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Train Wreck?

I admit, I can’t really watch much anymore.  I can’t…and I don’t really want to either.

The Boston Celtics that is.

It’s kind of a shame since basketball was one of my top two sports growing up.  Granted, that was during the Larry Bird era.  Kind of a good time to start following the local team, I will allow.

But still…

The game has changed since those days…and I’m talking more than just the short shorts that the players wore back then.  THAT is one of the positive changes over the years, no doubt.

Many people will tell you the game has changed for the better since the 1980s.  That’s completely their right to have that opinion.  But they would be wrong.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again…repeatedly, for sure.  Too many threes being jacked up.  Too many one on four breaks…and when there is a four on one break, one of the four pulling up for a three pointer.  Boxing out, rebounding, passing and many of the fundamentals of the game have deteriorated, in my opinion.  Sure, there can be some decent passing…but generally with four guys around the three point line.  Guys passing up layups to throw it out to the three point line.  Too much “Showtime” and guys still wanting to see themselves in the highlight reels.  Etc.

Again, my opinion…and perhaps I just don’t watch enough basketball.  The skill level of the players is certainly higher than in past eras…maybe even exponentially so.

But the quality of the actual game?  Inferior.  Sorry.  And I am not even including the debacle that was on in the background where I was on Sunday…the NBA All-Star Game…which we know is not a real game.  But atrocious nonetheless.

In any event, this piece really wasn’t supposed to be about the state of the NBA in my eyes.  But the state of the Boston Celtics instead.

The C’s were SUPPOSED to be the Eastern Conference’s representative in the NBA Finals this year.  I mean, didn’t we all think that?  Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward added back to a team that lost in seven games in the Conference Finals last year.  LeBron out West now.  Toronto, even with Kawhi Leonard being added to the mix, having a poor playoff reputation.  Teams like Milwaukee and Philadelphia, though possessing talent, not being quite ready to take that “next step”.

Welp, so much for THAT.  I mean sure, it could still happen.  But who feels confident in that now?

Certainly not I.

The Celts still do have all that talent.  Though Hayward clearly isn’t the same guy as he was before his gruesome injury, at least thus far.  But as we have seen this season, there appears to be a problem in the locker room.  And is Coach Brad Stevens finally showing some cracks in the armor?

The locker room thing appears to be a case of the veterans versus the young guys.  And as much as a lunatic Kyrie can seemingly be at times, I think I end up falling on the side of the vets.  Jayson Tatum appears to be a future superstar.  Jaylen Brown could possibly be as well.  Terry Rozier?  Not in my mind.  But he thinks he is already.  And it appears the other two dudes do too.

The rumors tell us that the kids feel like they didn’t need Kyrie and Gordo last year to advance as far as they did.  So they feel like they don’t need them now.  But the pair came back and have been kind of ruining the kids’ mojo.  Truth?  Not so sure about that.  Adding a superstar and a pretty good player when he was at full health should not hurt the situation.  Yes, “having too many cooks in the kitchen” can sometimes be detrimental.  We have talked about that a number of times before.  But that’s where Stevens should make his presence felt.

But is he?  Or HAS he?

Seems like this is the first time Brad has faced any adversity during his NBA coaching tenure.  And I am not sure it’s working out the way he wanted…at this time anyway.  I know I wouldn’t mind seeing…or hearing…more noise around him.  Meaning, what he is doing to try to make things better.  But also maybe putting more heat on him to figure it out.  But yeah, yeah, yeah…he keeps it all “in house”.  So we may never know what Brad is doing behind the scenes.  But whatever he is doing hasn’t manifested itself in public.  And Stevens seems still mostly to be in the honeymoon stage with the fans.

The C’s are currently tied for 4th in the East, six and a half out of first with 24 to go.  They are playing .638 ball, which sounds ok…until you realize that it’s only good for 52 wins in an 82 game season.  Plus that 14-13 road record ain’t so appealing.

Barring a catastrophe, they will not finish worse than 5th.  They are a game out of third place coming out of the All-Star break.  And it would seem to behoove them to finish in third so they can play whatever flotsam finishes in 6th.  Rather than finishing 4th or 5th and having to play the Pacers or 76ers in the first round.

The Celtics can conceivably not make it out of the first round this season if the latter scenario unfolds.  Think about that for a second.  If the C’s get dumped in the opening round, how does that affect the team next year?

Welp, that could mean Kyrie’s official exit.  Wait, he committed to Boston in the fall, right?  Ummmmm…maybe?  Based on how this season has gone, it would not shock me if he took off this offseason.  But wait, Danny Ainge can trade for Anthony Davis and Kyrie will stay and all will be good, right?  Well…sure.

At this point, nothing would surprise me.  I also actually think that the C’s will make the trade for Davis this offseason.  I feel like that since New Orleans did not trade AD at the deadline, therefore creating a difficult atmosphere in THAT locker room the rest of this season, that the Pelicans were almost telegraphing a trade to the C’s during the summer.  I say this because, although I am sure they got some decent offers at the deadline, they probably thought that the Celtics would have the best offer in the summer.

Sure, another team could make a great offer in the offseason.  Absolutely possible.  But the way Ainge lusts after Davis and the amount of “assets” that the Celts COULD offer the Pelicans…isn’t this almost like a foregone conclusion?

I feel that way.  Then again, the Pelicans just fired their general manager.  So who the F knows what happens now?

Either way, there’s a good chance Davis gets traded to Boston, then hits the road to the Lakers when he can after one year in town.  So there’s THAT.  And that ain’t gonna keep Kyrie in tow.

I guess we won’t worry so much about the offseason until the offseason.  Let’s get back to the outlook this season.  In which again, I am not confident.  All the above we already spoke about.  Marcus Morris had some words to say, while he hasn’t been the same player as earlier this year.  Marcus Smarts’ shot has (predictably) stopped falling.  Trade rumors, free agent rumors, etc.  Add it all up and it doesn’t look good.

And then Danny did nothing at the trade deadline.  Feels like that is unusual.  Well, he did trade Jabari Bird for absolutely nothing.  Wait, who?  Bird is a guy that hadn’t played a minute for the team all season.  With good reason too, as he really should be in prison.  Why?  I don’t have the energy.  Just trust me on that one.  Or Google it if you like.

I suppose that opens up a spot for a guy that was bought out.  Yippee!  Greg Monroe, Part II anyone?  If a big guy is going to be the target for that spot, I’d rather give those minutes to Robert Williams.  But Stevens apparently is treating this year as a redshirt year for him.  Why?  I don’t know.  Seems to me that at the very least, the last spot on the bench on the active roster would be ideal for a guy that can block some shots and grab some rebounds if you need him to.  What’s the sense of dressing Guerschon Yabusele instead?  I mean, what does Yabusele bring to the table?  To me?  Zero.

In any event, based on all of the above, I have pretty much lost interest in this season.  Despite the two wins right after Morris did his chirping, including a big win on the road in Philly.  This season has been underwhelming and a big disappointment.  There is time for the team to redeem itself, specifically in the playoffs.  But again, does anyone expect them to?  “Train Wreck” may be a little harsh.  It’s not that bad.  But then again, I am not ruling anything out.

All of this can make you pine for the scrappy days of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk and the gang a little bit, no?  Sad to say, I’ve given it some thought…

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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…

 

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.

 

 

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