…the Boston Celtics’ playoff trip, as you may have guessed.
On one hand, it was nice to see the C’s make a charge to the playoffs at the end of the regular season. Even though they beat some bad teams (and some teams that rested their stars) to get in at the end. And the fact that they finished 40-42…still under .500. But on the other hand, it cost them a higher draft pick and they of course had no chance to beat Cleveland. By the by, for those of you that wanted to play Atlanta because they would’ve had a chance to win, please stop. I know Atlanta cruised and ended up struggling down the stretch. I know Brooklyn won tonight and evened the series 2-2. But the C’s were not beating Atlanta either, sorry.
My opinion is that it is ok that they made the playoffs. How much better of a pick would they have gotten if they finished, say, 30-52? I suppose that would’ve put them in the top 10, but #10, #15…is it much of a difference really? Not to mention that they have a thousand draft picks anyway and really HAVE to deal some of them away. So who says they will even use this year’s pick?
I’d rather have the players gain some kind of playoff experience. Sure, not all of these guys will be back next year (they’d BETTER not be!). Sure, they got whitewashed. And all of that stuff. But every game of this magnitude counts. Also for Brad Stevens. Doesn’t hurt for him to have some playoff coaching experience. Also helps for the team to win a little bit, so he doesn’t bolt back to college, but that’s a different story…
Give the team this: They played hard. They hustled. They dove for loose balls. They played to the best of their abilities. But they just didn’t have the horses. Just looked up some of the stats. The C’s actually shot 42% from the floor. I can’t believe it was that high. It felt like they were regularly throwing up bricks. Maybe it was because they were 26% from three point land. Or that the three guys who took the most shots, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley & Evan Turner, shot 33%, 38% & 36%, respectively. Add in Brandon Bass’ 35% for good measure and that may just sum it all up.
But as I’ve said all year, the team is full of guys that can play in the NBA…but should be probably 5-8 on a good teams roster. At best. Their 5 starters were probably the worst unit in the playoffs. Case in point was a ranking done on the 4 letter network that put the 80 starters in the playoffs in order. The best Celtic? Marcus Smart at 57. Sounds about right. For the record, Tyler Zeller was 59, Bradley was 70, Bass was 73 and Turner tied for 77th (with Jeff Green, of all people). Also for the record, good to see Rajon Rondo was 75th…still delighted he is gone…but that’s another story for another day.
You can take the rankings for whatever they are worth, but in reality, they are probably not far from the truth. I suppose it’s a little hard to believe that Turner was tied for 3rd worst, when he was arguably the C’s best all-around player after the Rondo and Green trades…or that Zeller is somehow up at 59…but that’s probably splitting hairs. It is what it is. And they just couldn’t match up with the Cavs’ horses.
The size difference up front was astounding. I’ve never considered Timofey Mozgov much of anything, but he looked like he could do whatever he wanted against the C’s. Imagine if he was utilized offensively more than the 5th option he was? And stayed out of foul trouble? It would have looked worse. He made more of a difference on the defensive side as he altered numerous shots. And rebounded well along with just about every other Cav. Zeller was consistently thrown around like a rag doll. Olynyk is just this era’s Brad Lohaus (not a compliment). Bass was abysmal. Jared Sullinger has a big body (pun intended), but doesn’t necessarily match up well either. It was ugly overall.
