…so here we go. The NBA season started last night. The Boston Celtics season starts tonight.
As was the case with the NHL, I am simply not ready.
You know, the heart of football season, World Series going on (despite the absence of the local team). the last NBA season feeling like it just ended…and all that…
Plus…the NBA has lost my interest as a whole a great deal over the last decade or two.
Too many threes, lack of fundamentals, no one boxes out anymore, four on one fast breaks where one of the four pulls up for a three or a long jumper despite having an easy layup in front of them, too much of the game being about entertainment and showtime…blah, blah, blah…I’m sure we’ve been through all of this before.
But now the whole Celtics course has exhausted me as well. Actually, it was Kyrie Irving that exhausted me really, so maybe the last statement was a little hyperbole.
In any event, last years’ team was supposed to be a championship contender…the culmination of several years of a rebuild, so to speak. Good coach, great players, young and old…someone who was going to cruise through the Eastern Conference and give some serious competition to the likes of the Golden State Warriors to try to claim the NBA title.
And we know how that went.
Just a trying year…certainly for the team…but also for the fans…if the players even care about them.
The two most prominent players who left, Kyrie and Al Horford, said as much. Although Kyrie was full of crap, per usual. That press conference he gave when he reported to the Brooklyn Nets’ training camp was comical in so many ways. But that was a while ago, so we won’t go there. Besides, I chafe even thinking about him nowadays.
Horford was a little more sincere, but he stopped short of blaming anyone in particular (from what I’ve heard anyway). He said something to the effect of “if Kyrie stayed, I am not sure we could have coexisted…”
Ssssssoooo…was he blaming Kyrie? Or the young kids (primarily Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum), who had tremendous egos, likely because they were on the cusp of the NBA Finals the year before without max contract guys Irving and Gordon Hayward and as a result seemed to clash when those guys came back? A little of both?
Not sure. But he was right. No way bringing back all of the same guys was going to work. I don’t think there is any question about that. Though also, let’s be real…Al left because he got PAID. A lot more than what people thought he was going to get.
In any event, where does that leave this years’ team?
Amazingly enough, what we wrote in July (last time we wrote about the C’s) pretty much sticks. Well, the composition of players anyway. But also…what is the rotation? I am not sure coach Brad Stevens has that nailed down yet. And we don’t like that.
Historically, I feel like Brad has tried to play way too many guys and cannot settle with an 8-9 man rotation. Didn’t like it when Doc Rivers did it either. Best thing that happened to Doc was trading like 7 of those average guys for Kevin Garnett. All of a sudden Doc had barely 6 guys to play. And it worked out pretty good because, well, those 6 were pretty good themselves.
Stevens, of course, has Brown, Tatum, and two max contract guys in Hayward and Kemba Walker. Decent start, as long as Brown and Tatum continue their upward trajectory and Gordo has fully recovered from his horrific injury two years ago to at least be close to the player he once was. And the team sure as hell counting on Brown continuing to improve, what with the almost 30 mil per he just re-upped for.
What’s after that? Hmmmmmm…
Marcus Smart of course. Solid all around player, but no star for sure.
Let’s start with what appears to be some sort of “four-headed monster” in the middle. I don’t think Stevens even knows how he is going to divide time up between Daniel Theis, Enes Kanter, Robert Williams and Vincent Poirier. Theis is undersized, but fits the offense better; Kanter is more of a traditional center and can rebound, but can’t play a lick of defense; Williams is young and still extremely raw and Poirier? No idea what he’s all about. He didn’t play much in the preseason either. Maybe at some point we will see ourselves some Tacko Fall too, if he shows anything all in the G-League in Maine.
My guess is that they roll mostly with Theis and Kanter, maybe mix in Williams a bit, but basically close games with Smart as the 5th guy on the floor instead of a big man if the situation allows for it (e.g. there is no big man on the other team to be accounted for…which in today’s NBA is a real possibility).
Then you have the other “kids”. The true rookies in Carsen Edwards. Grant Williams and Romeo Langford (maybe Tremont Waters from Maine as well). Edwards lit up the preseason, but I’m saying that doesn’t mean much. He is intriguing though. Langford has been hurt all summer/fall. Maybe he can contribute eventually. But not off to a good start. The team may like Grant. But I don’t know where he fits…this season anyway.
