Remember when I said the Celtics have weathered the storm after an 8-3 start and looked forward to Kemba Walker’s return? Could we go back to that time. When the sky was the limit. As opposed to now when it’s falling.
Granted it’s falling for reasons out of the teams control. Injuries, coronavirus and a horrible schedule filled with back to backs to maximize profits and get the NBA back on the normal full 82-game October to April timeline. Yes, every team has dealt with these same issues but somebody had to benefit from the chaos. (Cc: Lakers, Sixers, Utah)
From the cream of the crop the Celtics have fallen to the middle of the pack losing 11 of their last seventeen games. Is that bad? Yes. Oh, God yes! Is there context? Certainly. Kemba, Jaylen and Jayson haven’t played much at all together. The glue to the whole foundation, Marcus Smart, tore his calf vs Los Angeles weeks ago. Players have shuffled in and out of lineups and it doesn’t help that Walker cannot play on back to backs and the schedule is filled with those.
On the bright side, the role players we’ve complained about in the past have bared fruit. Semi Ojeleye this season is almost a complete different player in every sense of the word from last season. He is no longer a liability on the offensive end and can hold his own. Shooting a nice 37% from three on 3.3 attempts. Grant Williams rebounded from a sluggish start clearly needing reps to get his groove back. Since the start of February Grant’s short 41% from deep on 2.7 attempts. If the Celtics can get healthy they’ll likely find themselves in round three with a more experienced bench and that is the difference between being conference runner-ups and NBA Finalist.
While the loses piled up pundits pointed to the acquisitions of Tristan Thompson and Jeff Teague as the reasons for the teams follies. While Teague is horrendous to the point I cannot keep up the irony driven facade, I do not understand the anger towards Thompson. Last season Daniel Theis served as Boston’s lone reliable big. The alternative being Enes Kanter. Robert Williams spent much of 2019-20 injured and didn’t show up until the postseason. He did show flashes, but a guard like Goran Dragic running a pick-and-roll cooked the spry young center like nothing.
People complain Thompson doesn’t fit and Serge Ibaka should have been on Danny’s radar instead. Except Ibaka likely did not want to come here. Having spent years in Toronto Ibaka likely wanted to head somewhere warm. That’s free agency in basketball for you. If you’re not a big market you can get fucked.
Thompson perhaps is too traditional for the Celtics system. Watching him grab a rebound only to pogo stick it up can grow tiresome. For once I’d like to see him kick it out. Instead of pushing off with his elbow and tossing a miserable hook shot.
That being said, he is still pretty good and while a step below Clint Capela, Tristan can still rebound and set screens. In his last nine-games Thompson’s shot 59% from the field and simply played better than when he began the season. If the Celtics crater it won’t be because of a guy they signed to play backup center.
Lastly, there is the matter of how is Kemba fairing since his return. He’s been rather sluggish to start so naturally we all declared him finished and the Celtics must Trade him. I mean, this is your max guy and he can’t score! What in the… what’s that? You’re telling me in the last four games he’s played the Celtics have won 3 of them and has averaged 22 points on 48 percent shooting?
And who would have thunk it, The Jays play great when they aren’t the sole sources for points and the offense isn’t so suffocating. But by all means, crown the Sixers.
So what have we learned? That this is a marathon and not a sprint. There are still plenty of bad times ahead of us but we also have seen this team shown signs that they are far better than this and deserve the “wait and see” treatment.
Now, does this mean Ainge should use that $28.5 million TPE nobody will shut up about? Are you kidding? Of course not. There’s no guarantee our players will avoid catching coronavirus. Tatum recently said he still cannot breathe properly and gets fatigued faster than before. This’ll hurt to say but we have to let this season go. We don’t know if we’re playing with a full deck. No one player will fix all of our complex woes.
That TPE expires in November by the way. So the Celtics could hold on to it until the off-season when, hopefully, this mess is all over and the world returns to some form of normalcy.