Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ubuntu is gone

Right now, the Celtics are in a funk. It looks a little familiar too. Last season, Boston sleepwalked through the last half of the regular season -- posting a mediocre .500 record from Christmas on.

Boston was losing games to the Washington Wizards and the New Jersey Nets. Fans were worried, dissatisfied and pissed off. They booed.

We all know how that turned out. The Celtics turned it on in the playoffs. As the fourth seed, they ousted Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Dwight Howard -- making it all the way to Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

So, have we seen a bored Celtics team before? Yes.

"And last year, we lost Game 7 on the road,” quipped Doc Rivers when asked the same question after last night's 83-81 loss to the 29-42 Charlotte Bobcats.

There's something wrong with the Celtics. Whether they'll pull themselves out of it is up for the debate, but that is a fact. This team isn't playing the way that won them a championship in 2008, and even the way that had them so close a year ago.

“The way we’re playing shocks me,” said an obviously dejected Rivers. “Our attitude shocks me....Right now, I just think we’ve become very, very selfish. Not as far as trying to get our own, but everything is about how we’re playing individually instead of how the team is playing. You can see it, a guy struggles, he pouts, he moans.

“You can just see it manifest throughout the team. Until we can get through that we will continue to have results like we had tonight. Clearly we should have won the game. I thought the starting unit in particular came in casual in the fourth quarter, assuming they were going to win the game -- no urgency. Then, all of the sudden, when the game got [to a 1-point contest], their butts got tight. When you [don’t have] that 11-point lead, the shots aren’t easy anymore. I always say it, ‘You screw around with the game, and the game will screw around with you.’”

It's a fact that has to be concerning to Celtics fans. This isn't about injuries, it isn't even completely about being bored. This is a deeper mental problem. It's an issue that Doc says hasn't happened in a long time, maybe not ever with this group in the Big Three era.

Doc barely talked to his players in the locker room after the game. He's upset, disappointed. He should be.

"Either I’m doing a terrible job getting to them or right now they just aren’t there," he said, "I don’t know why. It’s my job to figure it out though."

Most fans will dismiss what they've witnessed for the past two and a half weeks -- chalking it up to the same things as last year. The fact is though that there's a deeper problem here than just injuries or not getting up for a sub par opponent. The Celtics aren't playing Celtic basketball. That whole ubuntu idea? It's been thrown out the window the past couple weeks.

"You're not going to play well every night but it can't be about you playing well," said Rivers. "It's gotta be, 'Let me do something else to help the team.'

"Everything is ‘me, me, me’ on our team right now, feeling sorry for themselves instead of giving themselves to the team and playing."

Celtics fans can blame whatever they want. They could point to the trade of Perkins as messing up the chemistry of the team, specifically Rondo's head. They could blame it on the absence of Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal. You could say that the old Celtics are wearing down at the end of the season or that they just assume they're going to win against lowly opponents.

All of that is true but none of it is an excuse.

Before every game, the Celtics say "ubuntu" in unison. Maybe after so long they've forgotten what it means. With the team now trailing the Bulls by two full games and clinging to just a half-game lead over Miami, it's about time they remember.

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