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Boston Celtics 2019-2020 Season Preview…Kind Of…

…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.

Why?

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.

Question marks.

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.

Baby steps.

Your Guess…

…is as good as mine.

After a disappointing season, to put it mildly, the Boston Celtics get ready to play the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs later today.

So what are they going to bring to the table?

No idea…just as we have been saying ALL SEASON LONG.

We know they won’t be bringing Marcus Smart to the table.  Smart tore his oblique toward the end of the regular season, so it looks like there is no chance he will be playing in this series.

Is that a good thing?

On one hand, yes, because it shortens the rotation even more.  Coach Brad Stevens won’t feel like he has to give minutes to like 12 guys.  And reduce playing time for a guy like Jaylen Brown, who performed well in last years’ playoffs.

That should leave them with 8 players to give minutes to, though Brad will likely continue to give Semi Ojeleye 5-10 minutes a game for no apparent reason.  I’d love Daniel Theis to get some minutes…something about that guy I love.  But he would seem be the 9th man because they seem to love Aaron Baynes and he will be playing.  Of course, Baynes missed 31 games this year, so let’s not rule out him getting hurt.  But it’s also “just” Danny Theis, a clear role player off the bench, so he’s not going to upset any rotation even if he gets in there for a few.

One of those guys getting more minutes would be Gordon Hayward.  Who seemed to start finding more of his game in the (very) late season, coincidentally when he got…more minutes.

Was that a mirage?  Or was he finally showing real glimpses of the player he once was?  Sample size may be too small to measure.  BUT, it’s worth finding out more on.

Then again though, losing Smart may not be a great thing.  He’s one of the few guys that showed fire every day during the regular season.  Sure, he still can’t shoot and takes waaaaaaaay too many shots.  BUT, there is something about him that makes me feel like we need him on the floor.

Intangibles…blah, blah, blah…

But do “intangibles” actually mean anything to this particular team?  Maybe not.  So whatever…

Anyway, enough about Smart.  Let’s talk about the series.

The Pacers haven’t had Victor Oladipo for about the last half of the year.  And that sure as hell is a good thing…for the Celtics.

The Celts were 3-1 against the Pacers this season…and really should have been 4-0.  Oladipo ruined that loss with a three pointer with a few seconds left.  Two of the Celtic wins were blowouts.

Now, per usual, I am not going to tell you that I watched a whole ton of Indiana Pacers basketball this season.  But I will tell you that, despite finishing a mere game behind the Celtics in the standings, I am not all that impressed with their roster…the names or the numbers…or the stats.

But what do I know?

Just by knowing (“thinking” what I know?) about what the Celtics have, I feel like the Cs should cruise through this series.  But they won’t.  Cuz they haven’t cruised through ANYTHING this year.

And that’s why this series is so hard to pick.

The Boston Celtics would not surprise me if they all of a sudden flipped a switch, found the proper rotations, started playing together…and all that…and then went on to a championship.  They really wouldn’t.

On the flip side, it would not shock the hell out of me if they lost in the first round.

What do I want?  Well, a championship of course.  BUT, part of me is thinking “this team was pretty unlikeable this season, led by Kyrie Irving.  Why do I want to start rooting for them now?”

Sad, but true.

Also, part of me wouldn’t mind them losing early so I don’t have to invest any time in them.

On top of all THAT, part of me wants them to lose early so that Kyrie can take his act out of town.  I mean, he may anyway.  But an early round loss may make it easier.  Kyrie is a great, great, great player.  But the thought of listening to him for the five or whatever years his extension will be for kind of makes my stomach churn a little.  Ok, a lot.

And I don’t believe that Anthony Davis is coming here to pair with Kyrie and Gordo and whoever else to lead the Celts to the Promised Land.

Well, AD may come here…for a year anyway.  Wouldn’t surprise me if Danny Ainge made the trade with the New Orleans Pelicans this summer regardless of what Davis (and his Dad) say publicly (or privately).  Ainge will most assuredly have the stones to think he can talk AD into staying here after next year.  And he may be able to pull it off.

But I still think Davis goes to the Lakers in the summer of 2020.

I guess who knows though.  The players in this league change their mind when the wind blows.  Hell, maybe Irving does re-sign and Kevin Durant comes over as well.

WHAT??!!

Well, we’ve all heard the rumors now that KD “doesn’t feel appreciated in Golden State” and “isn’t getting the credit he deserves” and is going somewhere else after the year.  New York with Kyrie or wherever.

Hey Kev, what did you think would happen when you joined the Warriors?  Those guys were already winners without you.  So they didn’t even NEED you.  The table was already set.  You think winning two more with them would make you that much more important?  Sorry, no…

So enough about the offseason.  We will cross that bridge when we get there.

I don’t really have any other insight into the series though.  You came here to hear about X’s and O’s?  And specific Pacer players?  Hmmmmmm, ok…in any event, how could anyone pretend that they have any insight, what with the completely inconsistent way the Celtics played the entire year?

So it’s prediction time.  And again, it could be anything.

But I will say…Celtics in six.  Because it SHOULD go no longer than that…

Random Musings…

Time for that bullet point format again:

*Following up on the NBA draft…the Boston Celtics did exactly what I thought they would do.  Nothing.  But this may be a good thing.  Some dude named Robert Williams fell to them.  Is this good?  I don’t know.  But the pundits seem to like it.

