HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — When Doc Rivers speaks, we have a tendency around here to listen intently, knowing that the Boston Celtics’ coach does not mince his words when critiquing his team.
When he speaks the way he did after the Celtics’ got routed Sunday in Detroit, losing to a Pistons team that has beaten the Celtics four straight times over the past two seasons by an average of 15 points, you know he’s not saying things for effect.
Rivers means business for a team that has not been able to find a consistent groove and entered the season with sky-high expectations after a run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2011-12. And we have no reason to do anything other than believe what he says (and said to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe and other reporters following Sunday’s game):
“I said we’ve got to find something where every night all 12 guys play the same,” Rivers said. “We did it for three games in a stretch. I told them game four and five in that [six-game winning streak] was garbage, we just won the game.
“So I gotta figure that out. I don’t think the guys are honest with each other. I just don’t think we have committed to being a good basketball team. I think this team wants everything easy. They want the easy way out. They want to win easy. I told them, the only way you’re going to win easy is you’re gonna have to play hard. The harder you play the easier the games become. We’re taking [that] approach.”
And then Rivers threatened to shake up his roster.
“I gotta either find the right combination, the right guys or we’re going to get some guys out of here,” he said. “It’s the bottom line, because this group right now, they’re not playing right and it’s in them to play right but right now they haven’t been because I’m not getting to them or they’re not getting to each other. Either we’ve got to do that or we’ve got to make changes. I’m saying if we don’t get it right we may [make changes].’’
The Celtics have three veteran staples you know aren’t going anywhere in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. But beyond that, anyone eligible to be traded would have to be under the microscope as the Feb. 21 trade deadline approaches.
But not even those veterans were covered after losing to the Pistons — who are 10 games below .500 — for the second time in the last two months as Boston drops to 20-20 this season. Rondo pointed fingers at himself and the rest of the locker room afterwards, backing up his coach’s assertion that there need to be some changes (in attitude and demeanor, for starters) for the Celtics to get back on track:
“For me, it’s too lax, our locker room is too lax,” he said. “Even though a lot of guys’ personalities are really laid-back, but we all got to this level by competing and right now the talent we have, our record is embarrassing, so until guys get sick and fed up with it, I don’t know if anything’s going to change. I gotta do a better job of being a leader. I can’t get on guys and hold them accountable if I don’t hold myself accountable first.”
Rivers has already set the tone with his words. Now we all get to wait and see if Celtics boss Danny Ainge, never shy about taking risks at the trade deadline, is ready to deal.
A restless fan base in Boston, one that will be trying to recover from the disappointment of a New England Patriots season that ended a game earlier than the locals expected, is watching.