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Gordon Who??!

The Boston Celtics are 12-1 since Gordon Hayward went down on Opening Night.  They are currently riding an 12 game winning streak.  So who the hell needs Gordon Hayward?

Ok, that was waaaaay over the top.  Of course this team needs Hayward.  Over the long haul for sure.  14 games in doesn’t prove anything.  There is still 83% of the season left.

That all being said, how much fun has this season been thus far?  Friday night against Charlotte may have been the capper in this whole stretch.  Kyrie Irving went down in the first two minutes of the game.  Al Horford did not play.  And of course Hayward.  The C’s were down big.  I hate blaming the refs for anything, as it is a tough enough job as it is.  But there were some pretty bogus calls against the Celts in that game.  Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier were a combined 9 for 42 (21%) from the field.  The game was sloppy and honestly hard to watch (probably the only time one can say that about a Celtics game this season).  But somehow, the Celtics WON.

Listen, the Hornets are 5-7 and I’m certainly not saying they are any kind of world beaters.  But the Cs had absolutely no business winning that game.  None.

Marcus Morris and Shane Larkin (Shane Larkin???!) were huge in the win and the team collectively stepped up their defensive intensity late.  The Celts outrebounded the Hornets 49-47 as well.  Having Charlotte shoot a ghastly 58% from the line didn’t hurt either.  Of course, they have Dwight Howard, so a little “hack-a-Howard” helped push down that percentage.

Or maybe the win Sunday against alleged top Eastern rival Toronto is the high point of the streak.  Toronto is of course a better team than Charlotte.  And although Horford returned, the C’s were still missing Irving.

One benefit of Hayward being out is that 30-35 minutes a game going to other players and helping them develop.  Right now, it appears Jayson Tatum and Semi Ojeleye are the prime beneficiaries.  Tatum and “Shemi” are averaging about 30 and 15 minutes per game, respectively.  Probably about 10 minutes a game more apiece than they were anticipated to play.  Yes, I didn’t think they would throw Tatum out there with a ton of minutes to start his career.  Figured he would be treated like Brown last year, 15-20 minutes a game to get his feet wet in the NBA.  But he is getting the real minutes and certainly making the most of them as well.  Let’s see how it looks down the road, as Tatum should play over twice as many games this season as he did in college last year.  That may catch up to him at some point.

Terry Rozier is picking up a few more minutes as well.  His shot hasn’t been as consistent as it has seemed…what with him shooting only 36%.  But man, I love the way he rebounds as a guard.  And he’s full of energy for sure.

But let’s be real.  Even though we can be pretty giddy about the returns right out of the gate, let’s not be fooled into thinking that all of a sudden they are cruising to a championship this year, especially without Hayward.  It’s a long season, some of the kids may wear down as they are not used to the schedule.  Cleveland will improve and be there in the end.  Isaiah Thomas should return and help that team.  The Cavs will continue to gel and likely make trade deadline improvements when the time comes.  They could also be treating the regular season like the preseason, like they did last year.  And of course there are plenty of worthy squads out in the Western Conference as well.

Assuming the Celtics beat the Nets tonight, they will take a 13 game winning streak into a home date against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night.  That will give us a better idea on where this team stands.  Then again, if Irving is still out, maybe it won’t.  He may well play, but also be somewhat limited if he wears a mask or something as well.

So maybe it won’t give us a better idea on where they stand.  But hopefully either way, the Cs will be competitive at least on Thursday night.  On the flipside, a blowout loss may put expectations back where they belong…to where they were at the start of the season…Eastern Conference Finals, then we take it from there…this year.

The lesson here:  Sit back, enjoy the ride, but let’s keep the emotions in check for a bit…maybe until at least March?

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Smorgasbord…

…lots to catch up on here, let’s start with the Thursday Night Football game and then dive right in:

Miami at Baltimore (-3.5)  

The Dolphins are 4-2 despite scoring only 92 points in 6 games.  They will be going with their backup QB in Matt Moore.  However, Moore may actually be better than the starter, that fraud named Jay Cutler.  Speaking of frauds…Joe Flacco everyone!  Neither team really excites me this year.  Therefore, take the points.

Miami 21, Baltimore 17.

Week (against the spread):  9-6

Week (straight up):  10-5

Season (against the spread): 50-56

Season (straight up): 64-42

Now for the rest of the Boston sports world, in no particular order:

*John Farrell is gone as the manager of the Boston Red Sox.  We have known that for a bit.  And everyone on God’s Green Earth knows how I feel about Farrell.  So no need to expound on any of those thoughts here.  Good riddance.  Buffoonery at every angle.

