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Danny Ainge is still waiting for the Celtics’ identity to emerge

Feb 27, 2012, 3:30 PM EDT

Boston Celtics' Pierce and Garnett react when the team was called for a technical foul against the Chicago Bulls during NBA basketball game in Chicago Reuters

This we know of the 2011-2012 Boston Celtics: They’re inconsistent as hell, and “inconsistent as hell,” doesn’t quite work against the likes of the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls. Boston has a long way to go before their championship prospects are treated with any kind of legitimacy, and the first step in that process is undoubtedly the establishment of some kind of collective identity. At the moment, it’s impossible for observers to discern exactly who these Celtics are — not because their true nature is disguised in the insanity of a lockout season, but because even the Celtics themselves are figuring out what kind of team they’re capable of becoming.

We know that the Celtics are among the league’s oldest teams. We know that Rajon Rondo‘s play can be a bit erratic, that Paul Pierce is doing what he can with a slowed first step, and that Kevin Garnett doesn’t even attempt to take opponents off the dribble anymore. We know that their bench is filled with role players of varying competency, but that the Celtics as a collective unit are a bit lacking in terms of overall talent.

But we’re still determining how all of those interactive factors manifest themselves in a holistic form — how the combination of all that the Celtics are manifests itself on a day-to-day basis. We’re still waiting to see the best that these Celtics can muster, and Boston general manager Danny Ainge (per WEEI in Boston with Dennis and Callahan and via Sports Radio Interviews) is apparently waiting for that very same thing:

“Well, right now we’re, I don’t even know, we’re a seven or eight seed. That’s who we are. There’s no denying that. Every team has plunges in this sort of crazy season, so that’s who we are right now. But do I think we can be better? Yeah. We haven’t played to our capabilities yet. We haven’t been at full strength. I’m not sure who our team is honestly at this stage. So we’re waiting to see that. But we need to get to the playoffs and find out. But I’m not really afraid of who we play in the first round, or the second round. It’s going to be tough no matter who we play. And I’m not afraid of playing the best teams in the first round.”

Ainge has every reason in the world to insist that his team can play better, but in this case it’s hard to find fault in his general assessment that we haven’t seen the real Celtics just yet. Some may disagree that Boston is better than its current standing, but the flashes of truly effective basketball — which have lasted from a string of plays to entire games this season — hint at a pretty decent team that’s merely struggling to execute. That doesn’t mean that the Celtics will ever figure out a way to stabilize, but the contrast between Boston’s highs and lows has only served to accentuate both poles.

That said, I’d disagree with one particular aspect of Ainge’s assessment: we have seen the Celtics play to their capabilities thus far. It’s just been for short bursts bookended with incompetence, framed in such a way to make it more exception than rule. Boston has been both better and worse than the seventh or eighth seed this season, and though we may spend the entire campaign trying to figure out where the Celtics’ baseline really places them in the context of the Eastern Conference, prolonged inconsistency may speak more to the team’s nature than their peaks and valleys ever could.

  1. pistolpeatear - Feb 27, 2012 at 3:41 PM

    danny ainge needs to take two weeks off, then quit

    • andyhr17 - Feb 28, 2012 at 3:48 PM

      He should quit because the championship winning team he built that has competed for the title several seasons in a row has finally gotten old? Excellent logic.

  2. asublimeday - Feb 27, 2012 at 4:14 PM

    They really messed up getting rid of the White Mamba

  3. goforthanddie - Feb 27, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    Their identity will emerge after the early-bird special at the Country Kitchen Buffet.

  4. kinggw - Feb 27, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    The C’s have an identity. They are an old team who will be lucky to make it out of the first round.

    • bozosforall - Feb 27, 2012 at 4:54 PM

      Right on target, kinggw.

  5. bozosforall - Feb 27, 2012 at 4:57 PM

    “IF”…the magic word in New England these days. Doesn’t amount to a hill of (baked) beans.

  6. chargerdillon - Feb 27, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    As a Lakers fan it’s in my DNA to hate the Celtics, and that’s really easy to do with the exception of having always loved Kevin Garnett all the way back to his Timberwolves days. No single player ever impressed me much as being a team player more than Garnett and in all honesty I was happy to see him get a ring.

    That being said my perception of the Celtics is from the outside looking in, and what I see is Ainge being the Yoko Ono of that team since he cut the deal to ship Perkins out of town. Right or wrong (in this case we know it was wrong) the Celtics cohesiveness seems to have completely fallen apart the second the team felt betrayed by the GM and the shipped out Perkins. What I see with the Celtics is carryover from this feeling and I dont see any mending of the fences or ANYTHING happening in Boston other than a team that lost it’s chemistry and has no interest in trying to get it back.

    KG isnt KG anymore, Rondo is mental dynamite that can blow at any time, Ray Allen is Derek Fisher with a better 3shot and we know what people are saying about Fisher in LA.

    The Celtics are in a complete denial stage that they need to rebuild and are just running the status quo into the ground until Ainge loses his job.

    That’s what I see

    • passerby23 - Feb 27, 2012 at 8:14 PM

      I still don’t understand the argument that the Perkins trade is what caused the team’s demise. The Celtics still have one of the premier defenses in the league, where Perkins helped them. Had they dropped off significantly, I would understand the argument. The C’s problem is scoring. They could not find a big bucket in the last 5 minutes against Miami in Game 5 and you see it time and again this year. They go through extended droughts where they can’t score.

      When Rondo is on, they are capable of beating anyone, but he has to be consistently good. Even then it’s asking a lot for them to win a series against a great team. They’re old. This unit would’ve been a lot better with Jeff Green in the mix. You see it when they play more athletic teams like the Thunder, Bulls, and Heat. First round exit for the C’s. It’s been a nice run.

    • andyhr17 - Feb 28, 2012 at 3:50 PM

      Not often that I agree with a Lakers fan but you’re right on all points but the Perkins trade.

  7. GT - Feb 27, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    Ainge is not going anywhere. He assembled the last great Celtics champion team (no small feat) and he will get the chance to do it again. If it happens, it happens, if it don’t, Boston still has 17 and currently more than the Lakers, who I respectfully hate and who I hope never takes the ring lead.

    • bozosforall - Feb 28, 2012 at 10:09 AM

      Kevin McHale is the one who “assembled the last (not so) great Celtics team”…when he gave Garnett to his old team in return for a bunch of nobodies.

  8. ndrocks2 - Feb 28, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    “Over The Hill” appears to wrap it up. Danny Boy waited two years too long to start moving pieces. They don’t even have five starters. The big “old” three and Rondo and who??? Bass is a great 6th man, O’Neal – pleassse. This could be a long climb back for the Celtics and Ainge.

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