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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…

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Train Wreck?

I admit, I can’t really watch much anymore.  I can’t…and I don’t really want to either.

The Boston Celtics that is.

It’s kind of a shame since basketball was one of my top two sports growing up.  Granted, that was during the Larry Bird era.  Kind of a good time to start following the local team, I will allow.

But still…

The game has changed since those days…and I’m talking more than just the short shorts that the players wore back then.  THAT is one of the positive changes over the years, no doubt.

Many people will tell you the game has changed for the better since the 1980s.  That’s completely their right to have that opinion.  But they would be wrong.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again…repeatedly, for sure.  Too many threes being jacked up.  Too many one on four breaks…and when there is a four on one break, one of the four pulling up for a three pointer.  Boxing out, rebounding, passing and many of the fundamentals of the game have deteriorated, in my opinion.  Sure, there can be some decent passing…but generally with four guys around the three point line.  Guys passing up layups to throw it out to the three point line.  Too much “Showtime” and guys still wanting to see themselves in the highlight reels.  Etc.

Again, my opinion…and perhaps I just don’t watch enough basketball.  The skill level of the players is certainly higher than in past eras…maybe even exponentially so.

But the quality of the actual game?  Inferior.  Sorry.  And I am not even including the debacle that was on in the background where I was on Sunday…the NBA All-Star Game…which we know is not a real game.  But atrocious nonetheless.

In any event, this piece really wasn’t supposed to be about the state of the NBA in my eyes.  But the state of the Boston Celtics instead.

The C’s were SUPPOSED to be the Eastern Conference’s representative in the NBA Finals this year.  I mean, didn’t we all think that?  Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward added back to a team that lost in seven games in the Conference Finals last year.  LeBron out West now.  Toronto, even with Kawhi Leonard being added to the mix, having a poor playoff reputation.  Teams like Milwaukee and Philadelphia, though possessing talent, not being quite ready to take that “next step”.

Welp, so much for THAT.  I mean sure, it could still happen.  But who feels confident in that now?

Certainly not I.

The Celts still do have all that talent.  Though Hayward clearly isn’t the same guy as he was before his gruesome injury, at least thus far.  But as we have seen this season, there appears to be a problem in the locker room.  And is Coach Brad Stevens finally showing some cracks in the armor?

The locker room thing appears to be a case of the veterans versus the young guys.  And as much as a lunatic Kyrie can seemingly be at times, I think I end up falling on the side of the vets.  Jayson Tatum appears to be a future superstar.  Jaylen Brown could possibly be as well.  Terry Rozier?  Not in my mind.  But he thinks he is already.  And it appears the other two dudes do too.

The rumors tell us that the kids feel like they didn’t need Kyrie and Gordo last year to advance as far as they did.  So they feel like they don’t need them now.  But the pair came back and have been kind of ruining the kids’ mojo.  Truth?  Not so sure about that.  Adding a superstar and a pretty good player when he was at full health should not hurt the situation.  Yes, “having too many cooks in the kitchen” can sometimes be detrimental.  We have talked about that a number of times before.  But that’s where Stevens should make his presence felt.

But is he?  Or HAS he?

Seems like this is the first time Brad has faced any adversity during his NBA coaching tenure.  And I am not sure it’s working out the way he wanted…at this time anyway.  I know I wouldn’t mind seeing…or hearing…more noise around him.  Meaning, what he is doing to try to make things better.  But also maybe putting more heat on him to figure it out.  But yeah, yeah, yeah…he keeps it all “in house”.  So we may never know what Brad is doing behind the scenes.  But whatever he is doing hasn’t manifested itself in public.  And Stevens seems still mostly to be in the honeymoon stage with the fans.

The C’s are currently tied for 4th in the East, six and a half out of first with 24 to go.  They are playing .638 ball, which sounds ok…until you realize that it’s only good for 52 wins in an 82 game season.  Plus that 14-13 road record ain’t so appealing.

Barring a catastrophe, they will not finish worse than 5th.  They are a game out of third place coming out of the All-Star break.  And it would seem to behoove them to finish in third so they can play whatever flotsam finishes in 6th.  Rather than finishing 4th or 5th and having to play the Pacers or 76ers in the first round.

The Celtics can conceivably not make it out of the first round this season if the latter scenario unfolds.  Think about that for a second.  If the C’s get dumped in the opening round, how does that affect the team next year?

Welp, that could mean Kyrie’s official exit.  Wait, he committed to Boston in the fall, right?  Ummmmm…maybe?  Based on how this season has gone, it would not shock me if he took off this offseason.  But wait, Danny Ainge can trade for Anthony Davis and Kyrie will stay and all will be good, right?  Well…sure.

At this point, nothing would surprise me.  I also actually think that the C’s will make the trade for Davis this offseason.  I feel like that since New Orleans did not trade AD at the deadline, therefore creating a difficult atmosphere in THAT locker room the rest of this season, that the Pelicans were almost telegraphing a trade to the C’s during the summer.  I say this because, although I am sure they got some decent offers at the deadline, they probably thought that the Celtics would have the best offer in the summer.

Sure, another team could make a great offer in the offseason.  Absolutely possible.  But the way Ainge lusts after Davis and the amount of “assets” that the Celts COULD offer the Pelicans…isn’t this almost like a foregone conclusion?

I feel that way.  Then again, the Pelicans just fired their general manager.  So who the F knows what happens now?

Either way, there’s a good chance Davis gets traded to Boston, then hits the road to the Lakers when he can after one year in town.  So there’s THAT.  And that ain’t gonna keep Kyrie in tow.

I guess we won’t worry so much about the offseason until the offseason.  Let’s get back to the outlook this season.  In which again, I am not confident.  All the above we already spoke about.  Marcus Morris had some words to say, while he hasn’t been the same player as earlier this year.  Marcus Smarts’ shot has (predictably) stopped falling.  Trade rumors, free agent rumors, etc.  Add it all up and it doesn’t look good.

And then Danny did nothing at the trade deadline.  Feels like that is unusual.  Well, he did trade Jabari Bird for absolutely nothing.  Wait, who?  Bird is a guy that hadn’t played a minute for the team all season.  With good reason too, as he really should be in prison.  Why?  I don’t have the energy.  Just trust me on that one.  Or Google it if you like.

I suppose that opens up a spot for a guy that was bought out.  Yippee!  Greg Monroe, Part II anyone?  If a big guy is going to be the target for that spot, I’d rather give those minutes to Robert Williams.  But Stevens apparently is treating this year as a redshirt year for him.  Why?  I don’t know.  Seems to me that at the very least, the last spot on the bench on the active roster would be ideal for a guy that can block some shots and grab some rebounds if you need him to.  What’s the sense of dressing Guerschon Yabusele instead?  I mean, what does Yabusele bring to the table?  To me?  Zero.

In any event, based on all of the above, I have pretty much lost interest in this season.  Despite the two wins right after Morris did his chirping, including a big win on the road in Philly.  This season has been underwhelming and a big disappointment.  There is time for the team to redeem itself, specifically in the playoffs.  But again, does anyone expect them to?  “Train Wreck” may be a little harsh.  It’s not that bad.  But then again, I am not ruling anything out.

All of this can make you pine for the scrappy days of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk and the gang a little bit, no?  Sad to say, I’ve given it some thought…

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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