night and you can win every night, and I really believe that. But to win, you’ve got to play well. Winning is hard, and I don’t know if all our guys get that yet. You have to play hard to win an NBA game, one game. And it’s difficult and we’re not doing it.”
Now the Celtics are home with a couple of days to lick their wounds, before the Memphis Grizzlies arrive in Boston to coincide with the debut of Avery Bradley for the 2012-13 season. Bradley certainly won’t be able to solve the team’s countless problems on both sides of the floor, but the hope has to be he is capable of igniting a chain effect of improvements.
For instance, will his defense take the onus off Rondo defensively, which will in turn give Rondo more energy to help the offense produce more consistently? It may be a reach, but it’s those kind of developments that the C’s coaching staff are hoping for with his return.
For now, Bradley’s return serves as a “trade deadline” move before the real ones come for the team next month. With just 30 games into the season, there is still time for improvement and corrections, as the team has a manageable deficit (just four games out of 4th seed) to make up. There have been no real indicators that the team is on an upward trajectory, and the warning signs are as serious as ever.
A home slate (10 of 15 played in January at TD Garden) may help. If that and Bradley’s return doesn’t help to do the trick though, you can count on seeing the return of trader Danny once February rolls around.