Celtics Trade Deadline Ruminating…

The NBA trading deadline is Thursday at 3:00pm.  Will the Boston Celtics make any moves?  Your guess is as good as mine.

DeMarcus Cousins was the first major name to move.  Sure, Serge Ibaka is useful.  Tyreke Evans used to be pretty good I think, but he has been beset by injuries the last two years.  Maybe Buddy Hield and Jusuf Nurkic will be good.  But as for the big ones, it’s only Cousins thus far.  And he got traded for something less than full value.  Well, maybe not if Hield turns into Steph Curry as the Sacramento owner apparently thinks he can.  He may be the only one who thinks that however.  But what do I know?

No doubt a lot of Celtic fans are pissed that Cousins went for what he did (Evans, Hield, Langston Galloway, first round pick, second round pick…along with the Kings adding Omri Casspi as well).  The C’s have a lot more assets they could have offered than that, why didn’t they get him?  Well, it looks like they didn’t go after him, for one.  Why?  Couldn’t they use a 6’11”, 270 lb dude to get some boards and score a ton?  Who couldn’t?  Guess there was too much baggage around him.  So I can’t say I entirely blame the organization.  But for that price?  I may have sucked it up.

Moving on…we all know Danny has to do something…and soon.  With the contracts of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart expiring after next season, the window appears to be closing with the current crew.  3 of your best 5 players (with Al Horford and Jae Crowder) due up at the same time is not ideal.  The only other player on the current roster worth mentioning as having a role in the future would be Jaylen Brown.  The other 9 guys could all leave tomorrow and not a lot of people would care.

So…isn’t there some urgency for Thursday?  You can’t sign all three of the guards, can you?

As for trade targets, you all hear the same names:  Jimmy Butler and Paul George at the top of the list.  Blake Griffin.  Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel and Andrew Bogut to a much lesser degree.  Cousins is obviously out now whether they wanted him or not.  And the pipe dream that was Anthony Davis is now definitely out as well.

We’ve been waiting for the next shoe to drop with Ainge for quite some time now.  He made a good run at Kevin Durant last summer.  But I think most of us knew KD wasn’t coming here.  And now he is sitting on a pile of assets (still!) and with the contracts above soon to expire, now is the time to make a move.

Despite the monster year that Isaiah is having, I’d still be wary of giving him the max deal.  Will he physically hold up at his size for those years?  Will he prove anything in the playoffs?  Perhaps, but it’s a risk.  By all indications, I think the C’s are willing to take that risk.  So he stays.  Smart has continued to develop.  It looks like he stays.  Bradley is the guy that is expendable.  Despite the injury concerns with him, I would imagine he still holds nice value.

Jae Crowder is a nice player.  But I have to think we have seen his ceiling already.  Jaylen Brown could soar by that ceiling.  But Crowder has to certainly have some value.

The team has 3 guys in Europe from the last 2 drafts.  They have a first and 3 second rounders in the next draft, in which the first could be #1 overall.  Excess picks in future years too.  Plenty of expiring contracts.  They should easily be able to match salaries in any deal.

So what is Ainge waiting for?

The scuttlebutt is that Danny tries to “win” every deal.  Which I am sure every GM tries to do.  But isn’t always possible of course.  Sometimes the deal just has to work for both teams almost equally.  If Danny needs to win all of the deals, that is kind of a problem.

That being said, the right deal may very well have not presented itself yet.  Maybe other teams want Bradley and Crowder…as well as both Net picks, Brown and maybe more.  For one guy coming back this way, does that make sense?  I’m not sure it does, despite how great the possible superstar is coming back.

We also have to consider the willingness for other teams to even trade said superstar.  Butler and George are the most popular names out there.  Thus far from what we have heard, neither the Bulls or Pacers, respectively, seem inclined to move their player.  Or have seem inclined to this point anyway.  We heard Butler rumors last year where Chicago was asking for like 3 of the top 4 Celtic players and all three of their 2016 first round picks…or something like that.  Way too much.

This may change by Thursday at 3:00.  My feeling is that it won’t.

We all know Danny has to do something soon.  Danny knows Danny has to do something soon.  But I don’t think he does it by Thursday.  I think he keeps the same team that is 17 games over .500 now and only 3 games behind Cleveland in the East.  I think he keeps the Brooklyn picks and continues the upward progression.  Although I am pretty impatient, I can’t say I blame Ainge if he takes this route.  A big move at this point in the season may not mean that all of a sudden they can beat Cleveland in the East and then beat Golden State or one of the powers out West THIS year.  What happens if Ainge gives up too much of the current roster and then things are in a little bit of disarray?  Can’t rule that out.  Also can’t rule out that the other contenders will help themselves as well by the deadline.