But…Alex Cora?  Count me among the unimpressed.  Just six years removed from the game, but more importantly, he has no managerial experience whatsoever?  Yeah, I’ve heard he managed the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic.  But who cares about that?  He was (is) a bench coach for the Houston Astros.  Doesn’t excite me either.

People are raving about him.  Maybe he has great people skills.  And actually can manage.  More importantly, maybe he can straighten out those morons in the clubhouse.  But…how do we really know?

He actually played here from 2006-2008.  Does that help?  Perhaps a little.  He knows what the demands are here in Boston.  Looks like the only player on this roster he actually played with was Dustin Pedroia…and Pedroia took his job.  People describe Pedey and Cora as close.  But I swear I remember Cora being pissed Pedroia took his job.  I don’t know, maybe Cora can also play 2b this upcoming season until Pedroia comes back…as we learned Wednesday that Dustin had knee surgery that will keep him out around seven months.  If the other options are Brock Holt, Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin, then why not?  I know, there is a whole offseason to find a better temporary 2b option.  But some local jamoke writer actually proposed those three clowns as legit (and probable) options.

Let’s also look at the hiring process.  The only three guys General Manager Dave Dombrowski thought of interviewing were Cora, Ron Gardenhire and Brad Ausmus?  THESE guys were the cream of the crop?  YIKES!

Dombrowski has some work to do on the actual roster and most certainly the clubhouse.  Let’s also see who Cora surrounds himself with on his staff.  But this hiring reminds me of a somewhat similar one for the Sox back in 1992.  A hire that a former college hallmate termed a “franchise manager”.  They had to go get him before someone else swooped him up.  Yup…Butch Hobson.  Ugh…

*The Celtics obviously took a big hit with the Gordon Hayward injury.  Just over five minutes into the season he goes down for the year…what a kick to the junk.

But you know what?  They’ll still be up there fighting for the top seed in the East.  Cleveland will probably treat the regular season as an extended preseason, similar to what they did last year.  There are other competitive teams in the East.  I suppose Milwaukee, Washington and Toronto will be in the upper tier.  But not unbeatable, even without Gordo.

Look, with only 4 of the 16 players on the roster carrying over from last year, there was going to be an adjustment period anyway.  I don’t think anyone thought the C’s were going to win the NBA Finals this year with full health.  Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum appear to have a world of talent (though I am not getting too high about their performance against the lowly Knicks on Tuesday).  But let’s remember they are 21 and 19 years old, respectively.  In fact, 7 of the 16 players are rookies, though admittedly most of those are on the back-end of the roster.

It’s a long season and anything can happen.  Barring any other unforeseen major injury, I’m still excited about watching this team develop.

*I don’t believe Jae Crowder intentionally tried to injure Hayward.  But he certainly had a hair across his arse in the opener.  Al Horford got all worked up at him at one point.  Don’t see Al react like that much.  Anyway Jae, let it go dude.

*Brown certainly looks like a different player this season.  I know summer league means squat.  But I did watch some of the games there.  Judging by how Jaylen has come out in the regular season thus far, I would have expected him to dominate the summer league.  And he was pretty unimpressive there, in my opinion.

In any event, for a guy with his talent, he seems to have a lack of touch around the rim.  Seems like he could have added several layups to this years’ total already.  But I shouldn’t complain.  He sure looks a hell of a lot better taking outside shots than he did last year.  Keep improving his finishes around the rim and of course the free throws and the sky COULD be the limit.

*I have no idea if guys like Abdel Nader, Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele, Daniel Theis or Jabari Bird can actually play in the NBA.  But I can for damn sure tell you one thing:  I’d rather give those guys a shot than have carried over the likes of Jonas Jerebko, Gerald Green, Tyler Zeller and Amir Johnson into this year.  We KNOW what those guys can do…and it’s not much.  Let’s see if any of these kids can develop into something.  While playing 9th to 13th man minutes.

I’m intrigued mostly by Theis, to be honest.  Now, I don’t want him playing 30 minutes a game.  But I’d like to see him get a consistent 10-15 minutes a night to see what’s there.  Listed at 6’9″, as a center, if he can add to the mix as a rebounder, that would be a tremendous help of course.  Especially considering the fact how horrid the Celtics were in that department last year.

*Last, but not least, the Boston Bruins.  This could be a looooong year, my friends.  But you know what?  I think I am ok with it.

