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Three Weeks and…Change?

It’s been 22 days since the Blowhard wrote about what he would do at the Major League Baseball trading deadline if he ran the Boston Red Sox.  If you recall, I actually proposed selling off pieces and getting a head start on next season, despite the fact that the Red Sox were in first place at that time.  Just didn’t feel comfortable with the team…on and off the field.  Didn’t think they had enough to compete for a World Series title, especially when it came to teams in the National League like the Dodgers and Nationals…and presumably the Cubs.  I knew the team selling wouldn’t happen, but still offered up some ideas on what courses of action I would seriously consider.

What’s happened since then?  The Sox have only gone 14-4.  Yup, direct hit with the suggestions again.  Good thing no one reads this page…

Does the recent stretch of success change my overall feeling as we head into the final 41 games of the regular season? Well actually, not at all.

I’m going to spare you the review of every original bullet point from the July column.  But there are a few appropriate ones that still hold true in my eyes.

The Red Sox made one more move before the MLB trading deadline in July after the original post on 7/28.  That was adding set-up man/part-time closer Addison Reed from the Mets.  No, I am not counting the move that happened yesterday, losing Noe Ramirez on waivers to the Angels.  And you thought I cared about the 39th-40th man on the 40-man roster!  Well, yup, I do…just not today…

Reed didn’t endear himself to any of the fans when he first got here, but made it up to some people with his performance last night.  Definitely a solid addition.  But the fact remains that pretty much the rest of the bullpen sucks.  Ok, that is harsh.  But Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly don’t inspire confidence in key situations.  And besides Reed and Craig Kimbrel, those two are the next in line.  Brandon Workman?  Perhaps.  Heath Hembree, Robby Scott, Fernando Abad?  Useful 10-12th (13th?) pitchers on a major league staff.  But not people I’d like to see in the 7th inning of a close game against a contender, as Hembree and Scott were last night.  Still some holes out there.

Speaking of holes, the predicted Drew Pomeranz injury indeed popped up last night.  What happens if this lingers?  Eduardo Rodriguez is too inconsistent.  David Price, for better or for worse, will not be back this year.  Yup, take that to the bank.  I proposed seeing if some team would somehow trade for him in the last piece…then he went on the DL hours later.  Trade was never going to happen, I acknowledge.  But of course his injury flared up again anyway.  Have the surgery already…

Oh…Doug Fister sucks…ssssssoooo…other than Chris Sale, the starting rotation still has its holes as well.

The lineup has scored some more runs over the 18 game stretch…and also has had a couple of nice comebacks against the Yankees and Cardinals.  But overall, it is too inconsistent to rely on.  The same issues presented a few weeks ago persist.  Xander had a nice homer the other night, but has still frustrated all of Red Sox Nation.  Speaking of frustration…Hanley Ramirez everyone!  Rafael Devers has not cooled off, nor has Eduardo Nunez since they’ve both arrived.  I imagine that has to change.  And one of the teams hottest hitters in July was Dustin Pedroia.  Who knows what you will get out of him the rest of the year?  Mitch Moreland had a nice pinch hit last night.  But he is still…Mitch Moreland.  And on and on we can go…and I’m not even going to talk about the rampant putrid baserunning decisions.

Also, let’s look a little deeper into that 14-4 record.  8-0 against the White Sox, Rays and Cardinals.  Not exactly the iron of the league.  In fact, the White Sox should currently be playing in the International League with the roster they have now.  And the Red Sox didn’t exactly smoke them in their 4 game set.  That leaves a 6-4 mark against the Yankees, Indians and Royals (a team that should be better than their record).  So while 14-4 is impressive indeed, it is a smidge misleading.

I think we need to see how the next 16 game stretch goes.  2 more against the Yanks at home, then 11 of 14 on the road against the Indians, Blue Jays and Yanks again.  6 more division games at home after that.  Let’s take a look after the next 22 days then.  The AL East is mediocre this year, but that doesn’t make the games any easier when the calendar turns to September.  They should still be a tough road to hoe.

