And all of a sudden, basketball is less than a month from returning. With looming uncertainties and dangers as we’re still in the peak of this pandemic (despite nearing our ninth month), NBA teams will resume running their respective arenas presumably with minimal fan attendance at most; because that strategy has done wonders for the NFL.
Regardless of my feelings towards the situation looks like we’re in for another action packed, utterly annoying NBA season filled with needless narrative spewing to make us forget the entire world around us is melting.
“Oh, boy looks like my team is doing well to start. Time to check the injury report to see if any of them got sick.” is sure to be a recurring ritual for us.
But, I digress. Let us talk basketball. Enough about the threatening, looming specter of this deadly virus of which there is still no cure for and we are at the mercy of pharmaceutical industries who’ll choose profits over saving humanity. Where’s Jonas Salk where you need him?
The deal here is simple: the Celtics of 2019-20 fame have returned, excluding the often absent Gordon Hayward. Closing the book on his infamous three year stint filled with misfortune. A consequence in turning over this new leaf is the forward position beyond the Jays appear thin. As second year prospect Romeo Langford showed promise in his rookie campaign, his wrist injury persists and will likely cost him the beginning of the season. Leaving backup duties to rookie Aaron Nesmith and (shudders) Semi Ojeleye.
Perhaps Nesmith will be better than advertised. Like Langford, he was also supposed to selected higher than fourteenth but his 2019-20 season was cut short to just fourteen games due to injury. He assured the media his foot was now at “100%” and doesn’t anticipate missing any time.
In forty-six games played for Vanderbilt Nesmith shot the ball pretty well from deep. 41 percent off of 6.3 attempts per game. He is a very bouncy, well tuned player on offense and I am optimistic he’ll pleasantly surprise us if given a proper training camp to get acclimated to the pros.
Meanwhile in the backcourt, the departure of Brad Wanamaker left a gapping hole on the bench at seemingly the worst time. Kemba Walker is banged up, his knee has constantly hampered his explosiveness and it’s unknown whether he needs surgery or just more rest than three-months. Many have sounded the alarm calling his contract an albatross. Let me be the first to tell you there are many people arguing in bad faith because sports brings out the worst in us. The arrogance to assume we can see how someone will perform in seasons beyond this one is stunning since they’ve been wrong about Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry in the past.
But will Kemba look lime Kemba THIS season? Probably not. The template for managing this issue is doing what the Cavaliers did in 2016 when Kyrie fractured his kneecap. Sit him for thirty-games, deal with the consequences of not having him for more than half of the shortened season and hope Jeff Teague and Payton Pritchard can hold down the fort. Or maybe Tremont Waters is ready to explode on the scene?
People panned the Teague signing at the time, but he still has tread left on the tires. He’s an underrated passer and I think he’ll be leaps and bounds better than Wanamaker was. Teague doesn’t have tunnel vision like Wanamaker and is less erratic. Since the C’s hopefully won’t be without one of the Jays on the court at nearly all times Teague will always have options when out there.
There is not a doubt in my mind when Kemba does return Twitter will light up and there will be op-eds wondering why he doesn’t have the same explosiveness as before and his numbers aren’t as impressive. But, like Kyrie and the Cavaliers, the Celtics need to take this route to ensure the best return on the backend.
Lastly, there is the adding of Tristan Thompson to the center rotation. While it’s debatable whether Thompson starts over Theis, as continuity is not something to disregard – especially under these circumstances. It is worth noting when Cleveland did trade for center Andre Drummond and relegated Thompson to the bench his numbers dipped significantly, likely hampering his value on the market as the Celtics were able to secure him for the full mid-level exception ($9.3 million) after Hayward’s departure upped the tool from $6.3 million.
While Theis three-point shot abandoned him in the playoffs, he hit them at a steady enough clip in the regular season to keep defenses honest when he had the ball beyond the arc. Thompson last year attempted only 23 deep balls, converting in just nine. Perhaps Brad Stevens ups the attempts to fifty or seventy-five in an attempt to add the feature to Thompson’s game, like he did with Aron Baynes.
Thompson is a skilled dunker, a cutter to the basket and is a fantastic insurance policy for when Theis gets himself into foul trouble as previously we had no backup big we could trust in crunch time.
The bench went from underwhelming and inexperienced to a balance attack with the signings of Teague and Thompson. On paper, if you simply forget Hayward was on the team, this team is better than what they were the previous year. Only difference is the obstacles are larger. But since home court advantage is minimized, and perhaps non-existent if the NBA decides to return to Orlando and play games in the bubble for the postseason, the Celtics should only worry about securing a top-3 seed and avoiding a dreadful matchup against the conference favorites in the second round.
Like clockwork we are cold on the Celtics because every other team reloaded with flashier names. Perhaps this won’t be our year, but we’re foolish to believe a team with the Jays in their prime, a good coach in Stevens and a solid bench isn’t going to be a serious threat.
Since this was largely an optimistic column I anticipate disaster to strike and the Celtics to prove themselves as not up to snuff. Ugh. What have I done!