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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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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The road just got longer…

So the Boston Celtics did not get Kevin Durant.  I think everyone knew that was going to be the end result.  Although, I admit, there was a small period of time last weekend where I think we all got our hopes up.  But realistically it was never going to happen, I’m sorry.

How do I feel about Durant going to the Golden State Warriors?  Well, I think it sucks, to be blunt.  On the surface, he took “the easy way out.”  He went to the best team in the league (sorry, Cleveland) in pursuit of a championship ring.  That’s his prerogative, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Durant did something he himself didn’t like several years ago, when LeBron and Chris Bosh went to Miami and joined Dwyane Wade to form a “superteam” that ultimately went to 4 straight Finals, winning 2.  KD put a tweet out essentially knocking the move.  But he now joins Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on a new superteam.  OK, it was only one tweet and times and minds do change.  So he probably didn’t need to take as much heat as he did for something he said like 5 years ago.  But still…

Not a lot of people thought Golden State would be the place.  Because they already did have the 3 studs.  How are they going to spread the ball around to FOUR guys?  With all that money invested in those 4, how would they even be able to fill the roster with any more talent whatsoever?  Why go to the team that just beat you?  Etc.

So he went to a true championship contender.  Most of the teams on his visitation list were exactly that.  Can’t fault a guy for that I suppose.  Money is nice, but I myself wouldn’t want to go to a team that was bound to go like 20-62 just because they offered the most money.  It is just disheartening that KD chose to go to a team that won the championship 2 years ago and also should have won it again this past year.  Barring injury, it’s almost kind of a lock that they at least make the Finals this year again, no?

Sure, I’m biased.  Of course I wanted him to come to Boston.  To help the C’s turn the corner into a legitimate championship contender.  Now, regardless of what the Celtics do the rest of the offseason, doesn’t it still feel like it’s Golden State and Cleveland and then everyone else is kind of pretty far away?  That it’s like no one else has a REAL chance?  Maybe this is the way the NBA is now.  Maybe this is the way the NBA always kind of has been.  But it still just doesn’t feel right.

Well, at least Durant did it quickly.  And he didn’t make a production out of it like LeBron did back then.  It’s disappointing for any Boston fans.  And any fans of teams other than Golden State, I suppose.  But if KD was pompous about it, then it would’ve made it worse.  So I have to give him that much, begrudgingly.

It is what it is and we just have to move on.  Again, most of us didn’t think he was coming here anyway, so we shouldn’t dwell on it.  But what is next?

The Celtics signed Al Horford to a max contract.  There’s a start.  But Big Al is like a 2nd or 3rd piece, not a lead dog.  And I’ve said it before:  If the Horford the C’s get is the version from last year’s playoffs?  Yuck.  Either way, even though I don’t love the contract, I don’t mind the move.  It’s another step in the right direction for the franchise.

There’s a lot more work to be done.  Even after renouncing the rights to Jared Sullinger.  Ha!  That was done kind of quietly, eh?  I never loved Sully.  But I never hated him either.  I did absolutely hate when he teed it up beyond the arc…every time actually.  I hated that he couldn’t get his fat arse in any kind of shape every year.  But he could rebound.  And this team still doesn’t have many guys that can do that.  I would’ve taken him back, at least for one more year.

But maybe Danny has something else up his sleeve.  He better.  Quickly scanning the remaining free agent list, I suppose it goes without saying that there aren’t too many gems left.  Sure, there are plenty of good pieces available.  But the Celts already have about a thousand of those.

I do have to say, I am glad Danny did not panic and sign some of these other free agents over the first few days.  Have you seen these contracts?  Horford’s 4 years for 113 mil is crazy, but Mike Conley getting 5/153?  Chandler Parsons 4/94?  Kent Bazemore 4/70?  Jon Leuer 4/42?  Timofey Mozgov 4/64?  E’Twaun Moore 4/34?  E’TWAUN MOORE?!  The list is actually endless, so I will stop there.  Silly money.  Pure stupidity in many cases.  I’m glad Ainge only partook in one of those.  Notice how I avoided the 4/70 Portland gave Evan Turner.  Ugh.  Wait, the Nets gave someone named Allen Crabbe an offer sheet for 4/75 and the Blazers matched.  Almost 20 mil a year…for Allen Crabbe.

Anyway…so…Danny needs to deal to get his guy.  Still has plenty of assets.  I imagine there will be some deals on the table still.  Maybe the same rumored deals around the draft with Philly are still a possibility.  We will have to wait a little longer.  And I’m still ok with Ainge being patient, based on the new set of circumstances.  What else can we do anyway?

But they can’t possibly go to camp with the current group, can they?

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