Doc Rivers doesn’t see the urgency yet, which might sound like some of the reassurances emanating from the West Coast – no need to panic, Lakers faithful.
Except that Rivers was referring to the urgency in the eyes and body language of his Boston Celtics.
While the Lakers’ 0-3 start generated tremors throughout southern California, the Celtics’ 0-2 mark – thanks to their 99-88 loss in their home opener Friday, their second double-digit spanking in as many tries – stayed a little below the radar. Make that off the Doppler, what with chaos of Hurricane Sandy out East.
But the Celtics never managed to turn some swirling emotions in the Miami Heat players against them on ring-ceremony night Tuesday. And they underachieved on a grander scale in losing to the visiting Bucks.
The last time Boston lost a home opener (November 2006), Kevin Garnett still was a Timberwolf and Ray Allen, a SuperSonic, was getting booed for less personal reasons.
“I don’t see the urgency yet,” Rivers said. “When you make this many changes, I think our guys have to understand you have to invest into the team to become a team. And I don’t think we’ve done that yet.”
Boston’s starting lineup has been altered again, with Courtney Lee holding the place of shoulder-rehabbing Avery Bradley. Its bench has been overhauled with more than a half dozen new (intended) contributors. Both units got outscored by their Milwaukee counterparts.
Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings, who didn’t get a contract extension by Wednesday night’s deadline, went mini-James Harden on the Celtics, the chip on his shoulder carrying him to 21 points, 13 assists and six steals. His matchup, Rajon Rondo, had 14 ponts and 11 assists but was a minus-14 in his 40-plus minutes on the court.
Here people are, expecting the Lakers of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to gel as swiftly as the 2007-08 Celtics. And the 2012-13 Celtics can’t even match their former selves. Their coach noticed, too:
“I wasn’t worried about the score,” Rivers said. “I was coaching a lot of things. I was trying to get us to be consistent in some of our coverages defensively, which we really never did. I was, in timeouts, saying, ‘Three passes,’ which I haven’t had to say in five years probably. ‘Just make three passes, please.’
“And then I was starting to look at minutes, because I’m fully aware we play tomorrow.”
That would be tonight in Washington, where the 0-1 Wizards have a real opportunity – or their task got harder against an increasingly urgent Celtics squad.
Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980.