The Boston Celtics have a depth problem. Not that they have too little, but rather that they have too much. If that were their only problem, it could be managed. However, the inconsistent play of the team has exacerbated the issue to the point of concern.
In short, players aren't playing well enough to demand more playing time which prevents them from developing a rhythm that would allow them to play better and get more playing time.
"We haven’t built our identity yet as a unit. (The) coaching staff hasn’t figured it out yet," Jae Crowder said after last night’s 110-91 loss to the Orlando Magic. "We don’t have set rotations. A lot of guys don’t know where we’re going to play or what time we’re going to play. It’s affecting us a little bit. We’ve got to figure it out. "We’ve got to be patient with (the coaching staff). We’ll try to figure it out soon, because these games are coming fast, we all know, and we don’t want to get too far behind."
It isn't like the team is consistently playing poorly. In fact, they aren't doing anything consistently. One day they look like they can beat anyone and the next they look dazed and confused. It isn't even always the opponents, as evidenced by their two games against the Nets about a week ago.
The Celtics have been a Jekyll-and-Hyde bunch over the first month of the season but have rarely been anything in between. Boston's nine wins have been by an average of 17.7 points, while its eight losses have been by an average of 11 points. Boston followed a 33-point shellacking over Washington on Friday night by getting outhustled in a 19-point loss to Orlando.
I'm not sure if this is an issue that you can solely blame on the coaching staff. Stevens has to play the best players and so far few players have separated themselves from the crowd. If Isaiah's comments are an indication of the team's head, they are taking the right attitude and taking responsibility on themselves.
"Inconsistent minutes gives you inconsistent players," Thomas said. "But you have to make it tough on the coach to take you out." "If you play well, you’re going to be out there," Thomas said. "If you don’t, that’s when Coach (Brad Stevens) has to find somebody else." "Coach, he's doing a great job," Thomas said. "As players, we have to separate ourselves. And until then, it's going to be like (this) because he's trying to find the best players to play at that particular time."
With that said, I think some of the responsibility falls to the GM. Danny Ainge is obviously still in a development and asset accumulation process and he has to wait for the right opportunity to cash in on his assets. While we wait for that to happen, there's going to be an overabundance of pretty-good players trying to take steps forward in the NBA without stepping on each other and stumbling in the process.
I think you could say that Stevens could tighten the rotation a little better, the players could play a bit better, and Ainge could have put together a more balanced team. But every team is going to have their struggles and this is just the hurdle that this team needs to overcome to become better as a unit.
It is a long season and there is plenty of time to sort things out. How it works out is going to be interesting to watch as we go.