Dr. M: Celtics lost ubuntu after trading Perkins

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Dr. M: Celtics lost ubuntu after trading Perkins

By Dr. Neil Minkoff
Special to CSNNE.com

There is a concept called "organizational memory" that business consultants throw around. Basically, organizational memory is everything that everyone at an organization knows about that group and its function. This is divided into explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is the skills learned in school, trainings, manuals and the like. Tacit knowledge is the unteachable part about knowing when to act or how to close a sale. Think of when you hear an announcer say, "That guy knows how to win."

Corporations, especially underperforming ones, will spend an absolute fortune on retaining organizational memory. High turnover in a lot of fields prevent the explicit knowledge from being transferred from worker to worker. The tacit stuff almost never gets passed on. The more organizational memory your organization keeps, the better the product and the less you'll need to retrain employees.

This is some of the thinking behind frequent team meetings and corporate retreats. You have to keep everyone sharing experiences and bonding together to pass along these institutional memories. When enough bonding happens, even the difficult tacit stuff can be shared. This is how a unique culture gets born. You know who's great at this stuff? The Army. Everything gets written down, everyone gets trained and everyone goes through basic training together.

Which brings me back to my favorite underperforming organization -- the Boston Celtics. Let's look at them while thinking about organizational memory.

The new Celtics were formed as a unit in 2007, when Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce were brought together. The team took its celebrated and widely publicized trip to Italy. Cell phones weren't allowed to make sure the guys talked to each other instead and bonded. There were stories coming back about KG taking the rookies to tailors for new suits. We heard rumors that half of the team was hanging out or going sightseeing together. The whole ubuntuteamwork thing was launched.

So they shared experiences and bonding moments and practices. They grew a new organizational memory. Clearly, they started a new culture, based on teamwork and ignoring stats, and focusing on winning championships. That's one of the reasons they got there the first year.

Then in Year Two, there was no big bonding trip. Turnover had been minimal and the starting five were still into ubuntu, but you didn't hear about the closeness of the team anymore so much. This ended in the semifinals with KG out of the lineup after his knee injury.

Year Three saw more turnover. The group that had gone to Italy was getting diluted, but the starting five were still together, still practicing ubuntu. Four guys helping the other one up, but the team struggled with selfishness issues during the latter part of the season, only getting to true form in the playoffs. The season ended with a Game 7 loss to the Lakers, after another crucial knee injury to Kendrick Perkins. The starting five's shared memory and the Celtics' culture kept them sane (despite the occasional locker room madness, courtesy of Rasheed Wallace).

Then we get to this year. More dilution. When this season started, KG, Pierce, Allen Rajon Rondo, and Perkins were the only five guys on the roster who had gone to Italy. I know Shaq started for the early part of the year, but his ridiculous length of time in the NBA gives him at least a shared basketball experience with other veterans. And Perk was still around, still part of the culture.

Until Perkins was traded. The starting five lost a large part of its shared experience.

The Celtics had lost the magic from Italy. The culture died when all five starters couldn't think back to the beginning and remember how they came together and the shared goal of a championship. Living it together for five years. They didn't keep it alive - no retreats, no new bonding trips, no formal mentoring program. The new guys didn't even have junior guys to show them around. All of the one-year guys like Sam Cassell, James Posey and Wallace had left.

There was no continuity to keep the culture going, except the starting five.

At the trade deadline, the Celtics didn't trade a center. They traded one of the five key sources of Celtics memory and Celtics culture.

Unlike a lot of folks, I don't think I know what the Celtics should do. Should they keep going with these aging veterans? Should they blow the team up and start over?

I don't know. But, I do know this: The Celtics need to bond -- maybe take another trip abroad -- to recreate their organizational memory and get back to ubuntu.

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Wizards shoot ridiculous 65 percent from field

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Wizards shoot ridiculous 65 percent from field

After Boston’s last game against Portland – a loss – Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said he was encouraged by some of the things his team did defensively.