I expect Ainge to try to do something.  He wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t.  But if the price is too high, he will continue to stockpile the assets, see if the Nets pick is #1 overall and then get ready for something else down the road.  He may do something minor…like get Bogut or someone similar for a smaller cost…but I think the huge deal finally happens this offseason.  It HAS to.

 

 

Boston Celtics Mid-Season Report Card

More like the 3/4 season report card, what with only 25 games left.  But again, the All-Star Game was just Sunday, so this seems like the right time.

As with the Boston Bruins’ report card done a few weeks ago, the Blowhard has to admit that he hasn’t watched every minute of every game.  For the B’s, it was about tolerating Jack Edwards.  For the C’s, it’s listening to Tommy Heinsohn berate the officials all game that is difficult to do.  Or listening to Scals flapping his gums about anything really.  Ok, those aren’t the only reasons for not watching…but they don’t help.

Jumping right in:

Ownership:  N/A.  There’s no doubt that Wyc Grousbeck can be fairly visible.  Steve Pagliuca is around from time to time.  There seem to be some other part-owners…Wyc’s Dad, a couple of dudes named Epstein and I guess others involved with Boston Basketball Partners, LLC (yup, looked it all up!)…but Wyc and Steve are the most noticeable.  To me though, it appears they let the basketball people run the basketball show.  They will spend the money if they have to.  And unlike Jeremy Jacobs of the Bruins, their actions over the years would seem to indicate that they want to win championships instead of just count their money.  So I feel that the grading for management falls squarely on…

Danny Ainge: B.  This may even be better graded as “Incomplete”…until this week’s trading deadline anyway.  Yes, it’s been a long and slow rebuild.  But, based on the circumstances, it really has been the only way to go.  They didn’t get Kevin Durant last summer to speed up the process.  But they tried.  Ainge has been accumulating significant assets over the years (I know, we are ALL sick of the word “assets”!).  He is looking at a potential #1 overall pick this upcoming offseason with Brooklyn being as atrocious as they are.  Of course, the lottery never goes the C’s way, but that’s a story for another day.

Ainge has missed on some draft picks, but he has put together a bunch of talented players that are currently in the 2nd position in the East.  Is it enough for Banner 18?  Nope.  But it’s been a consistent upward climb since the rebuild started.  The team is in a good position as of right this second salary-cap wise.  There is work to do still though.  And with a few key contracts expiring after next season (Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart), combined with the inability thus far to land the “Big Fish”, is the window closing?  I don’t think quite yet.  But the clock is certainly ticking.

Brad Stevens: A-.  I still don’t like how the team shoots way too many threes.  I wish young guys like Jaylen Brown would play more consistent minutes.  But there is not much else to argue with.  Isaiah has obviously helped this grade.  But Bradley has missed 21 games (and counting).  And he is inexplicably their best rebounder, by the numbers anyway.  Marcus Smart has seemed to have taken the “next step”.  Brad gets at least something useful from guys like Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko and Gerald Green from time to time.  James Young has actually finally shown a little bit in the last couple of weeks.  37-20 and only 3 games behind Cleveland.  Really can’t complain.

Isaiah Thomas: A++++++++++.  Almost 30 points a game.  Sick 4th quarter stats.  Over 90% from the line, where he gets to a lot.  Almost 40% from three.  6.3 assists even.  Sure, he may not be an A+ defender, or even a “C” one, but who cares?  Hopefully he does not wear down as the season progresses.  And yeah, he hasn’t proven a thing in the playoffs…yet.  But how can you give him anything less of a grade for this season?

Avery Bradley: B+.  Having his best season, but too many games missed.   Something that has been all too common in his career.  Costs him an “A” grade this year anyway.  Love the rebounding numbers.  Still steady on D.  Team is not better without him, but to this point really hasn’t missed a beat with him on the shelf.

Al Horford: B-.  Al doing what Al typically does, I would have to say.  But for 26.5 mil, I guess I’d like to see more.  That’s just me.

Jae Crowder: B.  Numbers up pretty much all around from last year, especially three-point field goal percentage.  Steady player.  Leader.  Maybe could have gone “B+” here, I don’t know.  I always have the feeling though that this is about the ceiling with Jae.  Not horrible.  But not great either.

