Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Did the Celtics Advance too Far?


When Gordon Hayward went down mere seconds into the season, the Celtics title shot took a serious hit. Sure, you still had Kyrie Irving and the kid Tatum as improvements over the team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year. But, was that going to be enough? It certainly wasn’t going to be as easy as it should have been. 

Then the season went along, and things started to look pretty good. Tatum advanced faster than anyone not name Ainge could have expected. You had to wonder if having Hayward on the team might have actually hurt his development. Things were pretty exciting.

Then, just when you started to think this team might actually be OK, Kyrie went down for the season. That settled it. The team would now be lucky to make a series out of the first round.

But, things went even better. Tatum, it turns out, is someone who can carry a team. He started drawing comparisons to a young Magic Johnson putting a team on his back in the playoffs. And, he almost did it. He brought the Celtics to a game seven in the Eastern Conference Finals before the team finally faltered.

Things suddenly started to swirl in your mind. Somewhere between disappointment and excitement. Clearly, if this team still had Kyrie and Hayward, they would have been better than the Cavs. Heck, obviously just one of them probably would have been enough. (You know Kyrie would have drained a few threes in game seven, right?) Next year, with both of them, this really will be a cake walk.

Unless the role players have advanced too far?

I always thought the sheer genius of the 2008 Celtics was the way they all fit together. The team already had Paul Pierce. So, I always felt that adding a star like, say, Kobe Bryant would have been disastrous. Two guys who can create their own shot, who can drive the lane, who can control the ball, may have created some issues. Only one can shoot, after all. But the Celts didn’t do that. They brought in KG, who was happy to just clog the lane and let Paul do his thing. They also brought in Ray Allen. Yes, he needed to give up some of the luster on his star, but as the most lethal three pointer in history, he was the perfect complement to a guy who could drive the lane and kick back out behind the arc. It was beautiful.

So, what happens next year? The starting line-up will be something like Kyrie-Tatum- Brown-Hayward-Horford, right? So, where does Tatum now fit in? Is his role diminished? Is he too good for that to happen? Can Hayward step back a bit compared to what he’s used to? Will Kyrie shed some of the points for Tatum to collect? Because Tatum knows he can be the man, now. It’s going to be hard for him to look to feed the other guys like he might have this year. What about Brown? Does he go from second banana to fifth option? Sixth? 

Sure, it could all work out. Maybe Kyrie figures out how to divvy up the ball to keep everyone happy. Maybe everyone finds a role, whether it’s down on the box, or floating around the arc. 

But I can’t help but wonder if it would have been easier if the kids didn’t know just how good they are.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

What If

The Celtics find themselves in a pretty good position.

OK. A really really good position.

After dropping their first two games of the season, they have rattled off a 15 game winning streak. They haven't lost a game in a month, and own the best record in the NBA.

What could be better?

Of course, most Celtics fans are imagining that it could be better. After all, this team is supposed to have Gordon Hayward in the starting line-up. It wouldn't be a stretch to think that with a healthy Hayward, the Celtics don't lose that first game in Cleveland. After all, they almost pulled it off after overcoming the shock of losing their star player to a gruesome injury. So, if he played the way he was supposed to, that should have been an easy victory. Same, really, goes for the second game. The team was still figuring out what to do with the hole in the line-up. They had to redistribute all their efforts, and they didn't have time to even practice their new roles. So, it's not the world's biggest leap to think they might have won that game too.

So, should the Celtics be 17-0 with a healthy Hayward?

I wonder.

I wonder about the kids. 

I'm not sure if anyone knew that Brown and Tatum would be as good as they are this early. I also wonder if they would have been as good if Hayward were still here.

Right now, both of those kids are in the starting line-up. They are getting regular minutes. They are being counted on to succeed. 

But, not like a top pic is usually counted on. Neither of them have to carry the team on their backs. Neither has to make the big shot. They have Irving to do that for them. But, they're given every chance to succeed. They've taken that opportunity and run with it.

But, what if they had to share the ball with another all-star? What if they had to shave off some of their points? Would they have gotten into the same flow of the game? Would they be in the starting line-up? Would they be energy off the bench? Whatever the role ended up being, it would be a different one. For both of them.

In the end, this could help the Celtics in the future. No, it's not a good thing they lost an all-star for the season. But, the silver lining is definitely the ability to see what these kids really are. Let them learn on the fly.

