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Doc Rivers Unloads After Pistons Loss, Threatens Trades If Team Does Not Improve

It’s a tough night to be a Boston sports fan to put it kindly. Another Boston Celtics loss was probably an afterthought to most local fans with the Pats going down, but Doc Rivers had a press conference after tonight’s blowout loss to the Detroit Pistons that will have the Celtics back on everyone’s radar.

We’ll have full analysis of this contest in the coming hours, but for now, Doc’s comments on the team’s recent struggles speak volumes. We’re halfway through the season and the Boston Celtics are officially back to being a .500 team. Rivers made clear he’s not happy with this kind of inconsistent performance and if things don’t change soon, there could be some roster turnover sooner rather than later.  Here are Doc’s comments (via Chris Forsberg at ESPNBoston.com)

“I think this team wants everything easy. They want the easy way out. They want to win easy. And I told them the only way you’re going to win easy is you’re going to have to play hard. The harder you play, the easier the games become. We’re taking the wrong approach. I’ve got to either find the right combination, the right guys, or we’re going to get some guys out of here. It’s the bottom line. Because this group right now, they are not playing right. It’s in them to play right. But right now they haven’t been — either because I’m not getting to them, or they are not getting to each other. But at the end of the day, either we’ve got to do that, or we’ve got to make changes.”

Is Doc overreacting? Who is he specifically referring to here? And will this team respond? We’ll discuss it all in the coming days, but for now you can bet it will be a long ride to Cleveland for this team tonight. Doc likes to send messages through the media and tonight he sent one loud and clear.

  • Rav

    Didn't watch the game, but this sounds like the usual calling-out of Rondo from Doc. Am I mistaken? Are there others in the lineup who seem as if they are coasting?

    • Mark

      You should really watch the game before you sound off on another anti-Rondo rant.

      Getting sick of this attitude where everything wrong points to Rondo.

      • EdK

        But, Doc was implying Rondo, as well as a few others.

        Rondo had 15 gaudy assists, but he also had 9 turnovers, and some were just awful and/or lazy – passes into the stands, directly to the Pistons, etc. His defense was once again atrocious, allowing his man to penetrate at will or launch wide open threes.

        Doc was also implying Pierce, who, unless injured, has just about given up on showing effort in any game. He was awful. Bass was awful. Terry was awful.

        The only two guys who show up every night with effort (and their lunchbox) are KG and Sully. I want to include Bradley, and probably will soon, but he's still recovering from his injuries.

      • Josh_5

        You can kiss Rondo's butt all day, but you can't fake 9 turnovers.

        • CelticsBIG3

          He made Knight look like a veteran last night.

      • Phil725

        I haven't seen anyone (including the OP here,) try to pin all of the blame at Rondo. You need to really look at things through green tinted glasses to completely absolve Rondo for the team's struggles though. He's having his worst season in years when the team needs him to have his best, and effort 'is' a major question mark.

        Rondo's still a great point guard, but there needs to be some explanation for why the team consistently performs better with him on the bench, why the bench lineups consistently get better looks on offense than the starters, and why he's still the inconsistent role player he was when there were legitimate stars for him to lean on, despite the fact that he shows the ability to flip the switch and play at an MVP level whenever the ESPN or TNT cameras show up.

        The honeymoon is over, and the Rondo/CP3 debate is long gone. Now we have to figure out how good Rondo really is, because this team is a lot more similar to the ones the Cs will have going forward than the 08 one is.

        • Phil725

          Just to put things in perspective, in 655 minutes without Rondo (about 1/3 of the season, so not that small of a sample size,) the Cs have a 104.3 offensive rating. That puts them in the top half of the league in offense, right around league average (according to BasketballReference.) With Rondo, that drops almost 3 whole points to 101.4, which is a tenth of a point ahead of Indy for 28th overall.

          There are places you can look to try and excuse Rondo, but no true star hurts his team that much under any circumstance. This a much better team when Rondo sits, and that needs fixed.

          • CelticsBIG3

            The question there is how?

          • CG12

            Yowzer. I would guess that the same goes for the defensive side of the ball. So disappointing.

  • Morpheus

    I don't think this was a case of Doc trying to light a fire under the teams ass here. He was being brutally honest. It is what it is, black and white. This team is going nowhere, and Doc knows this.

  • High Rollers

    Doc wants warriors not wanna-bes.

  • I never thought I'd say this, but this team needs a fresh start. If Rondo is our only viable trade chip, then unfortunately his play so far hasn't given me enough reason to say "no way in hell". I know it's not all on him, but we need a spark and he just seems lackadaisical out there..

