After watching the last 3 games, I just had to get this out. I mentioned in a previous article that Doc's coaching leads us to one of 4 conclusions. (1)Doc is tanking on his own (2)Danny is telling Doc to tank (3)Doc is throwing games to affect the outcome or (4)Doc is just a bad coach.
Standing behind Doc is the one thing that puzzles me about Ainge as GM. Danny was a good coach and knows how to run a team. Why is he standing behind Doc while he ruins the confidence of the talented young players that Danny has brought in. I know that Wyc hasn't been happy with the job Doc is doing judging from a couple of comments he has made. I believe that the only reason Doc is still here is because Danny stepped up and said that if Doc goes he goes. Why would he stand behind him so strongly when the evidence is so strong in the other direction.
Doc has been ruining the confidence our players have in themselves. Rondo does so many good things when he comes into the game. He may not shoot from the outside, but he has the ability to drive and definitely finds the open man and runs an uptempo game. Every commentator I hear all say how talented he is and how he changes the game when he comes in. Bob Ryan had this to say about him in yesterday's Globe:
I like Rajon Rondo, who, crummy shot or not, so often has a direct effect on the game with his speed and aggressiveness on defense.
Rondo is a very good defensive player and right now we need defense. But in one of Doc's post game interviews he made a comment about Rondo getting credit for defense he doesn't play. Is Doc watching the same player we are? I can see Doc possibly discussing Rondo's reluctance to take a shot, but to pick on his defense is way off. Doc is destroying Rondo's confidence by speaking out in the press about his lack of shooting and his lack of defense and by benching him in favor of Telfair and West.
That brings me to Telfair who could be a good PG if allowed to run an uptempo team. In spite of promising over and over to run this year ( and last year and the year before), the team has ground to a halt and are stuck in a half court game most of the time. Doc doesn't know how to run a fast break team. Look at what Nellie has done with Golden State. The player nearest the ball inbounds and they push the ball up the floor every time- after made baskets and after turnovers and after misses. Because they do this, they got easy basket after easy basket before the defenses could set up. Just as with the Celtics teams of the 80s, they advanced the ball with passes and played a passing game instead of over-dribbling the ball. Then watch the Celtics. A big has to come back to inbound the ball and then the PG walks the ball up the court allowing the Celtics (and the defenses) to get into Doc's set. Then we pass the ball around the arc until someone takes a shot or decides to pass inside to Al (which usually they don't do often enough), or someone, usually Tony (or Rondo) drives, which also is not often enough. We have the players to be a fast break team, but Doc doesn't know what to do with them. The players all dribble too much, we don't pass the ball efficiently, and when Pierce is in the game, almost every play goes through him. I love Delonte, but as a PG, he dribbles way too much. That is what I love about Rondo, he passes and does so very well.
And then there is Powe who does great things whenever he gets in the game. In 2 minutes against the Warriors, he had 5 points and 4 rebounds. In the two games he played over 15 minutes, he averaged a double double. Yet Doc insists on leaving this kid on the bench when he gives us just what this team needs so badly: toughness inside, defense and rebounding. I just can't see this kid not playing hard in practice and don't understand why he isn't getting more minutes. It isn't like he screws up when he is in, because when he plays, good things happen.
That brings me to Gerald Green. Green has what it takes to be a star. Doc comes out and says that Gerald isn't playing well and that he isn't happy with him and he pulls the kid and sits him after a couple of mistakes. In the meantime he lets Wally, who is obviously not 100% and was hurting the team way more than Green was, play 30+ minutes. What does that do to Gerald's confidence? The kid is just starting to come on and will have his ups and downs but NEEDS to be able to play through them. Green will be 10 times the player Wally is and yet Doc plays a gimpy Wally and sits Green who should be getting the minutes with Pierce out. It has been noted that Green is playing a little tentatively lately. This is the result of Doc playing with his confidence and putting him down in the press.
And Perk is playing tentatively partly because his timing is off after the injury but also partly because Doc has been systematically destroying his confidence over the past 3 years. Perk has admitted to having to look over his shoulder when he picks up a foul or makes a mistake. Instead of letting him play through his mistakes, Doc pulls him right away and sits him for the rest of the game in many cases. He definitely hasn't gotten the minutes he should have over the past 3 years. No wonder the kid plays tentatively. If you look at the young players who excel and get to the next level, they are the ones who have been given playing time and the ones that the coach shows some degree of confidence in. Doc has not done this with any of our young players. In fact, he has done the opposite with all of them most of the time. It is only when we have so many injuries that he has no choice that players get to play and break out.
