As we sit back and wait for months for the NBA Finals to begin…ok, an exaggeration of course. But we can all admit the week-long gap between the end of the Conference Finals and the beginning of the NBA Finals is ridiculous. As always, we can thank the television networks for that.
In any event, it’s time to put a cap on the Boston Celtics season. The Celts lost to the Cavs in 5. Exactly what I had predicted! But regardless, a sweep or five games is what pretty much everyone thought. So the Blowhard doesn’t deserve any extra props there, unfortunately.
Whimpering out of the playoffs certainly isn’t ideal. However, their performance in the series certainly does not diminish the great season they had or the organizational progress they showed.
What the series does reveal is that there is still a great deal of work to be done. No question there. The 4 losses were by an average of 26 points…and it really was worse than that. #1 seed in the East or not, the Celtics were just not in the same league as the Cavaliers.
So what do the Celtics do going forward? Getting the #1 overall draft pick for the first time in franchise history certainly was a nice start to the offseason. What else? Here’s one man’s look at the current players on the 15-man roster, along with some added commentary on other random players. Starting in alphabetical order, but maybe not finishing that way:
*Avery Bradley. I know what I would do with Avery…I’d shop him. I don’t hate the guy. But the fact remains that Bradley, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart, Boston’s top 3 guards, are all free agents after next season. Though Smart is actually restricted. All are going to want sizable raises. Not to mention that they also have Terry Rozier. Jaylen Brown, though listed at small forward, stepped in for Bradley in several games when Avery was hurt. The elite draft prospects are all guards, etc…
We will get into IT more later, but Smart may command less money than Bradley. There are possible free agents coming. Bradley signed a 4 year, 32 million dollar deal after the 2013-14 season, which many thought was a steep overpayment at the time. Bradley got better, then pretty quickly became dissatisfied with the contract he signed. You think he will “settle” this time? Not likely. Bradley also always seems to have plenty of nagging injuries that affect his availability.
Something has to give. He’s a good player. I’m guessing we have seen his ceiling however. It just makes too much sense for him being the one to depart, based on all of the above. This offseason. Why let him walk after next year for nothing? So I am moving him…we shall see what Danny does though.
*Jaylen Brown. Easy here. Keep him and play him more than the 17 minutes a game than you gave him this season. 20 years old, the third overall pick from last year had his moments this year, including the playoffs. Sure, he looked like a rookie quite often, but what did you expect? Hopefully, Year #2 will be another step up for the kid, with added responsibilities. I have to say, he shot better than I expected this season. That was the biggest knock on him coming out of college. The physical tools appear to be there. Take the training wheels off next year, and live with any bumps in the road.
*Jae Crowder. See Bradley, Avery. Move him. Good player. We’ve likely seen his ceiling. Also see Brown, Jaylen. They both technically play the same position and Brown needs more minutes. There may be another impact small forward coming via free agency. And all that.
Problem is, Crowder has an extremely team friendly contract. He has 3 years left on a 5 year, 35 million dollar deal. Great by today’s NBA standards. I’d have no problem keeping him if he accepted a lesser role off the bench. I don’t see that happening though. Especially with Brown here and potential Free Agent Player X coming. That’s one too many small forwards. He also should have some good trade value, especially with the contract. So in the end, I try to move him too. I don’t know if Danny will though.
*Gerald Green. I’m not really sure why he was here in the first place. Sure he can shoot and get hot in a hurry. But what else does he do? And did you really need him? I would’ve given his 11.4 minutes a game to James Young to see what you could salvage there in Young’s third year. No need to bring Green back. Brad Stevens may feel compelled to give him minutes again.
*Al Horford. Welp, he’s going to be here for the next three years, whether we like it or not. Would love to see him down in the paint more offensively and also grabbing more rebounds. But he is what he is now. And Brad loves his big guys to fire up threes. So we have to deal with it.
That being said, he is a good piece to have. Played pretty well in the playoffs. Hopefully the C’s can find a true center next year and Big Al can play power forward. Though I guess all of these “small forward, shooting guard, power forward” designations don’t necessarily mean as much as they did in the past, what with the current NBA style of play. Either way, I’m ok with Al in my starting five next year.
*Demetrius Jackson. Who? Yup. 2nd round pick from last year, played in 5 games for a total of 17 minutes the entire year. 17 minutes. On the roster the whole year. Let that sink in for a bit. That being said, if you have to fill the end of roster next year with cheap “talent”, it can’t hurt to have another ballhandler in tow. Contract is non-guaranteed for next year, so your guess is as good as mine on what his situation will be. Not sure it really matters anyway.
Next: Wait, I can’t believe I wrote that many words about DEMETRIUS JACKSON!! Because of that, I don’t even know what’s next…
…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.
