Tuesday, December 4, 2012

C's Fans: Don't Worry, Be Happy!

Chicken Littles of the world....at ease, okay?

The reason for this post is that, through my small-but-vocal circle of friends and my travels around the basketball bloggosphere, I can see that the "Wine-n-Cry Express" has reached critical mass with respect to the state of the Celtics and the body count for those jumping off the bandwagon to their deaths has been growing at an alarming pace.

Without beating a mostly-dead horse (or chicken, in this case), people...hear me now:

There is nothing wrong with the Celtics that time and practice is not going to cure.

Key items to remember:

* The Celtics have 10 (TEN!!!) players playing together with the remaining 5 from last year's squad FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.

* Two of those ten are still in the process of recovering from OPEN HEART SURGERY. Only one of these two actually saw any court time at all last year.

* One of those "remaining 5 players" has yet to step on the floor this season, and as a result, there has been at least one player starting (Courtney Lee
or Jason Terry) WHO HAS NEVER PLAYED WITH THE STARTING FOUR before this season.

* With all the hardship, close losses and ugly blowouts (Detroit...we're holding our noses and looking away from YOU!), the Celtics are still just FOUR GAMES OUT OF FIRST PLACE IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE and FOUR-AND-A-HALF GAMES OUT OF FIRST PLACE IN THE ENTIRE LEAGUE!!!

So why all of this hand-wringing and sky-dodging and tooting of the air-raid sirens? Seriously, people?

Look, folks...the bottom line is this: Doc is the coach of this outfit. If anybody knows how things are REALLY going, it's going to be him. Only he and his coaching staff know whether there is any progress being made between their teachings and the implementation of the offensive and defensive schemes. He knows whether or not and who is and isn't "getting it" and who needs more time and reps.

"Overall, the last two games, I like where we're at," said Rivers. "But we've got to continue to do it. We've yet to be consistent, in my opinion. You can be consistent and lose a game, and I think Milwaukee was an example of that. I thought we played with the right spirit, but we just have to have that consistent effort."

-- Doc Rivers, Celtics Coach

I know what some of you are saying out there as you duck under buildings and put on your helmets: "Of COURSE a coach is going to say things are headed in the right direction because it would be ludicrous and potentially career suicide to say otherwise!"

But, this is coming from a coach who basically has the keys to the City and a management and ownership team that is behind him 100%. Doc's not going anywhere unless he decides that it's time to go. With that said, give the man -- and the players on his team -- the benefit of the doubt for (Pistol) Pete's sake, okay?

Yes, the loss at Detroit was about as fun to watch as two needles headed straight at your pupils, and "yes," the loss to Milwaukee this past week was hard to take in the face of the 17-point freebie the Bucks gave us to start the game, and "yes" there were several other games that we easily could have and should have won and countless offensive and defensive rebounds that we'll never get back.

But, we're talking about a team that is trying as a group to figure out where everyone likes to be on offense so that the flow can be more cohesive in running sets, and a bunch of new players who are struggling to grasp the specifics of a defense that is predicated on each player being in the proper position. If you've ever played the game before, or any other team sport for that matter, you know that the old addage, "you're only as strong as your weakest link" holds shockingly true. If one person is out of position, it can make the entire defense look like this:

The other thing that kind of trips me out is just how easily and completely some people forget even the most recent history of their favorite team. I suppose this accelerated short-term memory loss is part of the reason there are so many successful crackpots running for politics these days. But, I intentionally digress...

Does anyone remember how poorly the Celtics played at the end of the 2009-2010 season? They went 27-27 to close out the season, fans thought the team "Sheed" the bed (sorry, but I had that pun tucked away since 2010) and "experts" predicted that they would lose in the first round of the Playoffs. How'd THAT turn out? Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals.

Anybody recall last year's team? You know, the one that was supposed to face a real challenge from Atlanta, possibly getting taken out by the younger, fresher and more athletic team? Or how, once the C's mildly defied those expectations and advanced, they were then expected to wilt against the newly energized Philly 76ers,who had just come off defeating the favored Chicago Bulls (even though they were without their one true superstar)? How did THAT go? Beat Philly and then lost to Miami in 7 games in the Eastern Conference Finals -- a round the C's weren't really supposed to get to, and if they did, getting swept wasn't out of the realm of possibility. That they accomplished this feat without starter Avery Bradley; an injured and in-need-of-ankle-surgery Ray Allen; a half-speed Paul Pierce (sprained knee); and other offseason-surgery-candidate Mickael Pietrus is nothing short of remarkable.

But, this isn't what fans fall back on when they see their team struggle to find its rhythm with a cast that has changed even more than Justin Bieber's voice and Rhianna's hairdos combined. The fact is that this team is learning on the fly at the baby stages of a long, 82-game season. The tendency is, however, thanks to hyperbolic and often mediocre "analysts," is to take a microwave approach, folding our arms and kicking the sand, firmly in the grips of the unassailable knowledge that "if it ain't working right now, it'll NEVER work!"

Let me just offer you this bit of advice:

Instead, how about we make this promise to ourselves from this point forward: Let's reserve judgement until Bradley gets back and plays out of his rust somewhere around the All-Star Break and see whether this team can get it together and get on a couple of good winning streaks along the way, okay? If four and a half games are all that separate the "fatally flawed" Celtics and the Miamis and Oklahomas of the League, then I like our chances.

And, Hell...we all know that if things aren't working out by then, "Trader Dan" will have the machine cranked up and ready to go in an attempt to tweak what is expected to be a championship-caliber team into, well, winning The Championship.

The point, ultimately, is this: There is nothing to be worried about at this stage in the season. Barely a month has passed and we're incorporating new players, waiting for an old one to return, and two to continue their steady recovery from having their chest cavities cracked open and then melded back together again. And yet, the team is still over .500 and showing signs of "getting it" with each run.

Folks, I think we can all do ourselves a world of good by grabbing whatever beverage of choice we indulge in, kicking back in our La-Z-Boys/Barcaloungers/Beanbag Chairs (hey, I don't judge) and enjoying the ride as we watch our green guyz grow and develop, and prove the morons pundits wrong yet again.

Or, to put it another way...

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