Say what?  Think about it.  These guys are not championship timber, by any stretch of the imagination.  Not even a player or two away.  There has been an influx of young players this year.  Started a little bit last year, but you can really see it now.  There are apparently more to come.  Don Sweeney has been talking about this for years and we MAY be starting to see the “fruits of his labor”.

We have given Donnie Hockey a little bit of a beating the last couple of years, but if this was the plan all along, and Cam Neely (also taking a beating) and ownership have been on board with it…and of course if it eventually WORKS…then the B’s could be set up for years to come.  All the while remaining at least competitive during the transition years.

There is a long way to go, but in this young season we have seen glimpses.  We’ve also been horrified at some of the play.  But with young players and inexperience, that comes with the territory.  If the future is truly bright, then can’t we deal with the ups and downs for a little longer?

*Let’s break it down a little further.  If the lines this year when everyone is healthy are…

Marchand-Bergeron-Bjork

DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak

Vatrano-Spooner-Backes

Kuraly-Nash-Acciari

Chara-Carlo

Miller-McAvoy

Krug-McQuaid

…doesn’t that give you a little hope?  Specifically looking at Bjork and DeBrusk hopping right into the top six forward mix.  As well as Carlo and McAvoy making some noise on defense in their 2nd and 1st year, respectively.  Of course it would help if these guys really can play…and by all accounts they can.  It would also help if Vatrano and Spooner took their heads right out of their arses as well.  But you could always sprinkle in a Timmy Schaller…or a kid such as Danton Heinen or Austin Czarnik or I guess this Kenny Agostino dude they just brought up.  Or…

Of course, I’d rather still have Colin Miller over Kevan Miller.  Or ANYONE remaining from the Tyler Seguin trade (or someone who could play anyway…meaning…not Jimmy Hayes).  But if some of the other dudes eventually make it as well…Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Matt Grzelcyk, Rob O’Gara, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon…we could be looking at a solid young core for years to come.  We shall see…

*Lastly, I will also tell you, I would keep the kids coming.  As the trading deadline approaches and the Bruins likely at the bottom of the playoff seedings, or even slightly out of them, I would work to shop some of the vets and implement more kids.  Not everyone, mind you.  But a few.

First off, they couldn’t necessarily trade ALL the vets anyway.  Most of the higher paid ones of course have no movement clauses, thanks to former GM Peter Chiarelli…and a little by Sweens himself.

Who would I look to deal?  Tuukka Rask, top of the list.  You just don’t need a 7 million dollar a year goalie.  Especially for a team in transition.  He has a modified no-trade.  The door is open.  Zdeno Chara has had a nice career in Boston.  But he’s heading toward 41 years old.  And they are still throwing him out there for about 25 minutes a game…in OCTOBER!  Stop the insanity!  Give those minutes to someone else.  Z has a no-move, but maybe see if he will waive it to go to a contender.  I’ve heard people around here saying that they wouldn’t mind if Chara signed on for another 2 years after this year.  Once again, STOP THE INSANITY.  You still may be actually able to get something decent for him too.

Others?  Krug for sure.  3 more years at 5.25 for a defenseman that is truly an offensive specialist.  Has some no movement protection starting next year.  Move him before that goes into effect.  Backes?  Makes 6 mil for the next 4 years with a lot of no-move protection.  Likely untradeable.  Krejci?  I’d love to see him on the above line.  But injuries seem to be taking control of him.  And yes, no-move protections of course.

Just see what’s out there for some of those guys.  Can’t hurt.  Oh yeah, it’s time to just buy Matt Beleskey out.  That ship has sailed.  Actually, that ship sailed long ago…

Whoa…Trader Danny Is Back!

Ok, so I guess he was technically “back” when he gambled and traded the #1 overall pick in this past summer’s NBA draft.  Yes, I know Ainge wanted Jayson Tatum all along and may very well have drafted him #1 if the Celtics had stayed in that position.  And I know Danny was able to snag another potential high lottery pick due in 2018 or 2019 from the Sixers (or Lakers or Kings technically).  But since Markelle Fultz was apparently the consensus #1 pick across the league, if Fultz turns out to be a stud and Tatum turns out to be something less than that, well, there is your gamble.  We may not care that Ainge got the extra pick if Fultz is All-NBA every year.  Especially if that future pick turns into a couple of second rounders even further into the future, because of protections.  But…I am already digressing…

By now, everyone has heard of the blockbuster deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers involving Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving.  It’s been about two days since the trade was consummated.  I have heard all the talking heads share their opinions.  But of course I have mine.  And at first blush…I like it a lot.

