Rivers, Celtics Reestablish Team DNA at Practice

WALTHAM, Mass. – Accountability is one of the hallmark words associated with the Boston Celtics. No one survives life in green and white without holding themselves responsible for both the good and bad that they create within this tight-knit organization, and that includes the head coach.

That’s why immediately following Wednesday night’s game, Doc Rivers sat in his postgame press conference seat and made several references to the fact that he may have cost his team a victory in the Celtics’ 90-87 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Don’t believe us? Hear for yourself.

“I probably should’ve called a time out on the fast break…” Rivers said, referencing the team’s critical possession with less than 20 seconds remaining in which Rajon Rondo put up a running floater that missed in transition. “It’s easy to second-guess it now, you know, you should’ve called a time out.”

Moments later, Rivers spoke of the limited touches Paul Pierce has been getting on offense.

“You know Paul is pretty good, and he’s got to get more touches in games,” he said. “And I think we go back and forth on movement, and we want that, but we’ve also got to get Paul involved. That’s on me; I’ve got to get Paul involved more.”

His closing statement, in response to a question that asked if the team’s offensive issues start with Rajon Rondo, went like this: “No, it starts with Doc Rivers.”

After 14 hours had passed since the end of that contest, Rivers must have still felt the same way, because he stepped in front of his team at 1 p.m. this afternoon and admitted to those mistakes.

“Even Doc said today, ‘Hey, maybe I should have called this or that,’ “ said assistant coach Kevin Eastman, who, along with assistant coach Armond Hill, addressed the media today in place of Rivers upon the head coach’s request. “That’s why Doc’s a good leader, because he’s willing to admit – sometimes I think he does it a little too much – when he made a mistake, and say it to the team right in front of their face so he can say it right to their eyes, so they know it’s from the heart.”

Rivers has clearly taken the responsibility for last night’s loss, and the team’s performance overall, to heart, and he took advantage of the opportunity to tell his players today. He was afforded the opportunity to do so because Boston finally got on the practice court for the first time in more than two weeks.

That practice court is now being treated as hallowed ground for the Celtics, because that is the location where the team’s accountability is brought into the limelight. When this team gets together in Waltham, Mass., it becomes a two-hour frame in which the team can address all of its issues without the worries of an upcoming opponent. These sessions are strictly about getting better and allowing players and coaches to voice their opinions on what needs to be done to get better.

There have been several Celtics who have not seemed at ease over the past two weeks, and it’s no coincidence that such a display has coincided with the team not making its way onto the practice court. Rivers alluded to Nenad Krstic’s struggles of late by saying that the C’s need to clean up what’s going on “between the ears” of their starting center. Based on the way the entire team has played over the past two weeks, Krstic isn’t the only one who is having some mental constraints.

Getting the team on the practice court is therapy, and it allows players to ease their minds by learning in ways much more effective than just the power of hearing.

“You guys know we’ve had some limited practice times, we’ve had some guys injured and not being able to (practice), so that kind of slows and retards the process of building that DNA,” said Eastman, moments after stating that the Celtics’ success is based on the DNA of how they execute. “And we’re having to do it verbally, more than physically, and there’s a difference. When you’re physically working on it, it’s just a little bit easier to pick it up. When you just hear it all the time by voice, it’s a little harder to pick up.”

And so the C’s went to work today by combining that physical and verbal work. This practice allowed Boston to reestablish their DNA, which is made up of that execution and accountability, for a solid 80 minutes of practice time.

As the old adage says, seeing is believing. The Celtics returned to the court and regained their accountability first by seeing their coach admit to his mistakes while looking each and every player in the eye. They then carried over that accountability throughout a practice that held a “playoff atmosphere,” to the point where Kevin Garnett needed to be literally “dragged off of the court” to take a breather, according to Delonte West.

The practice floor where it all begins; where the final product is developed that will show itself in front of 18,624 fans on the parquet. This is where accountability is established, and Rivers took the lead in bringing that important piece of his team’s DNA back to the forefront this afternoon.