It’s safe to say Stevens won’t be singing that tone if the Celtics continue along the path they’re on defensively right now as the Washington Wizards went into the half with a 66-59 lead.

Washington, donning all-black clothes when they arrived at the Verizon Center, were very much looking as though they were digging a basketball grave for the Boston Celtics who allowed the Wizards to shoot a ridiculous 65 percent from the field in the first half and 61.5 percent (8-for-13) from 3-point range.

The Wizards scored the first four points of the game and spent all of the first half playing with a lead.

But the Celtics showed some fight late in the second quarter, going on a 14-6 run to cut Washington’s lead to 55-52 with 3:39 to play in the quarter.

Boston would later have a chance to tie the game, but Marcus Smart’s 3-pointer was off the mark.

And the Wizards, as they had done all game, made the Celtics pay as Bradley Beal drained a jumper that made it a two-possession game.

Here’s a look at the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half.

 

STARS

Bradley Beal

It was his idea to go with the all-Black look, and he backed up his talk with a strong first half of play. He has a team-high 14 points at the half along with five assists.

Isaiah Thomas

Thomas delivered yet another all-star caliber scoring performance in the first half for Boston. He led all scorers with 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting along with a game-high eight assists.  

John Wall

After scoring just nine points when these two met on Jan. 11, Wall has 13 points at the half on 6-for-9 shooting to go with five rebounds and three assists.

 

STUDS

Al Horford

It was an extremely efficient game offensively in the first half for Horford. He had 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting with three assists.

Markieff Morris

He’s one of four double-digit scorers in the first half for the Wizards. In addition to his 10 points, he also has five rebounds and three assists.

 

DUDS

Celtics defense

At this end of the floor, the Celtics were absolutely atrocious in the first half. The Wizards shot a ridiculously high 65 percent from the field, and were just as lethal (8-for-13, 61.5 percent) from 3-point land. They have no shot at competing let alone winning tonight’s game, if they don’t turn things around and do so soon!

Beyond the numbers: 'Game is slowing down' for Isaiah Thomas

Beyond the numbers: 'Game is slowing down' for Isaiah Thomas

Just about every part of Isaiah Thomas’ game offensively has seen tremendous growth this season.

But what has really separated him from earlier versions of himself, has been his 3-point shooting.

He comes into tonight’s game against the Washington Wizards shooting a career best 38.4 percent from 3-point range.

When asked about how he has elevated his game this season, the answer isn’t that simple.

“I don’t know” he told reporters prior to tonight’s game. “The game is slowing down for me. My teammates put me in position, my coach does … and I’m just knocking down shots.”

Because of his shot-making, Thomas has made it difficult for defenses to give him a steady diet of any style of play in trying to limit him.

And because they have to change things up with regularity, that has created more scoring opportunities.

“Sometimes they forget what they want to do (defensively) and leave me open for a three,” Thomas said. “Those are the the types of shots I need to knock down and I’m being aggressive.

He added, “I need to get to the free throw line, trying to make plays for my teammates. It’s one of those things where I’m in a really good zone now; a really good rhythm.”

A good rhythm?

According to NBA statistics guru Dick Lipe, Thomas is the first Celtic ever to make at least four 3-pointers in five straight games. Taking it a step further, he has made at least three 3-pointers in seven straight games which equaled Antoine Walker’s streak in 2001.

Thomas has also attempted 11 three-pointers in five straight games which is a franchise record. There have only been three longer streaks in NBA history - Golden State’s Stephen Curry (7 straight games, 2016); Washington’s Gilbert Arenas (7 straight games, 2005) and Dallas’ George McCloud (6 straight games, 2006).

He’s also averaging 3.1 made 3’s per game which would be a franchise record that’s currently held by Antoine Walker who averaged 2.7 during the 2001-2002 season.

And all those 3’s have added up to Thomas scoring at least 27 points in seven straight games, something that hasn’t been done by a Celtic since Larry Bird had eight such games in March 1988 as well as the 1987-1988 season.