So...uh...where do we go from here? Realistically, how does a team with championship aspirations recover after a loss to one of the worst teams in NBA history? Even more so, how do these Celtics recover from Saturday's loss to the abysmal New Jersey Nets given the state the team was in entering the game? If this was 2007-2008 and the Celtics had already eclipsed the 50-win plateau and lost to those Nets, we'd probably just be saying: "Well, uh, that was weird."
But instead, we're left more dumbstruck than ever before. It's one thing for this team to not be ready to tackle teams like the Cavaliers, Lakers, and Nuggets. It's an entirely different matter if this team can't even overcome the lowly Nets.
A few things occurred before Saturday's game. First, someone hung a sign up in the locker room that reads: "Individuals win games. Teams win championships." Clearly, someone's attempting to bring in outside sources of motivation. The only problem is, these Celtics don't appear to want to be motivated. Just ask Kendrick Perkins, who confirmed before the game that the veterans on the team were indeed "bored" with the regular season and are already anxious for the playoffs.
Beyond that, the team's talk following each loss grows cheaper by the day. After the Celtics blew another double-digit lead against the Cavaliers on Thursday, Kevin Garnett said to the media: "I know you guys are tired of writing it in your columns. I apologize for that. At some point there has to be some action." He then followed that statement up with this one after the loss to the Nets yesterday (When there was, you know, no action): "I feel disgusted."
So do something about it!
Are these guys just starting to feel sorry for themselves? Do they not realize that they alone need to change the fate of this season? And when I say, "they", I mean the players. The onus falls on the five guys who grace the court at any given time. It's certainly out of our hands. It's out of Danny Ainge's hands. And at this point, it's even out of Doc Rivers' hands. Whether you like Doc or not, his system will work with this group, particularly because he and his staff preach things like defense, rebounding, valuing the ball, moving the ball on offense, and self-sacrifice for the greater good of the team. It's not Doc's schemes that are driving this season off the road. It's the individual efforts of each player not matching the necessary levels this team needs in order to find success.
Where's the heart? Where's the hustle? Where's the dedication? Where's the passion? Where's the determination? Where's the resourcefulness? Where's the steadfastness? Where's the will to win? Where's the person who's going to stand up and say: "Enough"?
And if such a person does decide to stand up and say that, are we even going to believe him? Like I said, the talk with this team is cheap. At this point, the exchange rate would put you in debt. Especially when you've got guys like Rasheed Wallace saying: "No matter if we're bored or not, shoot, you still gotta go out and play the game the right way and get wins." At this point, given the individual it came out of, I believe we can refer to that statement as an oxymoron. Rasheed hasn't been playing the right way all season, and we're supposed to buy his comments? I for one, am not. And did anyone else catch Rasheed's rant on the poor official under the basket with 9:29 left in the fourth quarter on Saturday? Boy, it was a doozy.
Remember a month or so back when we were blaming the injuries for this team's problems? We were fooled, unfortunately. We see now that this team knows what it's been doing all along. Injuries aside, they don't appear to be willing to put the necessary effort in to win these games. And it's a shame. Because until they decide to do something about it, we'll be stuck in this rut.
Maybe, just maybe, this team is indeed just waiting for the playoffs. They're essentially guaranteed a spot at this point. But even if they are - even if they are expecting to enter the first round, snap their fingers, and expect everything to be peaches and ice cream - how can they guarantee that it will work out? After basically half a season of not giving the necessary effort, how can they expect to catch lightning in a bottle and run the table? After half a season of being on pause, will this team be able to effectively shake off the rust? They haven't appeared to properly execute their sets in weeks, yet the second the playoffs hit they expect that execution to just magically be there? Don't they need to show themselves that they can actually do it first? Because what happens if they enter the postseason and they can't actually do it? What if the switch gets flipped but the light doesn't turn on? What evidence is there that proves this can actually be done wit this team?
It's like an entry level employee expecting a huge promotion if he can perform well during the fourth quarter of the year. Except he hasn't proved that he has any of the qualifications or skills necessary to find success at the job. And on top of that, his work ethic is minimal and he can't even work effectively on a day-by-day basis. Yet, when the fourth quarter begins, he expects to just "turn it on" and surge towards the end in order to obtain the promotion. Unfortunately, because he couldn't do his job when it didn't exactly matter, he certainly can't do his job when the pressure's actually on. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work like that.
Hopefully these Celtics realize this. Hopefully they see the value in the remaining 25 games of the regular season. For if they do not, and their words continue to speak louder than their actions, they will surely be putting an awful lot of unsupported faith in their ability to just "turn it on" come playoff time.