The Celts lost 3 games by 8 and one by 13…but did any of them actually feel close? I don’t think the Cavs ever felt threatened. I can’t believe Mike Gorman thought they would win in 6…he must have been channeling his inner Tommy (Heinsohn). But I don’t believe Tommy even thought they had a shot. Doubt he admitted that publicly though. Speaking of Tommy, how old is Hubie Brown? 116? Wow. But he was actually ok in Game 4. Except for the fact no one told him how to pronounce “Olynyk” properly…but I digress…
As much as the C’s had no chance in this series, I actually expected more of the Cavs. They rolled through the last half of the season and have their version of “The Big Three” (God, I am sick of that phrase). But I have to say I wasn’t all that impressed. LeBron James is LeBron. I still kind of despise him from the whole “Decision” thing and his overall smugness on the court. But his talents are undeniable. Stevens threw about 10 different guys at him trying to figure out who can at least slow him down. But the answer was a resounding…NOBODY! Kyrie Irving is very skilled. But he seemed to disappear for stretches. Extremely underwhelming was Kevin Love. Is he just a great player on bad teams? Or is he truly a superstar? Not sure at this point. He hit some threes in Game 3. But otherwise did not do much…in my eyes anyway. Yeah, some will argue that he opened up the floor for The King and Kyrie. But whatever…my last vision of him running right off the floor almost crying leaves a lasting memory…and a poor one. Ok, maybe exaggerated on the “almost crying” part. But still…
JR Smith? Total punk. Loser. Hope his suspension costs the Cavs two games. Just a clown. Mozgov impressed me the most actually. The next guy on the Cavs to impress me? Iman Shumpert actually. I believe he has a decent defensive reputation. But his offense was more than I expected. The rest of the bench was nothing to write home about. Tristan Thompson is a nice rebounder. Perk? What a joke. How he didn’t get thrown out of Game 4 is beyond me. Laughable. The C’s fans didn’t like it. But they forget he was doing that type of “tough guy” crap when he was here too. Except now he is beyond washed up. Used to be able to play at least a little. Not as much as people around here think, but he had some skills. Thankfully, we weren’t subjected to that tool Anderson Varejao that often. Though I admit it was very heartwarming when the sideline reporter let us know that when Love went to the locker room, “Varejao was right by his side. And he is still in there with him…shows how tight knit the team is…”. Ummmmmm…she knew Varejao wasn’t in uniform and couldn’t play, right? That report was useless…as are most sideline reporters…but again, another topic for another day…
One last observation: The Celtics in no way lost this series because of the officials. But it sure seemed as if they were playing 5 on 8 quite often. I guess all the superstars get the calls. And Cleveland had all the superstars in this series. That tradition is as old as the NBA itself, despite how unfair it really is. But sometimes it was a little over the top. Add to that the fact that I don’t think any of the Cavs players STILL think they have committed a foul. Every single time they were whistled, they had a look of incredulity on their faces. (I think I may have used the word “incredulity” right…that may be a first!).
In any event, glad the C’s got some postseason experience and extended the season by a smidge. The team was fun to watch at times, I will admit. But there is a lot of work to be done still by Danny Ainge and the front office. Something to delve into in a future post…
To relieve Peter Chiarelli of his duties, that is.
Based on the press conference the other day, it sounded like Cam Neely basically fired him at the trade deadline. Neely admitted that he told Pete not to “trade any assets” at the deadline. Wait, Jordan Caron wasn’t an asset?? That’s news to me! But seriously though, talk about having your hands tied. I’m not sure Pete could have actually done much, based on their salary cap situation. But it sounds like it wasn’t his decision anyway. And if you are seemingly getting your power stripped there, then…that’s not a good sign.
By the way, are press conferences mostly useless? In sports anyway. When does someone give actual information you can use during one? At least around here. We all know about Bill Belichick’s press conferences. As well as all the others. What did Neely and Charlie Jacobs say of value the other day? Not much from what I heard. I guess the other point is that, other than the part where Steve Buckley pressed for some answers (and got none), the rest of the local media tossed up some nice softballs.
Don’t get me going on the local sports media though. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I know these guys have to be somewhat like they are…complimentary of the team and everything surrounding it. If they aren’t, players won’t talk to them, team sources won’t give them info…and they usually work for an outlet that is owned by the team. But do they have to go overboard, as they ALWAYS do? I mean sometimes…wow. Like some of the stuff I am reading now about Chiarelli being the fall guy. Ummmmm, no. 3 other people got fired as well. And there will be more to come, including some players. “Fall guy”? I think not.
Chiarelli had a nice run here. Very successful. Give credit where credit is due. But it was time for a change, simple as that. It’s no secret he messed up the salary cap. Some writers have said it was because he was “going all out in 2013-14″. Ummmm, wrong again. This has accumulated over his tenure. Primarily because he has drafted poorly over the years and does not have cheap (and good) labor to take over spots where someone becomes too expensive. And also because he consistently paid guys too much and too early and for too many years. Not because of going “all out” for one year. Do the math.
In reality, Cam has probably wanted to shake things up for years. He got the Prez gig in June, 2010. Pete had been on board for 4 years already and Claude for 3. If you recall, Cam wasn’t exactly a fan of Claude’s style early on. It was no secret, as Cam made some very thinly veiled comments at the time. He was likely ready to overhaul in 2011 if they were ousted early…as they almost were, before the Game 7 OT goal against Montreal. If they lose that game, the Bruins look a lot different the next season. But then they go and win the Stanley Cup! How can Cam do some sacking then? Then there was a grace period, then they went to the Cup Finals in 2013. Again, how can he make a move?
