NBA general managers must be hovering like vultures over Danny Ainge‘s struggling Celtics , so it’s no surprise they are a main focus ESPN.com writer Marc Stein’s must-read Weekend Dime .
With all due respect to the NBA scout who rightfully ripped the Celtics to shreds in Stein’s piece, the outlook isn’t quite as bad as he makes it out to be, despite their current six-game losing streak.
“Their bench has to be playing at the top of their abilities for them to win.”
According to HoopsStats.com , the Celtics are 12-11 when their bench outperforms the opposing team’s and 7-11 when it doesn’t. That lends some credence to this statement, but they can win when their reserves don’t contribute. We knew these C’s would rely on their depth more this season than they have in the past, but Celtics coach Doc Rivers  couldn’t even begin to structure a consistent rotation until Avery Bradley  returned this month.
And they don’t have enough guys big-guy-wise that Doc [Rivers] is comfortable with.
The C’s everlasting search for frontcourt depth behind Kevin Garnett  has been no secret. Hence, their rumored interest in both Marcin Gortat and DeMarcus Cousins . The struggles of Brandon Bass  and the thumb injury to Chris Wilcox  haven’t helped, but don’t rule out those two contributing more in the second half of the season.
“For them to win games, [Jared] Sullinger pretty much has to have a double-double.”
Sullinger has just four double-doubles, and while the Celtics are 3-1 in those games, to say he has to produce at that level for them to win games is pretty absurd. However, considering the overwhelming success of lineups including both Garnett and Sullinger , it’s about time Rivers inserted the rookie into the starting lineup over Bass.
“The other big issue is that they’ve got no one making any 3’s. The Jet [Jason Terry ] hasn’t been on the runway very often. And Avery Bradley, for all his defensive prowess, isn’t shooting the ball well, either.”
Terry’s struggles are well-documented, but he has a proven NBA track record, and we discussed how the Celtics might better utilize his strengths here . However, Courtney Lee  is shooting 38.7 percent from long distance this month and Bradley has raised his shooting percentage to 38.2 percent on corner 3’s, so the Celtics would be better served looking for frontcourt help than chasing a J.J. Redick trade .
“Paul Pierce  is still great in big games, but I think he’s getting to that age — like a lot of guys do — where he paces himself. He gets up for the challenges of the Chicagos or the Miamis, but in some of these other games, he’s not quite The Truth.”
The 35-year-old Pierce has been pacing himself for a couple years now. Despite his performance during the six-game losing streak (13.5 points, 82.6 FG%), he still ranks among the league’s top 15 scorers and his 54.2 true shooting percentage isn’t that far off from years past, so a “pacing himself” theory would suggest he’s still capable of finishing the season better than he’s started. Likewise, in December, his back-to-back 40- and 35-point nights against the Cavaliers  and Rockets suggest he doesn’t just get up for big games.
“[Rajon] Rondo can change the game when he’s engaged, but … let’s just say he’s always very aware of his stats. And it’s very evident from where I sit that he’s playing for steals and assists sometimes instead of making the winning play or the easier play or defending his guy like he should.”
No argument here.
How about some comic relief? USA Today’s Sam Amick  spoke at length to Kobe Bryant  about his own struggling Lakers. Here’s what Kobe had to say about the lesson he learned from the 2008 NBA finals : “Everything was really easy for us, real smooth and this, that and the other. Everybody liked each other. And then we got to the Finals (against Boston), and we ran into a bus. The Celtics — those (expletives) just beat the (expletive) out of us.”