Fire Doc Rivers
83-98. A .458 winning percentage. In short, sadly mediocre production over the past 3 seasons, especially in a town where winning is the norm. Or, was the norm... 20 years ago, for the Boston Celtics.
The problem? Well it depends who you ask. Its the youth, the team is too young, there is no veteran leadership. It's the GM, Danny Ainge has arranged too many of the same pieces. The team is banged up right now, you can't use this beginning of the season to gauge the quality of this team.
All of these would seem fair excuses, but I don't buy them. Not anymore. In this case blame rests sorely on the shoulders of one Glenn “Doc” Rivers, Boston's head coach. Some stick up for him, most notably Bob Ryan of the Globe, out of respect for the man. It is time to put aside respect for the man and start analyzing the job the man has done, and the win-loss record doesn't even tell the whole story.
The first, most noticeable reason for a change is the absolute lack of consistency. This comes in two forms. Lack of consistent play and lack of a consistent rotation of players. Due to injuries, Doc has been forced into at least using a 10 man rotation as opposed to using every player on the bench, which he has been known to do on occasion (November 22nd against the Bobcats, for one example). Of the rotation decisions, Doc was quoted by the AP in September as saying "I don't think we ever had one and I don't think we were a team that should have had one. No one separated themselves enough to have one,". Well, that idea did not work out so well as it translated into a sub .500 record and no playoff birth.
Even within this rotation issue, there is another and that is playing time. One night someone gets 20 minutes, the next night six minutes. For example, last night against the Grizzles, Leon Powe played eight minutes. This would seem a peculiar choice in the first place since all three of our centers are currently shelved with injuries, leaving Powe as the 3rd tallest player on the team at 6'8”, but when you factor in that earlier in the season when Al Jefferson was out, Powe was getting 25 minutes a game against Orlando, 19 minutes a game against Portland, 15 minutes against Chicago, and even 10 minutes a game against Portland and the New York Knicks, the playing time rotation looks especially confusing. How are the players supposed to know their roles on the team if the coach doesn't even seem to know? Doc had Powe go from 19 minutes, to 8 minutes to 1 minute in the span of 3 games. For a young player, it is important they know their role on the team. Powe might not be a key to the Celtics future success but he has shown flashes of potential in the limited time he has been on the floor. With an injury ravaged team, one would think it might be a good time to let the kid feel his way into the league. A better example of the “how many minutes will he get tonight?” problem is Gerald Green, and he, unlike Powe, is supposed to be key in the Celtics future success.
Last night, Green played 26 minutes, the most he had got all season and all that playing time was mostly because Wally Szczerbiak is hurt and couldn't play in the last two games. Green managed 21 points on 6 for 10 shooting. With the Celtics struggling to find consistent offensive production out of anyone not named Wally or Pierce, where has this kid been all season? The answer is shelved on the bench and relegated to garbage time in games that are already over. Despite that, he still managing to rank second in the entire NBA in 3-point field goal percentage at a staggering .560 clip. And yet, until very recently, he was warming the bench and only coming in for a few minutes at the end of a quarter to give Paul Pierce a breather. With a 3-point field goal percentage like that, one would think it might be a good idea to call a play for the kid down the stretch when the team needs a three to tie, especially since teams mostly just key on Paul Pierce with double and even triple teams at the end of a game. But no, last night against the Grizzlies, Doc decided to run a play for Sebastian Telfair instead of Green. Telfair is shooting .308 from beyond the arc, by the way, and the shot managed to hit the shot clock instead of the rim. In short, it wasn't a very good play, and it was a loss to the worst team in the NBA.
Another problem is the turnover issue. Last year, the Celtics finished with 15.9 turnovers a game. Only the Knicks finished with a worse mark (17.0 a game). This season hasn't faired any better, it has actually been worse. Even though Ainge brought in Sebastian Telfair to run the point, the Celtics are still 25th in the league with an average of 16.2 turnovers a game. Well coached teams take care of the ball, the Celtics do not.
The final and most glaring reason to replace Rivers is this troubling statistic: in this, the 2006-2007 season, in close games (that is, games decided by 5 or less points), the Celtics are already 1-6. The lone victory came against Charlotte and it took the Celtics overtime to do it. Last season, the Celtics were a laughable 11-20 in the same situation.
You can't blame it on the youth forever. At this point, Delonte West, Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair and Tony Allen are all in their 3rd NBA seasons, while Kendrick Perkins is in his 4th. The babies are growing up without a father. It's time to bring a new one in. Even Doc agrees, “We talk about the young stuff because we have to. But I don't want to use that as an excuse. You can't use that as an excuse. I can't allow them to use that as an excuse”, he said in the Globe on Wednesday. If youth can't be the excuse, then the blame points squarely at you, Doc. And since Danny seems to have no desire to replace the boys, that is, he won't trade them for a veteran player who could help right away, it is time to replace the man leading the boys.