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Celtics Breakup Party, Part 1

As we sit back and wait for months for the NBA Finals to begin…ok, an exaggeration of course.  But we can all admit the week-long gap between the end of the Conference Finals and the beginning of the NBA Finals is ridiculous.  As always, we can thank the television networks for that.

In any event, it’s time to put a cap on the Boston Celtics season.  The Celts lost to the Cavs in 5.  Exactly what I had predicted!  But regardless, a sweep or five games is what pretty much everyone thought.  So the Blowhard doesn’t deserve any extra props there, unfortunately.

Whimpering out of the playoffs certainly isn’t ideal.  However, their performance in the series certainly does not diminish the great season they had or the organizational progress they showed.

What the series does reveal is that there is still a great deal of work to be done.  No question there.  The 4 losses were by an average of 26 points…and it really was worse than that.  #1 seed in the East or not, the Celtics were just not in the same league as the Cavaliers.

So what do the Celtics do going forward?  Getting the #1 overall draft pick for the first time in franchise history certainly was a nice start to the offseason.  What else?  Here’s one man’s look at the current players on the 15-man roster, along with some added commentary on other random players.  Starting in alphabetical order, but maybe not finishing that way:

*Avery Bradley.  I know what I would do with Avery…I’d shop him.  I don’t hate the guy.  But the fact remains that Bradley, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart, Boston’s top 3 guards, are all free agents after next season.  Though Smart is actually restricted.  All are going to want sizable raises.  Not to mention that they also have Terry Rozier.  Jaylen Brown, though listed at small forward, stepped in for Bradley in several games when Avery was hurt.  The elite draft prospects are all guards, etc…

We will get into IT more later, but Smart may command less money than Bradley.  There are possible free agents coming.  Bradley signed a 4 year, 32 million dollar deal after the 2013-14 season, which many thought was a steep overpayment at the time.  Bradley got better, then pretty quickly became dissatisfied with the contract he signed.  You think he will “settle” this time?  Not likely.  Bradley also always seems to have plenty of nagging injuries that affect his availability.

Something has to give.  He’s a good player.  I’m guessing we have seen his ceiling however.  It just makes too much sense for him being the one to depart, based on all of the above.  This offseason.  Why let him walk after next year for nothing?  So I am moving him…we shall see what Danny does though.

*Jaylen Brown.  Easy here.  Keep him and play him more than the 17 minutes a game than you gave him this season.  20 years old, the third overall pick from last year had his moments this year, including the playoffs.  Sure, he looked like a rookie quite often, but what did you expect?  Hopefully, Year #2 will be another step up for the kid, with added responsibilities.  I have to say, he shot better than I expected this season.  That was the biggest knock on him coming out of college.  The physical tools appear to be there.  Take the training wheels off next year, and live with any bumps in the road.

*Jae Crowder.  See Bradley, Avery.  Move him.  Good player.  We’ve likely seen his ceiling.  Also see Brown, Jaylen.  They both technically play the same position and Brown needs more minutes.  There may be another impact small forward coming via free agency.  And all that.

Problem is, Crowder has an extremely team friendly contract.  He has 3 years left on a 5 year, 35 million dollar deal.  Great by today’s NBA standards.  I’d have no problem keeping him if he accepted a lesser role off the bench.  I don’t see that happening though.  Especially with Brown here and potential Free Agent Player X coming.  That’s one too many small forwards.  He also should have some good trade value, especially with the contract.  So in the end, I try to move him too.  I don’t know if Danny will though.

*Gerald Green.  I’m not really sure why he was here in the first place.  Sure he can shoot and get hot in a hurry.  But what else does he do?  And did you really need him?  I would’ve given his 11.4 minutes a game to James Young to see what you could salvage there in Young’s third year.  No need to bring Green back.  Brad Stevens may feel compelled to give him minutes again.

*Al Horford.  Welp, he’s going to be here for the next three years, whether we like it or not.  Would love to see him down in the paint more offensively and also grabbing more rebounds.  But he is what he is now.  And Brad loves his big guys to fire up threes.  So we have to deal with it.

That being said, he is a good piece to have.  Played pretty well in the playoffs.  Hopefully the C’s can find a true center next year and Big Al can play power forward.  Though I guess all of these “small forward, shooting guard, power forward” designations don’t necessarily mean as much as they did in the past, what with the current NBA style of play.  Either way, I’m ok with Al in my starting five next year.

