Rivers Calls on Core Players to Turn C's Around

VP, Digital Media

WALTHAM, Mass. – There is one group of players that has consistently fueled the Boston Celtics throughout four consecutive years of championship contention. When people look at the Celtics, they think of – and often fear – a team that boasts three future Hall of Famers, a dominant All-Star point guard and a super-sub big man who can do it all.

Nearly four years after that group of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Glen Davis came together, they are now being relied on to put an end to the Celtics’ struggles and put the Association on alert that this team is still a legitimate championship contender.

Boston has lost six of its last 10 games and is fresh off of a shocking loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night, a game that the C’s led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter. That performance prompted Doc Rivers to go off on his team during his postgame media session, and he essentially put it on them to turn this thing around.

“Themselves, not me or any coach. Themselves,” Rivers said of who will break the team’s current slump. “I’ve used it before, but sometimes you have to find your way. The guys have to. They have to be honest with each other first, though. Until that happens, we are going to have these results.”

After watching film of the game and being able to clarify his thoughts concerning where the team stands right now, Rivers spoke to the media before Saturday’s practice and didn’t shift his stance one bit. He did, however, go into more depth regarding whose responsibility it is to lead this team in the right direction. It starts with himself, he noted, but it ends with that core group that has been here since Day 1 in 2007.

“It is their responsibility, always,” Rivers said of the group, particularly the Big Three and Rondo. “It always starts with your best players, and everybody else follows. That’s how we constructed this team, on purpose. It was the Big Three, and now Rondo has been added to that group, and they all have their own responsibility.”

Allen spoke to the media and quickly agreed that he and his other superstar teammates must shoulder the responsibility for righting this ship. Rivers stated that, “It’s all mental, it’s not physical,” in regard to his team’s struggles, which essentially says that his core group must help change the current psyche of the Celtics’ team. Boston’s sharpshooting guard thinks that he and his fellow influential teammates can do that by leading the team on a 24/7 basis.

“In this situation we have to be vocal as well,” Allen said, “because we’re trying to get other guys to understand what we’re doing here. There’s no point where you can’t be a leader, off the floor and on the floor. We have to set the example, be the example, and always show it.”

The vocal end of that leadership began last night. Rivers said he did not address the team in the locker room after the game, so the players had an opportunity to talk amongst themselves.

“We talk after every game, win or loss,” said Allen. “Last night was no different.”

But was the tone different this time around?

“The tone is always negative when you lose, obviously,” he said. “That’s just nature.”

Despite the negative nature, Allen made sure to point out that this team uses a healthy form of communication that is aimed at solving issues, not making them worse.

“You just communicate,” he said. “You figure out what you need to do to get better. We all take the onus on ourselves, there’s no – we’re not a point-the-finger team.”

Instead, this is a team that takes responsibility for its actions. Four years of proof back that statement, and two weeks of struggles aren’t going to change that, especially with Allen and Co. on board.

Not everything has been roses and cherries since this group came together in 2007. No one outside of Boston’s locker room believed the Celtics would make a run to the NBA Finals last season after the team played .500 basketball over the final 54 games of the season. With this two-week stretch of struggles, the C’s seem to be slipping out of that conversation throughout the national media yet again, but they will continue to stay the course in the exact manner that they did one year ago.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned since 2007, it’s to never count the Celtics out. Why? Because they have a group of leaders that will always find a way to get it done. Boston has hit a prolonged bump in their path to the 2011 championship over the past two weeks, but Rivers has left it up to his core group to turn things around.

Which leads us to one question: If you needed one group of players to help lead a team through a stretch of adversity, would you pick any other group in the NBA other than this fivesome?

Rivers wouldn’t, and neither should you.