When you drop a game in the Garden to the New York Knicks, it’s never a good thing, and when it’s these Knicks, well, let’s never speak of this again.
We’re all very frustrated with the Boston Celtics right now, and as we’ve spoken about on the most recent episode of the CL Pod, even if you want to make a deal right now, the pickings are slim indeed, so I asked you for some of your ideas for fixing this chronically underwhelming team on Thanksgiving, and you delivered.
Some of you truly believe blowing it up is the only way out, and while you very well may be right to poo-poo my preaching for patience, the fact remains there’s just not a lot of options out there to work with.
Right now, the only players on the market are other team’s problems, and while Bradley Beal may be the most attractive of those players who might be pried free of their current team, if you think it’s easy to come up with a deal the Washington Wizards won’t laugh at, think again.
A lot of people are asking if the Celtics should go after Wall, Beal or Porter. My return questions are:
1. Who are you giving up?
2. Aren’t you already worried about the giant tax bill looming? Trading for one of these guys only adds to that.
3. Another mouth to feed? Really?
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) November 19, 2018
Beal is arguably their best player, often better than John Wall has been in recent years, and when you consider that Wall will be earning nearly twice what Bradley will be making this season by end of his contract, it’s not even a contest.
He’s also young enough to live through a rebuild of two or three years, and making 25 million, meaning you’d either have to gut the depth or trade Gordon Hayward or Al Horford for him, all of which present potentially fraught paths forward, discounting what Beal would bring to the team.
Bradley is a streaky shooter himself – he’s hit as high as .409 from deep, for example, in his career, but is currently only hitting .331, and often settles for long twos he makes at a rate (.394) you’d want from three.
I’m not saying there’s not a deal out there that makes Boston better, but it’s probably not going to happen until we’re pretty close to the trade deadline – or several games under .500 – so let’s take a look at your ideas while we wait for things to break in one direction or another.
Hold the Line
This was a popular response, more than I expected; as reader Randall noted: “Guys just need to hit shots at a regular NBA level.” This is absolutely true, and honestly baffling as to why it isn’t happening.
It’s not just the Celts, either; teams expected to contenders, like the Houston Rockets, are currently shooting terribly, with the team owning the 23rd best three-point percentage despite shooting more than any team save one. The Utah Jazz are in a similar boat, a top-ten team in three-point attempts, but with the 27th-best rate of connecting on them.
Count #Spurs forward Rudy Gay among those who don’t care for league’s new “freedom of movement” emphasis. “It’s a contact sport.” #NBA https://t.co/LZgwwNjXa2
— Sam Amico (@AmicoHoops) November 9, 2018
I suspect the league’s new freedom-of-movement rule enforcement to be at least part of the culprit, as it’s forced teams to tweak or re-invent schema to not fall afoul of these rules on both ends of the floor, and while it’s too soon to say if it’ll be a boon to the game longer-term, right now it’s murdering squads who primarily eat beyond the arc, Boston included.
The teams which seem to be least affected? Those who use a more varied offense, like the Golden State Warriors, ironically enough, who are more than happy to take it to the cup when the trey is well-defended, as are the Memphis Grizzlies, confusing all of us by occupying the top spot in the West, which, at least by top-four seeding records, is the worst conference – what in the world is going on this season?
This brings us to the next idea, namely –
Taking it to the cup
As reader bklement notes: “We need inside presence, right now it feels like we’ve built the team for the last five years, not the next five.”; if it turns out I am right about the new rules impacting teams adversely (a lot of these team’s struggles seem to be unrelated and/or personnel-related, but I do suspect there’s a connection), the teams that have a more varied diet will thrive, and the specialized diets will go extinct.
In my other life as an anthropologist, I sometimes have to teach physical anthropology, and while not my area of expertise, it’s instilled in me a respect for the role of diet in survival – an early hominid, paranthropus boisei, evolved massive jaws better-able to chew the plant-based diet it was surrounded by than its puny homo habilis hominids living on whatever scraps they could scare up.
Guess which one you’re likely descended from? Hint: it ain’t the specialist.
The moral of the story is to look how to succeed by reading the way the future will shift, not by adapting to the leaders of the present, and that may also be a major source of the problem. Or not. At this point, who knows? Perhaps some other ideas are in order.
David Anthopolous believes an injection of youth and athleticism in the front court in a one Robert Williams might be a solid move, and I tend to agree. Said David:
“What I’d like to see is Williams, Horford, Tatum, Brown and Irving. Let Al play his true position, and maybe he comes around. On offense, Stone Fingers Baynes really can’t shoot, dunk or rebound, so is no real help there for Al. Baynes can defend, true, but I think a shot blocker/leaper like Williams with a softer pair of hands who was defensive player of the year in his conference in both his college years, and who is quick enough to defend on the perimeter, may ultimately defend better. Maybe Hayward could replace Brown, I don’t know. But Williams, who’s a danger inside, would open up lanes to the paint for Brown and Tatum in particular, and everyone.”
I suspect Williams may be quick enough to play down as far to the three in some lineups, and could eventually become a very special player if he can add some ballhandling playmaking to his repertoire – nothing great, just enough to slash to the basket from a little further out – it’d be like having a Giannis-light to wreak havoc on opposing defenses.
Do I think that’ll happen this season? Of course not – but I have seen enough T I M E L O R D to know he can start making strides toward that kind of player, and at least some of that ought to be in game time not currently being earned by even the rotation guys at times.
Too much pressure
Quite a few of you mentioned the pressure we ourselves heaped onto these players, and while I agree it may be a factor, I have a very small violin, playing a very sad song for them, if that’s truly the case. Think about it – if people, who have watched you grow and come together, and fought off grand expectations for an entire season, save five minutes, have the audacity to believe in you, evidently more than yourself, well, may we all be blessed with such problems.
Apart from the (well-deserved) boos at the aforementioned Knicks game, there’s really only been a little more uninformed commentary coming out of the peanut gallery, and if the combination of crap results and lack of response is making them sensitive to what has, in my opinion, largely been an understanding and patient response until very recently, well, the only guys who can fix that is themselves.
Expectations in Boston will always be high. It generates a lot of stupid commentary and insufferable fans, but there’s a reason why those banners give prospective free agents chills, and why we will cheer for our team when they show the kind of fight we expect. This team, for whatever reason, hasn’t been giving their all, and the fans know it. Want less pressure? Show up consistently. Done.
Have a little fun, damnit!
This one, suggested by 4Kau11, may just be the most important. Yes, it’s your job. Yes, things have sucked. But hanging your head after a mistake just piles more problems on, and degrades the ties you need to win between the team. Dive after loose balls. But have each other’s backs, and when things go south, if you pout, it’s contagious. But if you laugh at yourself after a bone-headed play or an airball, and get right back to it, well, that’s contagious, too. If nothing else happens this weekend, I hope this does.
Sometimes the toughest nuts just need another angle to be cracked.
Thanks to you all for your suggestions, and your patience – it’ll get better soon, I promise.
For more stories by Justin, click here.
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