Who’s left? Ugh…right…Semi Ojeleye and Brad Wanamaker. Brad LOVES Semi (I don’t, can’t you tell?). So he will try and shoehorn him some minutes. I have no idea why Wanamaker is here. Third ball handler? Sure. But…whatever. The team cut Max Strus to get to the roster limit. And this was after Strus was the first undrafted dude they signed to a two-way contract…then made it a “real” contract and guaranteed him some dough…then he is gone.
Now, I really don’t know Max Strus from Levi Strauss, but I would have kept him over Wanamaker. No doubt.
I guess if we are debating the 13th-15th spot the roster, who cares? But still…
Oh, Javonte Green made the final 15 too…but since he will likely be #15 and he’s actually 26 years old…we will move on.
So while Brad actually figures out the rotation, this is what I think:
Starters: Walker, Brown, Tatum, Hayward, Theis.
Second unit: Smart, Edwards, Kanter, Ojeleye, Langford (when healthy).
11-13: Both Williams’, Wanamaker.
Inactive: Poirier, Green.
G-League: Fall, Waters.
That’s all well and good. But the real question is, can they compete?
I say absolutely. In the East anyway.
Toronto lost Kawhi Leonard, so they will likely fall back. Milwaukee still has Giannis, Khris Middleton and others…and looks like the favorite…but by no means do they look infallible. Same with Philadelphia. They still have Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and added Big Al. But still beatable. Indiana? Maybe when Victor Oladipo comes back eventually. Brooklyn with Kyrie? Not this season without Kevin Durant.
Looks like the East is wide open. Why can’t the Celtics make a run?
The locker room should be a whole lot more stable, we can definitively say that much.
And Brad seems to be a better coach when the expectations are lower (and talent is less).
I wouldn’t be shocked if the C’s were at least able to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. The NBA Finals? Won’t commit to that. But I reserve the right to change my mind once I see how these guys all come together.
Winning the NBA Championship? Ummmmm…nope. Not as I see it anyway.
Anything less than a visit to the second round of the playoffs would seem to be a disappointment.
At worst, perhaps this team will be easier to root for than last years’ team? We will see how they all mesh once it gets real.
I know, that’s not the goal. I mean, we loved those Isaiah Thomas teams. But what did that give us?
That being said, a team worth rooting for this season would be a breath of fresh air after the disaster that was last season.
Looks like the “fireworks” had already happened, well before the NBA draft last night. The Boston Celtics made all their draft picks, so no wild trades occurred. Well, they kind of made all of their draft picks. They moved around a bit. No big whoop…they still took 4 players.
Doesn’t mean “Trader Danny” won’t pull something a little more major off in the coming days, but it doesn’t guarantee he will either.
So what are we looking at? Who the hell knows really?
The big news really happened over the last several days. Kyrie Irving opted out of his contract, which we knew was coming. Al Horford then opted out of his contract…which we didn’t necessarily see coming. I mean, who is passing up 30 mil plus when they are a 33-year-old “big man” who had to be managed because of a bad knee (or two?). Welp, apparently Big Al is.
There were rumors the C’s were trying to turn that 1 year, 30 mil deal for Al into something along the lines of 3 for, I don’t know, 15-20 per. But apparently, it will turn out some other team will give him 4 years for 25ish per. Seems surprising. But I guess that’s what is happening.
Marcus Morris is also an unrestricted free agent, as are the 2 “G-League” guys if that matters. Not to mention that there are 4 restricted free agents on the roster, led by backup point guard Terry Rozier. If they all leave, that leaves 12 guys on the current roster, if you include the 4 draft picks from last evening. Which I am not sure I want to be doing now. But I will for the purposes of this exercise.
What is “this exercise”? Well, since I have no idea who Danny Ainge may be targeting in free agency when that opens up within a couple of weeks, nor do I know who he may go after in trades, I think the best thing we can do here is take the 17 bodies from last years’ roster and the 4 draft picks and talk about what we think the plan is with each. Plus perhaps what I would do, for whatever that’s worth.
