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Monday Notebook: Picking Up The Pieces From A West Coast Debacle

 

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.

  • IBleedGreen

    Are we really relying on AB to rescue the team? This is just so sad.

    • Phil

      He's done it once before!

      The correct way to phrase it is "Are we really relying on AB to rescue the team 'AGAIN'?"

      • Vincent

        AB is good. He's not LeBron

        • IBleedGreen

          He's not even that good. He's an average player at best if you average his D and O.

          • Phil

            I'm curious why you think Bradley's offense is so bad; if we assume his D is elite, his offense has to be catastrophic to bring him to 'average at best'.

            He shot well enough from 3 last year (40% is great, but on a small number of attempts,) 'and' from the floor overall (50%) Given that all four other players in a theoretical lineup not involving Collins are good offensive player, his niche efficient game is exactly what the Celtics need. He's not high usage, but given his skill cutting and hitting open threes, his offense fits in perfectly on this team. No one's asking him to be Jamal Crawford and create a lot of offense for himself.

            By comparison, Terry's high usage less efficient game is exactly what they don't need in the starting 5. When you combine Pierce and Terry starting, you get some of those 10-40 days that basically lose you the game despite what everyone else does. They have enough average shooters already.

            The starting 5 needs an elite defender and an efficient offensive player, Bradley is both. He's not Lebron, but he fits in with what they need.

          • Phil

            More defense of Bradley's offense: Those numbers I posted were actually from his year averages last year. That includes a lot of his ineffective numbers early when they were still trying to make him a backup PG. His numbers from April when they made him the starting 2 are insane.

            GPMINFGM-FGAFG%3PM-3PA3P%FTM-FTAFT%ORDRREBASTBLKSTLPFTOPTS

            1532.96.2-11.9.5201.2-2.2.5451.5-1.9.7861.01.62.61.50.11.22.31.915.1

            I'm not sure how that will look once it's copy/pasted, but that's 55% 3pt shooting on over 2 taken a game. >50% shooting from the field and >15 points a game from an elite defender!

            There's some regression in store there, but here's the other thing; he's younger than Damien Lillard! If anyone thinks this is who Bradley is, period, they're taking quite a leap.

      • Sand

        You forget that it was not JUST AB that turned this team around last year. it was a combination of things. Paul and KG were finally in game shape when AB was put in the starting lineup and KG was moved to the 5. Bass actually made shots. This is a completely different team. Last year, our second unit couldn't put the ball in the basket most of the time BUT they played aggressive defense. This year, that is not the case. AB cannot play 48 minutes so what happens when he comes out of the game?

        • Phil

          It's actually a very similar team, and that's part of the reason I'm optimistic. The only losses off last year's roster are Stiemsma (nothing) and Ray (ideally replaced by Terry once he's in the 6th man role.) I have to assume that the team will soon move back to playing KG at the 5 with either Bass or Sullinger at the 4, and now you have a similar starting lineup that carried the team last year, with a bench with a higher ceiling. Bass playing better is important, but is it guaranteed that he can't be the mildly useful player from last year once the same situation is set up?

          I admittedly don't expect much out of the bench, but it was even worse last year; that's the important part to note. If they could overcome what they had last year, they can surely cobble together 15-20 not team destroying minutes of bench play this year.

          It's also not just Bradley returning that I'm counting on: You have Terry slotting into a role he's comfortable with instead of his current role as mole, you have Rondo playing a much better defensive position, and you have Lee moving to Barbosa's seat on the bench, getting rid of one new player who hasn't been able to defend or hit shots. Add in the return to KG at the 5, and it's similar across the board improvements as last year. Bradley's absence weakened a lot of stuff not related to him.

          I also think that 'working themselves into game shape' thing was pretty close to total BS. They tried a lot harder at the end of the year than they did at the beginning, and I think you're seeing that again. I don't believe that we've gotten 100% of Pierce yet, and KG either by way of his minute counts. You can't really fault them or the team for pacing themselves, they know the playoffs are the only goal. This team will crank it up late like they have for the entire KG era, that part I don't doubt at all. Whether or not it's enough for anything significant…

  • IBleedGreen

    The problem of this team is the way it is currently structured. Ainge clearing is building his team around Rondo by surrounding him with shooters like KG, Pierce, Bass, Terry, Lee, and it has backfired. All of them (maybe except KG) have struggled shooting the ball this year, and Rondo just doesn't have the skill set to take over a game by himself without relying on other guys to hit shots. You live or die by jump shots, we're dying because our shots are not falling. We better find the shooting touch real soon or our playoffs hope is in jeopardy.

