As a west coast fan of the Celtics, it's tough when we lay an egg on national television. Sadly, that's been the case the last week since getting dismantled by the Thunder, Mavs, and Bulls and having the Chuckleheads (pun intended) on TNT take us apart. What could have been a showcase of "Why The Celtics Are Still Contenders" has become an open invitation for all haters to come out of the woodwork. You get text messages and e-mails from friends about how Boston looks old and tired and washed up. It's relentless and it's not fun. You tell them-and more importantly yourself-that it's a product of injuries and the shortened season and a lack of consistency and that this is a team that can get hot in the playoffs and we'd gladly take a #7 or #8 seed so we can face either Chicago or Miami with some fresh legs right off the bat.
This is all well and good. It's logical. This isn't Kool-Aid. I actually believe that's true. When we're clicking, we can beat anybody and we're going to have to face those teams at some point anyway. What scares me though is exactly how much has to go right over what can go wrong. In Britt Robson's SI.com NBA midseason grades article, he spells it out so succinctly:
...in the present, the Celtics must rely on jump shots for points and a maniacal defense for wins, a grueling, ultimately impossible way to get where they want to go.
We can win this way, but it's certainly not the easiest way. It's worked in the past, but the league is changing. There's a premium on players that can drive to the basket and either finish or get fouled. How many times have we heard the eulogy of the mid-range jump shot and the rise of the slashing point guard? The game has transitioned from the subtleties of the half-court set to this daredevil aerial show where guys like Lebron, Rose, and Griffin fly at the basket without abandon. It's like the halftime show where the guys jump of trampolines. Personally, I'm not the biggest fan of bulldozer basketball where guys just put their head down and drive the lane hoping to hear a whistle, but it wins games. Last night against OKC, the Thunder forced the action and try to drive it down our throats with every possession. However congested the lane was, all action went towards the rim.
This is not the Celtics and what worries me to no end is that the problems with the team are far less about personnel than they are systemic.
This is why I don't get the Trade Rondo fervor. He's the one guy on the team that makes the game easier for everybody. He's become this pariah of late because of his immaturity and two-game suspension, but he's still the "engine that stirs the drink." Not only does he distribute the ball, he's arguably the only player that consistently takes it to the rack every night. If Rondo gets traded, we'd be giving away the one player on our roster that bridges us to what NBA basketball has evolved into today. It'll be interesting to see what Danny does between now and March 15th, in the draft, and in the off-season. Regardless of what we can get back, will there be a shift in basketball philosophy? Will there be a movement towards athletes and acrobats rather than skilled, all-around ball players like E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson?