Celtics Summer League Game 2 Notes

The Summer League Celtics continued to impress dominating the Cleveland Cavaliers, 89-72. From the opening tip the Celtics were the aggressors and never let their foot off the gas pedal. The tone setter was LSU guard Tremont Waters put on an absolute show to start dishing out a crazy between the legs pass to Chinanu Onuaku for a dunk and showing off his off the dribble step-back moves compensating for his 5 foot, 9 inch stature and acting as an absolute pest on defense.

Waters finished with 11 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals.

Tacko Fall continues to make his case he is deserving of a roster spot on the professional Celtics squad. The 7 foot, 7 inch  descendent from Dakar scored 12 points towering over his competition snagging only two rebounds but putting the ball back in the basket so effortlessly. I was taken aback by his right-block shimmy hook shot, surprisingly Falls has above-average touch around the rim. On defense Falls resembles the Berlin Wall. The Cavaliers tried posting him up and the guards tried to maneuver around him only to pass out.

I know it’s Summer League but Fall is incredibly fun to watch and more importantly resembles a real NBA player. Which is more than I can say for Guerschon Yabusele who made just one field goal in the contest. He deserves credit for playing through a dislocated pinky finger. You can’t say Yabusele does not want to make it. I am doubting he athletically can.

Carsen Edwards notched 14 points off of ten shots getting the most of his production from around the basket showcasing his supreme ability to finish around the basket. His dribbling is excellent and out of this draft class the Celtics have brought in Edwards looks the most ready for showtime.

Robert Williams played another solid game scoring 10 points and dribbling down the floor for a transition attempt. I honestly didn’t know he could dribble for this long. He ultimately failed to finish the possession, but yet another eye opener.

Lastly, Grant Williams began the night slow converting on just one of his four field goal. Williams has a real scorers mentality and is a plus-41 in his first two Summer League games. Williams effectively used his on a bigger player to force a shot clock violation.

Williams scores 5 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and a block.

Chris Paul to the Celtics?

The Houston Rockets are in the beginning phases of a free fall. Their new, cheap owner abruptly ended negotiations with head coach Mike D’Antoni effectively making the 2019-20 season the final he’ll serve with the team. Also, it not so inadvertently it sets the Rockets up for colossal failure sowing instability behind the scenes. With over $387 million tied up in James Harden, Chris Paul, Clint Capela and P.J Tucker. Daryl Morey deserves credit for filling in the holes penny pinching, finding Iman Shumpert and Austin Rivers in the bargain bin.

The title window for the Rockets is officially closed. Of course, it didn’t have to be. But that’s what happens when your owner is rich enough to buy a professional basketball, but not doesn’t have enough leftover to actually pay for the team itself.

Initial reports say Morey is shopping literally everyone. Including Harden. Likely, this is bait to lure teams into talks that eventually revolve into sending a package for Tucker or Capela. The Rockets likely chasing any form of cap relief and to replenish their draft coffers.

Capela and Tucker shouldn’t be difficult to move. Their contracts are decent and the years aren’t intimidating to me. The worst contract on the books is Chris Paul and he might have one or two years of productivity left before his career comes to a screeching, horrific halt. With $124,076,442 owed to Paul for his age 34-35-36 seasons the Rockets have been extra cautious with the “Point-God” these last two years allowing him to miss 48 games and couldn’t have asked for better results, if we’re being honest.

His hamstrings are prone to splitting like guitar strings. Any team that trades for Paul is effectively eating junk food in hopes they can squeeze a title run before he becomes the biggest multi-year albatross in the entire league.

Would Danny Ainge consider going all-in on Chris Paul if Kyrie Irving leaves? I’d imagine he’d consider it even if the dollar figures are more than daunting. While I wouldn’t recommend the Celtics do this, the argument for why they would is all there. An underlying subplot of this off-season is whether Al Horford will opt-in to his $30.1 million player-option. Horford has been open about wanting to compete for a title and if Irving leaves we can see him become a David West-like figure in the NBA hopping from title contender to title contender in pursuit of the precious. The small bright side to two of their best players leaving is the opening of $26 million in space for the Celtics. Enough for free agents like Bojan Bogdanovich and Patrick Beverly.

Of course this all goes up in smoke if Chris Paul is traded to Boston. The price tag isn’t the only thing that scares fans away from acquiring number 3. But who’ll be in the trade coming to Houston. While I expect a huge bounce back year for him, nobody in Boston would shed a tear for Gordon Hayward being the one moved. Of course, Morey will want more than a forward coming off a devastating injury and a lackluster return season. He’ll want Marcus Smart. First Team All-Defense Marcus Smart.

