So, similar to the Boston Bruins season preview posted a long time ago, it’s not really a “season preview” if you write it after the regular season starts. Especially when they are 7 games into said season. But also similar to the Bruins, I did not watch a lick of the Celtics preseason games. Not because I tuned them out, like I did the Bruins. But because I didn’t feel like the preseason would tell me all that much. I mean, how many people were riveted on the battle for the 15th roster spot between R.J. Hunter and James Young? Maybe it would have given me a little bit of insight into what Jaylen Brown is or could be or on how Al Horford looked in a Boston uniform initially or something along those lines, who knows? But I’m pretty sure I watched the MLB playoffs instead.
Anyway, in hindsight, I wish I had watched some of the preseason action. Maybe it would have made me feel a little better about things long-term. The 7 regular season games sure haven’t helped me much on that matter.
There are much higher expectations for this Celtics team in 2016-17. Even though they essentially added only Horford and Brown…Gerald Green too, if you so desire. They also didn’t really lose a whole ton besides perhaps Evan Turner…and I suppose Jared Sullinger. As a result, people all of a sudden expect the C’s to march into the Eastern Conference Finals with 50-55 or so wins without much competition. Probably feeling like Horford alone would help them do that. Feel like that’s a little aggressive considering they haven’t won a playoff series under Brad Stevens yet.
Personally, the Horford acquisition didn’t really fire me up too much. Way too much money for him. I did accept it though, because the Celtics certainly had to spend money on someone. And maybe Al could help bring some other free agents to Boston to help the cause. Either way, the trajectory seemed to still be pointing up, so it is what it is. I think we have already been through all that though.
The fact is, Horford alone was not all of a sudden going to make this Celtics team a championship contender. MAYBE 2nd in the East behind Cleveland. But could we guarantee that? After all, other teams did things to improve themselves as well. I think people locally felt 2nd in the East was a foregone conclusion. Now we are seeing that this will clearly not be the case. That it will at least be a dogfight.
Why? A lot of reasons actually. Of course, it’s never really just one reason. But here is one man’s opinion of some of the reasons, in no particular order:
*Press clippings. Full disclosure: I haven’t seen every minute of every game. But I’ve seen enough to know that it appears the defensive intensity isn’t quite the same as last year. This team won fans over last year by giving max effort every game all year long. Doesn’t seem the same this year. Oh, it appears Avery Bradley has upped his offensive game. Defensively though? The team is giving up like 112 points per game. And that’s a silly amount in today’s game. Maybe the players have let last year’s praise go to their head?
*Injuries. Horford, Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk have missed time already this year. Olynyk still stinks, but the Celts don’t think so. In any event, any time you take 4 of your rotation guys out, there is bound to be some struggles.
*Rebounding. Wow. This has been horrific. I really do not have to tell you that though. Bradley is averaging almost 8 boards a game and that is awesome. But what’s not so awesome is that he leads the team. All 6’2″ of him. Atrocious. Whoda thought they may miss Sullinger here, even a little bit? And why can’t we see more of Jordan Mickey here? I have no idea if Mickey can even play in the NBA. And I know he is listed at 6’8″. But he got boards in college. Let’s see if he can do it in the pros. Olynyk is 7 feet, but he isn’t going near the basket. Ditto Jonas Jerebko and his 6’10” Tyler Zeller is 7 feet and Amir Johnson is 6’9″, but rebounding machines they are not. Horford really isn’t either anymore either. Give the kid more minutes and just see, I beg of you Brad. And yes, I confirmed all those heights. Fact checking, gotta do it!
*Free throw shooting. Ok, somewhat minor. But have you caught a glimpse of some of the percentages being thrown up there? Frightening.
*Coaching. Yup. It’s the 4th year of the Brad Stevens regime. Time to start producing. I know it can be a slow build even back to respectability. Kids taken with all the draft picks can take time to grow. Blah blah blah. But then again, outside of Smart and a smidge of Terry Rozier, none of those picks are playing all that much. Too many of the mediocre veterans are. Johnson, Jerebko and Zeller in particular. Even Gerald Green. Outside of Amir burying 4 threes in one quarter earlier this season, I’m not sure he’s been very recognizable on the court. I have no idea what Jerebko does at all. Seems to be completely useless to me. Both of their options were exercised for this year (12 mil for Amir and 5 mil for Jonas). I would have taken that 17 mil and spent it elsewhere. Zeller’s 2 years, 16 mil is slightly more palatable, but I may have spent that elsewhere as well. Maybe instead of Zeller giving you some offense at backup center, how about a backup center who plays defense, blocks shots and gets rebounds? Seems more sensible to me. Green’s signing has never made sense to me at all. Less than a million, but…why? I have no idea if James Young can play in the NBA either. But he is 21 years old. I’d rather give him the minutes to see if he pans out.
