Rajon Rondo and Boston Celtics Must Embrace Bad-Boy Identity to Fix 'Soft' Label

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistNovember 29, 2012

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 23:  Head coach Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics talks with Rajon Rondo against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the game on November 23, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The Boston CelticsKevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo included—are soft.

At least, that's what Doc Rivers thinks.

As reported by A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com, Rivers believes that his team has lacked the necessary toughness needed to succeed:

This team, as talented as they might be on paper and on the floor some nights, lacks a certain toughness that can no longer be ignored. If I'm Brooklyn and the league, you've got to think we're pretty soft the way we're playing. We're a soft team right now. We have no toughness.

Most can understand where Rivers is coming from.

You look at the Celtics' roster and you see a team that should be contending for a title—a team that should be at the top of the NBA's Atlantic Division.

But that's not what Boston is doing, nor is that where it's located. Instead, the Celtics are fighting to stay above .500 and find themselves in second-to-last place in their division.

What's even more chilling is that if the playoffs began today, Boston would barely make it.

Less than 20 games into the season or not, clinging to a low-level playoff spot is not what this team was assembled or expected to do.

Which means it's time for a change—it's time for the Celtics to exude that toughness Rivers alluded to earlier.

With that in mind, naturally, the head coach was impressed by the way his team combated—literally, I mean hand-to-hand combated—the Brooklyn Nets in the waning moments of the second quarter Wednesday night.

Or maybe not.

"That stuff's not toughness," Rivers said. "All that stuff, that's not toughness."

Boston's head coach may be right. What Rondo and his teammates did wasn't tough, and it will probably even result in a suspension for the point guard as well.

But the Celtics have to use this. They have to use the aggression they displayed here and parlay it into the toughness Rivers is looking for them to show in every game.

If that means embracing a "Bad Boy" identity, then so be it.

Which is the silver lining of this whole debacle. Obviously, it was a more than questionable act on Rondo's part and he should be punished accordingly, but it was also the first time all season Boston acted like it had something to prove, like it had a chip on its shoulder.

"I feel like (Brooklyn) came into the game and approached it as a big game playing us, and we approached it like it was just a regular game," Celtics guard Courtney Lee said afterward.

That's exactly the problem. Boston needs to understand that it has a target on its back.

Struggling or not, this was the franchise that teams like the Nets and New York Knicks were compared to during the offseason. After the Miami Heat, this was the team that was considered the opponent to beat.

And it's high time the Celtics started playing like it, started playing like they have something to both lose and prove. It's time they played with some fire.

What I saw in that fight was unjust, but there was also a hint of fire, a dash of frustration and a heaping dose of aggression.

Those emotions must be ever-present. They must be kept in check as well, of course, but present all the same.

The Celtics can't approach every game—especially one against a division rival that they previously lost to, no less—like it's just another game. Miami doesn't ever take that frame of mind.

The Celtics, instead, must realize that they're a team others are gunning for, that they're a team that is going to get banged up in what will be the pursuit of dethroning a supposedly inferior opponent.

As it just so happens, there's never been a better time to realize this than now, on the heels of a violent display of anger.

Playing the part of a villain isn't always a bad thing, especially when it's because other teams use you as a measuring stick of how far they've come.

"There's a lot of people who built this before me. There's due diligence and responsibility that comes with that," Garnett said. "We gotta get that back somehow."

And they can get it back.

Rivers just needs to tell the Celtics to embrace a rapscallion-esque identity, in hopes of shedding the soft and disinterested identity they have assumed.

He has to tell them that becoming the "bad guy" isn't necessarily a bad thing.

He has to make them understand that they need to accept their role as universal arch nemesis, and accept it now.

Because at this point, willingly adopting the role as a villain is the only way this team is going to become Boston Celtics good again.


All stats in this article are accurate as of November 29th, 2012.


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