  • WTF

    How about a new coach? The one who can get to Rondo?

    • Cane

      Rondo has the responsibility of getting to Rondo. Why would you want to put this on Doc?

  • CelticsBIG3

    Rondo played terribly tonight. So many stupid passes when he should just shoot, and when he did shoot terrible ugly layups. This team had started playing so well with the return of AB, and now we are back to square one. Can I still get a refund for my tickets I bought to the Celtics/Heat game this coming Sunday?

    • Ben

      That'll still be a good game, man. Every team brings their A game when going up against the Heat. Plus Ray Allen will be back in the Garden which will be interesting. Please don't boo him.

      • CelticsBIG3

        I know, I'm jacked for the game. I love going to the Garden. In my 37 visits I'm 34-3, with one loss coming at the hand's of the Bucks in this years home opener. Hope this game is better. And I will try to be nice to Ray; after all I used to go to his Uconn games with my mom at the Hartford Civic Center when I was a youngster.

  • KillerGymRat

    I watched the game. The bench actually outplayed the starters, and for a short stretch the team looked really good coming back from down 18 within one quater and closing out the half only down 2. But then they fell apart in the second half.

    He has a right to be mad about the effort, it was inconsistent and after the really aggressive defensive stretch that got them back in the game, they let up and played soft and got destroyed on the interior by Detroits bigs.

    The biggest problem was closing out on 3-point shooters and not putting any bodies on Detroits front line. I'd have to single out Bass as really being a liability defensively this one. But the real problem is the team wasn't playing like a team. They looked like any one of the other mediocre teams out there playing sub .500 ball that play inconsistent and aren't confident in their ability to execute. I saw at least 6 or 7 easy layups be missed. The mental toughness is just not there. Which is odd, because it all seemed to come together during the 6 game win streak and suddenly its like this team just got put together. Bradley being back tonight didn't seem to make much of a difference except for during the rather brief 1st half come back.

    A big part is really we just don't have the athletes and size to contend with a team like Detroit with talented bigs like Drummond and Monroe. We certainly could have done a better job but it's a glaring weakness that big teams will always be able to exploit and that's on Ainge.

    Sadest thing about the night is Pierce is looking really tired. I hope he gets to rest up during the all-star break.

  • High Rollers

    If my feet were to the fire, whether from my own doing or somebody else's, I'd want a good man or woman (or twelve) letting me know in no uncertain terms.

    Should be a good game in Cleveland.

  • check12check

    I agree with Doc. We need to blow this thing up. Too many problems to list and I'm kind of tired of talking about the flaws.

  • Phil725

    So I missed the game the first time around because I was busy getting a root canal/colonoscope/some other crappy way to spend time, like most of the New England area, but I didn't see any updates on the Cs game, so I figured I'd watch the replay at 2am. Well, I got about half way through the second quarter before saying screw it with that plan.

    I still haven't seen most of the game, but I saw the pitiful first quarter. The starting 5 is getting borderline unwatchable. They don't get any good shots at all. Teams went from letting them get their long 2s to contesting those hard, and there's no one in the starting 5 who can do anything else, even with teams playing the long 2. When the Bench/KG lineup comes in (even bench/Collins in the first,) the team actually moves the ball, gets open looks and generally looks like a basketball team. I don't know how Rondo could have such a tiny impact on the starting unit, but I actually think he's part of the problem.

    I don't know what the answer is, because I certainly don't want to see the Terry/Lee/Green/Sully lineup changed, but something needs done about the starting lineup. It's not shots not going in, it's not getting any good shot ever.

  • Phil725

    Also, the trade threat hardly seems like a hollow one given what we know about Ainge's history and how close he was to dealing last year. Whether Doc vocalizes it or not, we know that something big will happen if the team is floundering a month from now. I don't really think it'll be a move to put the team over the top if it does get to that point. (in other words, the phrase 'blowing it up' will be prominently involved.)

  • elroz

    Terry and Bass are just floating out there…no impact. Green somewhat the same as well.

    These three guys.

    • swissflix

      first find a team who actually wants them. that's the tough part.
      but yeah, from now on i'll just watch the games knowing they're the last ones with Pierce and KG on the floor. Thank you for the last 18 years of bball – another run in 2013-14 won't make sense if they don't win it all this year. No matter how far they go this year i'll miss them terribly.