I know it doesn’t sound like it, but I am actually happy we can still talk baseball heading into September.  I’m just here to throw the caution flag up.  I’m not sure this team has any business competing for a championship.  You might say, “well the 2013 team really shouldn’t have either”.  You would be 100% correct.  But the 2013 team had many players that overachieved.  The 2017 team has many players underachieving.  The players in 2013 seemed tighter with no clubhouse drama (that I recall anyway).  And while there hasn’t been much chatter about the clubhouse in recent weeks (coincidentally, after Price went on the DL?), I wouldn’t say that things are all rosy there all of a sudden.  I suppose we can say all the players are united against the media, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a great clubhouse.

John Farrell has managed both clubs.  It’s a minor miracle either team was ever in the mix with him in charge…

Celtics Breakup Party, Part 2

Picking up right where we left off…just remember, DEMETRIUS JACKSON.  Ok, I will stop yelling now that I have your attention.  On to the rest of the roster, still in alphabetical order…

*Jonas Jerebko/Amir Johnson.  I’m going to lump these two together.  Because I can.  And they are next to each other on the roster.  More importantly, it’s because I thought neither one of their options should have been picked up before the season.  To me, it was a colossal waste of 17 million for a combined 36 minutes a game for these stiffs.  They couldn’t have paid one player the whole 17 mil and received a better return?

Harsh assessment?  Most assuredly.  But it is what it is.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again:  I have no idea what Johnson brings to the table.  None.  Doesn’t rebound.  Doesn’t block shots.  Doesn’t score.  Defense?  Perhaps.  But when I watched him, he didn’t make much of a difference.  Never comes up with a “50/50 ball”.  Etc.  Yet he started almost every game this year.  Oh, if you take away Jackson’s 1 for 1 on threes, then Amir led the team in three-point percentage.  Yup.  27 for 66, for 41%.  And yes, I just looked it up.  Actually, I was looking for something (anything?!) Johnson contributed and stumbled upon that nugget.  I know, only 66 threes attempted, so big deal.  But if you asked anyone if they thought Amir shot that many threes this season, they wouldn’t believe it either (10 for 43 for 23% last year, by the way…found that interesting as well).  So I guess I discovered something he did add to the mix.

You know what else I realized about Johnson?  That he was the second highest paid Celtic this year.  A distant second to Al Horford, but second highest nonetheless.  Yikes!!

I know, Johnny Kid…you will disagree with the above analysis.  But that’s how I saw it…

As for Jerebko, well, I didn’t have much love for him either.  He sure as hell hustles his arse off and can hit the occasional three himself.  But…seemingly takes up space for the most part.

I can’t even talk about these guys anymore.  I hope neither of them are back.  Although if Brad Stevens uses Jonas going forward like he did at the end of the playoffs, which is…barely…then if he wants to come back for a veteran minimum salary and there were open roster spots, I wouldn’t complain…too much.  Johnson?  I wish him well at his next stop.  If there is one…

*Jordan Mickey/James Young.  Uh oh.  There goes the alphabetical order!  But it made sense to lump these guys together.  Plus, “Y” does come after “M”, you know.

Before the season, I had high hopes for both of these guys.  I had no idea if either of these two could play in the NBA.  Unfortunately, I still don’t.  That’s what happens when these guys apparently drew straws for the 13th and final active roster spot on a nightly basis.

With the way this team was sure to have (and did have) problems rebounding, I was hoping Mickey would get some minutes to try to help that problem.  Young, being his third year but still only 21, I was hoping for him to get minutes to see if he would finally develop into something useful.  Neither one got those minutes because they went to Gerald Green, Jerebko, Johnson, etc.

We already know what the veteran bench guys can do.  We didn’t (don’t) know what Mickey or Young can do.  Maybe it’s nothing.  Maybe they just sucked really bad at practice and they didn’t ultimately “earn” their time.  But it would have been nice to find out about them in real games.

Based on the above, I don’t see either back next year.  Young is unrestricted anyway.  Mickey has non-guaranteed money, but doesn’t seem likely the Cs will guarantee it.

I have no idea why, but I bought into the Young hype from Day One.  Left school early, top 10 talent if he stayed in school (“they” say anyway), steal for where they took him in the draft (17th), etc.  I’ve always had this vision that he is like Jermaine O’Neal.  Not the style of play of course.  Not the “Boston Celtic years Jermaine O’Neal”.  But the O’Neal that came into the league at 18 years old, languished on the bench in Portland for 4 years, then blossomed into an All-Star as soon as he went to Indiana.

