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Pitchforks and Point Guards

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doc_teach.jpgAs you know, there exists a highly motivated subculture of Celtic diehards who live for one purpose only.   They regularly meet in the basements of eerie castles during thunderstorms and practice dark rituals, hoping to bring about Doc Rivers' demise.  I've never attended.  Have you?

I like Doc.  He's a good coach (that statement just made a hundred werewolves howl in unison).  Down.  Slowly place your pitchfork down on to the floor.  Gently, gently; that's it.  Please hear me out.

Remember the AntiDanny Battalion and the Wyc Is Cheap Squadron?  They've virtually disbanded.  Is it possible the Doc Must Go Society is also endangered?  At first glance that seems unlikely:  Membership is at an all-time high.  Torches are lit.  Feathers are stored right next to the tar for easy access.  The cauldron oil is bubbling. 

Everyone has practiced their angry mob expressions until they've gotten them just right:  "There he is!  Get him!  He won't escape us this time!  Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!  To the Bastille!"

I would NOT characterize members of the Doc Must Go Society as "seething."  Not at all.  It's simply that after much calm discussion and thoughtful reflection, they feel replacing the coach would be a beneficial move for the Celtics.  Hey, the DMGSers are my fellow greenhearts.  We just happen to disagree on this one little detail...

I've been wrong before.  In fact if I were to recount all my past wrong assumptions it would use up way too much bandwidth and cause techno-mayhem, so I'll just leave it at that, but I think there's an excellent possibilty that Doc Rivers is going to be this team's biggest positive surprise.

Here's a list of things I like about Doc:

  1. He's a truly decent person and is great with the press, which is crucial in sports-crazy Boston.
  2. He knows Celtic history, reveres it, uses it, and doesn't run away from the team's illustrious past like a certain former coach Who Shall Not Be Named.
  3. He teaches young guys constantly during games, pulling them aside during timeouts, instructing them as to what they did right and wrong.
  4. A lot of young players individually have come a long way in a short time under his tutelage, raising their trade value exponentially.
  5. He's a plus when it comes to attracting free agents (the team had to become good for this to be evident).
  6. Last year he held the most injury riddled team in the league together spiritually.  That group stayed uniformly positive, which is remarkable.
  7. He risked his own career last season, creatively increasing ping pong probabilities even though it publicly opened him up to ridicule.
  8. He's confident, does not cave in to pressure, and never embarrasses the franchise.
  9. He keeps all negative stories in house, never making them public.
  10. He *bluntly* plays guys he otherwise would not want to in order to showcase them for a trade.

In other words he has sacrificed his own reputation and even his short term win-loss record for the long term good of the team.

I know...  Some say he can't manage games, he can't draw up a play, his teams can't defend the pick and roll, he doesn't set a fixed rotation, and he didn't give (insert name here) a chance.  I don't believe any of that is true or without reason:

  • His teams have often been near the top of the league in scoring out of timeouts.
  • He does draw up plays, but young players can't always execute properly.
  • Likewise the pick and roll can only be defended by proper personnel.  That personnel is here now; it wasn't before. The pick and roll is impossible to defend anyway when it's run perfectly like Stockton and Malone used to.  To stop it consistently you need a long agile big man who can cover space quickly, and it helps to have veterans who've seen it countless times.
  • Doc could have set a fixed rotation before, but it wouldn't have helped with wins and would have hurt player development and morale.  His recent rosters had too many guys of similar skill and not enough surefire top talent.  This has been discussed elsewhere:  on good teams the starting lineup is mostly obvious.  The Celtics of the past few seasons had multiple guys at nearly every position who were dead even in ability.
  • As for not giving (insert name here) a chance— every single player under Rivers has gotten a fair chance.  If Insert Name Here wanted to stay in the rotation, Insert Name Here should have played better basketball.

Now everything's changed.  Now there ARE right answers.  The starters are obvious.  So are most of the rotation players.  As for Insert Name Here—this season he's been to the all star game numerous times.

Maybe I'm mistaken and Doc will flop this season.  If he does he'll be gone; the Celtics don't have the luxury to be patient with this group.  On the other hand don't be surprised if they look really good and Doc all of a sudden seems to have added dozens of IQ points.  Doc will make the same decisions in the same way he always has; only now with better players, those decisions will work.

This year is not last year.  Last year's roster found ways to lose.  This year's roster will find ways to win.

If I'm right by January hundreds of pitchforks will have been responsibly recycled into pom poms.

Point Guards

I love Rondo and think he's going to have a tremendous year, but a look at the past reveals that a pure point is not necessary to win championships.  Peeking back at Celtic champions, only the Cousy teams had a great pure point guard.  After Cousy left it was Sam and KC at guard (there used to be two Joneses, now there are two Allens).  The 70s champs had Jo Jo White and Don Chaney; the 80's team had Danny Ainge and DJ.   They were all formidable players but none was anything close to a pure point guard.  The same goes for Jordan's Bulls and the successful but decidedly evil recent Laker titleists.

In other words there are lots of ways to win.  You can go out there with two plain old talented guards, some really good passers in the frontcourt, and still kick everybody's butts.

One last word:  It's OK if the team goes 3-5 in the preseason.  The games don't count.  (The league office has confirmed this.)