Blakely: Celtics too content with losing


Blakely: Celtics too content with losing

CLEVELAND Rajon Rondo became the latest to fall on the sword of responsibility for what's shaping up to be a season of disappointment for the Boston Celtics.

But pointing fingers, even if it's at oneself, is pointless now.

I have heard many questions via social media and emails as to whether this Celtics team wants to win bad enough.

That's not the question, folks.

The real question is when will they get to a point where they hate losing? Because right now, this crew seems more than willing to accept one setback after another, every night.

And that more than anything else has to be distressing both to Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge, the man who assembled this group.

Simply put, they are too comfortable with how things are right now, acting as if victories are suddenly going to start pouring out of the sky any minute.

There is a certain edge, a certain grind that teams that are more than just championship contender talkers but also doers, display.

For the Celtics, we saw it maybe five, maybe six times all season.

That's not going to cut it.

Ainge put this team together last summer with the intent being they could collectively make a run towards Banner 18.

Instead, all the Celtics do now as a group is consistently get run out the gym by lottery-bound teams like Detroit which beat them 103-88 Sunday night and in the process handed Boston its third straight loss.

At this point, the Celtics not "playing the right way" as Rivers puts it, represents just a fraction of what ails them.

Just as important is pride, something the Celtics have given their fans more than enough reasons to question as well. They don't bring the kind of in-your-face disposition to the game anymore, either.

While there's clear disappointment on the part of every player during a losing skid like this, there's no sense that they're angry enough to do something about it.

I totally get that they have a number of guys with poker faces where they show little to no emotion.

And while it may not be in them to get into a shouting match with a teammate, what they are putting on the floor now is as Rondo described, "embarrassing."

Both Rivers and veterans like Rondo have commented in the past about how a number of players in this locker room simply do not show emotions, regardless of whether things are going good or not.

While that's great to have on the floor, at some point you would think all the losing, often in heartbreak fashion, would motivate them to play with more consistency; galvanize them in a way that's unmistakeable.

If that can't happen, maybe Rivers is right to think that the C's may have to move some bodies in order to get players with a bit more fight in them, to be here.

There's no question that the C's bolstered their roster this summer with more talent than we've seen in a while around here. But the team's overall toughness leaves a lot to be desired as they continue to play a laissez-faire brand of basketball over and over and over again.

And while it manifests itself in games repeatedly, it starts inside that locker room.

"For me, it's too laxed; our locker room is too laxed," Rondo said. "Even though a lot of guy's personalities are laid back. But we all got to this level by competing. And right now, the talent we have, the record is embarrassing. Until guys get sick and fed up with it, I don't know if things are going to change."

Rondo goes on to make it clear that he still has faith in his teammates.

But Rondo is no dummy.

Something has to change; whether it's a trade or the demeanor of current players.

Because short of that, this team is going nowhere fast unless they start making strides toward playing better and sustaining that play for more than a few minutes or a few games.

"I don't think guys are honest with each other," said Rivers on Sunday. "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 just want to win easy. And I told them, 'the only way you're going to win easy is you're going to have to play hard. The harder you play, the easier the game becomes."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Wizards

WATCH: Celtics vs. Wizards

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Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

BOSTON -- While it’s debatable whether the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are rivals, there’s no question there has been a heightened level of animosity towards one another when they play.

When these two met on Jan. 11, the Celtics came away with a 117-108 win.

But the game itself featured plenty of back-and-forth trash talk, finger-pointing, cries of dirty play and NBA fines.

IN FACT . . . Washington plans to bury Boston

“It’ll be a physical game,” said Jae Crowder who was hit with a five-figure fine for his role in a post-game incident involving Washington’s John Wall. “We have to answer the bell; we’ll be ready.”

Crowder knows he and his teammates must balance being the more physical team, with not losing their cool because if tonight’s game is anything like previous ones, there will be trash talk … lots of trash talk.

“They talk a little bit more than other teams,” said Crowder who added that was a factor in the incident him and Wall which cost them $25,000 and $15,000, respectively.

Crowder said a flagrant-foul committed by Washington’s Bradley Beal against Marcus Smart was what really cranked the level of animosity that was already at a high level.

But Beal probably hasn’t fully put behind him an incident last season in which Smart broke his nose and put him in the league’s concussion protocol program on a Smart drive to the basket.

As far as the hard foul that Beal delivered to him earlier this month, Smart said, “you take exception to every hard foul.”

Smart added, “It’s the game of basketball. You play with your emotions and intensity and everything like that. It comes with the game.”

While Crowder understands the Celtics have to play a physical brand of basketball, he’s not looking to do anything that might result in him having to cut another $25,000 check which was the amount of his fine from the Jan. 11 game against the Wizards.

“I’m looking at it as another game we have to win,” Crowder said. “I’m not looking at it as a rivalry or anything like that. I’m not coming in talking; they might.”

For the Wizards, winners in four of their five games since losing to Boston, a major key to their success lies in the play of their backcourt.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the latest high-scoring backcourt tandem that the Celtics have to be worried about.

And making matters worse for Boston, the Celtics will have to try and make due without Avery Bradley who is still dealing with a right Achilles injury.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the 6-foot-2 Bradley was not going to be with the team in Washington and would most likely be out all this week.

That means Boston will lean heavily on Smart to not only help the offense run relatively smooth, but also provide some much-needed defense to help limit Wall and Beal who collectively rank among the higher-scoring starting backcourts in the NBA.

“We have to slow them down; by any means we have to slow them down,” Thomas said. “We know they go as far as those two take them. It’s going to be a tough game. They have a lot of momentum at home. It’ll be a tough game for us. But we’re ready for the opportunity.”

Wall and Beal are just the latest in a string of high-scoring backcourts that the Celtics have had to contend with recently.

In Saturday’s 127-123 overtime home loss to Portland, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to score 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting from the field.

“This stretch of backcourts is exceptionally difficult,” Stevens said. “They (Wall and Beal) both should be and certainly are in the discussion for the all-star team. It’s a real difficult challenge. Our guys are going to have to be really good on both ends of the floor.”