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


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."

Haggerty: So what exactly has happened to the Bruins-Habs rivalry?


Haggerty: So what exactly has happened to the Bruins-Habs rivalry?

BRIGHTON, MASS -- It didn’t take last season’s embarrassing Winter Classic result to figure out something has been missing from the storied, legendary Bruins-Canadiens rivalry over the last few years.

The last traces of the latest, great incarnation of the B’s-Habs rivalry were clearly still there a couple of seasons ago when the two hockey clubs met in the second round of the playoffs. After falling short the last few times the teams met in the postseason, Boston was summarily dismissed by Montreal in Game 7 on their own home ice during that series. The following season the B’s simply had so many of their own players struggling to put out a consistent effort, so the games against the Habs didn’t really register highly on the importance scale, and last season both Boston and Montreal suffered through subpar seasons that saw them each fall short of the playoffs.

Since the second round loss to the Habs in the 2013-14 playoffs, the Bruins are 2-7 while being outscored by a 31-18 margin in nine regular season meetings over the last two seasons in an incredibly one-sided chapter in the two teams’ shared history. The real lack of competitiveness has been a noticeable lack of deep emotion or ill will on the ice between the two hockey clubs, and that is very different from the recent past when signature players like Milan Lucic, P.K. Subban and Shawn Thornton were card-carrying members of healthy hate that regularly spilled out on the ice between the two rival NHL organizations.

Instead it will probably be new blood that breathes glorious, hard-edged life into the history between the two Original Six teams, and new personalities like David Backes, Shea Weber and Andrew Shaw are likely to do just that. Certainly the Canadiens wanted to be much more difficult to play against in recruiting players like Shaw and Weber, and, their presence along with the offensively explosive Alex Radulov, could make it a tough matchup for the Black and Gold.

Either way, the Bruins are curious to see what the matchup looks like this season with the electric P.K. Subban removed from the mix as one of the classic Habs villain-type characters from a Boston perspective.

“It’s always fun to play Montreal at home, or in Montreal. This will be our second time counting the preseason, and our first time at the Garden. It’s going to be pretty cool,” said David Krejci. “When you say any NHL team there are a few names that pop out for that team, and [P.K. Subban] was definitely one of them [for Montreal]. But P.K. is gone, and now it’s Shea Weber. So it’s going to be a little different, but he’s a hell of a player as well so it isn’t going to be any easier.

“It’s a big game. It’s a division game. We don’t want to take any game lightly within the 82 games because you don’t know what can happen at the end. When those games against [Montreal] are done you always feel like you’ve played two games, and not just one. It’s high intensity, and it’s obviously a rivalry that you get up for.”

As Bruins head coach Claude Julien would say it, things are a bit too civilized between the two enemy teams when thinking back to the days of Georges Laraque chasing Milan Lucic around the ice challenging him a fight on the Bell Centre ice, or the awful epoch in B’s-Habs history when Zdeno Chara clobbered Max Pacioretty with a dangerous, injury-inducing hit into the stanchion area.

Nobody is looking for players to get hurt on borderline plays when the two teams suit up on Saturday night, but something to introduce a new chapter into the Boston-Montreal rivalry would be a good thing for both teams, a good thing for the fans and a potentially great thing for an NHL that prides itself on good, old-fashioned rivalries.

“We need to make sure that we’re ready to play [on Saturday]. I like the way that we’ve played so far, and except for Toronto we’ve managed to compete with all of the teams that we’ve played against,” said Julien. “I don’t know if it’s going to stay that way, but I’m going to use the word that [the rivalry] has been more civilized for the last few years. There hasn’t been as much of the sideshow as there has been [in the past].

“I think there’s still a lot of hatred between the two organizations when they meet, but I think the way the game is trending, and how costly that penalties can be in a game, both teams are a little cautious in that way. I still think there is great intensity and both teams get up for the games, so hopefully that happens tomorrow, and the fans get to see a good game.”

One thing that should ensure a good, familiar showdown with plenty of hard-hitting and honest-to-goodness rivalry-like behavior: both the Canadiens and Bruins are off to strong starts at the top of the Atlantic Division in the first couple of weeks this season, and there are some new faces that are undoubtedly going to want to announce their presence for these Bruins-Habs tilts with authority.

Let’s hope this happens because last season’s Bruins-Habs games needed a pair of jumper cables and 1.21 jigowatts of electricity to shock them back into their elevated level of intensity, and that’s when hockey is served best after all.