      • tbunny


      • CelticsBIG3

        I guess it's all dependent upon who they can put around KG and Pierce. But here here to missing them terribly. After the game 7 loss last year I was already fearful, then we SEEMINGLY reloaded our roster and was excited again. Then we sucked for two months. Then we won 6 straight (3 convincingly). Then we suck again. I have a hard time believing Pierce is suffering from enough fatigue at this point in the year to be playing so poorly; I think it has more to do with the lack of consistent effort here. The only guys I see working hard and trying to be part of a team game (ie Not PP) EVERY night are Sullinger and KG (too early to AB in that conversation).

    • Sophomore

      In general, that's right. But you can't pin it on Green last night. In his up-again, down-again season, last night was an up night. The starters were not good last night. For example, when your starting PG gives up 9 turnovers and shoots 4 for 16, he's not giving you a great chance to win.

  • Matt

    Anyone got the video of this press con?

  • Like it or not a lot of times like these, Rondo is part of the problem. When he misses a game or two and we play PG by committee with AB, CL, JT, PP and even JG the ball moves more quickly, we use more dribble handoffs, more PnR, more penetration and we push the ball up the floor in transition. For whatever reason when Rondo is in the game we stop doing all that and simply give him the ball and watch him walk it up the floor and wait for him to do something.

    I don't know why we insist on doing this or if guys are just too deferential to Rondo but it has to stop. When you couple the stagnant offense with the lazy defense especially from Rondo and Pierce (Bass and Green aren't so much lazy imo, just stupid) you just can't win many ballgames doing that.

    At least the Bruins are back.

    • Sophomore

      This ^.

      Rondo just holds the ball too long.

      I get why people cling to him. When he's in hero mode, he shows the kind of ability that only a handful of players in the game have. You want a guy like that for the push to the Finals. But he can't sustain it over a season, and when he's dogging it he stifles the rest of the team.

    • Josh_5

      Sean is dead on. When Rondo is out, guys can't just stand around hoping for something to be created. Guys are PROACTIVE when Rondo is out versus REACTIVE when he is in. Rondo does too much dribbling and not enough attacking (going to the rim, free-throw attempts, etc). I love Rondo, I really do, but he needs a little bit more on-court humility and he needs to value the basketball more.

  • Switcharoo
  • hector

    yes rondo is part of the problem listen guys no one hates rondo i want him to be the best but when your point guard holds the ball for the 18 of 24 seconds its no movement and the guys that like to run and create like lee, Bradley, barbosa and green are stuck playing a half-court game where they not as good also rondo its not interested in keeping guys in front of him just looking for steals from behind please that its not defense and lets not talk about his attitude where he wants to argue with his teammates and the coaching staff. I like rondo he is fast and a great court vision and has improve his shoot but we don't need 95% coming from rondo. remember guys its a game and in anything you play you want to have fun and when someone is having the ball 90% on the time and you are just looking its not fun anymore. rondo is the point guard and need to hold accountable like everyone else so please are you Celtics fans or rondo's?

    • CG12

      Totally agree. Rondo is a talented player, but making him so exclusively the wheelman of the offense can create big issues. If he is going to dominate the ball like that, he needs to be super active to keep his teammates involved. He goes for long stretches where he doesn't do that, and you can actually see them stop moving off the ball while the O grinds to a halt. The end of the 2nd and 4th quarters are inevitably the worst stretches of offense for the team, when they go to the 100% Rondo-centric offense. The ball moves a lot better with the second team, which produces better results and is so much nicer to watch. The first team offense is borderline unwatchable.

  • CG12

    I'd be 100% okay with Brandon Bass being moved. Bass is hard to dislike because he passes the eyeball test so easily. He is build like a Mack truck, has that nice high-lift jumper, and can make explosive plays around the rim. But he has got to be one of the lowest BB IQ players in the league. On offense he does 3 things with the ball, and 3 things only – shoot jumpers, go to the rim with everything he's got, and frantically try to give the ball to someone else. He does not pass. He does not have counter-moves. He does not have a post-up game. On defense he is constantly in the wrong spot and late getting where he needs to be. Multiple times every game it seems like Bass is in a play where the C's are getting back in transition and he just goes to the paint, without locating his man, and ends up not really guarding anyone. Teams pick that up, move the ball to the open man, the D has to rotate, etc. etc. It is a bummer, because he seems like a good guy and a hard worker, but just isn't a smart 5-man basketball player.

    • CG12

      And that is especially highlighted when contrasted against Sullinger's great natural understanding of the game. I'm just counting the days until Sully is inserted into the starting lineup. Unless there is a physical reason to keep his minutes down, he needs to start and close every game, and get no less than 30 minutes.

      • CelticsBIG3

        No physical limitations; foul trouble my man.

