In the wake of another Celtics loss that simply shouldn’t have happened, The Glove is ready to throw down the gauntlet. Seventeen games into a season where grand promise is being delayed by inconceivable lapses in collective judgment, Gary Payton has come to some conclusions.
Among them: He needs more control and Paul Pierce needs to change the way he plays.
Payton watched the Celts give up 110 points to the worst-shooting team in the NBA, a 110-106 loss to the Warriors Monday that dropped his club to 7-10, and was speaking more from perspective than frustration. He has seen how well things can run when the C’s remain on the same page, but after seeing how quickly they crumble, he is ready to have a talk with Doc Rivers.
“It’s getting there,” Payton said. “I’m trying to stick with it. I’m trying not to give Doc any problems now or any headaches, but I’ve been patient and I think I might need to get more control of things on the court. I’m trying to be the elder statesman and not say anything right now, but it’s hard losing these games and feeling like I could be doing more to help us.
“I think Doc is trying to make these kids grow up, and right now it’s not working. I think I need to be in more control. It’s going to have to happen. I’m not going to keep losing games like this. I don’t like it, and I know no one else does either. We’ve got to make changes to our style of play. It’s not changes to personnel or anything. We’ve got a good team. We’re in games all the time. It’s just that we’ve got to learn how to finish.”
(a young Glove, making a mental note to call J.R. Rider in a couple of years in order to obtain a more modern telephone)
Much of the finishing work is entrusted to Pierce, but Payton believes the captain has to take stock of his game to regain his previous level and achieve his potential. Pierce’s shots, he said, need to come out of a group flow rather than in forced isolation.
“He needs to make some changes, but it’s been like four years that he’s been taking those type of shots and stuff like that,” Payton said. “Now he has to understand that that’s got to go. He’s getting a little deeper into his career – he’s more than seven years deep – and those shots are not going to make it for you. You can be the man here scoring 20 or 30 points, but you’re not going to win basketball games, you know what I’m saying? He’s going to learn. I think he’s going to have to learn the hard way. It’s going to take somebody like myself to keep talking to him, but he’ll get the picture. I know he doesn’t feel good after these games. I know he doesn’t. So he’s going to look at it and he’s going to figure out what’s going on.”
Asked how much easier Pierce’s life would be if he’d tune in to the running game, Payton shook his head and rolled his eyes.
“A lot easier,” he said. “A lot easier because then he’ll get more (wide-open) shots off penetration. If they keep seeing me penetrate, they’re going to start sucking in. His man is going to start leaving. He’s got to understand that. He’s been so used to him on the ball, making tough shots and doing his thing. He don’t understand it can put a lot more years on his basketball career if he gets these wide-open looks and doesn’t tear his body up.”