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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?

Smorgasbord…

…lots to catch up on here, let’s start with the Thursday Night Football game and then dive right in:

Miami at Baltimore (-3.5)  

The Dolphins are 4-2 despite scoring only 92 points in 6 games.  They will be going with their backup QB in Matt Moore.  However, Moore may actually be better than the starter, that fraud named Jay Cutler.  Speaking of frauds…Joe Flacco everyone!  Neither team really excites me this year.  Therefore, take the points.

Miami 21, Baltimore 17.

Week (against the spread):  9-6

Week (straight up):  10-5

Season (against the spread): 50-56

Season (straight up): 64-42

Now for the rest of the Boston sports world, in no particular order:

*John Farrell is gone as the manager of the Boston Red Sox.  We have known that for a bit.  And everyone on God’s Green Earth knows how I feel about Farrell.  So no need to expound on any of those thoughts here.  Good riddance.  Buffoonery at every angle.

But…Alex Cora?  Count me among the unimpressed.  Just six years removed from the game, but more importantly, he has no managerial experience whatsoever?  Yeah, I’ve heard he managed the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic.  But who cares about that?  He was (is) a bench coach for the Houston Astros.  Doesn’t excite me either.

People are raving about him.  Maybe he has great people skills.  And actually can manage.  More importantly, maybe he can straighten out those morons in the clubhouse.  But…how do we really know?

He actually played here from 2006-2008.  Does that help?  Perhaps a little.  He knows what the demands are here in Boston.  Looks like the only player on this roster he actually played with was Dustin Pedroia…and Pedroia took his job.  People describe Pedey and Cora as close.  But I swear I remember Cora being pissed Pedroia took his job.  I don’t know, maybe Cora can also play 2b this upcoming season until Pedroia comes back…as we learned Wednesday that Dustin had knee surgery that will keep him out around seven months.  If the other options are Brock Holt, Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin, then why not?  I know, there is a whole offseason to find a better temporary 2b option.  But some local jamoke writer actually proposed those three clowns as legit (and probable) options.

Let’s also look at the hiring process.  The only three guys General Manager Dave Dombrowski thought of interviewing were Cora, Ron Gardenhire and Brad Ausmus?  THESE guys were the cream of the crop?  YIKES!

Dombrowski has some work to do on the actual roster and most certainly the clubhouse.  Let’s also see who Cora surrounds himself with on his staff.  But this hiring reminds me of a somewhat similar one for the Sox back in 1992.  A hire that a former college hallmate termed a “franchise manager”.  They had to go get him before someone else swooped him up.  Yup…Butch Hobson.  Ugh…

*The Celtics obviously took a big hit with the Gordon Hayward injury.  Just over five minutes into the season he goes down for the year…what a kick to the junk.

But you know what?  They’ll still be up there fighting for the top seed in the East.  Cleveland will probably treat the regular season as an extended preseason, similar to what they did last year.  There are other competitive teams in the East.  I suppose Milwaukee, Washington and Toronto will be in the upper tier.  But not unbeatable, even without Gordo.

Look, with only 4 of the 16 players on the roster carrying over from last year, there was going to be an adjustment period anyway.  I don’t think anyone thought the C’s were going to win the NBA Finals this year with full health.  Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum appear to have a world of talent (though I am not getting too high about their performance against the lowly Knicks on Tuesday).  But let’s remember they are 21 and 19 years old, respectively.  In fact, 7 of the 16 players are rookies, though admittedly most of those are on the back-end of the roster.

It’s a long season and anything can happen.  Barring any other unforeseen major injury, I’m still excited about watching this team develop.

*I don’t believe Jae Crowder intentionally tried to injure Hayward.  But he certainly had a hair across his arse in the opener.  Al Horford got all worked up at him at one point.  Don’t see Al react like that much.  Anyway Jae, let it go dude.

*Brown certainly looks like a different player this season.  I know summer league means squat.  But I did watch some of the games there.  Judging by how Jaylen has come out in the regular season thus far, I would have expected him to dominate the summer league.  And he was pretty unimpressive there, in my opinion.

In any event, for a guy with his talent, he seems to have a lack of touch around the rim.  Seems like he could have added several layups to this years’ total already.  But I shouldn’t complain.  He sure looks a hell of a lot better taking outside shots than he did last year.  Keep improving his finishes around the rim and of course the free throws and the sky COULD be the limit.

