Rondo a 'sore loser' as C's struggle with trust defensively

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Rondo a 'sore loser' as C's struggle with trust defensively

WALTHAM The losing ways of the Boston Celtics has impacted the entire team - even if they all don't necessarily show it.

Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been around the game too long to get too caught up in how players are expressing their disappointment in the team's lackluster play thus far.

"I don't notice," Rivers said. "I don't know what that does. You still have to learn from losing and learn from winning at the same time. Clearly there are guys who are more emotional than others. That doesn't mean the other guys take it just as poorly. I've learned you don't read into that."

One player who isn't taking the Celtics losing too well is Rajon Rondo, who will be the first to acknowledge that he's a "sore loser."

The C's (14-17) are very much a team in search-and-recovery mode as far as searching for an identity that they hope will recover some of the success they anticipated having this season.

Rondo said the search for who they are as a team isn't the most frustrating aspect of what's happening this season.

"The frustrating part is we're losing," he said. "Regardless of how many combinations we've had, how many different starting lineups we've had, we're still losing. I'm a sore loser. It's tough to lose."

Avoiding that feeling won't get any easier with the Indiana Pacers coming to town on Friday and a road game at Atlanta the following night.

"I'm a confident player. We're a confident team," Rondo said. "We just haven't found our way now."

In some ways, the Celtics' struggles this year are similar to what they dealt with a year ago when they advanced to within one game of getting to the NBA Finals.

Sitting on a 14-16 record now, the Celtics were just 15-15 at this same point last season.

But as players and coaches will attest to, this is a different season and the Celtics are a different team.

"Right now, we're at a tough point in the season," Rondo said. "We've lost four in a row. We have some big games coming up. It's not an easy stretch."

For the Celtics' season-worst four game losing skid to end, it will require something that we haven't seen much of this season - trust defensively.

Rondo breaks it down.

"Say a guard gets beat off the dribble and KG comes to help. And the other guard, the weak-side guard, is supposed to crack back down on his big," Rondo explains. "Say KG tries to contest the shot, his man gets the offensive rebound for a lay-up. It's kind of hard to trust. He might be hesitant to help the guard when he gets beat off the dribble because he's worried about his man who the opposite guard didn't crack back on.

Professor Rondo's not done.

"Or say me and Paul are in a pick and roll, and I'm thinking he'll switch and he doesn't switch, then my man turns the corner ... there's a lot of different roles they can play in, breaking down trust defensively. It all comes with being on the same page. And right now, all five guys on the court are not. Maybe two or three guys know the rotation and what we're doing, but the other two may not and it leads to easy buckets."

Regardless of the reason, the end result far too often has been the Celtics coming up short which has Rivers continuing his search for the right buttons to push to get the C's back on track.

"You look at some of our seasons, we've had some great ones and some rocky ones and turn out to be good at the end," Rivers said. "But there's no guarantee. You can't push the button from last year or past years and assume that it's going to come. So every year it's hard in that way. You fight to get the guys back in their roles and this year, new guys to buy into their roles and your system; buy into less minutes. I don't think any year is any harder."

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Felger: Crazy can be good, but Sale needs to harness it

Chris Sale brings with him to Boston some attitude. He also brings a measure of defiance and, perhaps, a little bit of crazy.

All of which the Red Sox starting staff just may need. And if Sale pitches as he has for much of the past five years, he'll probably be celebrated for it.

I still wonder how it will all play here, especially if he underachieves.

What would we do to him locally if he refused to pitch because he didn't like a certain kind of uniform variation the team was going with? What would we say if he not only refused to pitch, but took a knife to his teammates' uniforms and the team had to scrap the promotion? Sale did exactly that in Chicago last year, after which he threw his manager under the bus for not standing by his players and attacked the team for putting business ahead of winning.

All because he didn't want to wear an untucked jersey?

"(The White Sox throwback uniforms) are uncomfortable and unorthodox,'' said Sale at the time. "I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it.''

