Having lost four straight games to drop three games under .500, the Celtics are clearly still trying to figure things out, a fact that coach Doc Rivers acknowledged in his weekly interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI on Thursday morning.
“I don’t think the new guys understand what goes into winning consistently yet,” he said. “I think they’re getting that; I think it’s coming. I think you can see that. But no one is going to care as much as guys who have won a title. I think that’s literally impossible. They have something at stake, they’ve invested something already, and they’re protecting something. The new guys want that and they have to find out how to do that.”
Specific roles have not yet been defined off the bench. Avery Bradley has just joined the rotation for the first time this season. And Jeff Green and Brandon Bass have been inconsistent from game to game.
Could it be time for a shake-up?
“We’re always going to look to improve the team, but we’re not going to panic,” Rivers said.
After all, the Celtics started last season 13-17 before figuring things out and making a run all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Are we seeing a similar scenario play out in 2012-13?
“Every year’s different. I’ve heard it lately, the last year thing. I don’t like the use of it,” Rivers said. “Last year’s last year, and this year’s this year. I agree that last year there was more doom and gloom because we didn’t see the different players we could use. This year we think we have more, we just haven’t gotten more out of it. Like I told my players last night, it always starts with the coach, and I have to figure out how to get more out of each guy.”
“Our depth hasn’t shown. That’s one of the things we thought we’d have going into the year,” Rivers said. “That would be our biggest disappointment. I don’t know if we’re big enough yet. That’s something we’ll see.”
In an ESPN Insider piece posted on Wednesday, Kevin Pelton suggested the Celtics as a potential landing spot for 6-foot-11 Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. The 22-year-old has high upside -- he is averaging 16.6 points and 9.9 rebounds this season -- but was suspended earlier this season for conduct detrimental to the team. Pelton suggests a trade of Bradley and rookies Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger to Sacramento in exchange for Cousins.
Would the Celtics consider such a deal? As Rivers stressed, the Celtics aren’t going to panic. At least not right now. But what if this team is still mired below the .500 mark when the February trade deadline rolls around? What if they’re still on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture?
Between now and then, Rivers’ hope is that roles become more clearly defined and guys like Green start to deliver more consistently.
“He’s had his nights. I’m patient with Jeff,” Rivers said. “I understand what he went through last year [heart surgery]. To me, I think patience is more important with him. We push him like no other. I’ve probably been on him more than any other player; I’m just trying to find the right button for him.”
And if Rivers can't find the right buttons for Green and the rest?
Your turn: If you were in Danny Ainge’s shoes, would you deal Bradley, Melo and Sullinger in exchange for Cousins? Vote in the poll above, and in the comments section share your thoughts on what the Celtics need to do to turn this season around. Also, check out this Insider piece, which suggests Marcin Gortat, Robin Lopez and Anderson Varejao as potential targets for Boston.