Timing was right for this move. Missed playoffs, cap is a problem, not many decent young players have been developed…or are on track to be developed, players seem to be comfortable, etc. I suppose they want the new GM to ditch Claude at some point. But I waffle on that every day. What if the new GM is Donnie Sweeney, the assistant GM now? Also, they signed Claude to a 3 year extension last season, do they want to eat that dough already? Is he willing to change up his style a bit, be more flexible and forgiving of young players for one? There is plenty of time, but the longer he stays, the more I feel like he will stay long-term. At least another year. But I think it’s time for a change there as well. I believe the players have tuned him out and need a new voice.
As with Chiarelli, Julien has had a nice run here. I hated his style at first, then adapted of course when they won the Cup. I still am not a huge fan, but how can you argue with his overall success? But again, I believe most players have become too comfortable under him. I don’t think he’s as much of a hard-arse as he was when he first got here. He relies too much on useless vets on the last lines and just doesn’t trust any young players. I am ok with him rolling those 4th liners in the first and second periods. But not down a goal with less than three minutes left in the game. That happens far too often.
This wasn’t to single out Claude and Pete at all. EVERYONE is to blame for missing the playoffs. Cam, Charlie Jacobs, the players, just everyone. There was enough talent on this roster to make the playoffs, simple as that. And in the end, the players underachieved, absolutely no question about it. It’s been a nice run for everyone, to be quite honest. But all good things must come to and end. Let a new era begin. Get away from complacency. Fresh voices. Younger players. New system. There is usually more than one way to do things right, let’s try a different way now. Thanks for your service Pete, but you go find some new challenges yourself. I’d like to be saying the same to Claude soon as well…
Part III…and we’ve had some clamoring from the masses for some Celtics talk. Well, at least one reader. Let’s do it:
*Wow, Jared Sullinger is suiting up tonight. This came out of nowhere. But let’s give the dude some credit. Shortly after they ruled him out for the year, reports came out that he was over 3 bills and not working hard at conditioning, to say the least. He was taking some hits…and not saying he didn’t deserve them. But now he will be back on the floor tonight. Give him his due for not folding up shop and getting fatter in preparation for next season.
*The C’s are enjoyable to watch again, yes. But let’s also please not fall in love with this team. I’ve been hearing some chatter on sports radio this week where people think that if they sneak into the playoffs, they have a decent chance of beating Atlanta. Hold your horses, folks. Atlanta historically has proven to be kind of a dog team. But maybe not this year. I’m not counting on it anyway. Just doesn’t seem realistic.
*But the real reason not to fall in love with this team is because they just don’t have the horses for the long-term. Sure, they have a bunch of good players…I would actually prefer the term “useful” than good. A lot of the guys on the team are certainly people to like and are absolutely worth rooting for. But are they championship level? Not a chance.
Let’s break down the roster:
Who are their best players? If you just took the best 5, regardless of position, you would probably choose Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas, right?
Not a superstar in the group. And a team absolutely need 1-2 superstars at a minimum in the NBA…just the way it is. Even if Sully gets and keeps in shape, he is not that guy. Maybe an ideal 4th option? Bradley may be in the “4th option” category as well. He has unbelievable nights, followed up by many average ones. There is something I like about Turner. He seems to have some good all-around game. But a top tier guy? Nope. Smart is young and if his offense improves, can he get there? Maybe. But I’m not counting on that. On this team, there always seems to be someone else on the floor with him who can handle the ball as well. Maybe that’s just taking some pressure off the rookie for now. Who knows? Let’s hope he continues to play fierce D though. After watching Rajon Rondo not care about D after he tore up the league early in his career and watching Bradley’s D also seemingly decline over the years, if Smart decides not to play D anymore a few years down the road it wouldn’t surprise me. Thomas was a nice sparkplug when he first got here. But he has bounced around a little, is shooting 38% from the field and Brad Stevens only plays him 26 minutes a game. If he was a stud, he’d be out there more. I’ll take him as my 6th man when the C’s get all the pieces though.
The 2nd tier is probably comprised of Brandon Bass, Kelly Olynyk, Jae Crowder, Tyler Zeller & I suppose Jonas Jerebko if you were so inclined. I’d love to include James Young in this group. I think that even though they are fighting for a playoff spot, Young should’ve been playing big minutes. Let’s see what we’ve got! The fact that he is getting no time at all is a little concerning for me. Bass is a nice player. But more of a bench guy on a good team. You could say the same about Olynyk, Crowder and Zeller. Those guys have some good games. But from what I have seen, it looks to me like they are no more than bench guys for when the C’s finally are championship timber. I suppose it’s better than what I thought of Crowder when he came in the Rondo trade. I thought he was a throw in. Turns out he has some value. He does shoot way too much for my liking though. Jerebko? Maybe. Not really enough sample size. But he looks like a decent bench guy to me too.
