Rajon Rondo's foolish decision to get involved in an altercation with Brooklyn Nets forward Kris Humphries helped prove how soft the Boston Celtics are right now from both a physical and mental standpoint.
Even Celtics head coach Doc Rivers wasn't afraid to use the word following Wednesday's game, during his press conference (via ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg):
Doc Rivers comes out swinging ... at his own team. Calls his squad "soft" and says Rondo dust-up wasn't right form of toughness.— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) November 29, 2012
Rivers is absolutely right. Rondo's actions were foolish and could cost him a few games due to suspension.
Since Rondo is the team's most valuable player, and Boston is just an average squad without him, the Celtics will likely lose a couple of—if not all—the games he misses if suspended.
The Celtics are definitely a soft team right now, and you can see it almost every game. The passion, intensity and fight that you usually see from this team, one that is made up of veteran players who don't back down, just isn't there anymore.
There's no excuse for a team with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and Rondo to be soft. When you get bullied each night by opposing teams, such as the Brooklyn Nets, there's a real problem.
The Celtics are the worst rebounding team in the NBA statistically, and it's not because they aren't good at grabbing boards. They don't show enough toughness under the basket, they don't box out and their effort has been very poor this season.
The team's defense has also been disappointing, and it's because they aren't being as physical as they should be in the paint, on the perimeter. Boston has been so successful defensively since 2008 because the players play physically, dive for loose balls and make opponents work hard for every basket.
Boston currently ranks 22nd in points allowed, which is awful for a team with the amount of quality defenders that the Celtics have.
Even though it's difficult to be physical in today's NBA, which is unfortunate, there are still ways to prove that you are a tough team.
The Celtics cannot throw the white and green jersey on and expect teams to be afraid of them because of who they are and the great history of the franchise.
Teams are coming into TD Garden and treating every game with the Celtics like a playoff game, and thus far, Boston has done a poor job of matching these teams' intensity.
Another thing Rondo's dust-up with Humphries showed was the lack of mental toughness in the young point guard's game. We have seen Rondo go too far on the court several times during his career, including the playoffs last year, when he was suspended for bumping into a referee.
Rondo must learn to control himself. Someone like Humphries, with all due respect, is not someone worth getting into an altercation with.
There was no reason to go after Humphries, especially when the Nets forward's foul on Garnett—which started the shoving match—wasn't a dirty play. Garnett doesn't need anyone coming to his defense. He can stick up for himself and take care of his own business.
Rondo is an extraordinary talent and the best point guard in the NBA, but his mental toughness must improve.
Until Boston exhibits some more physical and mental toughness, teams won't be afraid to come into TD Garden and will genuinely believe that they can beat the Celtics.
The toughness that the Celtics displayed during their championship run in 2008, their run to the NBA Finals in 2010 and even last year against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals is not visible in the current team.
For Boston to get back to the NBA Finals, this must change.
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