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Thank You Celtics

What a season!  All the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.  Whoda thunk it??  Specifically, as the whole world knows, without their best two players?  Just a crazy ride…and a helluva fun one.

Sure, if anyone on the team could throw the ball in the ocean in Game 7 against the Cavs, we’d all be looking at a Finals matchup with the Warriors.  But who can really complain?  The future is bright, my friends.  Let’s enjoy this year for now, as the expectations will now soar for the future.  This year, I was not feeling anything going into Game 7, figuring even getting to that point was gravy.

Next year?  Us fans will be expecting more.  As we should.  And if they disappoint, we will sing a different tune for sure.

The Blowhard has a slew of thoughts about everything Celtics.  Truth be told, they were part of an e-mail response to friends two days ago.  So let’s make that a blog post!!  Nothing like repurposing some content.  But hey, it is what it is.  Of course, we have to tidy some things up.  And likely add some more.  But here’s my favorite bullet point format, in no particular order:

*Some may be disappointed that the C’s are not facing Golden State in the NBA Finals and that it would be interesting to see how they match up against the best of the best.  I am not sure I agree that it would have been great to see them keep playing…they would have gotten steamrolled/demolished/bludgeoned by the Warriors.  Game 7 was surely a disappointing loss, but I think a silver lining COULD be that these guys know they should have won this series.  This MAY light a little fire under the players this summer to work even harder than they already would have, knowing the missed opportunity that they had.

There is the possibility that if they won Game 7 and got to the Finals and then got smoked by Golden State maybe some players get their confidence shaken?  Or even worse, knew they wouldn’t beat the Warriors, mailed it in to some degree, happy to at least get to the Finals without Kyrie and Gordon, and all along telling themselves that if they did have those two, they would have won the whole enchilada.

I don’t know, maybe I’m reaching.  But I know for sure I would not have enjoyed them getting swept in the Finals, likely by large margins, at least in California.

*Many in the local area thought that if Houston was able to knock off Golden State, the Celtics would have a real chance to be NBA Champions if they got by the Cavs.  I think that is kind of a dubious assumption.  Even if the Rockets were to be without Chris Paul.  The series would have been closer.  But maybe 5 games instead of a sweep?  Perhaps I am wrong about all of the above.  But I feel like the train would have come to a screeching halt against either team.

*LeBron was LeBron in Game 7 and really, the whole series.  In all ways.  Punk move when he “blocked” (fouled) Rozier on the dunk attempt (dumb move by Rozier, by the way), then stood still and stared at what?  The guy is one of the best players ever, maybe the best.  But sorry, an absolute arseclown.  It’s antics like this that make me despise him.  Sure, all the greats have their “things”.  Although generally a homer, I did not care for whenever Paul Pierce did stuff like this…wheelchair, bandages and all that.  But LeBron takes these things to the next level with what he says, his mannerisms and everything all around.  And of course, I will never forgive him for that ridiculous circus called “The Decision”.

*There were too many unnecessary switches in this series by the Celtics defense.  And they all seemed to eventually end with Terry Rozier guarding LeBron.  There has to be a better way.

*We have to all agree that it was a nice playoff run for the C’s.  But we cannot discount the fact that the East was WEAK.  My opinion, and perhaps my opinion alone.  But…Cleveland WAS LeBron.  Toronto choked, per usual.  Philly fattened up their record at the end of the season against a slew of noncontenders.  Miami, Milwaukee, Washington, Indy?  Meh.  There are some good players spread out over all of those teams.  But any one of them could beat any one of them.  I wasn’t impressed anyway.

*I have no doubt Danny Ainge won’t sit still this offseason.  This team does still need some tweaks (and HAS to have some tweaks, kind of), even with the return of Irving and Hayward (and Daniel Theis and Shane Larkin, if you wish).  I’m not saying he needs to make MAJOR moves, but I’m not ruling that out either if the right deal crosses his plate.  I’m not talking just Anthony Davis or Karl Anthony Towns or any superstar along those lines.  I’m talking any “right deal”.  Of course, anyone would do the right deal, so this is not a big stretch.  But still.  Most people want Danny to just bring back the same team next year because they went so far this year without two horses.  And I’m thinking he still may have one more huge one up his sleeve.

*I’d personally start by dealing Rozier…selling high if he didn’t torpedo any value he built up during the playoffs during his putrid Game 7.  Or if teams look closer at his road splits.  He is no more than a third guard to me.  And I choose Marcus Smart as my third guard.  Though Brad Stevens has to absolutely rein Smart in from shooting as much next year if he returns.  This is a must.