Yeah, Young probably doesn’t turn out to be anything.  But please note both he and Jermaine were taken at #17 in the first round of their respective drafts.  So if my hunch is right…somebody owes me something…

*Kelly Olynyk.  Who do I dislike more, Johnson or Olynyk?  It’s close.  If “Game 7 against the Wizards Kelly Olynyk” showed up more, it’s obviously a lot easier to trash on Amir.  Goes without saying.  But unfortunately, THAT guy shows up once every 40 games or so.  Or something like that.  It’s mostly the abundantly average KO that is around most of the time.  So it makes the decision tougher.

Listen, Olynyk will always be better than I will ever give him credit for.  It’s just that I like my 7-footers to be able to rebound and play down low.  And he can’t.  Which infuriates me a little as well because it looks like he may actually have some ability down inside, believe it or not.  I know, this is Brad’s system and that’s what he wants Kelly to do…blah, blah, blah.  I get it.  But I don’t have to like it.

As for next year, Olynyk is a restricted free agent coming off 3.1 mil this year.  If you ask me, I let him walk.  He will want a nice raise, for whatever reason.  But look closely at the numbers.  Four years in the league and no improvement really.  He has essentially been the same guy for those four years.  Is he all of a sudden take a step up in his age 26-27 season next year?  Or beyond?  Doubtful.  So why give this guy a fat raise for that?  He is what he is and there is some value to that.  Just not the value in dollars he likely will be looking for.  Let him go.

Honestly though, I think Danny makes a good effort to keep him, sad to say.  It probably depends on what they do with the guards and who they bring in and all that.  He may not fit financially when all the chips fall into place.  But Danny does try to keep him here.

*Terry Rozier/Marcus Smart.  Pairing these guys up based on position…and length of this post!  Smart played pretty much starters minutes and Rozier was essentially your 4th guard.  Rozier seems like he may be the better ballhandler and rebounder, Smart could possibly have the better all around game when you throw in his D.  Both are 23 years old with birthdays in March, so there’s that.  Even better, they were the only Celtics to shoot less than 40% from the field (about 36% apiece for both), so I suppose there are some similarities.

Despite the fact that he shoots entirely too much and no one bothers reining him in, and despite the fact that he can still be a knucklehead at times, Smart grew on me this past season.  If Avery Bradley is indeed moved as I think, I believe Smart moves into the starting lineup and takes another step up.  Just a gut feeling.

Rozier?  Don’t be shocked if he is moved either.  Yes, he could step up to be the primary backup guard.  I can’t say I would be opposed to that, as he showed some growth between his rookie and sophomore years in the NBA.  But I have other ideas for the #3 guard.  One could be Jaylen Brown, as discussed in the previous post.  Brown filled in there when Bradley missed time earlier in the year.  If Jae Crowder stays, Brown has to get more minutes somewhere.  And he no doubt has more upside than Rozier.

I have another player in mind for the #3 guard.  That’s a story for a different day however.

Next:  Still a big name missing…

First Round Upset Brewing?

For the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs that start tonight?  Against the mediocre Chicago Bulls?  Are you f’n serious?

A little bit actually, sorry to say.

From the get-go, I’ve been a little nervous about the series.  On paper, the C’s should win in 5 or 6 fairly comfortably.  But the news of yesterday kind of got me thinking about things.

The news from yesterday?  Chyna Thomas.  Yup, wait…who?

For those who haven’t heard, Chyna was a younger sister of Celtics star Isaiah Thomas and was killed in a car accident Saturday morning.  We all know what this team looks like without Isaiah.  And a lot of times it simply ain’t pretty.

My guess is that IT plays in all the games.  But, for one, he will quite obviously be playing with a heavy heart, as he damn well should be.  For two, between games, he will be logging some serious travel miles out to Washington state during the series to be with his family.  One could argue that he should just skip games to spend time with his family during this difficult situation.  And one may be right…he probably should.  I just don’t believe he will, right or wrong.

Isaiah has been awesome this year, especially in the 4th quarter.  But this will, and should, take some toll on him.  Although basketball is certainly secondary to real life, the games must go on as they say.  And IT’s situation will probably have some effect on the series.  How much remains in question.

