Perhaps it is a good time to refocus on the main thing and the main players.
Call this my ‘Why I like This Team’ piece.
Call it my counterpoint piece to 'the questions with Doc and team I delved into' in my last piece.
Cal it my Doc as Racing Pit Manager sequel.
The Celtics had the best starting five in the NBA. Now they have the best six.
Besides the obvious, that the first six are as talented as any six in the league, what I like about this team is its meat grinder mindset. They come ready to rumble. Occasionally last season, that wasn’t true. While the lapses in competitive attitude were few, a true, re-focus on core things was needed at times.
The only way I can really put it, is not all that clever. A combined fearful mass of ridiculously competitive, highly clutch players are gathered on one team. They play a team game, and don’t care who leads them to victory. They are gamers. They will play hurt. They don’t give up.
A Flock of C-gos
Kevin Garnett is the posterboy for ‘off the charts’ pedal-to-the-metal aggression. He makes sure the rest of the team is right there with him. Defensively, he leads. Offensively, no other NBA team has a better third option. Kevin McHale said it last season. "You guys got Kevin right. We wanted him to be the main scorer. He is a facilitator." KG facilitates, supports, and scores like few can.
Paul Pierce is the roving one man assault force, pressure tested, certified, and found approved. He also looks to get others involved. By my own observation, in his own way, he has become a steadying personality.
Ray Allen is the obsessively prepared sniper in the bell tower. He follows the rhythm of the game. Watching things unfold, running to the open spot to avert a shot clock emergency. He breaks opponents’ hearts with those ‘last second on the shot clock’ bombs. He cashes in those last minute free throws like dropping nickels in a gum ball machine. To be feared at the end of games.
Rajon Rondo shares the obsessive mindset. Very confident. Needs the challenge to stay focused. Asserting himself more now. All Star under construction.
Kendrick Perkins has (not so) quietly become a defensive back bone himself. Stepped it up after KG went down. Some of those help blocks (over his own his team mates) last season were just incredible. Who opened eyes with a great job on Dwight Howard? Kendrick Perkins. Hard hat. Man at work.
Now Rasheed Wallace, almost as intense as Garnett, is part of the equation. The perfect support for Garnett and Perkins. Conference finals in 7 of 10 years. Unlike last season, there is not a chance in the world that he won’t be bringing his ‘A’ game this year.
They all have that street game mentality you need to go far in the playoffs. Danny has selected players over the years like Gabe Pruitt, Patrick O’Bryant, and Jiri Welsch to name a few with less competitive mindsets. But this group is just mentally tough.
While any reader will get the obvious meaning in the headline, gear heads out there will get the double entendre.
Competition clutches on race cars increase torque by massive amounts (150-300%). So much so, that you need to design the assemblies so that they ease the transfer of the highly increased power for smoother take offs. They add more strength, but put more stress on the entire car.
This team already had a 'competition clutch' mindset. Now even more torque has just been added. What team has a more formidable, tightly focused group of stars? Now Danny has added Wallace to turbo charge the engine and Marquis Daniels to plug some holes in the tires.
Doc and the Mechanics
Who better than Doc Rivers, as pit crew captain, to make the ‘in race’ adjustments? Few, perhaps none, in the league are better at people management. He has his work cut out for him this season more than ever. He is in his third year with this unit – now with some important new parts.
That is usually when a number of coaches begin to lose their luster. From Doc Rivers, the basketball player, in his own book back in 1993, For Those Who Love the Game...
"players can be conned in the short term, but a coach who dupes players won’t have long term success. We find out if a coach is conning us, or manipulating us, or lying to us, and when we catch on, that team is going down…..a team will have a big year under a new coach, maybe two – and then after the next year, bang, they flop."
Tom Thibodeau can help with his courtside exhortations and behind the scenes defensive acumen. Armond Hill can contribute his calm demeanor and offensive inspiration. Ditto Kevin Eastman with the smalls and Clifford Ray with the bigs.
But the man steering the ship, or making sure the car is ready to go for every race is Papa Doc Rivers. This ‘papa’ Doc is a family man by choice and intentional priority. Authenticity is part of the mix.
Rivers in his book…
"To be a great coach a person must attain two things: respect from the players, and trust from the players.
Trust is the most important. The players must trust you. If they do, the respect will follow. By trust, I mean that the players must feel you believe in what you are trying to sell them. You must be committed to the things you say you are committed to – there can be no hidden agendas."
Doc Rivers sold them the unique ‘ubuntu’ theme for two years now. He obviously believes in it. Will ubuntu and Doc Rivers always be tied together? Or will Doc look for a new way to motivate his charges?
What makes a great coach?
Rivers in 1993…."I don’t know what makes a great coach…there is not one way or one style to success. Pat Riley, Chuck Daly, Phil Jackson all do it their own personal way – they are all original, and maybe that is an ingredient of success: being yourself.
If anyone doubted that this team trusts and respects Doc Rivers, just refer him to last year’s run, including the playoffs. They gave it all they had.
Doc determined, quite a while ago, his core principles of coaching. Treating players with respect is a big part of it. Part of it is just …..being himself.
Is Doc like any other coach? There is definitely something unique about Doc to me. Is he another NBA original to you? Would another title this season convince you?