Reminds me of when Xander Bogaerts arrived on the scene a bit earlier than might have been expected. Suddenly the veteran holding his spot became the veteran clogging his spot. Same this seems to have happened here. While I would never say Hayward was clogging a spot...it doesn't look like he needs to hold it anymore either.

Going forward, this will give the Celtics more options in building their roster. They know what they have with these two. (Or, at least as much as you can know after a month.) They can build around this now. They can figure out how they'll fit in around Hayward.

And maybe next year they'll start 17-0.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Insult and Injury

The worst part for fans (or me, at least) about the gut wrenching Gordon Hayward injury is that we've all been there before. An injury at the start of the season that changes the entire outlook of the year.

The first one I remember is the Nomar Garciaparra wrist injury during spring training in 2001. That was supposed to be the Red Sox year. They had the best pitcher in the history of baseball. Nomar was the two-time defending batting champ, and the Sox added Manny Ramirez, the best power hitter out there, during the offseason. This was going to be the year they finally won! Then, a single injury crushed the season.

Same thing happened to the Patriots in 2008. They were coming off an undefeated regular season, and had some unfinished business to take care of. That was looking to be a pretty special season. But, then Tom Brady was lost for the season during the first series of the year, and everything changed. Suddenly they weren't battling for a perfect season, they were battling for a playoff spot. A battle they eventually lost.

Incredibly, it happened again to the Patriots this very season. They  were once again starting a season with talks of perfection in the air. This team was loaded and ready to do something special. Then, Julian Edelman went down during training camp. Out for the season. Suddenly, something very special turned into something very good. Sure, they're still probably favored to with the title. But, this was going to be historically good. And now it's not.

So, maybe it's the back to back that makes the Hayward injury sting so much. Maybe it's the fact that the season was altered once again for a Boston team. Suddenly a team the had a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals as a base expectation with a decent shot at the finals lowers that bar a bit. Making the ECF is suddenly a little trickier. Advancing to the finals would be pretty long odds. The whole character of the team has changed. Before it really even got started. I can't help but feel cheated. Like I missed the opportunity to have a very special season. I feel like I missed a golden opportunity.

Again.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

So, That's what Assets are for!

I think some Boston Celtics fans were beginning to forget.

Danny Ainge finally used some of those coveted assets to acquire a true superstar. It made the Celtics a pretty formidable team this season, and beyond.

Yes, the Celtics gave up a lot to get him. But, if you want something you need to give up something. So, in order to get a top point guard, the celtics had to give up Isaiah Thomas, a less talented point guard, a serviceable forward in Jae Crowder, and the Brooklyn pick. 

Yeah. I said it was a lot.

But, they didn't have to part with the two youngest stars, in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. So, they kept some assets, and traded some others.

Because, at some point you need to make a choice. To fish, or cut bait.

There's a limit on how much talent one team can have. After all, you only get the twelve players every game. Only five in the starting line-up. At some point, having five small forwards stops making sense. At some point winning now becomes more important than potentially winning later.

So, the Celtics went with the known. They know what type of player Irving is. They know who Brown and Tatum are. They don't know what will happen with Thomas. They don't know what that Brooklyn pick will bring.

They know this gives them a damn good team. 

Keeping all the assets doesn't do that.

Good move.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Celtics Make Gordon Hayward Official!

I have no idea what took so long. But, it didn't really matter. Once Hayward put out that website post, he wasn't going to change his mind. It was just a matter of putting ink to paper....if that's what they were waiting for.

Now that he's here, what does that mean for the team? Wow is that hard to say.

No, Hayward is not a franchise changing type player. He's not Kevin Durant. But, he's a key piece to any team. How key really depends on the team.

One thing that was always so impressive about the most recent Big Three is that they all complimented each other so well. If Ainge had brought in, say, Kobe Bryant instead I'm not sure how well it would have worked. He and Pierce would be very similar players. Slashing 2/3s who can create their own shot and handle the ball. I'm not sure there would have been enough balls to satisfy each of them. That wasn't the case when he added KG and Allen. Allen was a pure shooter. He could come off a pick and nail a three. He could take a kick out and nail a three. He wasn't driving the lane right next to Pierce. He was waiting to bail him out. It was the perfect compliment. Then, there was KG. He had practically no interest in scoring. He was happy to simply rebound, and get it back out to the other two. He was there for the defense. He was one of the best, waiting there for people who got by Pierce and Allen. It really couldn't have been drawn up any better.

