After watching the game last night, this still applies. So I'm bumping it up for those that didn't see it.
The funny thing about writing about a team on a blog just about every day is that people start to consider you somewhat of an expert. Modesty aside, I feel like I know this team about as well as anyone from the outside can know them and I have a pretty good finger on the pulse of Celtics fans.
With that said, sometimes I have to just throw my hands up in the air and say "I have no idea what's going on."
There are excuses galore with this team. I can tic them off just as easily as most of you.
- They are bored with the regular season.
- They are old and hurt.
- They are trying to integrate new players.
- Rondo is in a slump and they are too reliant upon him.
- They miss Kendrick Perkins and the defense isn't as good anymore.
Are some of these things contributing to the team's recent struggles? Perhaps. I suppose you could make the case that all of them are contributing to some degree to the recent slide. On the other hand, I don't think any one of those excuses could be the primary cause of the team's struggles and when you look at them individually, none of them holds any particular amount of water anyway.
Bored? How could they be bored? In case you missed it last year, home court advantage is a really big deal. Besides, this is their job. With the lockout looming, there is a very real chance that this might be the last time this team as currently constituted sniffs a Championship. How long will Ainge wait to break up the Big 4? Aside from Pierce, do you honestly think there's a guy on the team that he would refuse to trade out of sentimentality? There's no excuse for boredom.
Yes they are old, but they didn't age 10 years in a month. They were old when they beat the best teams in the league and people called it "experienced." They can't be situationally old against the bad teams. Hurt? They have 8 of their top 9 players on the court and all of the Big 4 playing consistently. They aren't losing games because Troy Murphy has a sprained ankle.
Speaking of Murphy and his new running mates, I still don't see them being the difference between most wins and losses. Jeff Green has played about as well as you could expect a versatile, former starter thrown into a new situation. Nenad Krstic has "regressed to the mean" in terms of his talent, which is fine as long as you manage your expectations of him. Both are giving us more than Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson gave us when Perkins was hurt. None of the other new guys are really all that critical unless you count Delonte West as a "new guy." And it bears repeating over and over. This team wins and loses based mostly on what the Big 4 do.
Maybe Rondo is still hurt or still in a slump or just somehow off his game in a way that is hurting the team. Yet, the same core group of Paul, Ray, and Kevin managed along just fine in 2008 when Rondo was talented but young and erratic. Rajon is the straw that stirs the grande mocha latte, and he deserves as much blame as the next guy. But you can't lay it all at his feet either.
The team probably does miss Kendrick Perkins personally. I know I still do. Oh well. That's life. Get over it and get on with your job. And honestly I think they have for the most part. I don't think you can make any detailed, rational excuse that explains how a friend leaving the team (who missed most of the season already) could be this disruptive.
Defensively, maybe it has been harder with both Shaq and Perkins out of the lineup and Krstic trying to learn a new role. Maybe the trade puts new pressure on different players to adjust their thought process on defense. Shoot, the team may finally be missing the guiding hand of Tom Thibbodeau who is leading the Bulls to the best record in the East. However, the last time I checked this team still has Kevin Garnett. Rajon Rondo is capable of being perhaps the best defensive point guard in the game. Lots of guys on this team can be plus defenders and Doc still runs the same type of system that Tom did. If anything, the core players know the system inside and out by now.
So are there excuses? Sure, plenty to go around. Are they legit? Umm, maybe? I suppose some combination of all of the above is bringing the team down a bit. But maybe not. I simply have no idea.
I just hope that the problems are fixable and can be resolved in the final few weeks of the season and into the playoffs. I tend to think they will be, but ...you guessed it, ...I don't know.