35 Games To Go: The downside of rebuilding

The writing has been on the wall for much longer than one would think. While blissfully overlooked during the six year run at the top of the NBA, the word “REBUILD” has been on scrawled across the walls of the TD Garden since the summer of 2007.

We all knew it was coming and were happy to push it off until “next season” for half a decade. Eventually the Big Three would move on and the Celtics would hit the reset button and begin the process of rebuilding the team brick by brick.

Words like “rebuilding” “transitional” and “tanking” have punctuated every conversation of the Celtics 2013-14 campaign, and with good reason. It was clear from the get go that this season was not about winning, it is about building something for the future and laying the foundation for greatness down the line. The problem that faces this Celtics team is not how the team is going to look next season, two seasons, or three seasons from now. The problem is that the building blocks for the future look complacent and lost.

“We have to really analyze and look at what we’re doing,” Stevens said. “We’re going through a drought right now scoring, but at the same time, the way we defended we wouldn’t have beaten them if we scored tonight. Obviously I’m frustrated with how we played.”

Through the first third of this season, the Brad Stevens Celtics were playing with passion. Even in defeat, the Celtics rallied around the idea that they were figuring it out and making improvements in every game. Each game was the chance for someone to step up and more often than not, someone did… and then they got traded.

It has become evident that the transactional nature of the 2013-14 season is starting to take it’s toll on this team. Every good performance is rewarded with a trade rumor. Every loss is met with dissension in the ranks.

The energy and passion that has defined the modern day Celtics is gone. From the opening intros to the late game time outs, the zombified Celtics are sluggish, beat up, and look like they’re just going through the motions. It is as if each member of the team is saying, “it’s not my turn to carry the weight.”

“It was everything, we didn’t do anything well as a team, individually, and they exposed us,” Rondo said. “You gotta continue to demand [effort] on a consistent basis. We play so many games we can’t take nights off and when we do, the score ends up looking like this. And also, keep in mind they came here and we beat them by [41], so you knew they had to defend their home territory and we didn’t come out with any effort from the start.”

All season long, the Celtics has waited for all of pieces to fall into place. They’ve waited for Jeff Green to emerge as the scoring machine, for Kelly Olynyk to live up to the moniker of “player most GMs wished they drafted,” for Rajon Rondo to lead this team to greatness, and Jared Sullinger to continue rocketing towards All-Star status. Hints of these things have been visible during games just never at the same time, and therein lies is the rub. A team that is waiting for something to happen doesn’t win.

Eventually, this master plan of Danny Ainge’s will pay off. It has to, right? Its just up to the Celtics to weather the storm each step of the way and hopefully develop a culture of winning amidst a season of losing. Just like everything else this season, that is much easier said than done.

Follow Padraic O'Connor on Twitter @padraic_oconnor

Source: Gary Washburn; Boston Globe

Photo: Globe photo/Jim Davis