Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Celtics captain Paul Pierce is trying to figure out his team's early struggles.BOSTON -- Come January and February, the Celtics, like every other NBA team, will be reminding everyone that they're in the midst of the "dog days" of the NBA season. But following Friday's 106-100 loss the Sixers that dropped them to 2-3 on the season, Kevin Garnett was quick to label this current stretch the "grind days."
Though the Celtics might have anticipated some growing pains as they ushered in a host of new players, it seems safe to say they didn't expect it to be quite like this. A 2-3 record isn't the end of the world, by any means, though it's certainly troubling. The Celtics appear to have more problems than they do solutions right now, hence Garnett saying Friday: "Right now, just grind. These are the grind days right here."
Really, what else can they do? With no clear-cut solutions for the offensive and defensive inconsistencies, the steep drop-off when Garnett exits the game, and the up-and-down play of the bench, grinding through the difficulties might be their only option as they try to figure this thing out. Perhaps there are answers that simply haven't been uncovered yet. But until they are, the Celtics will have to endure, and roll with the many punches they've already taken and are continuing to sustain.
"No one said this thing is going to be easy," said Garnett. "Sometimes the darker days or the harder days are some of the most obvious days. It shows you who's with you, who's willing to fight, who's willing to be in the hole with you. So, this is showing a lot."
What they can't do is come apart at the seams. Not now. Not yet, at least. Friday night saw a locker room filled with frustrated, but still optimistic, players. They want to turn this all around, and they want to do it together.
"The thing is, you've just got to talk it out," said Paul Pierce. "You know, young teams, they get frustrated with one another, they start pointing the finger. And you can't do that. That's a losing team, that's losing genetics. And we don't have that in here. We're a team that's just going to try to solve it by talking to one another, trying to figure out what we've got to do to get better, and build from there."
Added Jared Sullinger: "We're a team, so we've got to grind together, we shine together. At the same time, we've just got to stay together. That's the biggest thing right now and things are going to go up and down, but we're going to try to get a steady path. At the same time, we've just got to stay together."
Though the surrounding pieces might be different, the core of this team -- head coach Doc Rivers and his staff included -- have taught us all that the Celtics can never be counted out of anything. Just when you think they're out, they come roaring back, as if they'd just been zapped with a defibrillator. So if history is any indication, given that the core is still here, brighter days are still somewhere on the horizon. It's just a matter of getting there.
Having said that, the reason things eventually turned around for the troubled teams of recent years was because those involved made them turn around. Which is why, as the Celtics stressed sticking together Friday night, they also issued challenges to one another.
Said Rajon Rondo: "For us, we need guys to come out of their comfort zone and do something that they're not comfortable with."
Perhaps that's just another element of the grinding process. Garnett's suggesting something that won't be pretty to watch. The wins -- similar to what was witnessed twice against the Washington Wizards -- might be ugly, and the losses might border on unbearable. It'll be far from perfect, but their quest for a better brand of basketball could facilitate the necessary changes. Perhaps enough adversity will finally force these Celtics to band together and fight back, and only then will they emerge as the team they claim they're capable of being.
"You know, we've got the right guys, we've got the right mindset," said Rondo. "It's just a matter of doing it."
For now, they'll just have to grind.