By A. Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON The Boston Celtics take pride in being a self-less group of players.
But something has changed. Something isn't quite what it used to be.
And this change, is definitely not one for the better.
The Charlotte Bobcats became the latest squad to hand the C's an unexpected defeat as they rallied in the fourth for an 83-81 win.
As you talk with the players, the reasons for the team's less-than-stellar play of late runs the gamut.
But of all the issues the C's face, none seems more paramount than the team's lack of ball movement.
Nowhere does this appear more obvious than the assists totals - or rather, lack of assists.
Against the Bobcats, the Celtics tallied just 15 assists - a number that Rajon Rondo has frequently racked up by himself.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers believes the struggles of late have a lot to do with the players being selfish, a stinging indictment that comes on the heels of him calling his team "soft" in the first half of Monday's win at New York.
When guys make mistakes, lately they tend to mope instead of making it right.
"Everything is 'me, me, me on our team right now," Rivers said. "Feeling sorry for themselves, instead of giving themselves to the team and playing. You can just see it manifest throughout the team. Until we can get through that, we will continue to have results like we had (Friday night)."
Kevin Garnett echoed similar sentiments following Friday's loss.
"Everybody is trying to do it themselves," Garnett said. "I know Doc is stressing ball movement to the whole group, the whole team. (Saturday) we'll go and watch the tape and try and better ourselves."
While the Celtics' defense gave up a staggering 30 points in the fourth quarter, they only gave up 83 for the game - a total that on most nights, should be enough to win.
Generating more scoring has been one of the C's biggest issues during this late-season lull that they're currently in.
While players don't completely buy into the idea that they're playing selfish basketball, even Paul Pierce acknowledged that it does happen "from time to time."
He added, "That's the reason why we don't shoot a high percentage, or score 100 points, because the ball is sticking when we usually make extra passes. That's when the offense is flowing, and we're able to get out there on a break and get easy opportunities. You haven't been seeing that, and that's why we're shooting a low percentage and that's why we're not scoring."
Or winning against teams like the Bobcats that the Celtics know they have no business losing to.
"I'm pretty sure they are over there and still can't believe they won this game," said Boston's Delonte West. "Disappointing how we closed it out, but that's us."
For now, he's right.
But this kind of basketball won't cut it, especially if the C's are to have any shot at bringing home Banner 18.
"We just have to figure out a way to come out of it," Garnett said. "Every team is going to go through little something. We all have to do this together. Everybody has to pick it up and change this."
Added Pierce: "We're all veterans; we've been here before, and we all know what it takes. It's got to come from each individual to take a look in the mirror, and look inside and decide if that's what they want to do. We can talk about it everyday, but until we look at ourselves in the mirror, that's what it's going to be."