Doc Rivers running Celtics practice the other day
Today is the fourth game of the season for the Boston Celtics. It was a highly anticipated as the green added pieces to increase their skill and depth just one year removed from being one game away from the NBA Finals. Four games in and things have been “eh”for the Boston Celtics. On opening night in South Beach, the Celtics were out-matched by the defending NBA champions. At the home-opener on Friday night, the Boston Celtics inexplicably failed to show up to play for the home crowd. Saturday night, the Celtics exploded quickly then took the foot off the pedal and nearly let the Washington Wizards steal a game the Celtics basically controlled.
It has been frustrating as a Celtics fan so far. On one hand, this has been a Celtics group that has cared less and less about the regular season. Since 2008-2009, the Celtics have coasted through regular season’s and just assumed that they would flip the switch and be good to go when the playoffs start. Blame Kevin Garnett’s knee injury in 2009 for warning the Celtics of their old age and how one injury derails everything during a season. This is not an unexpected phenomena for this basketball team. This Celtics’ team, however, was supposed to change that. This was the deepest and the youngest team and it was supposed to give the old legs more time on the bench during the season, as well as allow the Celtics to stay firing during games. It is only the fourth game tonight, but so far it has not held.
I have a theory on this. It is not exactly rocket science but it makes sense considering what type of sport basketball is. Baseball is about finding a groove during the season and riding that hot streak. Football is about the X’s and the O’s and buying into a system. Basketball is about chemistry more than anything else. So much of the game is getting to know the skills and inefficiencies of teammates and figuring out where and how everyone fits into the larger picture.
The Celtics have been a team built on the ideas of “family” and that they have stuck together and play better together than anyone else in the league. These Celtics are different. They only have six returning players from last years team. One of those guys, Avery Bradley, is out until December; the other, Chris Wilcox, barely hit the floor last year due to numerous injury issues. Right now it is hard to imagine that the Celtics are completely together yet. In the first three games, the Celtics have used two different starting line-ups not because of injury but because Doc Rivers simply wanted to try something out. It also feels like in those three games, the Celtics have used three different rotations. They are still feeling things out.
Which is why it feels like the preseason. The Celtics don’t “know” each other yet. They”re just trying to find their way through the early part of the season, get into December or January and have a better sense of who they are as a basketball team. Despite the core group sticking together, there was a lot more turnover than anticipated. I fully expect the Celtics to figure it out by January, and considering how the NBA works, the Celtics will be just fine.