Marcus Smart: B.  Still shoots too much for someone who can’t shoot.  But at least it’s improved a smidge.  I think you have to measure his impact in other ways however.  He has been getting plenty of accolades for his defense and overall game.  So we will go with that for now.  Glad to see he seems to keep developing though.  With any luck, he has stopped flopping too.

Kelly Olynyk: B-.  Everyone knows my disdain for this guy.  I want my 7-footers to be dirty under the boards, not hanging out by the three-point line.  But this is the way the C’s play.  This is what they ask him to do.  And he has stepped up offensively it appears.  So…whatever.

Terry Rozier: C+.  4th guard getting more time with the Bradley injury.  Shows flashes, but inconsistent.  I somehow expected more from him this year, based on the end of last year really.

Amir Johnson: B-.  Doesn’t really hurt you, but doesn’t really help you either.  Still in the starting lineup, so must be doing something right.  If they could move Horford to power forward and start a real center though…

Jonas Jerebko: C.  I don’t understand the infatuation and never will.  Sure, he hustles all over the court.  That doesn’t make him any good.

Jaylen Brown: C+.  They are bringing the kid along slowly.  But you can see glimpses.  He’s barely 20 years old.  He’s certainly shooting better than I think everyone expected.  It may take some time, but he’s a keeper.  Now watch him be traded in a package for an established superstar…

Gerald Green: C.  I never understood this signing.  Can provide instant offense, but doesn’t necessarily do it every game.  Doesn’t even play in some.  Should just be giving Brown his minutes.

Tyler Zeller: D.  Does nothing for me.

James Young: C-.  Hasn’t played a whole ton until recently.  Not sure if they are “showcasing” him for the trading deadline to free up a roster spot or something.  Maybe try to get something for him in return after using a mid-first round pick on him 3 years ago.  Still only 21 years old.  Something about Young intrigues me and I can’t figure it out.

Jordan Mickey: F.  Not sure he has played enough to deserve an actual grade.  But this one is based on expectations as well.  I expected Mickey to really battle for minutes based on the fact that this team needs rebounders.  Sure, at 6’8″ he is undersized.  But people have talked about his rebounding ability, I thought he may take another step up this year.  But no…he played some at the beginning, but barely does now.  Disappointing.

Demetrius Jackson: Incomplete.  Only played 4 games.  Deep on the depth chart.  Maybe someday, kid.

Claude is gone…CLAUDE IS GONE!!

Little late to the party on this one as well.  But of course VERY deserving of comment, for sure.  (Kind of) lost in the shuffle during the New England Patriots Super Bowl celebration, Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien was fired…and a week later was tabbed to take over the Atlantic division first place (though Eastern Conference 5th overall) Montreal Canadiens.  Yup, the HATED Canadiens.  Yup, the same Canadiens that fired Claude in 2006.

I’ve written over and over again in this space that it was time for Claude to go.  It had been for quite some time.  Missing the playoffs the last two years is inexcusable.  Especially the way they choked down the stretch both years.  And then being on course for missing the playoffs a third straight year this year.  Just unacceptable.  How could he still have his job after all that?

Not that it has all been his fault.  It has not.  Cam Neely, Don Sweeney and Peter Chiarelli haven’t necessarily given him the best roster in recent years.  Maybe help is on the way with some of Sweeney’s recent draftees.  But we may not know that for a while.

But you know what?  Neely and Chiarelli gave Julien some pretty damn good rosters early in his tenure.  Sure, he won a Stanley Cup.  Just one though.  He had a talented team that should have competed for a Cup many other years as well.  You may say, “he went to another Cup Final”.  I will then tell you that this was all well and good, but in a lockout shortened season not quite the same accomplishment.

People often forget that Julien was probably an OT goal against Montreal in the first round of the Cup year from being fired that year.  And in the year they lost in the Cup final, they also dodged a bullet in the first round with that miracle win against Toronto.  And some other colossal playoff failures:  2008-09, 116 points in regular season, 2nd round loss to Carolina.  2009-10, 3-0 lead in 2nd round against Philadelphia and lost 4 straight to be eliminated.  The loss of David Krejci in Game 4 was certainly big.  But to lose that game and 3 straight after and kind of blame that injury?  Nope.  2011-12, first round loss to Washington (Chiarelli said the players were “tired” from the previous years’ Cup run…ugh).  2013-14, 117 regular season points, 2nd round exit to Montreal.

It all adds up.  Why don’t/didn’t a lot of people see this?