I don’t love the way Stevens has seemed to yo-yo Brown around as well. The 2nd game of the year he’s playing key minutes down the stretch against Chicago and then in Game 6 and 7 against Denver and Washington he’s getting pretty much glued to the bench? Even with Crowder out? Sure, he’s a kid and will make mistakes. Huge mistake in the last minute against Chicago in that aforementioned game. But he’s the #3 pick in the draft. With all the injuries early on, I’d be throwing him out there a ton and see what he’s got. Except in their 2nd game against Chicago where he had 4 fouls in 8 minutes. Kind of tough for him to play a lot more in that one with that “production”.
There was the Opening Game against Brooklyn, where Brad pulled his starters too early and it almost cost them. Thought they would cruise against Brooklyn with the bench, they weren’t any good, everyone seemed to stop playing, etc. Brooklyn did hit some good shots, but still.
The C’s also take too many threes, many of them ill-advised. But that’s enough Stevens bashing. I actually like the guy. A lot of the above can actually be pointed in another direction. Brad can only go with the players he has. Ssssoooo…
*GM: …it’s time to pull the trigger Danny. Of course, I’ve been saying this for quite some time. And maybe 7 games into the current season isn’t actually the right time. Especially with some players hurt. But when everyone is healthy, Stevens is going to try to find minutes for like 12 guys. And that’s at least too many, maybe 4. Kind of reminds me of the 2006-7 season. When Doc Rivers was trying to play 12 guys. Playing a guy like Tony Allen 5 minutes one night, 30 the next, 13 the next, etc. Playing too many guys and jerking around their minutes at the same time. Trying to find good combinations sure, but really not developing any of the young guys and all that. Coincidentally, Gerald Green was also on that team. Anyway, Ainge helped Doc the next year by getting Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and getting rid of the excess.
No one is going to give Ainge those types of players on the cheap again. Especially when stories have been out that Danny tries to “win” every deal. But he needs to find a way to clear some guys to shorten the rotation. But more importantly, “clear” those guys and get something significant in return. It’ll be tough, because again, no one is going to be like old friend Kevin McHale and do Ainge a solid. And it’ll also be tough because it appears that the C’s young players aren’t as good as Danny may think they are. Young is playing himself off the team, as the C’s did not pick up his option for next year. Hunter is already gone…though it looks like he hasn’t even suited up for the Bulls yet. Ben Bentil was supposedly a steal at the end of the 2nd round, but he is gone as well. Then again, he also got waived by Indiana shortly after they claimed him. I actually would have kept him. Why not? He got some boards in college, maybe he could have helped there, who knows?
The point is that Ainge may have already missed the boat on dealing the younger guys. And there is a couple more 1st rounders stashed overseas that will be here eventually. More draft picks as well. Abdel Nader, a late second rounder this year, agreed to go to the D-League. And this is all after they traded 2 of their picks last year for a 2019 first rounder. One of those 2 picks taken by Memphis 31st overall, was used on Deyonta Davis. Who? Yeah, I don’t know if he can play either. But he was supposed to be a mid-first rounder. Supposedly can rebound and block shots at a minimum. Sounds like someone the Celts could use as a backup big man. Maybe he’s stinks too, though it’s probably too early to tell. Can’t wait for that 2019 first rounder though.
There are 75 games left, so there is probably no need to panic. This season just feels different from last year…so far. Maybe it’s the injuries. Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above and the ship will get straightened out soon. I just feel like this is the year that the team needs to take a step up and I don’t see it. I’m not sure I see it with everyone healthy. Still waiting for moves to be made. I think everyone is. But I’m not sure anything will happen, certainly not any time soon. So I ask…how much longer can we wait?
Editor’s note: The majority of this was written before Friday night’s demolishing of the Knicks. I can unequivocally say that this game does not change my overall view. By my count, the Knicks have only 3 players (Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick Rose) and maybe 3 other guys that can be useful (Courtney Lee, Joakim Noah and Brandon Jennings) and that’s about it. Rose is not the same guy as the superstar that came into the league like 8 years ago and ‘Melo got tossed in the 2nd quarter. They actually gave minutes to that white dude from Wichita State with the bad hair. Nice win, but I’m not getting worked up over it.
