If there is one phrase I have heard too many times, it is about how the Celtics look old, and the team is doomed for the rest of the year because of it. Sure Pierce is 32, KG is 33, Ray 34, and Sheed 35. There is no question they are past their prime. To argue that the team has gone 4-4 in their last 8 games because of age, is ludicrous. That is but the mere simplest way out of actually looking at, and reasoning with why the team is struggling.
I guess I will start with the youngest of our older players, and try to explain all the struggles Paul Pierce has had with his old legs (little sarcasm). Pierce has averaged 19.6 points per game, on 49.1% shooting from behind the arc, and 49.7% FG. The 19.6 ppg is directly on pace to match his previous 2 years in the Big 3 era. I shouldn’t even have to speak on his 3p%, and his FG% is at the same rate, much above his career average. Stats don’t tell the true tale of the tape, however. You may argue that his 1 on 1 defense has been off a little. He has been letting some guys get by. With that, we should exclude the fact that he had a knee injury that was bugging him for a few games in and around the tough win against the Warriors, and loss to the Magic. Outside of that, how is anyone to complain about his 1 on 1 defense? Scroll back to the game on Sunday against the Knicks, when he blocked the guy he was defending in a clutch situation. Or maybe think about the time when he came over the top and blocked Harrington as he was attempting to drive. Video further on down the post begs the question of the effect of old legs for PP. He was even our Hardwood Houdini Player of The Week!
Moving on down the line, KG is the next up. Now I’m not even going to get into stats, because we all understand that Garnett’s stats are much lower than previous years. However, during the offseason, everyone in Celtic Nation claimed that even a 60% healthy KG would benefit this team. At this exact moment, that very well may be where he is. Yet now that he is back, and we are noticing some of his weaknesses, it is easy to complain that he is too old and will never have it back. If we really need to bring Tom Brady into this we will. Brady was nothing short of a super star before getting his knee injured. After coming back you could tell he was very hesitant dropping back in the pocket. He feared really rearing forward and driving onto his plant foot (the leg that was injured). Midway through the season, he had played enough to regain his confidence, and is nearly back to playing how he did before he left. Yet, with KG not even 1 month into the season, we expect him to be able to move laterally, and get up and down like he did before he left. If you can’t tell he is being very ginger with his surgically repaired knee. When he goes up for an alley oop he makes sure to come down very soft, if at all on that knee. How about his jumper? Excluding last game, for him to still hit that shot fairly regularly, is amazing to me. That shot will only get better as he gets more reps in at it.
Ray Allen comes in as the 2nd oldest player on the team. Ray started the year off fire hot from deep, and after the 3rd game of the season he slowed down. After 3 games, he is beat for the season? No. No more than a month and a half ago we had high praise for the shape in which Ray came into the season in. If his dunking, instead of laying the ball in, is not enough to prove this, I don’t know what is. The difference is he has changed his game up from almost strictly a 3 point shooter, to more of a driver.
Then as for Sheed, we did not expect him to come in with a load of giddy up. Excluding his percentage from deep, he has shown exactly what we had hoped for. He is playing great D. Again, not the D he played in Detroit, but we didn’t expect that. His shot from deep is something he needs to figure out on his own. He was hitting it with consistency to begin the season, and now that the season has gone on but a few games, he has hit a slump. It happens to the best in the league, give it time. It isn’t like he is an Eddie House or Ray Allen type of knock down shooter. On his career he averages mid to lower 30’s as far as percentages is concerned. I have no doubt with him getting back up to that before the season is over.
The teams struggles should be looked at more for execution. The question should not be about age, but isntead about why there are so many guys crashing into the lane, and keeping a wide open knock down 3 point shooter open? Or maybe, why do we look so good with Rondo pushing it up the floor, and controlling the ball, and then switch it up and begin to walk it up the floor and play strictly a half court game? Maybe the bench (some of which is brand new to the team) comes into the game and is somewhat confused on their assignments so the flow of the defense is off, thus making it easy to say we are old and not getting to the right spots? There are many factors that have keyed to the Celtics recent struggles, and I think usuing age as a scapegoat is venturing away from the truth. This statement can be made if the struggles continue throughout the season, but at game 14 it is not relevant.
For video of a loss in which Ray Allen got up, Pierce used his strength to get an and 1, and an oop to KG watch:
Simply to reiterate- some quotes from Doc Rivers-
“We just have to be a team of habit and I think at times we have a switch we can just turn on and off,’’ Rivers said. “And I think we’re finding out we don’t have that switch. It’s just where we’re at right now. Everybody else will say it’s age, it’s this, it’s that – and then we win 15 games in a row, well, maybe it’s not. So, I don’t overreact to any of that stuff.”
“Execution is the whole thing, and that’s both ends. It’s monotonous, it really is, but it’s part of the process. You can’t get bored with the process and at times I think we do. We know where we’re trying to get to and you’ve got to go through the process.’’