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.

Wyc Grousbeck: Celtics season ticket renewals at 98% for next season

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Wyc Grousbeck: Celtics season ticket renewals at 98% for next season

Celtics Managing Partner and CEO Wyc Grousbeck talks with Toucher & Rich about the 98% renewals on season tickets for next year, and how that is unheard of.

Hawks have experience closing teams out, but not in Boston

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Hawks have experience closing teams out, but not in Boston

BOSTON – Before their first-round series began with the Celtics, the Hawks had a decisive advantage when it came to experience.
 
The bulk of last year’s team, which finished with the best record in the East and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, was back. They’re facing a Boston team that began the season with the fifth-youngest roster in the NBA.
 
During Atlanta’s journey, there have been many lessons learned.
 
Among them?
 
How to close out teams on the road, something they will try to do tonight against Boston in Game 6 of their best-of-seven first round series.
 
“It’s fair to say anytime you’re trying to close out a team, it’s the most difficult game,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. “There’s a desperation that they’ll have that you have to match. Our players have been in this situation before; hopefully find a way to get it done.”
 
Last season, the Hawks closed out their first- and second-round series with Game 6 wins on the road at Brooklyn and Washington.
 
Winning on the road takes a tremendous amount of focus and attention to detail.
 
That will be easier said than done, especially playing at the TD Garden, which has been a House of Horrors for Atlanta when it comes to playoff games.
 
Boston comes into tonight’s game having won 10 straight against the Hawks at home in the playoffs, with the last loss coming in 1988. That’s just part of a 22-2 all-time record Boston has against the Hawks at home in the playoffs which includes a perfect 9-0 mark at the TD Garden.
 
And in this series, there really has been a home-court advantage with each of the first five games having been won by the home team.
 
It’s a trend the Hawks will be focused on trying to end tonight.
 
But to do so won’t be easy, especially in the face of a crowd that has been tremendously important to Boston thus far in this series.
 
No one knows this better than Atlanta guard Dennis Schroder, who was booed every time he touched the ball in Boston’s Game 4 victory, which was also the worst game for Schroder in this series.
 
The booing stemmed from a Game 3 incident involving Schroder and Boston’s Isaiah Thomas that potentially could have ended with Thomas being suspended for Game 4.
 
Instead, league officials reviewed the incident and eventually ruled a flagrant-1 penalty against Thomas for the contact he made with Schroder’s head.
 
“I just try to compete and try to win games,” said Schroder who had seven points on 3-for-13 shooting in Game 4. “They have a good crowd. They help their players. It don’t matter to me. I just try to win games.”
 
Thomas received similar treatment from the Atlanta crowd in Game 5 and like Schroder, had a similarly horrible night (seven points, 3-for-12 shooting) offensively.
 
It speaks to one of the many unspoken challenges that tend to prop up the deeper you get into a playoff series that makes winning on the road even tougher.
 
“You just have to fight through it,” Schroder said. “It’s the playoffs.”
 
 

Grousbeck: Celtics advantage is cap space for two max free agents

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Grousbeck: Celtics advantage is cap space for two max free agents

Celtics CEO & Governor Wyc Grousbeck joins Toucher & Rich to discuss why he hopes this offseason will be the one where major free agents will strongly consider signing with the Celtics.