*Demetrius Jackson.  Who?  Yup.  2nd round pick from last year, played in 5 games for a total of 17 minutes the entire year.  17 minutes.  On the roster the whole year.  Let that sink in for a bit.  That being said, if you have to fill the end of roster next year with cheap “talent”, it can’t hurt to have another ballhandler in tow.  Contract is non-guaranteed for next year, so your guess is as good as mine on what his situation will be.  Not sure it really matters anyway.

Next:  Wait, I can’t believe I wrote that many words about DEMETRIUS JACKSON!!  Because of that, I don’t even know what’s next…

On To Round Three…

…otherwise known as the Eastern Conference Finals.

So I was wrong about the Washington Wizards beating the Boston Celtics in the second round.  Wasn’t the first time I’ve been wrong, won’t be the last.  But we can all admit it the series really could have gone either way, when all was said and done.  And the fact that the C’s needed a big effort in Game 7 from Kelly Olynyk, of all people, to advance to the next round should scare the bejesus out of anyone rooting for the hometown team.

Kelly Olynyk?  Sweet, another thing that makes me look bad.  Though I won’t feel as bad when he averages about 5 points a game in the East Finals.

In any event, the Cleveland Cavaliers and King LeBron James await.  And I have to tell you, while watching Game 7 of the Wizards series, the Blowhard really wasn’t totally emotionally invested.  Normally in the playoffs, especially Game 7’s, we are hanging on every shot, every rebound, every referee call…everything.  All the while essentially funneling beers in the process.

But Monday night?  I don’t know.  It was sort of a weird feeling.  In the end, I determined that my lack of emotion came down to two things:

*I felt that the Celtics were going to get screwed in the draft lottery Tuesday night.  I know this has absolutely nothing to do with this year.  And from all indications there are a handful of pretty good players in the draft this year who should make an impact in the NBA.  So even dropping down to #4 may not have been catastrophic.  But with the way the C’s and Danny Ainge have been slowly rebuilding this team, I felt like anything less than the #1 pick would be a pretty big disappointment.

*More importantly, the fact is the C’s have zero chance in this series.  Yup.  That’s ZERO.  Not a snowball’s chance in hell.  None.  Nada.  Zilch.  Ok, enough.  But part of me was like, why bother winning this series?  So they can get embarrassed in the next one?

Stupid, I know.  You never know what can happen in any given series, right?  And when you can win a round in the playoffs, you certainly do it.  But I couldn’t shake the malaise.

Truth be told, we do know what is going to happen in this series.  What’s left to determine is how many games it will take for the Cavs to beat the Celtics.

Cleveland is 8-0 in the 2017 playoffs.  They seem to be on a mission toward another championship…or at least an expected date with Golden State in the NBA Finals.

Who’s going to stop LeBron James?  34.4 points per game in the playoffs, up from 26.4 during the regular season.  Jae Crowder?  Ummmm, I don’t think so.  The C’s could use his 6 fouls anyway.  Obviously, despite their defensive prowess, neither Avery Bradley nor Marcus Smart will be able to do it.  Jaylen Brown?  Please.

Sure, they can double and triple team the King.  But then Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love or J.R. Smith, or…a bunch of other guys will be running around wide open.  Kyle Korver will inevitably bury countless open threes.  Maybe Channing Frye too.

Tristan Thompson will undoubtedly slaughter the Celtics on the boards…along with Love and James.

I could go on, but will mercifully stop.  The people who say the Celtics have a chance will point to the fact that they got the #1 seed in the East for their performance in the regular season.  Key phrase?  “Regular season”.  Cleveland rested a lot, knowing they had a long playoff run to prepare for.  They most likely coasted in other games.  Then with a week left in the regular season, they came to Boston and blasted the C’s.  That just cemented they did not care about seeding.  They felt they could win anywhere, anytime.  And they are likely right…at least through the Eastern Conference.

There’s really nothing more to say.  Cleveland ends the run.  This time for real.  Four games to one.  I actually was going to say it would be a sweep, but the C’s may steal one.  Which one?  Guessing that if it’s any, it’s actually Game 1 tonight.  Cavs haven’t played in 10 days and may show some rust.  Celts are coming off a big Game 7 win and may be carrying some of that positive energy forward with them.  The game is in Boston.  Who knows, maybe the players are pumped the organization got the #1 pick yesterday!  Ok, not likely.

But if they don’t take Game 1, sadly it looks like a sweep.  It’s been a helluva ride though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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