Green Thoughts

Chronicling the Boston Celtics quest for banner number 17... and beyond.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Without leader, Celts will always be green

Another hideous loss for our beloved Boston Celtics: 102-94 at the hands of the Suns. Welcome to ten games under .500.

It’s not about blame at this point. It’s also not about talent or Wally or even youth. It’s about the fact that the team has lost three in a row and is now ten games under .500. It’s about turnovers, missed foul shots, comebacks that consistently fall short and leads that evaporate.

Sure Wally was off from the floor. But he stepped it up on the boards and with assists and Pierce picked up the scoring slack. If I told you before the game that Pierce and Wally would give the Celts 45 points, 13 boards and seven assists, that West would give you 12 and 4, Perk would add ten boards and Big Al would give you a 17 and 7, and then if I told you that the Celts would both outshoot and out rebound the Suns, who were on the last leg of a brutal road trip without Amare, You’d have thought that would add up to a sure win. Buuuuttttt NOOOOOoooooo….

And can we please stop using youth as an excuse? How many times last year did we watch the team come roaring back in the second half and then let a game slip away in the final minutes? How many times did they blow big third and fourth quarter leads? This was a team that was sub .500 before the Walker trade in 2005. It’s not a talent problem or a youth problem or even, necessarily, a coaching problem. They have a LEADERSHIP problem.

Sometimes your team leader can be one of the players: Russell, Havlicek, Cowens, Bird, Magic, Jordan, etc… As good as Pierce is – and last night that was SMOKIN’ good – he’s not that guy. He’s not the guy that simply will not allow his team to lose. He missed some crucial foul shots down the stretch and went cold from the floor in the last seconds. And it’s not the first time.

Traditionally, though, leadership comes from the coach: Pat Riley, Larry Brown and, yes, Jim O’Brien. In the NBA, a coach doesn’t necessarily have to be a good teacher, good at game management or x’s and o’s (although I think Doc comes up short in those areas too). He’s got to win the respect of his players, motivate them, and give them the sense that they’re capable of winning. The greatest coaches can inspire their teams not only to reach their potential, but also go beyond.

Doc has the respect of his players and does a terrific job of managing difficult personalities. But both here and in Orlando, he’s had a hard time getting the most out of his TEAMS. And when it comes to crunch time, Doc’s guys often crumble.

My guess is they stay with Doc for the rest of the year. The kids will keep developing. If they finish strong, the Celts may keep him around next year and can him if the team underachieves next year, with Danny taking the reins. If they keep playing .390 ball, though, they’ll drop Doc quickly after the last game.

Where they go from there is anyone’s guess.


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