I don’t hate Rozier.  I don’t love him either…although I do love the way he rebounds as a guard.  I am also not giving him away for nothing.  But I’m thinking you can’t keep both him and Smart next season.  Rozier did take a huge step up this year and I think they can package him with something else for something of value in return.

Now, I realize “Scary Terry” is a mere 3 million next year and also that Smart thinks he is worth more than 14 million.  But Smart is a restricted free agent this offseason and Rozier will be restricted next season.  With Irving and Hayward coming back, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum deserving some more minutes next season as well, Marcus Morris and Al Horford also deserving of a decent amount of time…doesn’t something have to give?

Of course.  And I think Rozier may have the most value of the guys listed above, that would be available I would say.  And if somehow both he and Smart return next season, and Terry is only getting 18-20 minutes a game, that may not end up well either.

If someone pays Smart what he wants, then all of the above is moot I guess…he won’t be here.  But I’m thinking teams will not pay him and he will be back.  I’ve been wrong before though…

*I’m also not sure Morris a lock to return.  I was just told that he is kind of like a mentor and big brother to Brown and Tatum though (thanks Mike F.!).  I had not heard this before.  And quite frankly, this scares the bejesus out of me.  Morris is a good player and had a good year.  But he is a lunatic.  Certifiably insane.  Not sure he is the guy that I want mentoring my young studs.  But maybe he is a softie in the locker room, I don’t know.

*Aron Baynes is absolutely brutal.  Worst rebounding form I think I may have ever seen from a big man.  Horrible touch around the basket (what’s his percentage on tip-ins?  33%?).  Defense?  Mediocre as far as I am concerned.  I simply can’t watch him.  And whose great idea was it to have him start shooting threes?  Cuz he made a couple against Philly?  Ugh…maybe I am being harsh.  But I’m thinking you can find someone with his skill set for less than the 4.328 mil he made this year.

*I’m not trading Tatum, under any circumstances.  It would be hard for me to trade Brown at this point, despite his ups and downs.  But there is room on Players #5-#17 (#18?) to make some moves to help the team, however minor if “minor” is the way that Danny ends up going.  Although “Player #5” would be Al Horford and I suppose if they were working him into a deal, his max contract isn’t exactly “minor”.

*If they want to fill a back-end roster spot, I’d re-sign that Jonathan Gibson dude that shot the lights out the last couple of games of the regular season.  If all this team wants to do is shoot threes, that guys shooting ability has to mean more to the C’s than a lot of other things, no?

*I’m not sure why Greg Monroe got buried as the playoffs went on.  I know, he doesn’t play D.  But he scores and rebounds.  Could have used a few of each.  Couldn’t he have played decent D against someone like Tristan Thompson in this series to “hide” him in that regard?  Some may think he looked completely lost when he was out there.  But I think they could’ve thrown him in there for a few minutes at a time and he could have been all right.

That’s about it…for now, anyway.  Great run and yet again it will be another interesting offseason.  Does Danny bring everyone back?  Does he just make minor moves?  Or is one more big splash in the offing?  He could go in any direction and no one really knows.

But with rumors milling around already about Ainge trying to move up in the draft and get a big guy or some other top talent it seems we are off to a flying start to the offseason!

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Gordon Who??!

The Boston Celtics are 12-1 since Gordon Hayward went down on Opening Night.  They are currently riding an 12 game winning streak.  So who the hell needs Gordon Hayward?

Ok, that was waaaaay over the top.  Of course this team needs Hayward.  Over the long haul for sure.  14 games in doesn’t prove anything.  There is still 83% of the season left.

That all being said, how much fun has this season been thus far?  Friday night against Charlotte may have been the capper in this whole stretch.  Kyrie Irving went down in the first two minutes of the game.  Al Horford did not play.  And of course Hayward.  The C’s were down big.  I hate blaming the refs for anything, as it is a tough enough job as it is.  But there were some pretty bogus calls against the Celts in that game.  Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier were a combined 9 for 42 (21%) from the field.  The game was sloppy and honestly hard to watch (probably the only time one can say that about a Celtics game this season).  But somehow, the Celtics WON.

Listen, the Hornets are 5-7 and I’m certainly not saying they are any kind of world beaters.  But the Cs had absolutely no business winning that game.  None.

Marcus Morris and Shane Larkin (Shane Larkin???!) were huge in the win and the team collectively stepped up their defensive intensity late.  The Celts outrebounded the Hornets 49-47 as well.  Having Charlotte shoot a ghastly 58% from the line didn’t hurt either.  Of course, they have Dwight Howard, so a little “hack-a-Howard” helped push down that percentage.

Or maybe the win Sunday against alleged top Eastern rival Toronto is the high point of the streak.  Toronto is of course a better team than Charlotte.  And although Horford returned, the C’s were still missing Irving.