So, how will this new Celtics team work? Probably pretty well. I'm not sure the Celtics have a player exactly like Hayward. He can help spread the floor. He can make a shot. He can create a shot. He'll stop other teams from double teaming IT. He'll give Horford more room. It'll be interesting to see how it all works together.

Unlike baseball, for instance, a basketball team really does play off each other. You can't double team everyone. Having that additional option is something that can't be directly measured on paper. It's the sort of addition that makes everyone else on the court better. Another player that teams need to respect. No more leaving Marcus Smart open and daring him to beat you. The Celtics have another weapon. He can beat you. He can make the team better.

How much better remains to be seen. We probably won't know until after a few actual games, when the back and forth shows up. When they all play off each other. When the floor gets spread out. When people get there shots. 

I can't wait to see it in action.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What's Danny Thinking?

Oh, I have absolutely no idea. But, here's the other part. Unless you're actually Danny Ainge (Hi Danny!) you have absolutely no idea either.

Sure, we were all pretty excited when the Celtics won the lottery for the number one pick. Finally we could get whichever star we wanted! I think we all convinced ourselves that there was one franchise player, and the Celtics were now in line to land him. The Celts were back on top! But, here's the deal. There's not always a franchise altering player available in the draft. Sometimes there's more than one. Just because you have the chance to get the best player means you're getting a hall of famer. Or, even that you're getting the best player. 

And sometimes getting the player your want does not mean you make the first selection in the draft.

Any number of things could be running through Danny's mind. Trading the number one pick away could be a first step. Collecting assets as a way to make another bigger move. There have certainly been several of those floated about in the last couple days. So many, in fact, that's I'm a little concerned that there will be a trade before I finish writing this. So, yes, Danny could package a boatload of picks and completely revamp the team.

Or, maybe he wants the number three pick. He said that he was thinking he could get the same player at three that he would take at one. If that's true, and not pre-draft misdirection, making a trade is the easiest call ever. If he thinks its worth rolling the dice and assuming two other teams won't take your guy, adding an additional pics while losing nothing is a no-brainer. Or, if Danny has a three way tie at the top in his mind. If he'd be happy with whichever player falls into his lap at three, again it's free money.

Which is where I personally think he falls. I think he's telling the truth when he says he'll draft a player he wants at three. Mostly because, otherwise, why make the deal so soon? If he was literally looking to add a boatload of assets, could he do better than two first round picks for his number one? Why not wait and see? So, I'm guessing he realized he needed to trade with either LA or Philly. He needed a top three pick. Or maybe top four. So, once you've limited yourself like that, it's harder to get the larger offers. 

So, he did the best he could collecting free money. Took the extra first rounder and will go home happy.

Unless he does something completely different.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Does David Ortiz like Isaiah Thomas?

I know. I'm guessing the answer is, "David Ortiz loves everyone!"

But, I'm asking because I'm always fascinated by celebrity relationships. The fact that a Red Sox player can call a free agent to recruit him to the team. Where does he get his number? How did Nomar get in touch with a Bruins player to discuss wrist surgery? They all seem to be one big happy family.

Which brings me to Ortiz and Isaiah.

You may remember that when David Ortiz retired, the Red Sox had several ceremonies for him. One of them included athletes from the other Boston sports teams. All the major sports teams sent representatives, and they all streamed out of the centerfield door to come congratulate Ortiz on his amazing career. As the entire Celtics team made their way through the receiving line, IT thrust a jersey at Ortiz, and Papi signed it for him. Right there on the field. In the middle of the ceremony. It struck me. Was that the only way IT could get a Papi autograph? Ambushing him on the field like a fan might do? He couldn't just go to the locker room before the game and ask for one? Doesn't he have any celebrity pull?

After all, not long after that we all saw LeGarrette Blount sitting courtside at a Celtics game. After the game, he just walked onto the court to congratulate Thomas on a great game. If Blount wanted an autograph, I bet he would have gotten it then. He had the celebrity cache. 

Then, just a week or two ago cameras caught Thomas on the sidelines before a Patriots game. He was sporting a Tom Brady jersey. On the back of the jersey, was a nice clean Tom Brady autograph. Clearly he got that before the game, and not on the field during a ceremony. So, Thomas was able to quietly go up to Brady for an autograph. You'd think if you can get to Brady, you can get to Ortiz. Did Thomas have to use Blount to get to Brady? Was the autograph a payoff to Thomas for helping with some scheme? Is everyone just nice to Thomas? Everyone but Ortiz? Is that odd to anyone else?

Why did Thomas have to ambush Ortiz?

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