I’ve got to be careful what I write here. I don’t want to offend LeFraud. He’s going “home”. Probably just because he wants to be loved so much in his hometown and all of Northeast Ohio. He must feel bad about the whole “Decision” process from 4 years ago. Gag…
I could care less about what LeBron does. I’m far from a Cleveland Cavalier fan. But what those clowns did 4 years ago, starting with the whole televised “The Decision”, to the dancing on stage with all three morons down in Miami…just foolish. I understand that these days the NBA seems to be more about entertainment, rather than actual basketball. And it’s ALWAYS about money…we all know this. But someone should have told LeBron and the other idiots that this whole scenario was a pretty bad idea from the get-go. In reality, he shouldn’t have even NEEDED anyone to tell him it was a bad idea, despite his young age. Pretty obvious. Especially if he was worried about what people would think of him. It actually still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, despite James’ greatness on the court. That’s never going away for me. It is remarkable how Cavaliers fans now are ignoring it for the most part I feel. Guess that’s what happens when you never win.
And James IS great on the court, no question. But he does always seem to look for the easiest solution at every turn. I suppose if I was in his shoes I would do the same…I mean, look at his first tour in Cleveland. It was him and most of the time, some other flotsam and jetsam. OK, Mo Williams and Big Z Ilgauskas and guys like that were decent, but by and large, not championship timber. So who could blame him for wanting a few other bona fide superstars around him to make title runs every year?
Who could also blame him for wanting a max contract this time around? He has never been the highest paid player on his TEAM, no less the entire league, so in that context, he deserves a max deal. Despite the fact that no one deserves this type of dough. Or that this ignores the fact he also makes a zillion dollars in endorsements. But whatever. I know that in my career, when I see useless stiffs making more money than me, that makes me upset…so it’s all relative.
I have to say that even though this whole “decision” process has been much more low-key, I am still not a fan of it. There were still some theatrics to the whole thing. Giving a story to a Sports Illustrated writer? Why? Because that writer (and the magazine itself) have been highly respected for years? And this is supposed to change our impression of LeBron this time around? Because he wanted to leave ESPN out of this for this time?
I’ve heard all kinds of talking heads spout many ideas about why he chose this route. Who knows the truth? I’ve also heard people say that this time around the move was “classy”, “tasteful” and saying, “I respect the hell out of him for it”. WHAT?! Joke. For this to happen, it all had to be orchestrated carefully to make sure it all happened definitively in the end. That includes the trade of two players to the Celtics for nothing (not that the two players the Celts got are difference makers. But they still got them for nothing). Prepping the letter. And everything else. I know the story was told “through Lee Jenkins”. But does anyone think LeBron really came up with all that himself? I’m sure most of the letter was pre-crafted to make him look good and then LeBron signed off on it. People are acting like he sat down and penned it himself and Jenkins proofread it for spelling and grammatical errors or something. Doubtful.
In any event, even though I am done with any offseason “performances” by James, I AM excited that he finally picked a place. Now all the other free agents can make their plans too. The teams can do what they need to and we can see how the league will take shape. Locally, we can see what Danny Ainge will do with the 17 mediocre players and satchel of draft picks he has. He can’t possibly keep all of the “assets”, can he? I’m not sure what trade options are out there, especially with Kevin Love now considering Cleveland. But Ainge has to be able to make some moves, no? I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, my first move is to unload Rondo. This is no secret. There HAS to be some sort of market for him. As the team is currently constituted, Rondo is not coming back after next year. He’s already said he is looking forward to testing the free agent market. The Celtics would be extremely stupid to give him a max deal that he wants. A team that trades for him would presumably, at the very least, want him as a one-year rental, not a trade deadline rental. So I would think it behooves other teams to make a deal for Rondo sooner, rather than later.
Around the rest of the league, no surprise to me that ‘Melo is going back to the Knicks. More money for him there…seems like that is why Chris Bosh went back to the Heat. The Heat’s max money is greater than what any other team can give him. And I suppose he will be the focus there now, even if D-Wade comes back. Still surprising that he wouldn’t jump to another team (Rockets) that had plenty of money to give him and plenty of talent around him. Kind of a surprise to me. As is Gordon Hayward getting 63 mil. And anyone giving a 37 year old Vince Carter a 3 year, 12.2 million dollar contract. This is only the beginning.
At least LeBron is done…and now we all can move on…mercifully…until the introductory press conference of course…