One benefit of Hayward being out is that 30-35 minutes a game going to other players and helping them develop.  Right now, it appears Jayson Tatum and Semi Ojeleye are the prime beneficiaries.  Tatum and “Shemi” are averaging about 30 and 15 minutes per game, respectively.  Probably about 10 minutes a game more apiece than they were anticipated to play.  Yes, I didn’t think they would throw Tatum out there with a ton of minutes to start his career.  Figured he would be treated like Brown last year, 15-20 minutes a game to get his feet wet in the NBA.  But he is getting the real minutes and certainly making the most of them as well.  Let’s see how it looks down the road, as Tatum should play over twice as many games this season as he did in college last year.  That may catch up to him at some point.

Terry Rozier is picking up a few more minutes as well.  His shot hasn’t been as consistent as it has seemed…what with him shooting only 36%.  But man, I love the way he rebounds as a guard.  And he’s full of energy for sure.

But let’s be real.  Even though we can be pretty giddy about the returns right out of the gate, let’s not be fooled into thinking that all of a sudden they are cruising to a championship this year, especially without Hayward.  It’s a long season, some of the kids may wear down as they are not used to the schedule.  Cleveland will improve and be there in the end.  Isaiah Thomas should return and help that team.  The Cavs will continue to gel and likely make trade deadline improvements when the time comes.  They could also be treating the regular season like the preseason, like they did last year.  And of course there are plenty of worthy squads out in the Western Conference as well.

Assuming the Celtics beat the Nets tonight, they will take a 13 game winning streak into a home date against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night.  That will give us a better idea on where this team stands.  Then again, if Irving is still out, maybe it won’t.  He may well play, but also be somewhat limited if he wears a mask or something as well.

So maybe it won’t give us a better idea on where they stand.  But hopefully either way, the Cs will be competitive at least on Thursday night.  On the flipside, a blowout loss may put expectations back where they belong…to where they were at the start of the season…Eastern Conference Finals, then we take it from there…this year.

The lesson here:  Sit back, enjoy the ride, but let’s keep the emotions in check for a bit…maybe until at least March?

Celtics Breakup Party, Part 3

Moving on…not much more left to cover I don’t think.  Well, as I said, there is one big one left:

*And it’s Tyler Zeller!!  Ok, no it’s not.  But he’s the 2nd to last one on the current roster to go over.  8 million dollar non-guaranteed contract for next year.  To no one’s surprise, I’d rather spend that money on someone else.  Like…someone a lot better perhaps.  There’s really not much more to say.

*Isaiah Thomas.  Of course.  IT.  What do we do with Isaiah?

I can tell you I have gone back and forth on this one all year…and longer actually.  I know, he averaged almost 30 points a game this season, so how can there be any debate?

Well, when thinking about it during the regular season, the fact remained that IT hadn’t done much in the playoffs.  Yes, I also know that he hasn’t always had a lot of help.  But it was a concern.  Another concern was that at his size, how will he hold up over the years?  Legitimate question, especially if we are talking about giving him max dollars…or close to it.  And his negative value on defense.  Ultimately, is he the kind of player you really want to build around?

Lots of question marks.  I feel like he played better this playoff season.  Of course the Celtics played more games, but I felt better about his overall performance.  Especially considering the circumstances surrounding him with the death of his sister at the beginning of the playoffs.  And sure, he struggled some on the court.  But let’s face it, you are going to face better competition in the playoffs, so things are going to be tougher to come by.

Then…the hip.  Was this the reason he struggled in some games?  Who knows?  He supposedly had the injury for several weeks.  But then it got to a point where he couldn’t go anymore.  I don’t know Isaiah personally of course.  But I have to believe that if he was sitting playoff games out, it was pretty serious.  I’ve heard some question that and I don’t buy that argument.  I believe that if he could have played, he would have.

But the injury adds another layer to it all.  We still don’t know how serious the injury is.  Early indications were that if he had to have surgery, he’d be out 6-9 months or something like that.  But we don’t know if he needs the surgery yet.  So…another lingering concern.

Add it all up and what to do with Isaiah is a little tricky.  But I’ve made my decision.

I’m keeping him and giving him some dough.

Maybe that’s me just getting caught up in his regular season performance this year.  Loving how he keeps proving people wrong.  I don’t know.  But I do know he has been successful here.  He has one year left on his current contract at about six and a quarter million…another bargain year.  Sure, he will have to get his money after next season.  But the C’s will be able to give him more, based on his Bird rights or some sort of cap mumbo jumbo that no one really completely understands.  This will also give the Celtics more room to sign other guys too.  So giving IT max or close to max money won’t kill them.  From what I hear anyway.