Wearing a throwback jersey would alter his mechanics? Was that a joke? It's hard to imagine he would get away with that in Boston.

Ditto for his support of Adam LaRoche and his involvement of that goofy story last March.
 
LaRoche, you'll remember, retired when the White Sox had the nerve to tell him that his 14-year-old son could not spend as much time around the team as he had grown accustomed to. Sale responded by pitching a fit.

“We got bald-face lied to by someone we’re supposed to be able to trust,'' said Sale of team president Kenny Williams. ``You can’t come tell the players it was the coaches and then tell the coaches it was the players, and then come in and say something completely different. If we’re all here to win a championship, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”

On what planet does allowing a 14-year-old kid in a clubhouse have anything to do with winning a title? In what universe does a throwback jersey have anything to do with mechanics? If David Price had said things that stupid last year, he'd still be hearing about it. And it won't be any different for Sale.

Thankfully, Sale's defiance and feistiness extends to the mound. Sale isn't afraid to pitch inside and protect his teammates, leading the American League in hit batsmen each of the last two years. He doesn't back down and loves a fight. And while that makes him sound a little goofy off the field, it should play well on it.

In the meantime, the Sox better hope he likes those red alternate jerseys they wear on Fridays.

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast appears daily on CSN.

Know Thine Enemy: A complete breakdown of the Ravens

Know Thine Enemy: A complete breakdown of the Ravens

After a 3-0 start, the Ravens dropped a 28-27 decision to the Raiders in Baltimore. That started a four-game skid for Baltimore which included back-to-back losses at the Jets and Giants. But they got back on track against the Steelers and have won four out of five with their only being to the Cowboys. It’s hard to get a clean read on who they really are. 

They had narrow, early-season wins over crap teams like Cleveland and Jacksonville. They had a narrow loss to an outstanding Raiders team and were close with the Cowboys but got run over late with Dallas scoring on its last five possessions. They are coming off their most impressive team win, a 38-6 triumph over the Dolphins. 

This game is a big one in the AFC race not just because it’s a divisional leader but also because it will be a common game between the Patriots and Raiders. The Raiders already beat Baltimore. 

The Pats need to keep pace in a tiebreaker they currently trail. Weird schedule quirk? The Ravens have had only one road game that required a long commute since September. That was the game at Dallas. They just played six of their last nine and four of their last five at home.

LAST 5

Ravens 21, Steelers 14
Ravens 28, Browns 7
At Cowboys 27, Ravens 17
Ravens 19, Bengals 14
Ravens 38, Dolphins 6

OFFENSIVE STATS TO CHEW ON

More than half of Joe Flacco’s 323 completions have gone to three players: tight end Dennis Pitta (61 catches), wide receiver Mike Wallace (57) and wide receiver Steve Smith (54). Those players are 31, 30 and 37 respectively so it’s a veteran group.
Flacco is 114 of 159 (72 percent) with nine touchdowns and three picks in Baltimore’s last four games. He has 15 TDs and 11 picks this season.

The Ravens don’t run it much: 502 pass attempts, 287 rushing attempts. Terrence West and Kenneth Dixon are the lead backs. West has carried more than 15 times in a game on three occasions this season.

Rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley has been playing very well as has the rest of the Ravens offensive line in recent weeks. Still, Baltimore is just at 34.1 on third down conversions.

DEFENSIVE STATS TO CHEW ON

The Ravens have allowed 207 points this season, tied with the Patriots for lowest in the AFC and just behind Seattle (194) overall.
Baltimore’s allowing just 33.3 percent conversions on third down and only 3.4 yards per carry.

Opposing quarterbacks are completing 64.1 percent of their passes and have 21 touchdown passes and 14 picks against the Ravens defense. Ten of the Ravens 14 picks came against the Browns, Jaguars and in last week’s rout of Miami.
 
WHERE ARE THEIR HEADS AT

"I just think they've got a great team. They've got Tom Brady. They've been the best team in the conference, and it's going to be our toughest challenge of the year." – John Harbaugh, Ravens coach, on Monday night’s matchup