Now…I understand.  Isaiah had seemed to have found a home here in Boston.  Became a leader on the team.  Fans loved him.  Entire community loved him.  We know Danny has loved him for even longer than he has been here.  And of course put up ridiculous numbers on the court at the Gaaaaahhhden.  And on the road too, but you know what I mean.

I will always have fond memories of Isaiah in a Celtic uniform, especially from last season.  He was simply awesome.  And in my end of year column, I had decided (finally!) that I wanted him to stick around long-term and for the team to pay him, after much deliberation on what I would do when his contract expired after next season and he wanted max money.  I was always wary of giving him max dollars, but I felt had seen enough last year to convince myself he should get it.  I figured that they would add Gordon Hayward and other pieces, including whoever they drafted, continue to improve and eventually be true championship contenders once the Cleveland and Golden State “windows” passed.

But I didn’t see the Irving situation play out the way it did in Cleveland.  Of course no one did.

And then when that all went down, I figured that there was no way that Cleveland would trade Irving to its main rival in the East, despite all of the Celtics “assets” that presumably would be available.

Then it happened.  Probably more surprising than the deal itself was how quiet it went down.  Most of us heard about the potential deal around 6:00pm on Tuesday and before like 7:30pm it was all done.  How were the teams able to keep talks on the down low, especially in this day and age with social media and people always snooping around?  Threw me for a loop, I can tell you that much.

But now that I have “pre-rambled” on, let’s get to why I like this deal at the current time.  In my favorite bullet point fashion:

*Isaiah Thomas–Once again, I love IT.  But there are certain facts that you cannot dismiss.  In June, I was willing to overlook the facts to some degree, but partly because I didn’t see him getting fair value in any kind of trade.  I also felt Isaiah’s performance last season may have put the Celtics in a little bit of a bind.

The easiest facts to point at are age (29 in February), height (5’9″…or is it really 5’7″?) and injury (hip).  It’s probably not ideal to give a max contract to someone heading into their 30’s, with the beating that person takes on a nightly basis at that size…but the hip may scare me even more.  And the injury HAS to be taken into consideration here.

IT plays hard every play and certainly does take a beating every game, especially when he is firing through the lane regularly.  One would think that if there are any limitations whatsoever with that hip, it will limit Thomas’ effectiveness, perhaps severely.  Kind of obvious, I know.  But Isaiah is always jitterbugging around, stopping on a dime, contorting his body around and all that.  If the hip won’t allow him to do that, then well…and…he hasn’t had any surgery.  Maybe that is a good thing.  But maybe he is good for now and could quite possibly have to have surgery down the road anyway (a la David Price)?  We simply don’t know.

The way Thomas plays also is bound to wear him out quicker.  With Kyrie being 3 years younger and anywhere from 6-8 inches taller, there is more certainty there as well.  We don’t even have to comment on Thomas’ defense here.  Partly because I am not sure Kyrie plays much D either.  But just being that much taller is a step in the right direction anyway.

I don’t know Isaiah personally of course.  But from what I know about IT, he is most assuredly rehabbing fiercely and the hip won’t even be an issue…now or in the future.  But as I laid out a few months back, there are still a lot of questions and a lot of risk in giving Isaiah that max deal.  Now, the Celtics aren’t backed into that proverbial corner.  It’s Cleveland’s decision now.  Once LeBron takes off for the Lakers next offseason, does IT find himself on yet another team the following season?

That is another interesting angle…but one for Cavalier fans to worry about now.

*Jae Crowder–very good NBA player.  But not as great as everyone around here thinks he is.  More importantly, he is not as great as HE thinks he is.

Turned out to be a more than serviceable player after essentially being a throw-in in the Rajon Rondo to Dallas deal a few years back.  But what he really represented was kind of being a transition player in Boston.  Did anyone think he was going to be a starting small forward on a championship team in Boston down the road?  Well, I guess some people did.  I didn’t.

He would be a very useful 6th-9th man on a championship team.  But would he accept that here, after logging heavy minutes the last 2 years?  I’m not so sure.  Hayward plays his position, so there’s that.  Then there is also the fact that Jaylen Brown and Tatum also play his position.  Not enough minutes for everyone.  And the kids need to play at least a little bit to develop.

Some have said Jae could play the 4 and any of the other three could play the 2 (since Avery Bradley has also departed) at least some of the time to get everyone on the court.  Perhaps.  But to me the best course of action was to unload him.  Past playoff performances helped convince me of that as well.