I’ve discussed offering IT in trades before.  I wouldn’t totally rule that out either.  But the hip injury dampens his value a bit.  Plus, he fits this system and may have more value to the local team than any others.  Brad Stevens has been able to maneuver things where he can “hide” Isaiah on defense.  Maybe not always, but seemingly a lot.  Danny Ainge has always loved him and he usually hangs onto guys like that.

I think he stays, gets huge money after next season, but the team continues to build around him and he becomes just a piece and not necessarily the main guy.  Just one of the main guys.  Hope he will be ok with that…and I think he will be.

That does it for the end of season roster.  But we are not done.  Some more players/points to talk about:

*Geurschon Yabusele/Ante Zizic.  2016 first round draft picks.  These two will be here next year.  Not sure how much they play though.  Both averaged about 100 points a game overseas I believe.  But against Chinese and Turkish competition, I also believe.  Noted powerhouses they are not.  Zizic HAS to be better than Zeller and has some size, so hopefully he can add something.  I don’t really have much more to say really…

*Abdel Nader.  2016 2nd round pick.  He will be here I bet too…because they got him to stick around last year up in Maine instead of going elsewhere.  Likely made him a promise for 2017-18, since the 2016-17 team had a roster crunch.  But again, he has to be end of bench material.  I guess he played well for Maine, but that is the WNBA…er, I mean the NBA Development League.  I think James Young put up 40 every time they sent him there.  So I am not expecting much.

*The “other”Marcus Thornton/Ben Pepper.  2nd round picks, Thornton from 2015 and Pepper from 1997.  Ok, they won’t be here.  But the team still holds their rights.  That has to count for something.

*Lonzo Ball.  Please God, nnnnooooooo…

*Markelle Fultz.  I think the C’s keep the #1 pick and take Fultz.  Since I know nothing about college hoops, my analysis may really end here.  Fultz seems to be the consensus #1.  Maybe some other guys are good too, but it looks like Fultz is the guy.

And if he is, he needs to be the 3rd guard (presumably behind IT and Marcus Smart, with Terry Rozier the 4th guy, if he remains here…and Avery Bradley traded…as I see it anyway).  Fultz needs to play.  But not start…yet.  He definitely needs to come in and play meaningful minutes though.

*2018 Brooklyn first round pick.  Giddyup!!

*Three 2017 second round picks.  Yaaaaawn.

*Gordon Hayward.  And there’s this offseason’s Al Horford.  Maybe he likes Utah and will stay there.  I just don’t see it.  Sure, a lot of people are talking about this because of the Brad Stevens/Butler connection.  But I also hear that Boston can offer Hayward more money over the long haul.  I have no idea if this is true, but if so, that has to mean something too.  Boston over Utah, just in general?  Has to be a no brainer.  Ok, maybe another team makes a run at him too.  But it just feels like a done deal.  I’m probably wrong.

Is Hayward a top 10 player in the league?  Maybe not.  A pretty good player nonetheless.  And many believe he will actually come here.  No small feat when you consider the Celtics have problems attracting marquee free agents in their history, despite being the most decorated NBA franchise.  Then put him with IT, Horford, Fultz, Smart, Jaylen Brown, etc. and you may start to have something.

*Paul George.  Seems hell-bent on eventually landing in Lakerland.  At least that is the popular opinion.  I’m not sure I would trade for him if that is the case.

*Jimmy Butler.  Whatever.  Good player.  I just think the other options available to the Celtics are preferable.

*Big man X.  I don’t know who this is.  Hopefully someone who can bang around in the paint.  I know Brad likes his big guys to heave up threes and all.  But they should have a better presence inside somewhat next year.  I think anyway.  Ideally, they can dangle Bradley and/or Jae Crowder.  We’ll see.

Ok, so where does that leave us?  What it may look like:

Center:  Big Man X, Zizic

Power forward:  Horford, Yabusele, Jerebko

Small forward:  Hayward, Brown, Nader

“Shooting” guard:  Smart, Fultz

Point guard:  Isaiah, Rozier, Jackson

A cheap veteran and/or 2nd round picks fill out the roster.  Bradley is your trade chip, tough to keep Crowder if Hayward is here and Brown needs minutes, Jerebko could be cheap and Brad loves him, Kelly Olynyk is still an option, but he may get some dough…or get squeezed by the team needing his money for other guys.  Moving pieces here and I’m certainly not looking to give Crowder and Bradley away.  Hell, they could still end up being here under their reasonable contracts.  They probably will, to be quite honest.

Championship team?  Nope, but one with some promise.  Especially if “Big Man X” is a player.

BUT if Anthony Davis is available and can be had…well…I may have to rewrite these three posts in their entirety…

 

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