I mean, Wyc Grousbeck, the “Lead Owner” of the Boston Celtics, said a couple of weeks ago on local talk radio something like “we are going to look at all the players on the roster and see who stays and who goes…”
So let’s do that right now…since…I’m just as smart as Wyc, right? RIGHT??!!
Haha…let’s move on, starting with the bottom of the roster. Why? Because of the off chance someone will read about them. If we start with the stars, will anyone read until the end? Wait, is anyone reading anyway?
Draft picks–Romeo Langford (#14), Grant Williams (#22), Carsen Edwards (#33), Tremont Waters (#51)–A shooting guard that shot a mere 27% from three-point land (going to a team that shoots too many threes already); a “small” power forward whose selection elicited a notable ‘wow’ type of response from one of the analysts (that probably wasn’t meant to be picked up by the microphones); a big-time scorer, but one that is undersized and a “small” point guard (“small” was emphasized three times right after the pick). Consider me underwhelmed.
PJ Dozier/R.J. Hunter (Unrestricted Free Agents)– Here are your two G-League free agents. Do you care? Probably not. I really don’t. But you all should know that Hunter averaged 17 points a game for the Celtics last year. Betcha didn’t know that! Ok, he played one game that didn’t mean anything and scored that 17. But still, “PPG” says “17.0” on the stat sheet. No one can ever take that away from him. So there’s that.
Jonathan Gibson (Restricted Free Agent)–This dude will be 32 in November. And has played 21 career games in the NBA. 17 for the Dallas Mavericks in 2016-17 and 4 for the C’s in 2017-18. Signed again with the Celts in mid-April 2019 and was on the roster for the playoffs, but didn’t play. All of that is so you know who this guy is. That being said, I’ve seen some of his garbage time minutes. This cat can really shoot! Could do worse for a 15th man. But I’d be surprised to see him back…until April anyway.
Robert Williams–Yup, the Celtics first-round draft pick from last year was actually the 14th man on the roster and a regular inactive when everyone was healthy last season. Seemed odd, when he had at least one skill (shot blocking) that would have been useful in certain game situations, whereas some other players that suited up seemingly had none. Whatever. Unless he gets traded this summer, hopefully, there will be some minutes available for him in 2019-20. I’d like to see more.
Brad Wanamaker (Restricted Free Agent)–A third point guard is nice. And the Cs will have one next year. Will it be Brad? I don’t know. Maybe Shane Larkin will come back. Or the second rounder from above. Does it matter?
Guerschon Yabusele–The Dancing Bear!! The 16th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Yabu has given the Cs 74 games at 6.6 minutes per game for 2.3 points per game in 2 years. Seems solid for that draft slot…sigh… Now he’s on the books for over 3 million next year, does he somehow earn more minutes this season? Let’s hope not. And also hope Danny can include his salary in a trade for something more useful.
Semi Ojeleye–I’ve never understood the “Shemi” infatuation. Coach Brad Stevens always seems to shoehorn him in every night. “Cuz he always guards Giannis well”, they will say. Ok. But what about everyone else? I do see his minutes per game went down from 16 his rookie year to 11 in his second. Didn’t realize that. Only on the books for 1.6 next year, so I imagine he will be on the squad. Let’s just hope his minutes don’t spike into the 20s based on the lack of other bodies available.
Daniel Theis (Restricted Free Agent)–I love this guy. Is it rational? Probably not. He plays less than 15 minutes per game. And probably is a 20 minute per guy max. And shoots more threes than I like (although that’s what this team does…and he did actually hit 39% on them last year, surprisingly enough). But he’s always flying around, rebounds well (which you know I love, or maybe you don’t know…but I love rebounders) and there is just something about him. Hard to say what will happen to him. He may get an offer sheet that the Celtics don’t match. His rights may have to get renounced because the Cs go after a bigger fish. No idea. Would love to see him back, I think that goes without saying.
Aron Baynes–As opposed to Theis, I cannot stand this guy. Is THIS rational? Probably not. Why do I hate him? Loves to rebound with one arm for one. Seems silly…along with that stupid hairdo. He opted in last week, but now reports are they have shipped him to Phoenix. For his well over 5 million dollar salary let’s hope that is accurate. Along with many other reasons. Williams should be able to do what he does for a fraction of the cost. I just never understood this infatuation either.