A Rockets starting lineup of James Harden, Marcus Smart, Gordon Hayward, P.J Tucker and Clint Capela potentially is better than what they’ve had before. Morey’s teams have always been super weak on the wings. Trevor Ariza is great, but he’s never known for his scoring prowess. Morey also would have four of the best defenders the league has to offer, if Hayward is 100 percent, so we’d see a complete reform of what we’re used to in Houston.

For Boston, they’d be giving up the most in return for the least. Chris Paul, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris (assuming the C’s keep him, they have his Bird Rights and can sign him to a 3-year, $30 million deal) and Al Horford isn’t very sexy on paper. But CP3 will find himself master of a team consisting of  shooters. He’d likely finish the season averaging more assists per game than his two-seasons in Houston.

Flags fly forever. But we’ve seen Ainge waffle on going all-in on one year this last summer involving trading one of Tatum or Brown for Kawhi Leonard. Completely understandable given the circumstances at the time. Going all-in on Paul is a strong 180 turn.

What are the other alternatives if Kyrie leaves? Are we even sure he’ll leave and this isn’t just media spin we continuously fall for? It isn’t outrageous to believe the media is subservient to hot takes and access to superstars. Of course a LeBron mouthpiece pushes for a reunion with Irving despite all the dysfunction going on in Los Angeles.

Ainge is smart to tread carefully with his newfound wealth if Irving and Horford depart. The Lakers are no doubt a tire fire. But they didn’t waste their cap space. Signing Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to one-year deals at least didn’t sacrifice valuable cap space for this summer. We can see Ainge take a similar route with a much smaller check. The aforementioned Rondo could return to Boston to lead the second unit, assuming they don’t bring back Terry Rozier. Fellow former Celtic Jeff Green can also make his way back to Beantown. The 33-year old is coming off two underrated campaigns, can defend and is an awesome finisher near the basket, converting on 67 percent of his 230 attempts in the restricted-area.

No matter what, after Irving and Horford are gone the Celtics are left with a talented, but flawed roster that will outperform the win total of its previous season, but will be nowhere near title contention. It’ll be a year dedicated to decompression after multiple years of high risk and pressure. Something the Celtics fan base admittedly needs, while it simultaneously doesn’t want.

A Brief Conference Finals Preview

If this season is to mark a watershed moment for anything it is the resurgence of the importance of wing players. Three of the four remaining teams best players are classified as forwards, the lone exception being Damian Lillard and C.J McCollum of Portland.

Despite Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson’s heroics in the final five-quarters of their second round matchup against the Houston Rockets, the greatest backcourt the NBA’s ever seen would be nowhere near where they are now without Kevin Durant shouldering over 42-minutes a night shooting the lights out while Curry struggled to find his groove.

For the past few years, the rise of Curry ushered in an era where the most important position in the league was in the backcourt. He concurrent rise of “Morey-Ball” and the death of the midrange turned basketball into a game we configure into a computer as opposed to the old fashioned eye test. But it’s the midrange which brought Portland to the dance and Houston’s inability to utilize a wide swath of the floor why they are no longer playing.

Milwaukee and Toronto are mostly mirror images of one another. The shakiness of the backcourt is well known for both teams. All Toronto needs to cruise to the championship round is four baskets from Kyle Lowry. You shouldn’t go into a playoff series feeling more confidence in a fossil like George Hill. But Boston is miles away a inferior defensive squad than Toronto for the simple fact Nick Nurse can execute a trapping scheme. It’ll be easy to double team anyone on Milwaukee anyone not named Giannis Antetokounmpo because of the simple luxury of having Kawhi Leonard on your team.

I want to pick Toronto because as a whole they are the better team. For all his failures on the biggest of sports, I trust Lowry more than Eric Bledsoe, and Khris Middleton is not going to play like 1996 Michael Jordan against a non-Celtics opponent. These two teams haven’t experienced any forceful fitting of square pegs into round holes. Milwaukee is basically LeBron’s wet dream surrounding Giannis around spot-up shooters and rim attackers.

I love Al Horford, but Serge Ibaka has more bounce in his legs and doesn’t have to be the lone person aware of his role. Ibaka is better equipped to takeaway a key cog in Budenholzer’s offensive strategy.

These teams are relatively evenly matched. Except Milwaukee is far and beyond ahead in point differential (+138) of Toronto. The track record for teams with a simply awesome statistic is this ends with Milwaukee on top of the basketball world.

Milwaukee over Toronto, 4 games to 1.

In the world of video games if your friend continuously picks the Golden State Warriors on NBA 2k, as you question your relationship with this cheater, you search for a team that’ll at least match them in firepower. If not Houston, then you’d pick the Portland Trailblazers. But Dame and C.J cannot hang with the unstoppable machine of Golden State alone and they are expected to do that under these circumstances.

