Yesterday on Bill Simmons' B.S. Report, Zach Lowe dropped an interesting tidbit at around the 53 minute mark:
"I've heard through back channels that Courtney Lee has been really unhappy in Boston, because he feels like the whole offense is Rondo pounding the ball and doesn't get to do anything."
(Hat tip to Celtics Life for the transcription)
Now, as an isolated event, this isn't that big of a deal. Lee isn't going public with his gripe, so it's a story that in most instances shouldn't cause a great deal of concern with fans. However, this report comes on the heels of Brandon Bass venting his frustrations about his play this year in an interview with ESPN Boston. Of interest, Bass seemed to deflect some of the blame regarding his poor year:
"I mean, if you consider my numbers down, you've got to look all around," Bass said. "So if you see my numbers down then you see my minutes. If my minutes are down, OK, that plays a role. Then you look at how many opportunities I get -- that plays a role. And you get what you get."
Bass also noted that he was "absolutely frustrated" by his shifting role. Beyond Lee and Bass, there have also been reports that Leandro Barbosa was unhappy (reportedly asking for a trade), and suggestions that Darko Milicic sought his release due to unhappiness with his role.
So, what gives? Is this a case of losing breeding frustration? Is it a Rondo issue? Or has Doc simply lost control of his team? I think the answer is probably all of the above.
First, I think that Doc needs to assume a lot of the blame here. When you've got as many as five guys complaining about their role, you know the coach isn't doing a great job getting his team to focus on the ultimate goal of a championship. In the championship season, everyone talked "ubuntu". We're not hearing that these days, and indeed, there have been reports of a fractured locker room. That's got to be at least partially on Doc.
At the same time, if the team was winning a lot of this stuff goes away. It's a lot easier to focus on ubuntu when you're winning 66 games and a title. When the team is below .500, everyone starts pointing fingers, and naturally a professional athlete with a healthy ego is going to assume that if only he got more touches, the team would be more successful. I don't think that guys who are frustrated with their role are necessarily selfish; I think a lot of them just want to win. The best advice, of course, is to suck it up, shut up, and play. However, when the team is playing poor basketball, that's probably easier said than done.
Lastly, there's the Rondo factor. There's no question that Rondo is a ball dominant point guard. We've seen him take a larger and larger role over the years, to the point where the entire offense runs through Rondo. Some fans have complained that centering the offense around Rondo so much kills ball movement, and it seems like some players agree. Even beyond Courtney Lee, there are observations (like the one from Zach Lowe in the above podcast) that Jason Terry and Rondo don't mesh well. Then, of course, there's Ray Allen, who famously didn't get along with our prickly point guard.
I think there's some legitimacy to the Rondo "ball pounding" complaint. Anecdotally, the team doesn't appear to swing the ball as much as it did during the 2008 and 2009 years, when Rondo had a less dominant role. However, Rondo's role has increased at Doc's direction. Indeed, we've seen Rondo blend in well in an offense that features multiple ball-handlers; it's hard to blame him if he's running the offense Doc has installed for this season.
So, what do you think? Is this a concern? If so, what's the solution?