Sure, Crowder has a very team-friendly contract.  But though Danny and other GMs may care about that for salary cap purposes, I don’t.  If other GM’s loved that contract as much as everyone says, when the C’s signed Hayward, why couldn’t they have gotten great value for trading Jae and maybe even hanging on to Bradley? No one seemed to be banging down the door for Crowder the player or Crowder the contract at any point…but…what do I know?

*Ante Zizic–I am not sure why they had to include Zizic in the deal.  I would think Thomas, Crowder and the Brooklyn pick should have sufficed.  That being said, I doubt he will be missed.  I have two friends, who really know their basketball, that swear Zizic is going to be something in the future.  And I heard some caller on talk radio yesterday laud him as well.  But those are the only 3 guys that are especially high on him from what I can tell.

Sure, I have seen the reports that if Ante went in the 2017 draft, he would have been a top-1o pick (he went 23rd in the 2016 draft).  But with every draft littered with top-10 busts, those reports mean nothing to me.

My take is that if he was THAT good, he would have been here last year over the likes of Tyler Zeller.  What would one more year in Europe (Turkey?!), dunking over guys at least 6 inches shorter, really accomplish?  Not sure how that would develop him more than playing some real NBA games, however limited his NBA action would have been.  Plus, if he was THAT good, shouldn’t they have taken him at #16 (where Guerschon Yabusele went) instead of waiting until #23?

We shall see…but now I will have to be rooting against him, instead of for him.

*2018 Brooklyn pick–Hated to give this up, but in an Irving deal, you probably couldn’t have avoided giving up one of the high picks.  Especially with Isaiah only having one year left on his deal and at least a little uncertainty with his hip, Crowder being really only a bench piece and the complete unknown of Zizic.  Had to give up something to get something.  I will say that there have been reports that executives around the league think Brooklyn won’t be as bad as people think and the pick won’t be as high as people think…but I am not buying into that at this juncture.  I expect the Nets to still be putrid, even if there are other teams in that mix as well.

In any event, hopefully the Lakers or Kings pick will still be a high one.  The team has Brown and Tatum developing as previous years’ #3 picks.  Irving and Hayward go forward as your two horses.  And Al Horford as the #3 for now anyway.  Maybe when his deal is done, there is an upgrade to be had there as well.  Or maybe by then, Tatum or Brown is that third dog.  There is no real reason for me to be, but I am convinced as of this second that Kyrie will sign a max deal in Boston when the time comes (ie:  when the timing is so he can make the most money).  Maybe I’m wrong.  But all that being said, I’m ok with losing the Nets pick here.

*Brad Stevens–The thing I like most about Stevens now is that I think he has the right rotation at this point.  Championship bound or not, he finally has a roster where he should pretty much only be playing 8-9 guys regular minutes…and not the 12-13 he always tries to do.

The way I see it, Horford, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes should soak up the majority of minutes at the 4/5, Hayward, Brown, Smart and Tatum at the 2/3 and Irving and Rozier at the 1.  If you want to sprinkle in a little Daniel Theis at the 4/5 for a few minutes a night to see what that’s all about, have at it.  Yabusele can redshirt this year, along with Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye.  You can break the glass in case of emergency for Shane Larkin to be a ballhandler as well.  Then the 15th spot can be Andrew White, Daniel Dixon or whoever…perhaps “Veteran Buyout player X” at the trade deadline…if that rule is still in place.  Kadeem Allen and Jabari Bird, 2 of your 2nd rounders from the past draft, on two-way contracts in the G league at Maine…perfect.

Hopefully Stevens sees things in a similar manner.  No need to give guys like Gerald Green or Jonas Jerebko ANY minutes like he has in the past.  Shortening the rotation would be a great thing.  Now let’s see if he actually does it…

That about says it all.  Who predicted that of the 15 players on the roster at the end of a season where the Celtics had the #1 seed (however fraudulent that was) in the East and ended up in the Eastern Conference Finals would end up with 11 of them elsewhere a mere handful of months later?  Well, the Blowhard said anywhere from 7-9…and it was kind of obvious that at least half would go, but still…only 4 remain from last year?  Wow.  Only the fact that ANYONE gave Kelly Olynyk 4 years and 50 million may have surprised me more.

Can’t wait to get this thing rolling.  Was Kyrie only good because he played second fiddle to a legend in LeBron?  Was Isaiah only throwing in close to 30 a game because no one else was great around him?  Is Isaiah healthy?  Will the new Celtics gel quickly?  Did Danny take too big of a risk with both of his big trades?  Will Zizic be the next great Euro player?  Does Jaylen Brown take the next step?  Etc.  So many questions.  We will start to find out soon enough…

 

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