I never, ever, ever thought I'd see the day where a team featuring Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo would be labelled "soft." Especially not by their very intelligent and respected coach. But that's just what happened this week.
"We all have to keep our emotions. Hell, we didn't come to play, as a team. That was awful, basketball-wise. If I'm Brooklyn and [other teams] in the league, you have to think we're pretty soft, the way we're playing. We're a soft team right now. We have no toughness. That stuff is not toughness, all that stuff is not toughness."
Clearly Doc was emotional and was trying to steer the team away from the fight and focus them on the pitiful performance on the court. But "soft" is a heck of a label. In fact, he and Ainge seemed to back down a bit in later comments.
"Well, we don't work on toughness," Rivers said. "We work on smartness. We work on being prepared, playing with the force. Listen, the toughness thing, all that stuff, you know how I feel about it -- that's so overblown. You can't be tough anyway. I don't know who is tough anymore. Having said that, we have to be better. I have to prepare them better. They have to come ready. They have to come with the right intentions, the right focus. So, there's a lot of things we can improve to improve our team. And it's a long season to do it, but you can't wait for it. You've got to do it now."
I see us as a not good rebounding team, and we're not big, and I think the thing that really hurts our rebounding is not just rebounding itself, but we're getting beat off the dribble too much, on the perimeter. And every time we get beat off the dribble, it takes one of our big guys to step up and it's 2-on-1 on the offensive glass, and when you take a team that's big like New Jersey, they really make you pay for that, because that's one of their strengths. ... So, I don't know, I'm not going to comment on whether they're soft. I will just say that we're not big, we're not strong, like a team like New Jersey, who's big and strong. We have to win in different ways."
There is a toughness factor that is missing on this team so far. I don't know if a fight is going to inspire anyone or the coach calling them "soft" or whatever. I don't know if you can turn that sort of thing on like a switch or learn it - but I hope you can.
Either way, they have to at least be more consistent. You can't go out and beat the OKC Thunder and then turn around and play THAT poorly against the Nets. It just boils down to mental toughness and they better figure out a way to improve that before the playoffs.
I'm still trying my hardest to reserve judgement on this team till 20 games in, but this team needs to develop a better identity on (in particular on defense) soon.