All Emotions Aren't Created Equal for Celtics

WALTHAM, Mass. – Nearly every sport on Earth guarantees the presence of two things: a ball and a lot of emotions. It’s no wonder why many individuals and teams involved in the sporting world can be described as a ball of emotions.

The Boston Celtics are not an exception to these truths. They feel the bliss of victory and the despair of defeat as much, if not more, than any other team in this world. The interesting part about these Celtics, however, is that they deal with those emotions in very different ways.


It has been difficult for guys like Kevin Garnett to deal with Boston's four consecutive losses.
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images

There are a couple of types of men on this team. There are those who wear wins and losses on their sleeves, right next door to their hearts. Then there are others whose body language remains consistent regardless of the day’s events.

“Clearly there’s guys who can take it more, or are more emotional,” Doc Rivers said of his team Thursday afternoon. “That doesn’t mean the other guys don’t take it just as [personally]. I’ve learned for a long time – you don’t read into that.”

Two Celtics players in particular stand out as members of the first group, and neither of them are shy about it. Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett hate the “L” word. They don’t want to hear about it. They don’t want to talk about it. They certainly don’t want to experience it. When Rondo and Garnett are forced to deal with losing, they let it be known that they do not enjoy it in the least bit.

“I’m a sore loser,” Rondo bluntly stated Thursday afternoon, about 14 hours after the Celtics suffered their fourth consecutive loss. “It’s tough to lose.”

Losing is tough, but figuring out a way to deal with the emotions of losing is even more difficult. Professional athletes were born and bred to compete. They don’t compete to enjoy themselves. They compete to win.

Some athletes simply cannot handle the disappointment of not being good enough, even if it’s only for one night. Just listen to Doc Rivers speak about one of his former players with the Orlando Magic, Darrell Armstrong.

“I’ve never had a player like [Armstrong],” Rivers recalled. “He cried 30 times, and that’s no exaggeration – regular season losses, and he meant it. It wasn’t a joke.

“I’ve never seen anything like that. And I’m talking about where there were times where you’d have to take him out of the locker room. I’ve never seen anything like that, and then the next day he’s up and ready.”

Rivers stated that Garnett is “close to that emotional, but not to that level.” Rest assured that if you were privy to a seat in the postgame locker room following a tough Boston loss, you wouldn’t witness KG cracking jokes or laughing. It’s just not in his blood.

But it is in other people’s emotional make-up, and those players fall into the second category of men who have consistent body language regardless of a win or a loss. Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green are two Celtics who embody this style of coping method.

“[Sullinger’s] a guy, if you read how a team was taking winning or losing, you couldn’t get a read from Jared. You’d be wasting your time,” Rivers said. “Jeff is the same in that way.”

Sullinger is a free spirit at heart. He’ll sit down with Average Joe for five minutes and by the end of the conversation they’ll be best friends. Fans have only been afforded 30 regular season games to critique Sully’s emotions, but Green is a different story.

Green has actually come under fire in the past for not displaying his emotions enough during games. He’ll throw down a monster jam then and run up the court as if nothing happened. He’ll commit a turnover in a playoff game and no one would know it by the look on his face. The same goes for his act following wins and losses.

Rivers doesn’t have an issue with Green and Sullinger’s stoic personalities, and he doesn’t have a problem with Garnett and Rondo’s fire. This is a coach who has learned over time that every player is unique.

“I just think everyone has a different emotion and way of handling things,” Rivers said.

“Some guys take losses off by laughing and trying to get to another universe. Other guys want to stay in the loss. So you just stay away from it.”

So does Rivers prefer a guy like Armstong or Garnett, who at times may seem on the verge of a breakdown following a regular season loss?

“I don’t mind that in a guy,” Rivers said, “but I don’t expect that from everyone.”

Rivers is wise to not expect that from all of these Celtics. There are 15 players on this team in addition to seven coaches. That’s 22 unique ways of celebrating a significant win and moving on from a devastating loss.

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