Doc Rivers spoke about the Miami Heat in an interview with WEEI on Thursday following the Celtics loss to the Heat in the season opener:
“They won a title,” said Rivers. “They have that championship swagger. They also know exactly who they are. They know their identity, they know their roles, they didn’t make many changes and you can see it in the way they played the other night.”
But Doc isn’t really talking about the Heat here; he’s talking about the Celtics, a team who doesn’t know exactly who they are just yet.
Consider this: on opening night the Miami Heat played two new players who accounted for 50 minutes of play time. The Celtics played four new players who accounted for 73 minutes of playtime. Those numbers increase to five players and 96 minutes of playtime if you include Jeff Green (who actually only has playing experience with three members of this team since he did not play on last year’s team with Bass, whom he spent significant time in the front-court with), almost double Miami’s figures. That’s a lot of new pieces playing a lot of minutes.
For a team with a fairly complicated defensive system (which Doc said he might attempt to simplify), that amount of roster turnover is pretty significant. Unlike other teams, the backbone of the Celtics’ defense isn’t the off-the-charts athleticism of a LeBron James; it’s the timing, communication, and experience of defensive anchor Kevin Garnett. For this team to really succeed defensively Garnett needs to build chemistry and trust with his teammates, and that isn’t something that usually happens overnight. The same goes for the offensive end, where Rondo needs to learn his teammates’ tendencies so he can hit them in just the right spot. And like Garnett himself has said before, that chemistry takes time to build. You can’t just throw a bunch of things in the frying pan and expect it to taste good, that would be a recipe for disaster. Doc Rivers is a master chef, and the Celtics have assembled some quality ingredients. I’m sure they’ll figure it out soon enough.
For more bad cooking analogies follow Jordan on Twitter: @OffensiveG