Terry Rozier (Restricted Free Agent)–Since the starter at point guard appears to be gone (more on that later of course), many people think that the team should re-sign “Scary Terry” to a significant deal. I am not sure I am one of those people. Actually, I am not. This guy is a borderline Hall of Famer, just ask him. Rozier is a decent player, but nothing more. I will ALWAYS maintain that. Sure he has played well in some starts. But he has also been putrid in some starts. Then he goes off on the team after last season ended. I say he should take his attitude elsewhere. Let some other team overpay for this headache. Even if that leaves the Celtics without their top 2 point guards next year.
Marcus Morris (Unrestricted Free Agent)–I give this guy a lot of credit. He’s a notorious hothead. With the complete dysfunction in the Celtics locker room last year, one would figure he would be right in the middle of it. Amazingly enough, we rarely heard a peep from him. Seems surprising. And, for good measure, he may have been their best player in the first half of the season. Second half…not so much. I’d take him back actually. But not at the dollars he will likely command. I’m not talking a max contract guy, mind you. But he will want to be paid. I wouldn’t do that here.
Gordon Hayward–Time to sh&t or get off the pot Gordo. In all fairness, yeah, a season lost to a gruesome injury then another season pretty much trying to work his way back. Much to the chagrin of it would seem to all of his teammates, who did not like Coach Brad taking their minutes and force-feeding them to Hayward to try and get him back on course. Nah, no selfishness there (Terry?). In any event, he ain’t going anywhere, so let’s hope the second year back from that injury does the trick.
Marcus Smart–I like this guy. His overall game anyway. His defense. His hustle. He seems to care. Do I love him at 13 million per? Not particularly. But that’s the price these days I guess. He really, really, REALLY needs to stop shooting as much as he does. Though sometimes those shots do drop in key moments. Unless his salary needs to be included in a trade, it would seem he is here for the long haul. That’s not entirely a bad thing. But let’s hope he isn’t one of the top players on the roster come the onset of next season.
Al Horford (Unrestricted Free Agent)–As referenced earlier, really surprised that Al is going to be gone. He was never a max contract player, though the Cs gave him one. That being said, we think this helped attract players during the teams latest incarnation. A very good, solid, if unspectacular, player and we should appreciate his contributions to the team over his tenure here. That also being said, if those numbers on proposed contracts are accurate, let’s also make sure we wish him well at his next stop.
Jaylen Brown–Recent reports are out and are trying to make Brown out to be one of the huge problems in the Celtic locker room. It’s entirely possible, as we know there was a problem between the young guys and the veterans. Wouldn’t shock me anyway. Brown is another one of the kids that thinks he’s better than he is. But he’s way better than Rozier. And he’s worth keeping around to see if he can take that next step while presumably getting more than 30 minutes per game. The skills appear to be there. He will be entering his 4th NBA season. Let’s see if that huge jump comes next season.
Jayson Tatum–Seemed to me that Tatum didn’t make much of a step up this year for whatever reason. But then I looked at his numbers and they were up all across the board…other than shooting percentage. Must have been the ho-hum season of the team that made me think that there was no growth. Tatum will be entering his 3rd NBA season and it seems at this point the best move is to build around him and Brown and maybe another third young guy…if they can actually attract one. Ainge may alter that plan with some moves come July. But that’s the way I’m leaning for sure.
Kyrie Irving (Unrestricted Free Agent)–I don’t even feel like talking about this guy. A great, great, great player. But undeniably not a leader. It is assumed he is leaving, possibly (probably?) to Brooklyn, but don’t rule out a number of other teams. There have even been whispers of him coming back to Boston. I don’t believe that, but with this dude, you simply never know. The Celtics may not be a better team on paper with him gone. But could they be a better team on the court? Perhaps. People like to point to the previous season when Irving (and Hayward) were out and the team came within a hair of the NBA Finals. I can’t say I expect that to happen next season while being led by Tatum and Brown. But I can say I have no personal interest in bringing Kyrie back…under any circumstances. That’s too bad because he’s a fantastic player.
This was a long one. But hell, we haven’t written in a while so there was a lot to say. My apologies. In any event, long way to go to shape the 2019-2020 Boston Celtics. This summer should be an interesting one.
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.
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…