In case there were any doubts, here it is from the head coach himself.
"I think the proof is in the pudding. Whatever we are record-wise, we’re not a very good basketball team," Stevens said. "We need to embrace this opportunity to get better, to be the best that we can be, and try to compete all the way to the horn – and win at the end of the games. And that’s something that we just have to get better at. It’s not a knock on anybody. It’s just where it is. It’s where we are right now."
Stevens does put the "right now" qualifier at the end right there, but I feel like that's a courtesy more than anything else. This isn't a very good basketball team, period.
They weren't exactly built to be a good basketball team from the start. They started off the year unbalanced and poorly fit together. They had too many power forwards and shooting guards and not enough centers and point guards. Now due to injuries, trades, and a leave of absence they've got no shooting guards left, 3 point guards, and still too many power forwards. Two guys are here on 10 day contracts and one of them might just be starting sooner or later.
Of course, with all their fundamental flaws, the main theme has been that they still try hard and give good effort 9 times out of 10. Welp, consider last night one of those nights where the effort lived down to the talent.
It was so bad that Gerald Wallace didn't even make comments about it. He left that up to Rondo (which is a smart move I think).
Gerald Wallace, who usually speaks out during these low moments, chose to leave the commenting to Rondo. And the point guard, straining to work his own game back into shape, had no problem identifying the problem. Once again, it was the E word. "It was effort. It was everything," Rondo said. "We didn’t do anything well as a team individually, and they exposed us. We have to continue to demand it night in and night out on a consistent level, a consistent basis. We play so many games, you can’t take nights off. When you do, the score ends up looking like this.
Of course days like this are going to make things seem a little worse than they really are. This is still roughly the team that beat this same Knicks team by 40 and shocked the Miami Heat. They just beat the Wizards a few days ago. They can win basketball games and they'll be better as Rondo gets more in game shape and Bradley returns from injury and the guys start to get a feel for playing with one another again.
Still, Doc Rivers used to like to say that his team had zero margin of error. That was to compete with the best teams in the league. This team has zero margin of error just to compete with anyone. We'll see the Sixers, Magic, Kings, and Bucks in the coming weeks and none of them is a given win.
The whole thing has some people wondering if and when the coaching staff is going to call it a season and start playing for the future.
But don't call this tanking. The Celtics are not willfully trying to lose games, they're simply playing poor basketball. Which is why, sooner than later, Stevens and his staff will sit down (and they probably have already) to outline a plan for the final three months of the season.
In that article Forsberg talks about getting Rondo back in shape, getting more time for the rookies, getting the guys to buy into the defensive system. All of those things the team appears to be trying to do right now, but I get the feeling they may focus on it even more as the weeks and months tick by.
Once again, I fully expect Danny Ainge to make a move or two at or near the trade deadline and it won't likely be one that makes us any better this year.
Last night was just one of those nights. There will be better days ahead. There will be moral victories and even a few real wins. But make no mistake about it. Brad Stevens is right. This isn't a very good basketball team.