So the Boston Celtics should be the best team left in the NBA playoffs, right? They won the most games this year, had the best point differential and have three experienced stars. However, they have looked far shakier than any of the other team left thus far in the playoffs. The question is why?
I think this post gets at the problem. Boston Coach Doc Rivers has never settled his team into a pattern and gotten his players to understand their roles on the team. Take any of the other teams left in the playoffs and you can immediately see what the role of almost any player on the team is.
With the Lakers, Kobe Bryant is the leader, the scorer, the creater and the crunch time performer. Pau Gasol is the second option offensively, matches up with the other team’s best big man and provides soft hands around the basket for Kobe to dish to when he drives to the hole. Lamar Odom is the third option, providing rebounding, defense and occasional scoring. Derek Fisher and Vlad Radmanovic, the other two starters, provide outside shooting and tough defense. The bench is incredibly deep, with Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton and Ronny Turiaf all providing the Lakers with key minutes. Everyone on the team knows exactly what their job is and they do it well.
The Pistons and the Spurs are the same way. They have leaders, in Tim Duncan and Chauncy Billups. They have their second/third scoring options down pat, in Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker and Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace. They have lock down defenders in Tayshaun Prince and Bruce Bowen. They have guys who come off the bench who know exactly what their role is and what they have to do for the team to win.
Boston doesn’t have that. Who is the leader and top scoring option? Is it Kevin Garnett, the clear emotional leader? Or is it Paul Pierce, who has gotten the ball in important situations in the playoffs. Who do they go to when the game is on the line? Who is their creator, their point guard, who needs to distribute the ball to the rest of the team? Is it Rajon Rondo or Sam Cassell? What are the roles for Big Baby Davis, Leon Powe and Kendrick Perkins? Who will be on the floor at crunch time? What is Ray Allen supposed to do? Should he stand outside and look for shots, drive and create or something else all together? How does he fit in with Garnett and Pierce?
Nobody knows, not even the players themselves. One night Cassell doesn’t play in 4 straight games, then is back getting 17 minutes. They go to Garnett with the game on the line one night, then Pierce the next. Simply put, it is impossible to win an NBA Championship if players don’t know their roles. If the Celtics somehow pull it off this year it will be a miracle. They will have triumphed due to their shear talent and defensive abilities and in spite of their coaching. If the Celtics don’t win it all this year, Doc Rivers probably has to go. He had all season to get this team ready to go for the playoffs without much pressure at all. Yet they still don’t know what they are supposed to do on the court. That just shouldn’t be acceptable for a coach.