…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.
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?
Ssssoooooo…one more day has passed. My ire from what the Boston Celtics did at the draft almost a week ago has continued to subside. Of course, it helps when the Red Sox are playing listless ball against one of the worst teams in baseball. It also helps when the Bruins’ front office seemingly is rolling along with the continued incompetence it has shown in recent years. But these are stories for some other day. And I promise that day will be soon. Because of course I would love to share my anger with you. Most of you anyway, since I know at least one person out there (Keo!!) who is sick and tired of all the negativity in this town, to steal a classic from Rick Pitino.
Getting back on track, we all know the “rebuild” of the Celtics has been slow and deliberate. Ok, so the Brad Stevens era has been only 3 years. Which is not really a long time, relatively speaking. Some teams have been “rebuilding” for decades. So it could be a lot worse. Doesn’t it seem longer though? I think that is simply because Danny Ainge has been gathering “assets” from the time he shipped away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets. And Doc Rivers to the Clippers too. Among all the other moves he has made to bring the roster to its current state. With that, ownership has promised “fireworks” and we are all ready for them to occur. Ready for them to take the next step.
This is why on draft night we were all pissed. Not even a single firecracker to be heard.
Upon reflection, I have accepted the inaction. Below are the majority of the reasons why, once again, in no particular order:
*The #3 pick simply did not have the value that we hoped it might have. We heard the rumors and got excited. But in reality, I’m not sure there was a ton of demand. Sure, Philly made a decent offer. But it wasn’t an earth-shattering one. Is Nerlens Noel a nice player? By all indications, yes he is. But is he truly a “game-changer?” That part may yet to be determined because he is young and certainly has time to evolve into one. But judging by the fact that Noel was deemed to be the one expendable by the Sixers with their glut of big men, they at least do not think he will be THAT type of guy. Worth noting.
*Kevin Durant is not coming to Boston. This year anyway, though probably never. As previously stated, I expect him to sign a one year deal to stay in OKC. This also seems to be the consensus opinion as well. Why? A few things. They have a legitimate championship contender there right now. They came close together this past year and based on the state of their roster, he may feel like they have one last run in them at the very least. Russell Westbrook has one year left on his deal. There’s probably a good chance he bolts at the end of his deal and KD may want to line his contract up to coincide with RW’s for that one last run in OKC.
There are probably a few other reasons, but for this purpose there is one more. It appears that if Durant signs for that one year, he can get over 100 mil more in next years’ free agent market. You read that right, 100 mil. Now, I don’t know all the particulars of the salary cap and all that nonsense. But that is what’s being reported out there. An extra 100 million is nothing to sneeze at. Obviously.
It’s great that Danny has a meeting with Durant soon. But perhaps its true purpose is to grease the skids for next year? Never know.
*The apparent cost for other “franchise” players was way too high. I referenced the proposed package for Jimmy Butler. Ridiculous. 4 draft picks and three of your best current players? No thanks. I’m guessing that if/when Ainge inquired about other studs, he received similar proposals. Too prohibitive.
*Unimpressive other available free agents. Sure, there are some decent players out there. But I’m not handing max contracts out to any of them. Al Horford, Mike Conley, Dwight Howard, Hassan Whiteside, Nicolas Batum, Chandler Parsons…you name it. The Celts have the ability to offer 2 max deals. If Durant isn’t taking one of those slots, is it worth it to offer one to two of the rest of the lot? I don’t think so.
*Cleveland Cavaliers. I’m going to assume that LeBron stays in Cleveland. Even if they trade Kevin Love and shuffle some of the other bodies on the roster, these guys are still going to be the team to beat. By far.
*The Western Conference. Still superior. Unless the C’s get Durant and another stud, not only are they still behind the Cavs, but they are still behind Golden State, San Antonio, OKC, the Clippers and perhaps others.
These are the reasons that lie in the forefront for me. It takes time to build a consistent winner, not to just try to assemble a great team, win once and then go back through a cold spell for several years. The timing…still…does not seem right to me to see those “fireworks”, based on all I have seen and heard. Perhaps we all should have taken it as a sign when Stevens and Ainge signed their extensions that this was the route the Celtics themselves were taking and that there is more patience needed from the fan base.
Gathering more assets never hurts. Trades will be available again at some point for sure. Maybe there will be a better free agent crop next year. Maybe Durant comes over then. The salary cap is supposed to explode as well. Maybe then the C’s have room for three max deals. Ultimately…what’s another year? As long as they continue going in the right direction of course.
There are still plenty of lesser moves to be made to improve the team at least incrementally. There are 23 players associated with the team at this point. I am counting unrestricted free agent Evan Turner, Marcus Thornton (the 2nd round pick in 2015 version) and Colton Iverson (2nd round pick in 2013) though. I like what Turner brings to the table, but I believe someone will wildly overspend for him on the open market. Probably not worth keeping him at crazy money for a back-end starter/top bench player. I don’t think anyone is counting Thornton or Iverson. But the team still holds their rights. So we can at least talk about them here and give them a little love. That’s about it though.
That leaves 20 guys. Ok, I doubt anyone is counting John Holland either. And perhaps Yabusele and Zizic are stashed overseas along with Iverson and Thornton. Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko have non-guaranteed deals. Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller will be restricted free agents, where the C’s will have the ability to match anything offered. Though with Sully getting buried in the playoffs, I am not sure I expect him back. Maybe the team gives up on James Young. Etc.
There will still be plenty of moves. And I expect these moves to improve the team. There are people who do love Jaylen Brown. Some of those people know a whole helluva lot more about basketball talent than I do. You have to at least give that some credence. Maybe just also adding another big guy that can rebound and “protect the rim” will add a few more wins. Regardless, the Celtics of 2016-17 SHOULD still be better than the 2015-16 version. Doesn’t that count for something?
I have no idea if this is the right or wrong path. But it seems reasonable after some thought. Last years’ team was entertaining. If that holds true this upcoming year, they win 50 games or so, hopefully win a round or two in the playoffs, then the fireworks occur NEXT offseason (another high Nets pick, Durant or someone similar, 2nd and possibly 3rd notable free agent, etc.), is that really a bad thing?
It may be if Brown ends up sucking. But let’s not even consider that for the time being…