        • CG12

          It will be really nice when he starts to see some whistles going his way, or (more to the point) see some no-calls go his way, which I think we are already seeing a little of. He plays so physically that he is going to pick up plenty of fouls, but he needs to learn how to strike a balance. He should watch a lot of Reggie Evans tape.

  • IBleedGreen

    Is it just me or does it seem like other teams are just hitting contested 3s, open 3s, and buzzer beating 3s on us all year long?

    • tbunny

      Celtics are getting murdered at 3 point line. And in the paint….

  • KillerGymRat

    I'm going to go on record and say I hope Danny is looking at Atlanta and Josh Smith. With Lou Williams out for the season, Josh's recent suspension and upcoming free agency and Atlanta's current struggles (2 – 8 in their last ten) they are clearly in a position of needing to shake things up as well. Guys like Green, Bass and Terry could really help them out. I leave Lee out of the equation (I hope Danny does too) because I really see him stepping up, playing hard and patterning his game after AB. His defense has really improved since Bradley came back and he fits well with the Defense first mentality. But for Smith I'd still deal him.

    I think the real problem nobody seems to want to talk about is with our best 3 players. Pierce and KG's decline from the playoffs to this year has been pretty dramatic. They are still quality contributors and stand out players, but they can't take over games or impose their will consistently like they once did. It's sort of like watching Boston during the end of Larry Legend's run. The competitive fire and basketball IQ is still there, but the legs are gone. I expect they should both improve during the playoffs with the added rest but for the regular season, they are going to have just as many bad games as good. And Rondo is painfully inconsistent. He was incredible against the bulls, but I didn't see any of that attack mentality against Detroit. In fact I saw a player more concerned with getting stats. One particular play KG got the ball on a scramble right under the rim and kicked it to a wide open Rondo for a layup. Rondo then passed up the layup to (awkwardly) give it back to KG….who fortunately caught it and finished despite expecting Rondo to finish and not being ready for a pass. It's plays like that which have me wonder where his head is really at. It was totally a stat padding play.

    No team legitimately challenges for a title without at least 2 super stars. Right now it's hard to say we even have one.

    • CelticsBIG3

      That play were he handed it off to KG was ridiculous. You can look at it one way and say maybe he wanted to help KG to get jacked up, but the way I see it, it's having this mentality in this situation that creates all the bullsh!t passes he throws when he attacks the hoop. FINISH. AT. THE. RIM; every time!!!! He needs to go several games with a mindset that he is not looking to assist CONSTANTLY. SCORE THE BALL. He is our youngest guy with great scoring ability and he shouldn't be making himself a 5th or 6th scoring option on a regular basis. One play in particular I really liked last night came from Courtney Lee. He took his man off the dribble from 15 feet from the rim with a nifty crossover move and finished strong at the basket. More of this Rondo; and also, how about some effort to stay in front of the guy you are guarding. That "poke the ball out from behind" sh!t may work now when he's 26, but what happens when he hits 30 years old and he's built up this habit of trying to tap the ball from behind? For all his strengths, he has created some habitually bad tendencies for himself. The only remedy for that is to make a concerted effort to do the polar opposite of what he usually does. Like in games vs. Chicago where he goes for 30 points, or against Miami game 2 when he goes for 44. Sure we didn't win those games, but we will if he does this on a consistent basis. When Rondo plays that way so infrequently I think it leaves his teammates more or less confused.

      • KillerGymRat

        well said!

      • Phil725

        The tap the ball out from behind thing is actually a go to move for perimeter guys once their athleticism declines, Jason Kidd has become the prime example of that. The real problem is what happens once there's no rim protection behind him to gamble. We've already seen that answer for the most part this year, and it's not good for the team, or for whatever reputation is left for Rondo's defense. The problem with that gambling mentality now is that he has the athleticism and ability to stay in front of his guy, he just doesn't have the tenacity/effort/mentality/whatever.

        I know it's a fool's game to question Doc when it comes to how he handles the players, but I'd love to see him try something extreme with Rondo. Bench him when he passes up one of those layups, or set a limit for him at 5 assists or something like that. The assist streak ending didn't get him out of the pass first mentality that the team desperately needs to be rid of, so they need to try something else.

        • CelticsBIG3

          This idea I really like. One thing I did notice in that game last night, after one particularly bad pass where he had a wide open lane and threw the ball off AB's ankles Doc called a time out. Watching the game with a friend we started talking about whether or not Doc tells him to cut that sh!t out. I noticed from that turnover forward, there was maybe one more instance when Rondo did something stupid in terms of passing. Don't know if anything was said, but he seemed to put a stop to it perhaps. Love the idea of benching him for that crap though. Doc never hesistates to pull the likes of Terry, Green, or Lee after a foolish error.