He is 6’10” and is apparently a “rim runner”…there are new terms coming out every day, folks.  But he is also apparently a “rim protector”.  A term of which I am familiar with.  Never actually heard “rim runner” before.  But maybe I’m just stupid and it has been around forever.  Entirely possible.

In any event, he’s someone who can defend the basket but also score around the basket.  So they say.  After his freshman year at Texas A&M, he was supposedly a pretty good lottery pick but decided to stay his sophomore year.  Then, he was still supposedly a pretty good lottery pick but dropped to #27.

Maybe doing stuff like oversleeping introductory conference calls and the like had something to do with the plummet.  Hopefully, it’s as simple as that anyway.

In classic Jay Bilas-speak, Williams has great length and a tremendous wingspan.

Ok, enough of all that crap.  The way I see it, if Williams can play defense around the basket and REBOUND, then we would be all jacked and pumped about him.  If he kept Aron Baynes off the 2018-19 squad, we would be ecstatic.  But we will see.  Brad Stevens will probably have him working on his three-point game this offseason.

In any event, it looks like the C’s got someone out of the draft that could be at the very least a rotational player.  Hard to argue with that at the end of the first round.

*Aside:  There are 60 people drafted in each NBA draft.  How many of those “make it”?  15-20?  Half?  Not that many.  Add in some undrafted guys and you get a few more.

How did the draft used to be like 8 rounds?  With fewer teams in the league?  This has always confounded me.

*One dude who WASN’T drafted was LiAngelo Ball.  My heart breaks.  I wonder how LaVar really feels?  I mean, that was a solid Foot Locker “One and Done” commercial, wasn’t it?  Sigh…

*Speaking of undrafted dudes…we present you:  Brad Wanamaker!!  Seven years in Europe and now apparently heading to the Celtics.  No idea, so don’t even ask.

But so much for the C’s going into next season with all the band coming back together (plus Williams) I am still not ruling out a major move.  But wouldn’t shock me if there were many minor ones.  A lot may depend on if Marcus Smart is back in the fold.  I believe this will happen.  But of course, there is a chance some team blows things right out of the water with a huge offer to him.  We all know there are a lot of stupid teams out there…in every sport.

*As for the other draft we wrote on last, the Boston Bruins did exactly what I thought they would do as well…draft a bunch of guys that no one has ever heard of.  And we will maybe or maybe not see some of them in 2 to 5 years.  I think I’ll leave my comments at that.  Since I have nothing else to say.

*In more positive news, the John Tavares talk has not quieted down.  He is apparently meeting with the B’s at some point.  I still see this whole union far-fetched.  But the longer it goes on, perhaps not?

The cap has increased and supposedly they would have room as the roster currently stands to actually sign Tavares to a deal.  Of course, they still need pieces, so players would still have to go.  But this is a positive development as far as I can tell.  I thought with all the bloated contracts the Bruins are carrying that they would no way in hell have space for a big-time addition.  Not to mention the fact that I doubted Don Sweeney would go after a megastar, but that’s beside the point.

I still don’t have any idea how in the hell they will be able to move guys like David Krejci, David Backes and Torey Krug (if they wish) with their no-trade and no-movement clauses.  I’ll let them figure that out on their own time though.

What a development that would be however if Tavares somehow actually came to town.  Again, I don’t see it.  But that just may be because I don’t want to get my hopes up.

*Thank God the NFL is kind of “off” for a while now.  I don’t want to hear any more of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.  Gronk may be the greatest to ever play tight end in the history of the NFL.  Brady may be the best ever period.  But shut up about having fun.  5 championships under the Bill Belichick regime is not fun?  Tired of hearing about it.

It will be interesting to see how Brady does this upcoming year.  1.  He doesn’t have a threat to his job to help motivate him.  2.  He has skipped all voluntary work this offseason, which he does not typically do.  And therefore he has not established connections with the new receivers and backs like he had always pledged was very important.  3.  He is 41.  There simply is no evidence of quarterbacks succeeding much at or beyond this age.  Like it or not when we all talk about his age.  It has to be factored in.

Personally?  I think Brady will be fine.  Maybe it will take some work to build some rapport with some of the receivers.  But I’m convinced he’s doing the work he needs to do to be physically ready for the season.  Same with Gronk.  As much as Alex Guerrero appears to be a slimy dude, he got Gronk to stay healthy for an entire season last year.  THAT happens once every blue moon.  And Brady’s game was obviously MVP level last year.  Would he really fall that precipitously?  Doubtful…even at his age.

2019 though at 42?  I’m not making any guarantees.  That’s why I would have kept and franchised Jimmy Garoppolo last year, played him wherever possible this season and pretty much give him the keys to the operation next season.  But maybe that’s why I’m not in an NFL front office.  Actually, there are several reasons.  But we don’t need to go through those here.

*Speaking of “tired of hearing about it”, I’m not sure I want to relive Deflategate with this Julian Edelman appeal.  Jules is ready to battle to the end.  And probably eventually lose and serve the four games anyway.  Bud, you took something.  Everyone does.  You got caught.  Please take the penalty and save us all the nonsense.  Please…

Next:  Random musings, Red Sox style…

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