The ‘Man In the Mirror’ Game

I'm starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer…

This is starting to hurt. Watching this Celtics team is becoming very difficult and it’s mostly due to the fact that you feel like you’re taking crazy pills while your watching the game. Last night’s game, for example, had many of those moments. Why is Doc leaving a gassed Pierce to chase around Kyle Korver? Why does Rondo continue to try and lob to Garnett when it’s clear that he can’t go get those anymore? Why is Jeff Green not seeing major minutes in this game when it’s obvious that he’s got it going? ANOTHER PIERCE ISO!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! And the list goes on.

We, as fans, get frustrated and look for answers. Who’s to blame? Doc? Pierce? Rondo? The bench? It’s obvious that this team has the talent to compete with anyone in the league and so it’s a natural reaction to point fingers when things go wrong. Especially when the answers seem so simple. Bench Pierce, people cry. Fire Doc, some have said. Trade them all away. There is not a single player on this team that someone has not suggested we trade.

It’s really not so simple. And while some of the fan reaction is warranted and even correct in its assessment, we as fans always forget about the interpersonal relationships associated with any working environment. We sit miles away, watching through our TV, and move pieces in our mind as if we’re playing a game of chess. We make decisions that are cold, calculated, and completely devoid of any real world context.

These players and coaches spend more time with each other during an NBA season than many of us spend with family members. Making changes, especially BIG changes, is no simple task. It’s like asking your Dad to stop climbing on the roof every year to put up Christmas lights because you think he’s gotten too old for it. He’s going to do what he’s going to, there’s only so much you can say.

With that said, it is certainly time for everyone on, and working for, this team to look in the mirror and make a change. Because if last night’s game was not a clear message…

I’ll start small and work my way up.

Barbosa, Bradley, Collins, Lee, and Sullinger: They are doing what is expected of them. They are the few that do not have to change immediately. Barbosa and Collins are doing what they are capable of when they are being used. You could argue that Barbosa should be used more, but that’s not on him. Lee started slow, but has turned it around, becoming exactly what we thought he would be. Sullinger has been a pleasant surprise and Bradley is still working the kinks out. Hopefully these guys have good attitudes and continue to grow.

Brandon Bass: I addressed this issue at the end of last year and was shocked when Bass was brought back on another contract. Brandon Bass has bad hands. How on earth are the Celtics brass claiming to be trying to “build around Rondo” when they have handcuffed him with a weapon that can’t catch difficult passes? Also, the whole Brandon Bass as a starter thing has become laughable. This is on Danny, Doc and Brandon. Time to face facts concerning Brandon Bass.

Jason Terry: Again, it’s time to face facts concerning Jason Terry. He cannot succeed in this current offense. This is not how Jason Terry has ever played basketball and he is not at an age where he can just learn something new. More on this coming up.

Jeff Green: Jeff Green needs to be starting. Jeff is being paid big money and we have at this point not found out exactly what his potential is. In the way that Jason Terry struggles as a starter, it is completely possible that Green struggles on the bench. Inconsistent play is not a sign of not having potential; it’s a sign of not being comfortable with what you’re being asked to do. Danny and Doc need to sit down and realize that Jeff is making too much money to be traded when no one has seen what he can do. Start him. If it works out, we win. If it doesn’t, at least you’ll know how to move forward.

Kevin Garnett: A message to KG: Everyone respects you more than anyone else in the Celtics organization. On some level they are terrified of you, and would never dream of challenging your authority. You control how you are used. You need to let everyone know you can’t post anymore. You need to let Doc know to move you down the list of offensive options. I’m tired of watching you curse yourself out because you didn’t perform the way you wanted to. You are still an amazing asset to this team, but you cannot shoulder the load as you have done in the past. Speak up, because no one is going to speak for you.

