Every new coach takes some time to establish his personality. O'Brien was the players coach that demanded defense. Pitino was the micromanager who never accepted blame. Doc is starting to define himself by using playing time as his stick.
The team is deep, so Doc can always insert a capable player for someone he thinks is not playing up to his standards. We also have a team that is completely new to each other. Between the rooks, the Payton trade, Raef getting healthy, and other personnel moves, its a wonder they don't need name tags. As a result, we are seeing countless rotations as he also tries to find the right mix of players.
Doc stressed a running game from the start. Contrary to previous coaches, he's proven that he's not just giving that lip service. He actually has gotten this team to run the ball with some regularity.
Unfortunately, there has not been as much stress on defense until recently.
You have to play defense if you want to play on this team. The points I could care less about. It's the rebounds. It's the defense. If you don't defend, you don't play on this team anymore. They know.
I love that he's stressing it now, but I worry that he's bringing it up too late in the game. It sends an inconsistent message to the team. They were told to run, so they ran. They were taught a new offensive scheme, so they learned the new offense. Maybe Doc figured that they could only handle a few new things at a time. It took guys like Paul quite a bit of time to come around on the offense, but now he seems to get it.
Will the same be said for the defense? Will there be a transition period? Will the team turn the corner or will they turn on their coach?
Paul is clearly frustrated:
"I guess I didn't play no defense (sic), if that's what he said," the Celtics captain said. "I guess we have to outscore everybody, or sit me down, I don't know."
Payton seems confused:
"A lot of guys are out there trying. Not defending? If he feels that way, then what can you say? I don't know. I'm not evaluating this. I won't go against my coach.
I hope Doc sat the team down at some point and explained his frustration with the defense. I would hope that he will speak to the team and individual players to explain the correlation between their defense and their playing time. How this team responds to this latest challenge will determine how much we improve defensively this season. Can you imagine if this team actually began stopping teams and grabbing boards?
It is Doc's job to steer this ship when he sees it going off course. It is also his job to communicate that vision to his team and get them to buy into it. We'll see how well the team responds and then we'll know what Doc's personality on this team really is.