Neither Doc Rivers nor Rajon Rondo want to compare Boston's struggles to last season.With a win on Friday night against the Indiana Pacers, the Boston Celtics would improve to 15-17 overall. If that sounds like a familiar mark, it's because that's exactly where Boston stood a season ago through 32 games before making a spirited run to the cusp of the NBA Finals.
Stumbling into the All-Star break in last year's lockout-condensed campaign while losing five straight (and seven of eight overall), the Celtics proceeded to go 24-10 in the second half and carried that momentum into the playoffs.
If the Celtics are complacent with their recent struggles because of the notion that they can turn things around again, team leaders have admonished that sort of thinking.
"You look at some of our [recent] seasons, we've had some great ones and some wacky ones that turn out to be good at the end," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "But there’s no guarantee, and that’s what I always tell everybody -- literally, everybody. [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] was saying, ‘Well, it was worst last year.’ I said, ‘But that was last year.’ It doesn't matter what happened last year, every team is different and you can’t push the button from the past year, or any year, and assume it’s going to come. At least a coach can’t.
"Every year is hard in that way. Every year you fight to get your guys back into their roles and, this year, new guys to buy into their roles -- to buy into your system, and buy into less minutes. There’s so many things that guys have to do."
While the Celtics admit they've underperformed to this point, the crutch for last season's struggles was a combination of health woes and poor conditioning. Beyond missing Avery Bradley for the first 30 games of the season, Boston has been relatively healthy this year and players enjoyed an extended summer of informal workouts aimed at eliminating conditioning woes.
To players like Rajon Rondo, there's too many new faces to compare this year to last.
"Well, it's a different team. I don't like to compare teams in the past," said Rondo. "It's a completely different team and it's a different season. Last year was 66 [games], now we have 82. There's still a long way to go from the end of the season, but right now, we're at a tough point in the season. We've lost four in a row and we have some big games coming up. So it's not an easy stretch, but they're winnable games."
Even still, both Rivers and Rondo remain confident that Boston will get on track.
"I believe so. I'm a confident player, we're a confident team," said Rondo. "We just haven't found our way right now."
Echoed an optimistic Rivers: "It [has not happened] the way you want it to. Obviously, this is not where we thought we would be, even with the changes. But this is where we are. I think we’re going to figure it out."