Congratulations to the Cleveland Cavaliers for winning the 2015-16 NBA Championship. Really pains me to say it. But after coming back from a 3-1 game deficit and winning 2 of the last 3 games at Golden State, where the Warriors only lost twice in the regular season, well, I suppose I have to give them their due.
And LeBron? I’ll give him his due too…but not for Game 7. James was certainly ballin’ in Games 5 & 6, pouring in 41 each time to get it to a Game 7. Sure, he had a triple-double in the deciding game, but was he the reason they won?
I’ll tell you the reason the Cavs won: Golden State choked. No two ways about it. Certainly in their home games at the end. Losing the 3-1 lead. Game 7. Add anything else to the list if you want. Gag job.
Not having Draymond Green in Game 5 most assuredly cost them as well. Having him available at home, up 3-1, may have sealed the deal right there, regardless of how awesome LeBron played. But hey, Draymond earned that suspension.
But then having all hands on deck for Game 7 at home and losing that one? Inexplicable. Inexcusable. Oh, and don’t give me “well, they didn’t have all hands on deck because Andrew Bogut was out.” Ok, no one has actually said that, but I’m just making sure. Although…Festus Ezeli started for Bogut, played 11 minutes, went 0-4, missing a few bunnies and was otherwise generally useless…so perhaps Bogut could have given them…SOMETHING? Ok, probably not, so let’s move on…
I’ve got a few numbers for you:
5 for 32: Harrison Barnes’ shooting in the last 3 games. 16%? Yikes!! Barnes seems to be a decent enough player and is still only 24. Many people think he could get a max contract this offseason. A max contract for the 4th option on ANY team? Seems like a little much. Either way, shooting 16% over the most important games of the year doesn’t seem like the way to go about getting that contract.
41 for 83: The Warriors took 83 shots in Game 7. Almost half of them were three pointers. I’m wondering if there could be a stat for “foolish” three pointers. Cuz a fair amount of those 41 could be classified as that. In my opinion anyway. I know, I know…this is their game, that’s how they play…blah, blah, blah. Maybe they do fire up a lot of threes, sure. But in the most important game of the season, shouldn’t they be a little smarter about the quality of those shots? Side note: Golden State should have won the last 2 championships and are no doubt a great team. But if the league is completely trending to their style of play…which it very well could be…then this will make me dislike the professional game even more. If that matters at all…
17, 14, 10: Golden State turnovers in Games 5-7. The Game 7 total of 10 is actually much better than their averages of 14.9 per game during the regular season and 14.0 per game overall in the playoffs. I’m actually quite shocked at all of these totals actually. Watching the games live it just felt like a ton more. Especially down the stretch in Game 7. Maybe it was some of their stupid forced passes that turned into kicked balls by Cleveland that kept the number low. There were plenty of those. But I also remember some stupid behind the back passes that sailed out-of-bounds as well. I actually don’t have much of an argument here based on the numbers. But they played sloppy down the stretch, no doubt. There is no disputing that.
Long story short? Now that LeFraud has “gone home” and won his championship and all, every one of his apologists immediately came out of the woodwork and took aim at the “LeBron bashers.” He finished up the series well, no question. He won the MVP and that was likely the right call. Although…only Kyrie Irving really merited any consideration otherwise. So it’s not like the choice for that was excruciatingly tough. He is clearly one of the best players in the game today, if not the best. And is one of the better players in NBA history.
But in reality, how tough was this playoff “run”? They advanced to the Finals through an extremely mediocre Eastern Conference, steamrolling through Detroit and Atlanta and while also burying Toronto with minimal effort as well. Then they played a Golden State team that yes, went 73-9 during the season. But then went a rather pedestrian (for them) 15-9 in the playoffs. Quite honestly, they may have been out of gas from chasing the regular season win record (hello, 2007 New England Patriots?). Steph Curry was hurt and maybe even more than he let on. The Green suspension opened a door, although again, it was certainly deserved. Not to make excuses for the Warriors, but let’s be honest: The playoff Warriors were not the same team as the regular season Warriors.
So let’s give the Cavs and James their due, absolutely. But let’s not get carried away. And by “carried away”, think LeBron going down to the floor in Game 7 like he was shot and then hitting a key free throw anyway. The wrist may have hit the floor, but didn’t seem to warrant the reaction a soccer player would normally cook up. Wasn’t as bad as him flopping when teammate Tristan Thompson accidentally hit him in the Toronto series. But ridiculous in its own right regardless. Though…witnessing Anderson Varajeo continuously diving all series, in limited minutes, no less…and watching Marcus Smart do it all year here locally…I suppose this is also part of the game now…
Congratulations, City of Cleveland. Congratulations, LeClown James. Now go away.
Onto the draft…already some activity. Can’t wait to see how much more goes down. Feel like it’s going to be a wild night. Hoping for it actually, certainly in the Boston Celtics’ case…