Looking around, there is no sign of a drawing board, but for as often as the Celtics have mentioned it this season, they must have one.
"We have a sense of accountability in our locker room, and right now we're not getting the job done, so we have to go back to the drawing board," Keyon Dooling said after last week's loss to Indiana. "We'll be very serious with it. We have great coaches, so we'll get it corrected. I'm sure of it."
Ray Allen made mention of it after Wednesday's loss to Dallas.
"Any time you don't have a rhythm offensively, it affects the offense," Allen said. "Who's to say what's the cause? We'll just go back to the drawing board."
Even Celtics coach Doc Rivers hinted at the easel's existence after Friday's loss to Chicago.
"Our spirit is intact," Rivers said. "It's in the right place. But we have to do a better job with our defensive execution and our offensive execution."
All right, so Rivers didn't literally include the words "drawing board" in his comments, but when a coach is talking about working on offensive and defensive execution, he's not talking about a few cosmetic tweaks.
Wherever this mysterious drawing board is hidden, chances are it's surrounded with crumpled pieces of paper thrown away in disgust when the latest attempt at artistry fell somewhere short of a Picasso. The product so far is more Magic Eye than Monet; if you stare at it just right and let your eyes gradually unfocus, you might see something like a pirate ship or a unicorn. Then you blink and all you can see is a jumble.
For a seven-minute spurt Friday, the Celtics were that pirate ship. They whittled away at a 20-point Bulls lead with input by Allen, Rajon Rondo, Jermaine O'Neal, Kevin Garnett and even Mickael Pietrus, whose 3-pointer pulled Boston within a point with 9:59 left in the game.
The TD Garden crowd roared for its Celtics, who on the wrong side of 30, can still put together times of excellence. By the time this shortened season is near its halfway point, the Celtics may have rounded into form and maintain such spurts for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, not a half-dozen.
Ten games into the season, the Celtics' struggles do not appear to be a failure of the system or the scheme that Rivers and his staff put together. That's what the drawing board is for — sketching out new ideas, scribbling a framework for future work, correcting tiny flaws in the style. But those things don't seem to be the problem. The game plan isn't forgetting to box out. The scouting report isn't failing to help the helper on defense.
The players simply seem to take a while to warm up and when they do, they tire earlier. They short-arm shots they normally hit. They miss defensive assignments they usually pick up instinctively.
The problems aren't beyond repair, but they are problems of fitness and chemistry. Those things will be fixed on the court, not on the drawing board, wherever it's hidden.
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