Is it not true that we are living in the age of impatience? I dare you to get in a car during rush hour (or any hour) in any major city (or suburb) and enjoy yourself. I dare you to read for more than twenty minutes in one sitting. I dare you to stand in line at CVS or Walgreens and not look at your phone. I dare you to watch a movie that doesn’t involve death, violence, or sex, or another form of immediate-gut-instinct-reaction. I dare you to sit somewhere outside and watch leaves move in the breeze, or watch the late afternoon sunlight and the birds that hunt for dinner. Watch nature for more than five minutes if you can. Forget about the sports talk and the sports world and, if you’re a Patriots fan, you’re disappointment with Sunday’s outcome.
When it comes to sports, the age of impatience is undeniable. Every fan wants every trade to happen every day. Every owner wants every coach fired during every losing streak…well, except for Gregg Popovich, who has been coaching the Spurs since 1996, and who has the unconditional love of all Spurs fans. You might think that Doc Rivers has earned the trust of all Celtics fans. After taking the Celtics to the NBA Finals twice in a three year span (2007-2010), and within one game of the Finals last year, Rivers not only has earned the respect of the players he coaches, but the front office as well. Rivers, who has coached more NBA games (among active coaches) than everyone except for George Karl, Rick Adelman, and Popovich, is frustrated with the current edition of these Celtics. Unlike the recent golden age that ended in 2010, these Celtics are flawed, imperfect, inconsistent, and generally closer to the average NBA team than we have become accustomed to. At least that’s one version of events, the quick and easy analysis that points to their 20-20 record, and spouts the cliche “You are what your record says you are.”
What they are is still yet to be determined, which is troubling in and of itself. Just when we began to see what we thought was this team’s true identity (six-game win streak after Bradley’s return where they won easily on several occasions due to their defensive intensity), the Celtics have dropped three in a row. Bradley’s injured rib may have something to do with the losses. Pierce’s tired legs may have something to do with it (32% from the field over the last 3 games). The lack of a back-up big man has something to do with it. What we now know about this team is that it’s margin for error is smaller than it’s been in years. But…shouldn’t we have known that coming in to the season? Two of our three best players are not getting old, they already are old, in NBA terms. They were missing their spark-plug for the first 30 games. And they were attempting to figure out what they’d brought in, week by week. On top of that, the Knicks and Nets are better than they’ve been in years.
In an ideal universe, the momentum that Bradley’s return gave Boston would have lasted another week, and we’d be bubbling over with enthusiasm heading into Thursday’s match-up with New York. Now, three bizarre games later, the C’s are back at .500 and fans are losing confidence, clamoring for a major trade. Fire Rivers! Trade Pierce! Blow it up! Rondo for DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans! Anything but more of the same! The exclamation points abound. Patience doesn’t exist in this universe. Ainge knows when the trading deadline is (February 21st) and he realizes they need one more PF/C to fortify the front court.
- New Orleans: Doc’s son, Austin and the rejuvenated Hornets (with Gordon) come to town and Pierce and KG, who described the game as “odd,” lay goose eggs in the third quarter, giving the game away.
- Chicago: The Celtics play an inspired but ugly game. Rondo and Sullinger play great, but Pierce can’t do anything against Deng/Butler and Hamilton takes advantage of Bradley’s absence. Pierce doesn’t call timeout, and Boston lets the victory slip away at the end of regulation.
The 103-88 loss at Detroit on Sunday night was more ugliness:
Brandon Bass plays 10 minutes, and manages to accumulate a negative 14 in the plus/minus category. Detroit has solid young big men in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond and they ate some striped Bass for dinner. Sullinger is undersized compared to the 6’11” Monroe and the 6’10” Drummond. Sullinger finished with a negative 17 himself.
Rondo had a frustrating night in Detroit as well. After busting his ass the entire night in Chicago, and nearly single-handedly propelling the Celtics to an important victory over the Bulls, Rondo went 4 of 16 from the field, never making it to the free-throw line and turning the ball over a disastrous 9 times. On the other hand, Rondo’s 15 assists, 9 rebounds and 3 steals are numbers that any point guard would dream of collecting. Pierce looked sluggish again, also steering clear of the charity stripe, and ended up with a negative 13, compared with Rondo’s negative 3. Though the plus/minus category is only one of many to consider, maybe it tells the story here.
When Pierce and Garnett are putting up 26 combined points, the Celtics need Rondo to make everything happen. With his small frame and his inability to knock down free-throws, it makes sense that Rondo’s mindset is unflinchingly aggressive only when it matters most (like he was against Chicago). Though he makes the game look so easy at times and appears completely dominant, the Celtics need that Bradley-inspired defense to allow Rondo’s strengths to flourish (the open court). Against Chicago, he succeeded despite the fact they couldn’t get out in transition. Bradley played with rib pads to protect the injured rib, but missed both corner 3’s and managed to put up zeroes in the rebound and assist categories over 19 injured minutes. So, where does the blame lie?
You might say Brandon Bass. When the Celtics went on that streak, Bradley’s defense seemed to inspire Bass to elevate his game. Bass doesn’t have to score, but he has to be active. In addition, his 15 foot-jumper is lost in a sea of trade-rumors at the moment. On everyone. And Rivers’ general frustration showed that the whole team is to blame.
They need a decent 6’10” shot-blocking/rebounder, especially when Bass disappears.
They need Bradley to stay healthy and hit that corner 3.
They need Pierce to take a few games off and come back with refreshed legs.
They need Sullinger (offensive rebounding and toughness) and Lee (frisky defense and corner 3s) to continue to play their roles.
They need patience from the fans, despite the fact we’re now at the mid-way point of the season.
They need to stop looking at their record, and regain their swagger.