Doc likes his bigs to shoot the outside shot and "stretch the floor" which takes them away from the basket and thus from rebounding. Players like Powe and Perk who stress defense and rebounding over offense seem to be in Doc's doghouse. Doc loved Raef and Blount and played them big minutes over Perk and Al until Danny traded both and Doc had no choice but to play Perk and Al. Doc plays Scal over Powe consistently, because Scal spends time out on the arc and not under the basket. Teams where Clifford Ray has coached have consistently turned around their rebounding numbers from last to first. While we have made improvement since last season, we haven't made near as big a leap as his other teams have done and this is because of Doc's coaching. Doc doesn't play his bigs under the basket but wants them to start away from the basket which hurts our rebounding. He wants the bigs to draw the defenders out (mainly so that Pierce can go to the basket). And the bigs who do play under the basket (Powe and Perk) don't get the playing time. Al has been getting playing time but he has also been playing away from the basket and has developed a little 15 foot jumper to go with his post moves.
Going back to Nellie in Golden State. Nellie has taken a team in Golden state that a very good coach, Mike Montgomery, couldn't do much with and has them playing good ball and poised to make a playoff run. The Warriors are succeeding because Nellie has them understanding their roles. Biedrins is a legitimate chance to win the Most Improved Player award this year but if Doc was coaching him, I can see him sitting on the bench because he doesn't have a legitimate outside shot. Or look at Gerald Green and Monta Ellis. Both are swingmen who came into the league in the same draft straight out of high school. Nelly has given Ellis the playing time he needs to develop and lets him play through his mistakes and his numbers show that he has responded. His impact on the team is obvious. On the other hand, Doc has given Green very little playing time and when he does play, pulls him when he makes a mistake and recently has been putting him down in the press. Would Ellis be the player he is if he was playing for Doc? I highly doubt it.
Finally, in recent games, Doc will get a unit on the floor that plays very well, and usually brings us back from a big deficit, and then he will pull those players and put another unit on the floor who either lose the lead or dig another hole. Perk, Powe and Rondo are players who have the ability to change the tempo of a game and yet Doc plays them sparingly and when they do start a run, he takes them out and sits them for the rest of the game. It is almost like he is coaching to lose. We have the players to run all game long. Danny has brought in athletic players who are very well suited to a fast break team. But Doc has taken all of these thoroughbreds and put harnesses on them and none of them are allowed to play to their strengths.
Last night in Seattle, Doc started West, Wally, Gomes, Tony and Al. While Tony and Al played very well, West, Wally and Gomes were clearly struggling and by the time Doc subbed for them, they had dug a hole with their sluggish play. Then, Doc comes in with the subs and they bring us back and we are in the game again. So, who does Doc start in the second half? Does he play the players who were playing well and bringing us back from the deficit? No, he starts the second half with the group that played so poorly to start the game. West was obviously hurting as he couldn't move well. Delonte is a game and wants to play but when it was obvious that he wasn't affective Doc should never have put him back in. Wally was a step slow all night and still can't hit his jumper. Green was more efficient, warts and all, than Wally was. Rondo's energy and defense got us back into the game. This is from the Herald, quoting Doc's post game press conference:
“We start out of the first and third quarters so poorly - the first six minutes of each half I thought was the difference in the game,” Celts coach Doc Rivers said. “From that point on, we were scrapping and trying to get back in it.”
What is the difference between the first 6 minutes of each half and from that point on? It should be obvious that West, Wally and Gomes were playing the first 6 minutes and Rondo (or Telfair), Green, and Perk were in the rest. If Doc is playing to win, he will come out with a starting lineup of Rondo, Allen, Al, Perk, and Green. If he wants to win, he will play Powe. If he wants to win, he will pull Wally for shooting 1 of a gazillion instead of pulling Green for missing a defensive assignment. Wally missed plenty of them as well since he is having trouble moving laterally, even more than usual.
Maybe Danny's standing behind Doc is his way of tanking without actually having to do so. That is the only thing I can think of because Danny was a good coach and surely must see what Doc is doing to this young team. Even Doc admits that his rotations just aren't getting it done. A good coach would have seen the starting unit struggle and come out with the players who were playing well in the second half. But Doc didn't do that, even though he admits that he knew it was that unit that lost the game. I can only hope that Doc doesn't do irreparable harm before Danny comes to his senses and replaces him.