Let’s face facts – our Boston Celtics aren’t getting love from the national sporting press – Sports Illustrated has us as 5th in the East, behind the Heat, Pacers, Knicks and Nets. Everywhere I turn it’s the same thing – the nucleus is too old, and the additions are a collection of has-beens (Jason Terry), overrateds (Jeff Green), busts (Darko Milicic) and question marks (Courtney Lee). The Miami Heat have a player who aspires to be the G.O.A.T., and he seemingly has the talent, confidence and physical attributes to pull it off. The OKC Thunder are another year older, and the LA Lakers have become the sexy pick to win it all.
If you listen to the experts, our Celtics have no chance at all of winning the Atlantic Division this season, let alone the Eastern Conference. And as for the whole sha-bang? That would be a cold day in hell.
If I’m Doc Rivers and the Celtics, I’m going to use all of this as motivation. Fuel for the fire.
The trick is for Kevin Garnett & Co. to carry that hate with them all season, to play with an attitude that makes up for any perceived discrepancy in talent. And it can’t start and end with the Big Ticket. Players with laid back personalities like Green and Brandon Bass need to impose their will while they’re on the court. Yes, they need to play within themselves and not try to do too much, but they sure as hell can’t back down. They need to take the fight to the opponent, whether that’s the Milwaukee Bucks in mid-January or the Heat in May.
And let’s be realistic; Garnett and Paul Pierce are on the downhill slide in their careers. We have questions galore about the role players heading into the season opener in Miami. It’s up to all of the players on this team to own the attitude, from starter to role player to bench warmer. Everyone needs to practice with an edge, and they need to take that nastiness into all 82 games during the regular season.
If they do that – if they bring it every single night – then our Celtics have a shot at something really special.