Rajon Rondo: I’m tired of the Rondo bashing. Frankly, anyone who thinks Rondo shouldn’t be on this team either doesn’t really understand how basketball works, or does not understand that Rondo is being forced into an insanely difficult professional position. Danny has decided to take this team in two directions at once, win now and rebuild. The weight of that decision falls completely upon the shoulders of two people, Doc Rivers and Rajon Rondo. It pains me to have to watch Rondo try and figure out which Rondo he should be from one minute to the next. Is it ‘run and gun’ Rondo? Is it ‘defer to Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce’ Rondo? Is it ‘aggressive scoring’ Rondo? Is it ‘half-court offense’ Rondo? Rajon Rondo is asked, every single possession, to evaluate who he is on the court with and figure out how best to attack the defense. He has the single hardest job of any Celtic, and god forbid he make the wrong decision from time to time. I’ve been saying for more than a year that Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo should not be on the floor at the same time. I’ve been saying since the end of last season that Brandon Bass is not a weapon for Rondo’s game. Rondo has no post presence to dish to. I’m very tired of watching Rondo have to slow a fast break down because of who is on the floor with him. It’s been over a hundred times this year I’ve watched him look around to see who he can hit on a fast break and have his spirits crushed when he realizes ‘oh yeah, there’s no one to run the break with.’ Rajon Rondo is FORCED to play below his capabilities. He is a great PASSER. That means it takes two to make a thing go right. Enough with the Rondo bashing.

Paul Pierce: Paul, more than anyone on this team needs to start listening to some Michael Jackson. I’m not a Pierce hater, his jersey hangs in my closet, but reality is sending a pretty clear message. Paul needs to ask to go to the bench. Doc cannot be expected to walk up to one of the greatest Celtics in history and ask him to sit the bench. That’s an unreasonable request. Even when it happened with Ray, he had to dress it up as if it were Ray’s decision. Do you really think he can suggest this to Paul Pierce? Much like Garnett, Pierce controls his own fate on this team. He has to make the change. Pierce and Rondo’s games do not mix well. It’s been the 600-pound gorilla in the room for way too long. Moving Pierce to the bench would allow a faster, more athletic guy to play with Rondo, ultimately improving Rondo’s game and the game of whomever took the starting job from Pierce. Also, Pierce and Terry would play very well with each other. Pierce can play in much the same way that Dirk Nowitski can. That is what Terry knows and how he has flourished in the past. It’s time for one of the greatest Celtics in team history to again prove why he is so special. Do it Paul. As one of your biggest fans, I want you to do this as much for yourself than as for the team. But you need to make the decision.

Doc Rivers: Doc is guilty of some things, certainly. But this is not all his fault. He is asked to shoulder the same double life that Rondo is and that is no easy task. However, Doc is guilty of being the guy who can’t tell his dog to sleep on the floor instead of on the bed. Let’s be honest, does anyone really think that Doc didn’t realize Pierce was being burned by Korver last night? Does anyone honestly think that Doc drew up the Pierce ISO play at the end of OT thinking, ‘this is our best chance?’ Doc needs to make decisions that go beyond what happens on the court. He does, and that is why he is a great coach. Coaches like Scott Skiles do not, and that is why they get fired halfway through the season. I believe in Doc’s philosophy, and will not but the blame solely on him. However, there are changes he needs to make, no matter how difficult they are. Open the discussion about switching the lineups around. Start nudging these guys, even if they hate you for it. Even if it breaks your heart to have to make your dog sleep on the floor, it’s time.

Danny Ainge: Look in the mirror, Danny. Look in the mirror and realize that you know what you are doing. I know I will get a lot of negative feedback about this opinion but I don’t think the Celtics need to make a major trade… or even a medium sized trade. The only thing Danny needs to do is to be the bad guy and stay the course. Like Doc, start nudging people. It’s okay if they hate you, and frankly, better you than Doc. The only trade I would suggest is giving Bass to anyone who will take him for whatever you can get…anything you can get. This is not as much of an indictment of Bass’ play as much as it’s just my belief that he does not fit with Rondo well. Bass was a mistake. Time to move forward.

This is what I would like to see happen soon, though I in no way have confidence that it will. As I said before these guys spend more time with each other than some families do. Interpersonal relationships are always an obstacle.

Starting Five: Rondo, Bradley, Green, Sullinger, Garnett

Second Unit: Terry, Lee, Pierce, Bass, Collins

Use Barbosa when it’s obvious that Terry is off, or trade Barbosa for size.

At this point, what do they have to lose?

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