Fans are busy making plans for the Boston Celtics’ funeral. Danny Ainge is clearly disturbed by a 4-8 start that includes zero wins against the NBA’s top 27 teams. Opposing GMs smell enough blood in the water that they’re inquiring about Paul Pierce. John Hollingers says to blame Kevin Garnett. The Celtics have lost five straight games and nothing seems to come easy for them anymore. Yet with the exception of Ainge — and I have no idea what the following observation means — the Celtics do not seem overly worried.
There’s certainly a level of pride within the Boston locker room. The Celtics aren’t just any struggling team. They’re the Celtics, who overcome whatever struggles they might have, who are always bitches to bury come playoff time, who have crawled through many tunnels of shit and normally emerge at the other end smelling like sweet perfume. Eight early losses seem to signify the end of Boston’s reign of relevance, yet we’ve read this story before and it always ends with the Celtics digging themselves out of their grave, then using the shovel to fight back against their opponent.
“We don’t point fingers,” Paul Pierce said, as quoted by ESPN Boston. “We have a veteran group in this locker room, and each and every game we come in here and talk about what we need to do better, and that’s just the maturity of us. Usually young teams, when they go through a stretch like this, they start pointing the finger, and I’ve been a part of those groups. Everybody wants to do it themselves, but this is not that group. This is a group that’s going to come back from this stretch and respond well.”
Maybe there should be more urgency. Almost certainly, there should be more urgency. In this short season, the Celtics are more than one-sixth finished with the regular season and have yet to defeat a winning team. This is not the season to stumble out of the blocks, yet the Celtics have blood stains on their knees after crawling the first lap of the race.
But these bloody Celtics will not panic, no matter how many columnists or bloggers decide that the Grim Reaper has finally come to claim the Big Three era.
A little more than an hour after losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston’s fifth straight defeat, Kevin Garnett laughed. He had just finished shooting 5-19 while the Celtics (again) failed to start well and (again) failed to come back after a miserable start, but Garnett was able to muster a joke while describing the state of the Celtics. (via WEEI)
“I know you’re all probably getting tired of hearing this; I’m sure if you all rewind your tapes, I’ll have a different outfit saying the same thing,” Garnett said with a chuckle. “But we’re going to continue to work and we’re going to continue to get better. I really believe that. You’ve got to believe that.”
I note Garnett’s laugh for one main reason, and that’s because we know how he reacts in situations he believes are untenable. Remember the John Thompson interview when Garnett broke down crying and spent ten minutes explaining how difficult he found losing? The Celtics’ power forward is wired to care deeply about his teams; during times when he sees little hope, failure consumes him and he emotionally breaks down. Yet it was a very even-keeled, almost-optimistic Garnett who addressed the media after Boston’s loss to Oklahoma City. Nobody in the Boston Celtics locker room has begun to panic. Each loss has rolled off the Celtics’ backs, each loss has brought more promises that the answers will soon be revealed.
During a well-written piece for Sports Illustrated, Ian Thomsen opines that it’s too early to lose hope in Boston. He then quotes Doc Rivers discussing whether this team can win a championship (cue the Jim Mora references here).
“Can we win it?” Rivers said of the championship. “I have no idea, I really don’t. I’m not thinking about that. What I’m thinking about is getting this group of guys to become a team.”
The plan: Build a team first. Then earn a few wins, preferably against winning teams. And somewhere along the way, we’ll see if Boston’s unflappable manner was appropriate, or whether the Celtics should already be swimming in an ocean of doubt.