    • tbunny

      The big problem isn't offense. It's a defense which can't defend the paint and can't defend three pointers. The defense is just waving guys through to the basket.

      • IBleedGreen

        I could argue that the offense is as problematic as the defense, When we score we can set up our D.

        • tbunny

          Both are bad. But they can't get stops at all.

          • IBleedGreen

            I know, it goes both ways. When we score we can set up our defense. When we make a stop we can run our offense better. So it's hard to say which one is affecting the other more.

  • Ge0gre

    Defense: I think alot of people are forgetting who the old defensive mastermind was for the Big Three – Tom Thibodeau. It's been a few years since he left Boston for Chicago and in that time alot of the Celtics players have been swapped out for fresh faces. While KG is a defensive minded monster, it's gotta be tough on all the Boston players and coaches to get the new talent to catch on to the old Celtics system.
    I hope Ainge has a plan to ink a new big man which will push KG back to the 4 spot where he belongs. This move will undoubtedly mean sacrificing some of the younger prospects on the team, but as a franchise, we have to win now while KG and Pierce are still game. Otherwise we will just be a mediocre team now and for the next years to come. Pull the trigger Danny.

  • g12

    I've not been known to just give up and say trash it, BUT mentally we are not tough enough. Danny missed this truth during his mental joggings and can we say we knew better? I thought the team would gel. They are not gelling – period! Time to push the red button, trash it. The Perk deal is a bust. Now let us move on. Terry is just stuck in neutral, and as for the other's .. Well Sully is a keeper, but most likely will have to be part of a deal IF any true talent is to be returned Boston's way. We know Rondo, Paul, Avery and KG will stay put. Right? Wrong! We are on the cusp of the unknown here and as fans we ought to be aware of the fact that anyone can be dealt. Especially (and hopfully) anyone not named Paul, Avery, Kevin or Rajon. Keep that core Danny, but please, roll the dice already and realize that if ubuntu dies this year, we will never revisit that idea again. Back to the bronze age we go .. Say it ain't so Danny ..

  • g12

    One last thought. Can a DeMarcus Cousins buy into ubuntu? We don't know, but just imagine if he did! Whether this year or next, get that guy in green. He makes Howard look like a duck on a frozen pond trying to figure out how to get the fish! Let me say this one more time. Ubuntu is what is missing from this team. Nothing else. Forget rebounding, forget talent. This concept of unity is the end all be all under coach Rivers. Whoever don't vibe with that in their core, step the f?!$ off! We are missing guys with heart! …. May ubuntu become contagious again.

  • CG12

    Ha! Avery's return will allow Rondo to expend even less energy on defense? It isn't even possible, I'm afraid to say. I'm not blaming Rondo for the team's problems, by any stretch, but his defense has reached all-time lows this season, after trending downward for the last five years. Completely unable, or unwilling, more to the point, to stay in front of his man, and then makes no effort to recover. It is very distressing.

    • Phil

      This is part of the reason I'm buying into the AB return so hard; Rondo has been flat out terrible as an on ball defender this year. He's not fighting over screens or keeping his guy in front of him reliably. Bradley on the other hand is top 5 in the entire league at worst at that exact role. Rondo has proven to be a much better off ball guard, something Terry has been dreadful at. You're not just adding one elite defender to the starting lineup, you're replacing two bad ones with two much better ones.

  • IBleedGreen

    Having AB back is like a band-aid on a gun wound. It will slow down the bleeding but it won't heal.

  • WTF

    Damn fools, you are talking about AB as if he's the superstar savior. He's not! Whenever a team is not geling, not playing systematic defense, not playing systematic offense, it's on the coach! It's Doc Rivers! He was given a bunch of players, but he's not capable to make a team out of them. He's not using people the right way! Terry is not a Ray type shooter, he cannot just running around like a headless chicken. KG is not a center. Rondo cannot play like he recently did, get in his face and yell at him, sit him down, Doc! Yell at Pierce too when he plays hero ball. But no, Doc is not Pop. He has to go!

    • hydrofluoric

      I don't necessarily agree Doc has to go, but I agree that he's not getting the most out of his players.