  • smalltownID

    Glad to see the majority FINALLY seem to be coming back down to earth on Rondo. The crazy thing is he has actually improved his jump shooting weakness although he still isn't willing to shoot. I honestly don't know if trading him is the answer. This is coming from someone who has never been on the Rondo bandwagon. I surely wouldn't be heart broken to see any formidable pg in his place that isn't padding his stats.

    • Phil725

      Rondo's play this year doesn't do anything to damper what he did the last few years. The problem that I have (one that I assume I share with most Cs fans who haven't stayed rose colored glasses towards Rondo,) is that he's shown absolutely no ability to mold his game to the team. If you surrounded Rondo with another team like 08, he'd be playing great, and the team as a whole would be just fine. Put Rondo on a team where he's routinely setting up Bass 16 footers or a 35 year old Pierce for fadeaways, and you have a bad team. He's not on the Steve Nash level of creating offense out of nothing, and worst of all, he doesn't seem to be giving the day in and day out effort that would be required of him as a true superstar.

      If you were counting on Rondo to play at an MVP level this year, or to be the centerpiece of the team going forward, you have to be disillusioned. I know he still has a lot of trade value, but you need the right piece to be available to make that kind of move. It's always dangerous trading stars, but I wouldn't be as opposed to it as I would've at the start of the year. I want no part of this team with Rondo as the #1 guy.

      • Josh_5

        These are very strong words, but I find myself struggling to make a counter-argument. The fact that our offensive efficiency number drops when Rondo plays is scary, and his lack of desire to be the best every night is also alarming. The feeling I have right now about Rondo is the same feeling you get when you think your girlfriend is about to break up with you….

        • CelticsBIG3

          Depends on how much you like your girlfriend though.

  • Doc threatens trades? Can he even do that? As I last remembered, only Danny Ainge is capable of doing that? If anything, Doc needs to keep his mouth shut or else he will be the one getting the heave-ho!!

    • Q_33

      Doc and Danny work closely together. I would not be surprised to see Rondo, KG, even Paul Pierce get traded within a month. Trouble is we would only get back 60 cents on the dollar and there is a good chance that Philly, Toronto, and Detroit pass us in the standings.

      • Phil725

        KG isn't in the same class of tradeability as those other 2. He has a no trade clause in his contract (one of only 4 in the league according to Shamsports,) and he would obviously exercise that with any trade to a bad team, and probably any trade in general given what starting up with another team would mean. On top of that, he has a ton of value to this team as long as he's here (on and off the court,) the kind of value that a contending team wouldn't give up to add a piece like KG. Anyone else could go in a blowing it up situation though.

  • KillerGymRat

    Have to agree with so much of what you shared. I'm a big Rondo fan and last season when there was talk of the C's pursuing CP3 I was in shock. I couldn't fathom why they would even consider giving up somebody who IMO is a better athlete and had a much higher ceiling in terms of his potential (I still think he does and you see it in spurts when he puts up crazy tripple doubles but again, that's my opinion).

    After this season I am sad to say I would make that trade in a seond. It seems to be purely a mental thing. Rondo clearly has the talent, and now with his improved jump shooting and ability to see the floor he is one of the most dangerous players in the league. But he doesn't have that fire that Durant, LeBron and CP3 has to push themselves every night and want to be the best player in the world. I would even trade for Lillard. Lillard seems to love being the go to go and thrives as the first option.

    Rondo actually seems to resent having to play that hard like when he has games like he did against the Bulls. Perhaps it's that when he does, other guys aren't stepping up and despite his huge contribution (Bulls 30, Heat 44) we lost those games (though both with shitty no-calls).Or perhaps I'm making excuses for him.

    When you see him bumping refs and looking to get in fights, I just start to question if he is emotionally mature enough to handle the pressure of being a superstar night in and night out.

    I still think this team can win with him, but he has to want to be the best player in the world. Right now he doesn't even seem to want to be the best player on the team.

  • Ahager
    • CelticsBIG3

      That just makes me sad. When I look back on it, the KG acl tear in 2008-09 kinda derailed the train. Sure we came within minutes of a title in 2010, but I just believe the momentum was taken from us. Team could have repeated that year with most of the 2008 group in tact.

  • Kevin

    l think Brandon bass has been in a funk all year rondo plays well with Bradley and Lee .Terry has been a bust and Jeff green l don’t think he s happy here despite his recovery from surgery l take my hst off to Doc but he has a headache this team is going nowhere