Doc Playing Shrink with a Deft Touch
Sometimes reading the tea leaves isn't all it's cracked up to be. I know Danny recently said something to the effect of no big has done anything but excel in Doc's system. Many of us begged to differ. Some of us rattled off, oh, I don't know, let's just say a dozen or so exceptions.
I'd like to focus briefly on one. Patrick O'Bryant, or POB for short. POB had a few older Celtics fans excited when the Celtics signed him. He started his career in Golden State. At 7-0 with a reach that went to the heavens, he had all the raw elements you could ask for in a big. Critics said that he lacked motivation and focus, that he lacked heart. No problem, we thought. He's coming to the Celtics, home of some of the great reclamation projects in NBA history. The name Robert Parish ring a bell?
Alas, it wasn't to be.
Why it didn't work out was always a bit of a mystery, to me anyway. It wouldn't have been unreasonable to conclude, until recent revelations, that Doc never gave him a chance. POB never played any meaningful minutes, and was discarded almost as quickly as he was acquired. "Doc doesn't know how to coach bigs" was a sentiment whispered among some fans and pundits alike.
Turns out we didn't know jack.
Turns out Doc assigned the Ticket to "on board" POB, and somehow POB squandered the opportunity. KG soon lost interest, and once that happens, well, you might as well exile yourself, cuz it's over. If you read the papers, it sounds like more than a couple of bigs may have followed in the footsteps of POB, alienating Kevin Garnett, and thus Doc and the whole team, by not listening to him.
Fast forward to this fall. The Celtics acquired Darko Milicic in September. Everywhere Darko's gone he's been scrutinized through the lens of the 2003 draft and haunted the lofty expectations he never fulfilled. I said here that if you wanted a sure-fire recipe to sink Darko in Boston, all you had to do was make him find his own way on the team, and, when he didn't, kick him to the curb. Easy come, easy go.
On the other hand, I suggested if you had any hopes that Darko might contribute down the stretch and into the playoffs, Doc would have to handle the sensitive big man with a deft touch. Doc would have to figure out a way to satisfy Darko's need to feel wanted. I took this sort of lecturing posture, because, as I mentioned above, it wasn't clear to me why so many bigs had failed to latch on or be given a chance to latch on with the Celtics.
Turns out Doc was way ahead of me.
FloridaCeltsFan, via Gary Washburn, reports that Doc understands the Serbian Softie quite well, thank you.
He just needs a chance; he just needs a team that wants him to do his job without asking him to be the No. 2 pick in the draft. We’re just asking him to be part of a group and part of a team. We give him roles on the team. I think he likes the roles that we’ve given him and he didn’t feel any extra pressure. So far so good. We just have to keep him in that frame of mind that he’s in now.
"You can see that he gets frustrated easy. So we’re trying to eliminate those episodes. Our thing right now with Darko is to play forward. From being around for a short time, as a coach I can probably feel he’s played his career backwards. He lives in the past a lot and we’re trying to get him to live in the future. I told him (Friday), the only time I’ll take you out is if you make a mistake and make another mistake because you’re thinking about the last mistake. I won’t take you out for making a mistake. So hopefully that works .
Nobody really wants to say what I'm about to say, but just about everyone has let the thought cross their mind for a fleeting moment. If Doc can help Darko find a home in Boston, it not only could change the complexion of this season, it could change the complexion of the next several seasons to come. Sometime in the next couple of days I will post an article (or two) about a stretch in Darko's career when he was too much for Tim Duncan to guard, drawing double teams from the San Antonio Spurs. This is the stuff of fantasy for most of us. Yet Darko's only a couple season's removed from having performed at this level.
I think Doc, Danny, and the rest of the decision-makers at Waltham understand this. There is simply no other way to interpret a minimum salary player being treated with kid gloves. The upside, the ridiculous, sky-is-the-limit, upside has been identified. I'm not talking about All-NBA. I'm talking about a competent, healthy, 7-1, 300 pound center, who at age 27, you can pencil in to the lineup for the next three to five years.
When was the last time we had one of those?
Any bets on how this one plays out?
- #05 (Walton)
- #08 (Wedman)
- #12 (Sichting)
- 1971-72 Lakers
- 2007-08 Scores
- Banner 17
- Grassy Knoll Network
- Green Mile
- Larry & Magic
- NBA Scoreboard
- Russell v. Chamberlain
- Walton Gang (1977)