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.

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

BOSTON -- On more than one occasion Monday night, the Boston Celtics were a discombobulated bunch with some players thinking they were running one play, while others were thinking the play called was something totally different.
 
You see that stuff in the preseason and to a certain extent in the regular season for a lot of teams. It is in those moments that we’re reminded that this Boston Celtics team is a work in progress on so many levels.
 
Because of that, we all need to hit the pause button when talking about them as a team inching closer towards Eastern Conference supremacy.
 
After the first month of the season, they have yet to show that they are going to be better than last season’s 48-win ball club.
 
The big problem a year ago was the offense bogging down and for the most part, not making shots. This year, it’s the team’s defense that has let them down on many nights.
 
And with that comes a sobering reminder this crew is good, but at best are maybe top-five in the East.
 
As a team on the rise, beating teams you’re not supposed to has to happen with some semblance of regularity.
 
There were only three teams on the Celtics’ docket this season thus far that they should have been beaten by without there being any argument: Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland.
 
They were beaten in all three, two of which (Golden State and Cleveland) had final scores that did not indicate the level of dominance they had over the Celtics.
 
The average margin of defeat in the three games was 9.3 points, but two of them (San Antonio and Golden State) were at the TD Garden, which is supposed to be the equalizer for upset-minded teams.
 
But in each game, Boston put up a decent fight only to fail to emerge victorious.
 
The struggles against the upper echelon teams of the NBA has nothing to do with not having a superstar or a great rebounder or any of the kazillion reasons/excuses offered up as to why they’re not better.
 
It’s hunger.
 
It’s effort.
 
It’s about being blinded by the internet clicks that tout them as one of the best teams in the East, and them not seeing the danger that comes with embracing all that patting on the back.
 
It makes you soft.
 
It makes you fat and happy.
 
And maybe most significant, it creates a false sense of arrival before you’ve left the tarmac.
 
That’s where the Boston Celtics are right now: a team that seems to have forgotten why they were the team nobody wanted to play last year.
 
It wasn’t that teams feared playing them. It was the fact that they knew playing the Celtics would be tough, and it would force them to play a lot closer to their full potential than they were used to if they wanted to win.
 
It was because everyone knew that to beat the Celtics, you don’t have a choice but to play hard because you damn well knew they would.
 
Not anymore.
 
They bring that toughness to the game in small doses, like an intra-venous drip full of hope and promise, providing just enough to life to keep their fans optimistic but not nearly enough to kill the noise of their haters and critics.
 
And while the season is still young, the Celtics need to start racking up some quality wins.
 
Right now, their most impressive win is a toss-up between beating Charlotte 104-98 on Oct. 29, or a 94-92 win at Detroit on Nov. 19.
 
Boston plays at Orlando on Wednesday, a team that’s likely to be back in the lottery again. But after that, they travel back to Boston where they’ll host Toronto -- a game that they desperately need to not only to pad their win total but also provide a much-needed boost of energy and confidence going forward.

The Celtics have to find that hunger, that collective desire that we’ve seen in the past which has propelled them to greater heights than we’ve seen thus far.
 
Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford… you can go down the roster and the mission for all of them has to be the same: play harder, for longer, and be smarter about it, because this team has too much collective talent to be just three games above .500.
 
At 12-9, Boston is third in the East and trail conference-leading Cleveland by three games for the best record in the conference. But then you look at the teams behind the Celtics and realize that they’re only two games out of having the ninth-best record in the East.
 
It speaks in part to the season still being in its infancy stage. But it’s also telling as to how Boston does not have a huge margin of error when it comes to losing winnable games.
 
And as we’ve seen thus far, the Celtics can play with any team in the NBA and hold their own.
 
But beating them is a totally different narrative that this squad has yet to write.