He is a good coach, maybe better than good, but not necessarily great.  And certainly not legendary, as some people (you again Magoon) seem to think he is.

Amazingly enough, as recently as about 5 weeks ago, I was convinced Claude was at least here through the season.  I thought Donnie Hockey was blowing smoke when he told us that he hadn’t ruled out a coaching change.  Apparently he was not.

Figured the contract would keep him here through the year for the most part.  The Jacobs’ don’t like to eat money.  Could they have known Montreal was going to jump in and (apparently) offset some of the dough owed Julien?  Did they know/sense that the Canadiens were sniffing around?  I doubt it, but I guess you never know with these sorts of things.

In any event, Bruce Cassidy is now the head coach.  Logged about a year and a half as a head coach of the Capitals, getting canned during the 2003-04 season.  Had to wait quite a bit for his 2nd head coaching gig…longer than most.  Has tallied almost 900 games as a minor league head coach, including almost 500 since the Capitals role.  Spent the last 5 years in Providence.  Has had some regular season success, but not a ton in the playoffs.  Supposedly has a good reputation with young players.   Seems to have been groomed to be the next Boston head coach, though the title is still interim at the moment.  Hopefully the rep with young players is true.  And that it means he will implement them in faster than Claude.  I will say this for Claude, having Cassidy on the bench with him this year with the feeling that Bruce was “the next guy” couldn’t have been a warm and fuzzy feeling for Julien.  I know I wouldn’t have been excited about it.

So after all of the above, I personally am not buying the “interim” thing.  I think Cassidy will officially be the next head coach.  Unless of course they tank horrendously down the stretch.

But is he the answer?  I have no idea.  Does the fact that Cassidy is 3-0 since taking over and that Julien is 0-1 in Montreal mean anything?  I think it probably means squat.  Though I would definitely expect a better effort from a team in the immediate aftermath of their coach just being fired.  I know I have seen that out of the B’s in their three games.  Having not seen the Montreal game Saturday night, I can’t really completely comment on their effort.  But they lost to an average at best Winnipeg team at home.  So I would guess that is not a positive.

I will say that the offensive “game plan” is certainly more aggressive.  The D corps scored 18 goals in the first 55 games.  They have 4 in the last 3.  This is the most noticeable difference to me…the D-men are waaaaaaay more involved offensively.  Now, this could certainly lead to goals being given up in bunches at the other end because of their (over)aggressiveness.  But hey, they have an “All-Star” goalie in Tuukka Rask, so everything should be fine, right?  Ok, maybe not.

Either way, this is great to see.  14 goals in 3 games overall?  I like that too.  Small sample size of course.  But after watching Claude’s system for years, even the 3 game stretch is refreshing.  I eventually accepted Claude’s system, since they did win that Cup and were competitive and playoff-bound most years.  But it doesn’t mean I loved it.

Cassidy’s system may not work long-term.  This may just be the coaching change wakeup call.  But maybe some of these forwards can showcase their talents more now.  Maybe this system works with a lot of the youngsters on the way.  Who knows?

Time will tell.  Cassidy hasn’t changed the personnel really.  Anton Khudobin is back.  I like it.  Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban are simply not ready to play in the NHL and may never be.  Khudobin has been brutal this year, but has also been hurt and buried when healthy.  Maybe the stint in Providence got his head back on straight and Bruce actually gives him some time down the stretch to keep him sharp.  Peter Cehlarik is the only new body among the skaters.  Impressed by him thus far…along with the line of Cehlarik/Krejci/David Pastrnak.  But again, only 3 games.  He played Zdeno Chara over 26 minutes in the last game…still entirely too much.  Hasn’t appeared to change much ice time overall among the players.

So again…we will see.  But there have been some encouraging signs for sure.

Nice 4 game West Coast trip starting tonight that may shed some more light on the situation.  San Jose and Anaheim seem to be tough foes.  Los Angeles and Dallas perhaps not…but LA is the 2nd night of a back to back.  So maybe.

Definitely intriguing to see how they play the season out, starting with the trading deadline.  There are 24 games left.  I have no doubt that the Jacobs clan would love at least one round of playoff gates.  So perhaps we don’t see much player change until the offseason.  Especially the integration of many more youngsters.  I don’t think Sweeney will overpay for pieces to prepare for what he thinks will be a long playoff run at the deadline.  But I also don’t think he will deal major pieces away over the next couple of weeks either.  It’ll be interesting to see how they balance things the remainder of this season.

But hopefully they will be at least on a better track.  And certainly more entertaining to watch…

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