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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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Draft Musings…

…NBA AND NHL!  Nice…although is there really a ton of interest in the NHL draft?  I don’t know…

But since the NBA draft is like an hour away, let’s start there.

The Boston Celtics have the 27th pick.  Quite a change from previous years where they had the #3, #3 and #6 picks in three of the last four years.  #16 in the other still is better than #27.  The players?  Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier, respectively, in the order of the above list.  Not a bad haul.

#27 doesn’t really excite me…or anyone else really.  But hey, Kyle Kuzma went #27 last year.  So maybe there is hope.

In any event, what do I expect “Trader Danny” Ainge to do?

Actually, nothing.

I know, there have been a gazillion rumors out there the past couple of weeks.  Ranging from Danny moving up in the draft by “only” giving up Rozier, Marcus Morris and all 4 (potential) first round picks in 2019.  To involving Jaylen Brown in a trade to move up.  To moving Brown as part of a package to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard.  To trading Kyrie Irving to just about anywhere because of questions of Kyrie’s commitment to re-signing in Boston after next season.  And many more.

So I expect the C’s to stand pat at #27, or even possibly trade down and get more picks.  Gotta love second rounders!!

BUT…what do I WANT them to do?  Not exactly sure.  We here at the Blowhard love a good “splash”.  But I don’t want that “splash” to involve Tatum, Brown or Gordon Hayward.  Although, despite Danny’s reputation on trading anyone if the deal is right, I wouldn’t expect him to do so with Hayward regardless.  Gordo signed here the last offseason as a free agent, more than likely in large part due to his college coach, Brad Stevens, being in charge here.  Then he plays 5 minutes the whole year while suffering a major injury and then Ainge deals him?  I doubt it.  Then again, Danny traded Isaiah Thomas with his bum hip, after IT helped breathe some life back into basketball in the city and had a LARGE fan base.  Though…different circumstances, I will allow.

I would be ecstatic if someone overpaid for Rozier.  I like the guy, but we’ve been through this before.  I look at Terry as no more than a third guard.  He probably looks at himself as a max contract player.  This will eventually be a problem.  Not to mention that if Kyrie does indeed play for the C’s next season and then Smart also comes back, how many minutes is Rozier going to get?  That could be a problem as well.  Trade him while the value is high…and maybe highest it will ever be.  Here, for sure anyway.

I wouldn’t mind trading Morris either.  Not sure you will get much for him.  And although he will be cheap next year at 5.375 mil, what happens when he doesn’t get his minutes next season as well?  This guy is liable to go off the deep end.  Never know with him.

Now, I am not packaging Morris and Rozier to move up from #27 to say, #15.  But I am sure Ainge has investigated some options.

And I don’t necessarily want to trade them regardless either.  Especially since Rozier is cheap too, at a shade over 3 mil for next season.  But I am investigating realistic options for trades.  And also considering that these two players are going into the last season of their respective contracts.  And if everyone comes back, their minutes (and therefore, their value) will markedly decrease.  And you ain’t re-signing either after next year to a fat contract that they will likely demand…unless some things change (ie:  Kyrie actually does leave).

That being said, I am not opposed to bringing the whole gang back next season.  With everyone healthy, can they compete for a title?  I think so, while also adding a few minor bench tweaks.

The problem is, I strongly believe there is another shoe to drop with Ainge.  I really do think he has one more big move up his sleeve.  It may not be tonight.  But I believe it is coming.

Kyrie?  Sure, if he says he is taking off somewhere after this season.  Absolutely in that case.  We all understand why he isn’t re-upping this offseason.  But he is noncommittal on his future.  Now, that could be because he has a few screws loose (the Earth is flat?).  No one knows what he is saying privately.  Hopefully, Danny does know.

Kawhi?  I don’t know.  He has the one year left on his contract too.  How last year went down with him individually seems a little mysterious.  I doubt he would re-sign here, but I guess I don’t know.  Worth the risk?  Not sure for me.

As usual, I think Danny’s big move will come out of nowhere.  Guess we just have to wait.

So please stay tuned…

As for the Boston Bruins, not sure the draft is anything exciting to talk about.  I mean, they don’t have a first-round pick.  And who knows anything about hockey first rounders anyway?

It’s not like the B’s have the #13, #14 & #15 picks like they had in the 2015 NHL draft.  Where they took D Jakub Zboril, LW Jake DeBrusk and RW Zachary Senyshyn.  Although DeBrusk may become a stud, that haul may end up being somewhat underwhelming.  Ok, the other two are still developing.  But let’s consider they are 2 of only 3 first rounders from that year that have yet to log a single minute of NHL action.  Let’s also consider that the dude that went #16, Mathew Barzal, just won the Calder Trophy last night as NHL Rookie of the Year.  Sigh…

In any event, rumors are that Don Sweeney wants to perhaps trade back up into the first round.  I don’t know.  They have enough kids in the pipeline, do they need to give up assets to get another?  Maybe if that prospect is in the top-5 and is a potential first pairing defenseman.  But otherwise, I am not sure it’s worth it.  And I don’t even think that the above scenario is realistic anyway.  Allegedly, the B’s had tried to trade those aforementioned 2015 picks into the top-5 that year and nab defenseman Noah Hanifan.  That clearly didn’t work.

What can Donnie Hockey do?  He can certainly trade some veteran assets, as discussed in the last Blowhard piece.  But good luck with that.  They all have some sort of no movement clauses it appears.

Heard a great rumor today.  Unload David Krejci and David Backes.  Then sign John Tavares to a mega deal.  And either Ilya Kovalchuk or Rick Nash to a shorter, but likely still lucrative, deal.

Pipe dream?  I think so.  Who is going to take Backes’ and Krejci’s salaries?  And they have no-movements.  They can be convinced to waive those?  Maybe there are certain teams they can be moved to, I honestly don’t know the details.  But getting rid of those two contracts would seem to be far-fetched.

Another popular one is now moving Torey Krug because the team just re-signed Matt Grzelcyk to a new deal and the two of them have similar skill sets.  Let’s not forget Krug has a full no-trade clause.  So how is that all going to work?

Sweeney should do something…even involving the draft.  But I simply do not see how he can pull it off.  We’ve been through all this in detail before too.

I’d be shocked to see anything come of certainly draft night for the B’s.  And even through free agency, other than losing some pieces and signing some small pieces to replace those players.

But then again, I don’t work in the front office for the B’s…there’s probably a good reason for that, I guess…

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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