That all being said, as I said above, this series caused some concern for me regardless of what happened yesterday.  Let’s start by saying that finishing with the top seed in your conference doesn’t really make you the top seed.  I know, they are the #1 seed because they finished first.  So my comment may sound idiotic.  BUT, should any team going 53-29 be a top seed?  I don’t know.  Doesn’t seem like a top record for a #1 seed.  The C’s would have been 4th in the West.  And the Cleveland Cavaliers should have been better than 51-31 with that talent.

The Cavs should have cruised to 60-plus wins with that roster.  But they rested guys regularly, had some injuries, roster turnover, mentally took some games off probably and so on and so on.  But they were focused on the long haul…as any team should be.  More concerned with a championship run than seeding.  They are one of the few teams that can do that sort of thing.  My guess is when they dismantled the Celtics in Boston a couple of weeks ago, that cemented their feeling that they could beat anyone anywhere, especially in the East, and they weren’t going to expend too much energy to get the #1 seed.  Valid thinking, in my mind.

Back to the Bulls series…admittedly, I have not watched a lot of Chicago Bulls basketball this year.  And it seems that they gave up a bit on this year at the trading deadline when they shipped two rotation players and a pick to OKC for 3 guys that don’t play…this year at least.  Dwayne Wade is 150 years old.  Rajon Rondo has been a distraction, per usual, benched on occasion, not to mention the fact that it appears he hasn’t been very good this year either.

I paid such little attention to the Bulls this year that I don’t even know who some of their players are.  Cristiano Felicio.  Who?

So I guess I am completely unqualified to comment on the Bulls.  But I will anyway.  Because this piece is more about how I think the Celtics will play down to their level anyway.

Plus…the Bulls still have Jimmy Butler.  Maybe not as awesome as everyone thinks he is.  But still likely the best player in this series.  I do apologize profusely to you Isaiah.

One more thing on Rondo:  A lot of people are expecting “National TV Rondo” here this series.  You know, the one that routinely throws up triple-doubles.  I am not expecting that.  I am not sure how much of that he has left in him.  However, I do expect him to up his game though.  Sure, based on the stage.  And the opponent…to show Boston fans what they are missing.  And probably will play tighter D on Isaiah.  To also “prove” to C’s fans that he is better than Thomas.  And all that.  But…we will see…

In any event, back to my concerns with the C’s before considering all of the above.  The Celtics seem to leave a lot of teams in games, despite how average or poor the opponent is.  They have trouble scoring without Isaiah on the floor.  Brad Stevens keeps trying to play 11-12 guys…even if one or two of them are when he tries to spot in a Tyler Zeller or Gerald Green for 5 minutes or so.  Or even James Young sometimes.  Too many.

More concerns?  Ok!  They can’t rebound.  Too many threes.  Kelly Olynyk sucks.  Marcus Smart shoots too much.  Oftentimes, Al Horford doesn’t shoot enough…from inside the three-point line anyway.  We’ve been through all of this before.  It hasn’t changed.  And now it’s the playoffs.

Thus far, I believe that ownership, Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens have done well in this Celtic “rebuild”.  I don’t know if a faster path has really been available.  But the fact remains that Stevens has not won a playoff series.  Until they do, I am always going to be skeptical.  Isaiah has been bottled up pretty good in past playoffs.  Sure he gets his points, but the percentages have been brutal and the points have been tough to come by.  Jae Crowder was atrocious in the first round last year.  Blame the ankle injury if you will.  I don’t…completely.  At least he was out there.  Avery Bradley went down yet again, so he was no help.  He’s always a ticking time bomb with injury.  So who knows this year?

I’ve had the same concerns with this team that I’ve had all season and you’ve all heard before.  The playoffs are a different animal and with the Cs playing only supposedly “good” teams, any issues will be exposed.  Ultimately, I think the Celtics win the series 4 games to 3.  I had initially thought 4-2, but that changed with Isaiah’s situation.  Maybe I shouldn’t have adjusted…after all, these guys have distractions all the time and, as professionals, should be able to handle them, right?   This one feels different though.  Bottom line though?  If the C’s don’t get through the first round, the season is a colossal failure…

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