Following Thursday night's nationally televised loss to the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics point man Rajon Rondo requested and took in a personal meeting with C's coach Doc Rivers in order to clear the air. And we know why.
When the talent is close and the rosters are about equal, it's an NBA given that the team that defines the terms of engagement will often pull out the win. You come out and throw off the scent that tells the other side that this is your game to lose, and that your opponent can't backdoor its way into a win? Assuming the on-paper productivity of either side is about equal, my friend? You've already won.
The Chicago Bulls peeled off that sort of mindset on Thursday. The team took some bad shots, got a little fancy with the needless extra passes, and was a little excitable at times, but it also was the more aggressive team on both ends. Boston was just sort of along for the ride. Sure, the Celts kept it close for a while, but the majority of the contest was played on Chicago's terms. The result? A 16-point win.
Rondo, who struggled mightily both offensively and in trying to guard Bulls point man Derrick Rose, did not take kindly to that sort of embarrassing defeat. Actually, Rajon could probably handle a defeat to the Bulls in Chicago just fine -- assuming his team played its heart out and fell just short. It was his team's attitude and interest that got to them. How the Celtics, once the movers, were too content to try and fit into a game that could have been all about them.
So he requested that individual meeting with Rivers. From the Boston Globe:
"Think we need to play with a better sense of urgency," he said before his meeting with Rivers. "It better be a wakeup call, if not, we won't make it far. We're a completely different team (than last year). It's not the same team. We're not going to be able to turn it on like we did year. I don't know what we're waiting on but these types of games we have to find a way to win. It's a roller-coaster and right now we went back down today."
I'm not ready to act as if the Celtics can't turn it on this year. Maybe Rondo realizes that Paul Pierce is having a career year, so he can't exactly find yet another higher gear in the postseason. But in strict comparison to the Celtics from this time last year? These guys look like champions. The Celtics lost five of eight games in April of last year and went 11-6 in March. This year's model has gone 10-9 in March and April following a massive trade that shook up the locker room. Considering the upheaval, I'd say these guys are doing swell.
This isn't to say that trading Kendrick Perkins wasn't a needless, disastrous thing. It was. But I still can't sign off on dismissing these Celtics until I see an engaged Kevin Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen giving their all and still falling short. And last year, we had to wait until the seventh game of the NBA Finals to see such a thing.
It's getting late, but it's still so early.