FanPost

Tell-Tale Two Step Flaws

The record doesn’t bother me. Hard fought losses don’t bother me. Rookie mistakes don’t bother me. The mistakes from lack of familiarity don’t bother me. Rondo’s rust, Stevens’ adjustment period, and playing Humphries and Bass more than Olynyk and Faverani up to the trade deadline . . . don’t bother me. An unbalanced roster and lack of a center don’t bother me. The 2013-2014 Celtics are a flawed team—and that doesn’t bother me at all.

There are a number of other "problems" toward which I am either O.K. or completely blasé. A Lilliputian rookie point guard whose reluctance to shoot is strongly supported by his lack of shooting expertise—don’t care, or actually am a proponent; I think he may develop into the backup point guard that the Celtics have lacked for most of Rondo’s career. As for moving a serviceable shooting guard (Lee), a surprising reclamation project (Crawford), and the POTENTIAL-albatross laden Brooks for Jared Bayless, the Joel-Anthony sea anchor, a couple of picks (likely only second-rounders), and a pittance (not for me or you but in NBA terms) of financial flexibility—I suspect that the D-leaguer Chris Johnson who filled the opened roster slot is more likely to be around in two years than any of the departed players. Sending the carping Bogans home to sit while awaiting to see if he is moved at the deadline or cut after it—once he stopped being a positive veteran influence at a salary roughly triple his realistic rate, getting him away from the team was a no-brainer.

There are a number of other flaws about which I don’t give one whit (despite their drawing the ire of the blogosphere and attracting flames from many posters); but there are some things emerging that do make my (green) blood boil. At both ends of the court there is often truly depressing phenomenon where the television picture (typically the ball and the end of the court out to about 25’ from the basket) shows four or five players, all on the same team. When any Celtic takes a long jumper with Sullinger on the perimeter, most of the Celtics have left the battlefield before the ball even reaches the rim. Rather than take the two or three steps to secure rebounding position, they choose to trot back on defense. This may conserve energy, but my question is "For what?" Eschewing any chance of a rebound, when there are plenty of reserves on the bench, bespeaks a deficit of hustle that is unforgivable in a young, growing team. It may have made sense with the antiquarians but these young guns should be busting it on both ends.

I’ll close this diatribe on offensive rebounding with a special note of disgust for Jeff Green. Several times recently I have seen Jeff (as one of the only two rebounders allowed on the key when the Celtics are shooting a free throw) passing the free throw line moving away from the basket even before the ball reaches the rim. I believe this is the antithesis of fighting for every rebound and is just pathetic. I have been something of a JG supporter but if he doesn’t have the stones to compete for the rebound when he starts four feet from the basket, then he either needs to play less (to have enough energy to contribute when he is on the floor) or play for some other team that doesn’t want to build a contender.

There is a similar failing when the Celtics secure a defensive rebound. Within a second and a half there are nothing but Shamrock players in the picture. Rather than pushing off hard into a transition attack, they seem to prefer/need to gather themselves and amble down court to the offensive end. You often hear Tommy Heinsohn railing at this and the hungry Chris Johnson often passes the entire team by sprinting down the court. Their reluctance to pass to this newcomer doing what they all SHOULD be doing is something of a shameful indictment of a team trying to rebuild and redefine itself.

Now some will argue that you can’t go All-Out the whole game, but I think this is a real cop out. With a deficit of talent but ample reserves they should be exercising one of the few real advantages they have over other teams—youth. Those of you old enough to remember the Auerbach Celtics, will recall how their determination to run (after made baskets, after free throws, after every change of possession, even after time outs) became a weapon in and of itself.

The Celtics have only had some half dozen days to practice (at least for a full practice) since the season started and I am sure Stevens has a long list of items he would like to address. No doubt he can only fit in a few each practice and often this year it has had to include familiarizing the players with each other. However this general tenant of playing hard, valuing and pushing the ball, and fighting for every possession would seem to be a pretty high-priority item. I will, and I urge you to, be watching for those first two steps after a change of possession. Winning that two-step race often determines an edge that lasts all the way down the court, or to the ball.


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