The rest of the roster: Shavlik Randolph is mostly useless. Phil Pressey is a nice 13th man. If you have to play him more than 8 minutes a game, it’s probably not a good sign. Luigi Datome? Who the hell knows? Stevens says he loves him, but he never plays him. He may argue that there are too many bodies in front of him. But I would argue that maybe he can shoot but he can’t do anything else. Whatever. Gerald Wallace? Totally washed up. But if he inexplicably keeps his great attitude and supposed leadership qualities around this team and doesn’t really care about playing (but actually does ok when they throw him out there), I will take him. Of course it helps that he is pocketing over 10 mil a year to barely break a sweat. So, I guess I would probably do what he is doing too.
In summary, Danny Ainge needs to take some of these useful guys, package them with any of the abundance of picks he has, maybe a trade exception or two and get even better players. See if they can somehow woo a top tier free agent to town as well…as unlikely as that is to happen. Let them shoot for the playoffs this year, it’s too late to “tank”. But then do something like…
*…this team somewhat reminds me of the 2006-7 Celtics. But that team at least had Paul Pierce in place. This team does not have that kind of player. Doc Rivers was in his 3rd year as coach (record worse every year…amazing how you are all of a sudden a great coach when you have great players…oops, I digress). The rest of the roster had a bunch of useful guys as well, you can judge the varying degree of usefulness if you want. Big Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Tony Allen, Rajon Rondo, Gerald Green, Kendrick Perkins. Leon Powe, Delonte West…and you can add Wally Szczerbiak and Sebastian Telfair there if you want…plus Michael Olowoka…nope, nevermind him. Doc couldn’t figure out who to play, so he varied minutes wildly. The best thing that happened to Doc was the KG and Ray Allen trades. He had like 6-7 guys who could actually play, shortened his bench…and the rest is history. Danny has to make lightning strike twice…or else the Boston Celtics may be stuck in purgatory. Otherwise known as “middle of the pack” in the NBA.
*Couple of non-basketball thoughts:
*I used to love “homer” announcers growing up, like Johnny Most. He didn’t necessarily rip his own team, but he let you know when they were not playing to their level of expectation. But guys like him used to hammer opposing players. “McFilthy and McNasty” (Rick Mahorn and Jeff Ruland). Bill Laimbeer is a criminal and all that enjoyable stuff. Got you pretty fired up listening to the game.
Now? You either get Tommy Heinsohn blaming the referees for everything. Saying there is a foul on every play. Or you get guys like Jack Edwards. Someone said that Patrice Bergeron is overrated recently. He is a little overrated, though I love him as a player. Then one game he scores less than a minute after puck drop (in a game they eventually lost) and Jack goes nuts. “Overrate this!!” he says. Really? You are attacking a random person (reporter or something, don’t remember who said it…not sure I even knew who it was actually), for their opinion? Why, because you feel the need to back the guy up? Ridiculous…
Or you get the guys who don’t say anything critical of anybody at any time.
Problem is, they stations the announcers work for, radio and television, are all owned by the teams now. I get, to some degree, why they are what they are. But do they need to be over the top with praise instead, even when it is totally undeserving? Kissing everyone associated with the teams’ arse?
Just diminishes the whole experience, if you ask me.
*Scott Boras. What a total fraud. Here he is openly ripping the demotion of Kris Bryant by the Cubs to anyone who will listen. Why? Because if the Cubs ship him out for 12 days, they have seven years of control, as opposed to six. No brainer to me, even for a big money team like the Cubs. IT’S LESS THAN TWO WEEKS! Doubtful it will impact the season. And if I am running a business, I’m doing the same thing.
He must have forgotten that the players have agreed to that type of stuff in probably most previous Collective Bargaining Agreements. He also must have forgotten that guys like Mike Trout routinely come up a month or two into the season and then are there to stay…and no worse for the wear.
Most of all, he forgot that he ALWAYS tightens the screws on the teams, squeezing every extra penny he can get out of them on EVERY contract. But the teams can’t do something like that to him? Joke.
Maybe it is unfortunate for Bryant, as he should probably be on the Opening Day roster. But he will survive, I am sure. I guess as long as he doesn’t blow his knee out in the next two weeks…