No Grit, No Heart, No Results

After Wednesday’s loss to the Knicks, Coach Brad Stevens had some things to say about his team in the post game press conference. He started it off by saying: “I just don’t know that we’re that good. Maybe it’s not a wakeup call if you keep getting beat.” To be fair, Brad has said this all season long so far so it isn’t really new. What is eye opening is the second sentence in that. That’s a challenge to the players basically saying “If you’re actually good, start winning some games” and I like that message. Brad tells it how it is and if he thinks the team stinks or is underperforming, he’ll let you know about it.

“We have to play better. It’s not because we’re not capable of being good. It’s not because we weren’t good at one time in our lives. It’s you’re good if you play good and the results are speaking for themselves.” Another shot at the players saying that, even though we look unstoppable on paper, we still have to go out and win games. He piggybacked off of this by going over their performance on defense and blasting that as well. He’s absolutely right as their last four games they are giving up an average of 112 points. For a team that hangs their hat on defense giving up this many points is a red flag. Opponents are getting wide open looks and the rotations look poor and the players look lethargic. Steven’s obviously sees this as he’s been vocal about his displeasure with the defense in the past when it lacks.

He continued by saying “It’s not one guy. It’s not two guys. It’s all of us” and that he thinks “we all know we hung our hat on things (last year) that led to winning and we’ve just got to get back to that.” This is what I really took away from his interview as I notice the same thing. Last season, they didn’t have the top tier talent and to win they had to scrap and claw. This year, even though they have the top tier talent, they still have to do that. They have a target on their back as they’ve been talked about as the second coming all offseason. For a team who hasn’t won anything in the grand scheme of things, this constant praise can definitely get annoying to other teams. When teams see the Celtics on their schedule they want to win. Now obviously they want to win every game, but a game against one of the so-called best teams in the league adds motivation and teams want nothing more than to bring the Celtics down.

It’s refreshing how up front Brad is about his team and I think the theme of accountability is prevalent in everything he was saying. Stevens was asked if there was anything he could compare this start to in his young coaching career. He went back to the Isaiah Thomas led Celtic teams who, eventually, grinded their way to the Eastern Conference Finals. “I thought where we brought everybody back my third year as a head coach and I thought we started off just kind of like this — up and down, but our defense was the one that was really hurting us, and what turned that around was we just decided to be nasty tough. And we just went with it. And, then, all of a sudden everything fell into place and we just put everything else aside and grit our teeth and played. And then, a couple years ago here, when we had mostly everybody back and we added Al and we started off 11-11 or 12-12 or something like that and ended up with 53 wins.”

He wants them to start playing to win rather than playing not to lose. They look uptight and I think they know how poorly they’ve started and are just as disappointed in themselves as we are in them thus far. My advice would be this: get over it. The only way that they are going to get out of this is if they just cut all of the nonsense, stop talking about getting it together, and just play. Be nasty, be tough, because that’s this team’s makeup. That’s this city’s makeup. The reason the Celtics have been so beloved in Boston is because Celtic basketball encapsulates Boston as a whole. It is about toughness, it is about grinding to the end, it is about sticking together, and it is about results. Nobody cares around here how good the team looks on paper, if it underperforms, the fans will let you know about it. The reason Isaiah was so beloved in his short time here is because he gave it everything he had even though he was like 5’ 9” and a 180 pounds. He was fearless and left it all out on the court, no matter the circumstances he was going through (his sister passing, his hip, etc.). That type of energy is what this Celtics team needs. Somebody needs to step up and leave it all out there. Even if they lose, you can tell when a team sells out and this team hasn’t done that yet. They did that last year and were basically a quarter away from the NBA Finals. I guarantee that if they sell out and start to play to win rather than not to lose we will start seeing a far better product and a far better team. Brad knows that, I assume the players know that, and hopefully they can get back to that.

-Chuck

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