Doc Rivers is frustrated as hell, but he hasn't lost the team

When a team with championship aspirations gets off to a slow start, frustration is bound to set in. When that slow start extends to the half-way point of the season, those same frustrations begin to boil over.

That's been evident with Celtics coach Doc Rivers as the C's get ready to finish off the first half of their season tonight in Cleveland.

He's already called the team soft for the first time in the KG era (in early January), and threatened to "get players out of here" following Sunday's embarrassing loss to the Pistons. It's not a stretch to say that Rivers is as frustrated with this year's team as he's been with any Celtics squad in his nine seasons at the helm.

Today, Ben Rohrbach over at WEEI's Green Street took it a step further than simple frustration, questioning whether or not Rivers has lost the Celtics. From the article (link).

During a timeout in the second half of a close game this season, Celtics coach Doc Rivers gathered his second unit at midcourt. The resting C’s joined the huddle off the bench; everyone but Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, that is.

Maybe it’s reading too much into that situation. Maybe Pierce and Rondo were resting their legs for the fourth quarter. Or maybe they were tuning out Rivers.

It’s practically inevitable in a sport where the average player owns a guaranteed contract worth twice that of his coach. There’s a reason Patriots players still fear Bill Belichick after 13 seasons, and there’s a reason Red Sox players stuffed themselves with fried chicken at the end of Terry Francona’s eight-year run.

While NFL contracts remain non-guaranteed, Rivers finds himself in the same boat as Francona: A revered coach with championship credentials struggling throughout a long season to keep a veteran team focused on another title run.

In my opinion Rohrbach is reading way too much into Rondo and Pierce not joining their teammates in a single huddle, during an unnamed game. Besides end of game situations, where plays are being drawn up, NBA players generally handle timeout's in many different ways. Catching their breath, talking with one another about missed assignments, staring off into space, or talking to assistant coaches about a specific game situation. So Pierce and Rondo, who have both pledged their allegiances to Rivers countless times in the recent past, were sitting on the bench. Does that really tell us anything? Isn't the most likely situation that, as Rohrbach suggests, the two were simply saving their legs?

It just seems hard for me to believe that two key members of a team fresh off a run to Game 7 of the Conference Finals, would suddenly block out the coach that got them there. Especially when this is the same same Doc Rivers that had Rajon Rondo's back following his recent suspension for bumping a referee in Atlanta.

I get that with a team playing as poorly as the Celtics, these type's of stories are going to be written. Obviously something is not right with the team, and Doc has definitely been more vocal lately. But jumping straight into 'HE'S LOST THE TEAM' type stuff seems way over the top to me.

A more likely possibility? Doc is dealing with nine new players, many of whom were not known as players with strong defensive reputations before this season. Jeff Green, Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa all come to mind as these types of players. I think that Rivers is growing increasingly frustrated with guys not buying into the Celtics 'hard nose defense' style of play. Just take a look at Rivers comments after the Pistons debacle.

They want the easy way out, they want to win easy, and I told them the only way you’re going to win easy is you’re going to have to play hard. The harder you play, the easier the games become.

We’re taking the wrong approach. I’ve got to either find the right combination, the right guys, or we’re going to get some guys out of here. It’s the bottom line.

Most people took the second bolded part, about shipping players out, and ran with it. But take a look at the first paragraph again. Players wanting to 'win easy' could mean a lot of things, but to me that means the Celtics have been unwilling to consistently dig in on the defensive end. Considering Rivers reputation as a defensive coach, that has to be getting under his skin.

Maybe in a few months I'm proven wrong by stories of Rivers losing the team, but at this point I just don't see it. It's a crappy three game losing streak, with two clunkers, and one heartbreaking loss that the team deserved to win. The biggest question for me has nothing to do with Rivers in fact, it's when (or if) the new players are going to get with the program.

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