If Kevin Durant cannot suit up for action perhaps Portland has a chance. But Houston had numerous chances to take advantage of a short handed Warriors only to let Steph get loose and wrestle the series away from their rivals again.

If Enes Kanter can’t hang against Andrew Bogut he’ll never see the floor. This is the only matchup for Kanter to sign. If he’s playable this series complexion looks completely different believe it or not.

The Warriors are vulnerable. There’s no spark plug in DeMarcus Cousins anymore. They are older, slower and have a few screws loose. But they’ll get exposed likely in the NBA Finals. Not the Blazers. Not a team they’ve routinely beaten up on for multiple years.

Warriors over Trailblazers, 4 games to 1.

Kevin Durant Is The The Iron Man

The playoffs without LeBron is like an endless tug of war between relatively equal franchises. Outside of my Celtics being throughly emasculated by the Bucks, every series became a best-of-3 and possibly will end in an ultimate Game 7.

We’ve heaped deserving praise on to Giannis Antetokoumpo for developing impenetrable post moves transforming the Bucks from a middling high-40s team to a 60-win one four-wins away from their first NBA Finals in over four-decades, we forgot the established star bringing his game to new heights. The two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors are not the same juggernaut we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. Stephen Curry isn’t the reliable sharpshooter he once was and with the loss of DeMarcus Cousins to an achilles their frontline is embarrassingly depleted forced to rely on old friend Andrew Bogut to hold down the fort.

Naturally, it all falls on Kevin Durant. With Curry shooting below 40 percent for the series against the Houston Rockets his running mate Durant has averaged over 42 minutes in the last five-games and is the lone constant pulse of the Warriors offensive game. Last night Durant suffered a calf strain no doubt connected to the heavy workload he’s shouldered the last week or so. Hopefully it isn’t anything more server. If it is, then the Warriors who are one-game away from returning to the final-four are as good as dead against the Rockets.

For all the answers Mike D’Antoni seemed to conjure up for limiting the playmaking of Draymond Green or the outside shooting of Klay Thompson it’s the puzzle of Durant that’s never been solved and likely never will be. P.J Tucker repeatedly has been bested when covering the two-time Finals MVP and it’s reached the point where you almost want to let the 6 foot, 5 inch James Harden switch on to 6 foot, 9 inch Durant as a last ditch effort to Jedi Mind Trick him into disrupting the flow of the offense.

Averaging 33.2 points per game, Durant is crucial to Golden State’s chances of not just beating Houston, but also winning the whole thing. If Durant ever becomes compromised, be it because his calf strain is more severe than the team is letting on or simply the heavy duty minutes is just too much for his body to bare, then the Warriors will fall. K.D’s played the role of iron man this playoffs and he is nowhere near the finish line. He can be commended for almost single-handily saving their season.

Anybody But Golden State

We’re nearing the end to another season, it’s that annual time of year where i trick myself into believing anybody but the Golden State Warriors will be standing atop the NBA World for another year. Maybe the Houston Rockets will finally put it all together? Or perhaps the Toronto Raptors? Nah. Let’s be real. It’s always Golden State. Once again playing in their malaise state for most of the season they’ve cinched up the number one seed thanks in part to most of the Rockets team regressing.

Of course, I begrudgingly have to admit the duo of Stephen Curry (probably will receive mild MVP considerations this season) and Kevin Durant are always a force to be reckon with, even if we don’t want to acknowledge how great Durant truly is, we have to.

This is the third season in the real-life cheat code that is the KD-era Warriors. We’ve seen them light the world on fire from beginning of the season to the very end. We also seen them sleepwalk with the occasional smackdown laying just to remind us who are the real sheriffs of these parts.

Still there is hope. Albeit, likely false hope. While the Oklahoma City Thunder on paper have the potential to eclipse the Mega-Powers exploding for WrestleMania V. I can’t put much faith in OKC given their previous history of shortcomings in the Russell Westbrook-era and Paul George’s nagging shoulder injury. Since January 26th George is shooting 40.6 percent from the field, a far cry from his 44.8 percentage prior to the injury. So the Thunder are a non-factor.

The San Antonio Spurs are a story I desperately want to happen. The narrative is too juicy to ignore. DeMar DeRozan’s history of playoff ineptitude lead to the franchise he trusted to trade him away for a superior superstar and is out to prove to everyone you can win the big one with him as your number one. There’s also the factor the curmudgeon Gregg Popovich, a noted critic of the NBA’s reliance on three-pointers, built this team in the mold fitting 2002, post-up and mid-rangers. And we’re shocked they haven’t cracked fifty-wins?