*I have no idea if guys like Abdel Nader, Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele, Daniel Theis or Jabari Bird can actually play in the NBA.  But I can for damn sure tell you one thing:  I’d rather give those guys a shot than have carried over the likes of Jonas Jerebko, Gerald Green, Tyler Zeller and Amir Johnson into this year.  We KNOW what those guys can do…and it’s not much.  Let’s see if any of these kids can develop into something.  While playing 9th to 13th man minutes.

I’m intrigued mostly by Theis, to be honest.  Now, I don’t want him playing 30 minutes a game.  But I’d like to see him get a consistent 10-15 minutes a night to see what’s there.  Listed at 6’9″, as a center, if he can add to the mix as a rebounder, that would be a tremendous help of course.  Especially considering the fact how horrid the Celtics were in that department last year.

*Last, but not least, the Boston Bruins.  This could be a looooong year, my friends.  But you know what?  I think I am ok with it.

Say what?  Think about it.  These guys are not championship timber, by any stretch of the imagination.  Not even a player or two away.  There has been an influx of young players this year.  Started a little bit last year, but you can really see it now.  There are apparently more to come.  Don Sweeney has been talking about this for years and we MAY be starting to see the “fruits of his labor”.

We have given Donnie Hockey a little bit of a beating the last couple of years, but if this was the plan all along, and Cam Neely (also taking a beating) and ownership have been on board with it…and of course if it eventually WORKS…then the B’s could be set up for years to come.  All the while remaining at least competitive during the transition years.

There is a long way to go, but in this young season we have seen glimpses.  We’ve also been horrified at some of the play.  But with young players and inexperience, that comes with the territory.  If the future is truly bright, then can’t we deal with the ups and downs for a little longer?

*Let’s break it down a little further.  If the lines this year when everyone is healthy are…

Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork

DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak

Vatrano-Spooner-Backes

Kuraly-Nash-Acciari

Chara-Carlo

Miller-McAvoy

Krug-McQuaid

…doesn’t that give you a little hope?  Specifically looking at Bjork and DeBrusk hopping right into the top six forward mix.  As well as Carlo and McAvoy making some noise on defense in their 2nd and 1st year, respectively.  Of course it would help if these guys really can play…and by all accounts they can.  It would also help if Vatrano and Spooner took their heads right out of their arses as well.  But you could always sprinkle in a Timmy Schaller…or a kid such as Danton Heinen or Austin Czarnik or I guess this Kenny Agostino dude they just brought up.  Or…

Of course, I’d rather still have Colin Miller over Kevan Miller.  Or ANYONE remaining from the Tyler Seguin trade (or someone who could play anyway…meaning…not Jimmy Hayes).  But if some of the other dudes eventually make it as well…Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Matt Grzelcyk, Rob O’Gara, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon…we could be looking at a solid young core for years to come.  We shall see…

*Lastly, I will also tell you, I would keep the kids coming.  As the trading deadline approaches and the Bruins likely at the bottom of the playoff seedings, or even slightly out of them, I would work to shop some of the vets and implement more kids.  Not everyone, mind you.  But a few.

First off, they couldn’t necessarily trade ALL the vets anyway.  Most of the higher paid ones of course have no movement clauses, thanks to former GM Peter Chiarelli…and a little by Sweens himself.

Who would I look to deal?  Tuukka Rask, top of the list.  You just don’t need a 7 million dollar a year goalie.  Especially for a team in transition.  He has a modified no-trade.  The door is open.  Zdeno Chara has had a nice career in Boston.  But he’s heading toward 41 years old.  And they are still throwing him out there for about 25 minutes a game…in OCTOBER!  Stop the insanity!  Give those minutes to someone else.  Z has a no-move, but maybe see if he will waive it to go to a contender.  I’ve heard people around here saying that they wouldn’t mind if Chara signed on for another 2 years after this year.  Once again, STOP THE INSANITY.  You still may be actually able to get something decent for him too.

Others?  Krug for sure.  3 more years at 5.25 for a defenseman that is truly an offensive specialist.  Has some no movement protection starting next year.  Move him before that goes into effect.  Backes?  Makes 6 mil for the next 4 years with a lot of no-move protection.  Likely untradeable.  Krejci?  I’d love to see him on the above line.  But injuries seem to be taking control of him.  And yes, no-move protections of course.

Just see what’s out there for some of those guys.  Can’t hurt.  Oh yeah, it’s time to just buy Matt Beleskey out.  That ship has sailed.  Actually, that ship sailed long ago…

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