KG has entertained us in the past with his rants on 3 point shooting, on being called old, and even talking about the Celtics in culinary terms. Last season, when the Celtics started out slowly, he talked about building chemistry like this,
"Timing is everything," he said. "Chemistry is something that you don't just throw in the frying pan and mix it up with another something, then throw it on top of something, then fry it up and put it in a tortilla and put in a microwave, heat it up and give it to you and expect it to taste good. You know? For those of you who can cook, y'all know what I'm talking about. If y'all can't cook, this doesn't concern you."
Celtics fans who are worried right now after seeing the team look out of sync and defenseless over the first 2 games might take comfort in those words from KG from last season. The Celtics are playing just 4 players who were playing with the team at the end of last season: KG, Pierce, Rondo, and Bass. Everyone else has either played briefly in Doc's system (Green and Wilcox), or are new to the Celtics (everyone else). We can't just throw them all in the frying pan and mix them up and throw them out there and expect them to be great right off the bat.
It would seem that KG has given up on the cooking analogies this season. This start calls for venturing into the animal world. Courtney Lee mentioned that after the disappointing home opener KG gave a locker room speech that involved hyenas. We can only speculate on what he said, because the players wouldn't go into too much detail about it. But KG, when asked about talking to the team about a "pack of wolves" had this to say:
“Hyenas was the word I used,” said Garnett, who scored a team-high 15 points. “We eat in packs here, and we help each other. Since I’ve been here, we’ve built a cult of what great organizations have been built on in their history, and that’s been not individual but team. I just spoke upon that with everybody in here — without the coaches — and just letting all the new guys know what it means to be a C, re-innovating that and letting them understand the severity of putting this jersey on and everything that comes with that. I won’t go into that. It’s none of y’all business, but I had to re-innovate that, and I felt like tonight was the perfect night to do that.”
The spotted hyena is very vocal, producing a number of different sounds consisting of whoops, grunts, groans, lows, giggles, yells, growls, laughs and whines. The striped hyena is comparatively silent, its vocalisations being limited to a chattering laugh and howling.
So, now we know that KG is a spotted hyena, whild Rondo is a striped hyena. Got it. And hyenas are known for being fearless and for their aggressive behavior
In packs hyenas are formidable hunters and can take down animals as large as zebras. They are also talented scavengers and have no fear when protecting a kill from other animals, even lions. Their jaws have bone-crunching strength and their digestive systems are adapted to digest bone and skin, animal parts that other predators cannot handle.
Sounds good to me. So the Celtics have gone from a skillet to a pack. Here's how Courtney Lee described KG's talk to the team:
“What he said is that we’ve got to go into every battle like we’re the underdog, like we have nothing, like we’re scrapping. He used the hyena as an example. The hyena, when they go for the kill, they eat in packs. And that’s how we’ve got to do it. We’ve gotta go out there, have each other’s backs, play for each other, make the right plays and be on the same page.”
In these first two games I haven't seen that killer instinct in the Celtics. Kind of like back in the 1984 Finals between the Celtics and the Lakers. The Lakers won game 3 fairly easily 137-104 and the Celtics seemed flat and didn't show much fight. After the game, Larry Bird called his team out and said they played like sissies. In game 4, the Celtics played with fire and were the aggressors. This is the game that produced the famous Kevin McHale clothesline on Kurt Rambis. In that same spirit, KG has called on his team to play like a pack of hyenas. They need to have a pack mentality and play as a team. They need to be the hunters or predators and have that killer mentality. They need to be the aggressors. In other words, they need to play like a pack of hyenas.
But going back to KG's cooking analogy. The Celtics have a lot of great ingredients this season. They are very talented and very deep. But you can't just throw ingredients together and expect them to taste good right off the bat. You have to mix them and cook them. The preseason was ok to mix them a bit but preseason is not played at NBA pace. Now we have to let them cook for a few games to solidify and learn where each player is the best fit. I have a feeling that the finished dish is going to be great.
As the players are feeling their way into the system and getting used to playing at NBA pace, they haven't been aggressive. They've been passive and seem to be a step slow, which shows up on the defensive end. They haven't played Celtics defense, especially on the pick and rolls. Hopefully KG's hyena talk will light a fire under the team and they will come out and play more aggressively. They need that killer attitude. We can't forget that they are missing a very important hyena. Avery Bradley's defense will make a world of difference in this team once he returns.
I'm not worried. Yet. They will get there. We just need to give them a few more minutes in the oven. Or, we need to let the pack circle a few times with the spotted hyena howling a bit and the striped hyena quietly regrouping the pack. Either way, they are going to be very tough once it all comes together. Of that, I'm fairly certain.