Currently the Spurs sit at 47-34 with one contest left on their schedule before the playoffs begin. If victorious against the 32-48 Dallas Mavericks the Spurs likely vault the Thunder for the sixth (Rockets and Bucks are left on their docket) and face Houston in round one. Historically, the Spurs have had Houston’s number and subsequently Mike D’Antoni’s. This year is no exception. San Antonio’s won three of the four contest this season. James Harden and Chris Paul were available for all but one game, which Houston won 108-101. For Houston, if they can overcome San Antonio I like their chances beating Golden State considering they’re largely the same team which took the champs to the brink before CP-3 got hurt. The cliche of “They are peaking at the right time” rings true for Houston. They are healthy, well-rounded and finding Austin Rivers on the scrap heap arguably saved their season.

As for San Antonio, the one ace they have up their sleeve is the old-school squads usually give Golden State issues. They went into last year’s series undermanned and fought valiantly against the Warriors. Add DeRozan into the mix they’ll surely garner ten or more points per game. Can they beat Golden State? No. They can take them to six-games though.

We know the stories with Utah and Portland. Utah’s second best offensive force is Joe Ingles, so they’re out. Plus, the Warriors have answers for Rudy Gobert. Portland only got swept because Maurice Harkless wasn’t healthy for the playoffs; the story is different this time around. If Harkless is healthy and can make his jump shots then Damian Lillard won’t be subjected to the punishment New Orleans unleashed on him. As for their prospects against Golden State, I’d like them a lot more of Jusuf Nurkic didn’t break his leg.

This leaves the Denver Nuggets. Here are my doubts: Nikola Jokic’s ability to not be a liability on defense in the playoffs and the team’s issues playing on national television. I like them a lot. I think Michael Malone deserves Coach of the Year considerations for the job he’s done keeping this team far above water when 98 percent of the roster began the season on the injury list. But the Nuggets simply aren’t ready.

My motto is simple… “Anybody but Golden State… and Philly… and Toronto…”

It’s Time To Tell Gordon The Bad News

Boston Celtics’ Gordon Hayward has been just informed he will be sent to the G-League to rehab with the Maine Red Claws, per @Sailboatstudios.

Okay, fine. So that didn’t happen. But it really should. Since returning to the court Hayward’s done more harm than good. Arguably, he’s the reason Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been disappointing to begin a season so many pegged the “Two Jay’s” to make a big leap. Brad Stevens is a little stubborn and it takes him a while to adjust. We like to believe his system isn’t as rigid as others, that he crafts strategy solely around the strengths and weaknesses of his personnel. But, that too, is a lie.

Going way back to 2015, Stevens established a role for Tyler Zeller. Yes, that same Tyler Zeller. So even as Zeller got beasted continually on the boards against the Cavaliers, he wasn’t going to insert Jonas Jerebko to utilize his stretch shooting to drag Timofey Mozgov out of the paint for anything in the world.

The same can be said for why Hayward continues to start and close games, despite the clear evidence he’s not all the way back yet. Stevens wants long, athletic shooting wings. The more the merrier. Well, Hayward isn’t athletic anymore. The cruel NBA Gods robbed him of that when they snapped his ankle like a tooth pick that faithful night in Cleveland that drastically changed the destiny of the franchise.

Even if Hayward works himself back to 70 percent of what he once was, he’ll be no match for Giannis, Butler or Kawhi when the playoffs roll around. His goose is cooked. Plain and simple.

The much anticipated lineup of Irving – Brown – Tatum – Hayward and Horford has been a dud the entire year, posting a god awful offensive rating of 91.4 and a plus – 0.1 net rating (I’m shocked that isn’t in the negative). Every game starts the same. The Celtics allow their opponent to get ahead by 15 points or more, because no one can shoot or drive to the rim. Wide open shots are missed, while simultaneously the opposing team makes wide open shots on the regular. When Hayward is off the floor and a rhythm is established, the Celtics go on a big run to climb out of the hole he is very responsible for them being in the first place. Then, Stevens’ big heart gets the best of him, puts Hayward back in to close and the Celtics falter and lose.

In the short span of time the Celtics have given to the Irving – Brown – Tatum – Morris – Horford lineup, their offensive rating soars to 113.7. The pace also slows to a snails pace, but that is probably how the Celtics should honestly play.

When Hayward is off the floor the Celtics ORtg rises to 111.4. Their mark for last season, when Hayward played barley five-minutes was 107.6.

The Celtics must come to grips with reality before things get so bad that there’s a locker room mutiny against Hayward. It’s time for the Hospital Celtics to return, with Kyrie Irving. It’s time for Aron Baynes to reclaim his spot as the starting center. It’s time for Marcus Smart to get more minutes. It’s time for the Celtics to move on from Hayward.