      But KG is definitely a center. Guy is not nearly fast enough to defend PFs anymore (and I think people are forgetting how everyone thought KG was over the hill last year before he actually made the move). Plus moving him back to PF stifles the hell out of our starting offense.

    • Phil

      Should we hire Mike Brown or Avery Johnson? Mike Brown has proven he can coach in a big market like LA, but Avery Johnson has such a lovely voice. Just thinking about Avery Johnson explaining Jeff Green's latest debacle in a post game press conference in 2016 makes me swoon…

    • Josh_5

      You guys calling for Doc to be fired are ridiculous. Rondo is leading the NBA in dimes and KG's move to the 5 last year was reason we went so far. Doc is not the one missing open shots or failing to rotate in time to help on defense. Doc isn't missing free throws or failing to box out so shut up.

  • IBleedGreen

    What's worse? Jeff Green post-up or Paul Pierce Iso?

    • CG12

      Paul Pierce iso, hands down. I actually like Green posting up. He was drawing a lot of fouls early, something not many guys on the team do. And I think he didn't get a lot of whistles he perhaps should have. Green is at his best when he is making things happen. He is not a role player – he is a guy who needs 30 minutes a game and plenty of shots. It is amazing how PP can get 40 and 35 in consecutive games, and then look absolutely terrible the next couple of games. And he has looked terrible. Getting worked on D, shot is flat, classic PP turnovers in the lane, and generally looking a bit old. Young, quick guys with size, like James Johnson of SAC, give him so much trouble now. It bums me out.

  • emg

    The tacit argument this whole year is based on the C's unlikely performance last year in the playoffs. The feeling is that by adding Green, Wilcox, Terry, Lee, we'd certainly go further, since the crippled version of the team made it to the finals of the East and we have all set that as the new norm for the starters.

    But the fact is that we barely beat the Hawks and 76ers and we would have lost to the Bulls if Rose existed (or if we had played them). At this point we're simply replaying the same starters and the results will probably be the same. We'll lose in the second round like we should have last year and there's nothing terribly embarrassing about that given the actual team we have which has no superstars.

    • Phil

      Agreed with pretty much everything here; people have unrealistic expectations because they fail to acknowledge the luck last year, or the luck it would take this year to replicate that run.

      The pieces are there for this team to be better than last year, but they could be better than last year and lose to the Heat in 5 in the second round.

      Then again, it's possible that the pieces never fit and this team never reaches the late season level of last year. I do think it's too early to write off Terry and whoever they trade Lee for though.

      • emg

        Do you think it's possible they trade Pierce and Lee for Cousins?

        • Phil

          Is that a rumor? The salaries are nowhere close, so I assume the Cs would be taking back something like Salmons and Garcia? I can't imagine the Cs trading Pierce, but I also don't see why the Kings would be that interested in a package like that. There's not much long term potential/size for a rebuilding team, and that's a lot of money to take in for the Maloofs.

          The Pistons have better pieces to land Cousins if they want to, but if the Celtics did make a trade, I'd have to assume it would include Sullinger and Fab along with sending out one of Lee/Bass and taking back a bad contract. I expect Cousins to be in Sacramento for the year though, his value is at its low point right now, so why trade him?

    • Morpheus

      Totally agree. I love it how a lot of fans are living in the past. Fuck the past this is the present. Like PP said "what have you done for me lately".

      Atlanta were without Horford for most of that series and JSmoove also missed a couple games if i recall correctly.

      Philly took us to 7 games and Miami were without Bosh, save game 7. We only got so far in the playoffs because of luck.

  • Morpheus

    And Chicago would have taken us out in 5-6 with a healthy Rose.

    • The Cardinal

      I don't necessarily buy that. I could make the argument that had we had a healthy Bradley, we could have squeaked by Miami, and Miami was a better team than the Bulls with Rose, but who the heck knows?

      As for this season? Sometimes you get the bear…

  • Celtics Freak

    Hopefully this will just be like last year and after the All-Star Break we’ll become that team standing in Miami’s way, we could use an athletic Center though, if we were to get someone like DeAndre Jordan (though not possible) we’d be an all around team in contention

  • DaDiVill

    It's so sad that we have to wait for Avery Bradley to turn things around, He is not the answer here it's time to change things like FIRE the head coach, trade some players start anew. we can't duplicate what happened last season, we have to do some drastic change here.

  • KevinG

    It may just be a rumor, but Sacramento is not willing to trade Cousins. http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/features/rumors

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