Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE
The traditional modus operandi of the Boston Celtics -- defense, defense, defense -- has been noticeably missing over the first five games of the 2012-13 season.
BOSTON -- It was the perfect crime. Who would have ever expected the Boston Celtics to steal their own identity? When Doc Rivers arrived on the scene, his number one priority was clear: defense. That was the modus operandi of the Celtics, intensified by the addition of Kevin Garnett back in 2007-08, and the reason they won a championship and nearly captured another.
That's what they did, usually better than anyone. Defense, defense, defense.
But that's not what the focus was over the offseason. The Celtics, in desperate need of a bench that did more than log minutes on the stat sheet, brought in Jason Terry -- one of the league's best sixth men -- along with Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa while re-signing Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox. Oh, and they re-upped the team's second-leading scorer, Garnett.
All could play defense (so we thought... and not including Terry), but it was clear that bench scoring was their concern. Well, now that the gang's all here, offense from the reserves is no longer a glaring concern, right? Well, not exactly.
Boston's bench hasn't lived up to the billing, and it was a top billing -- most expected the Celtics' bench to be the best in the NBA. Five games in, the Celtics' reserves are averaging 32.2 points, placing them in the middle of the league.
Offense has been a problem, for sure, but defense has been the biggest issue.
Let me say that one more time: defense has been the biggest issue for Boston.
Strange to hear, isn't it?
Boston is allowing 101 points thus far, having allowed 99 or more points on three occasions. Opponents are shooting 46.7 percent from the field against Boston and scoring 45.2 points in the paint per night. That's just not what we're used to seeing from a team that once had the best defense in all of basketball.
Numbers aside, simply watching the Celtics' defense conveys the point. The interior defense is non existent, and they are constantly late to get a hand in the faces of opponents at the perimeter. Bad defense inside, bad outside... that doesn't really wind up helping the cause. Apathetic is the best word to describe the way the "D" has looked to date ... well, other than flat out terrible.
"Overall we have not been a great defensive team," said Rivers. "We've had a couple games where we were [good]. And I thought - like in the Milwaukee game even though they scored points, I thought our offense let us down in that game - but overall I think it's our defense."
No question about that. You know it, I know it, and Garnett knows it.
"I think it's all surrounding defense," Garnett said after Friday's 106-100 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers when asked about the root of his team's struggles. "We're a defensive team that usually can score the basketball. Right now, we have indecision. At points, we have lack of communication."
Weird. That's just weird to hear.
This is the same Garnett that we've all seen and heard screaming at his teammates on the court, on the bench, in the shower (no footage provided there, thankfully) and on even on the video board before every home game. This was a team that lived and breathed communication at its peak. And now, it's all gone? It's a hard concept to grasp, but Garnett's right on the money. Communication -- as well as chemistry -- has been a big problem.
Why? Working in eight new players into a system is partially to blame. In the same way it takes time to adjust to living with a new roommate or working on a project with a new person at work, it takes time to get used to new teammates.
At the end of the day, it's important to remember that only five games have been played in the 2012-13 season. It's not time to hit the panic button (unless you're the Los Angeles Lakers, apparently). Players in the Celtics locker room aren't worried yet, instead choosing to focus on performing better in every game.
"Greatness takes time," said Green.
And the good thing is, the Celtics still have plenty of time.
Gethin Coolbaugh is the Editor of SB Nation Boston. Twitter: @GethinCoolbaugh.