Making Sense Of The Past Week Of Celtic Basketball

To start this off, let’s take a look at the past week and what has transpired on and off the court for the Celtics.

Wednesday 1/9: Blowout win at home versus Indiana

Thursday 1/10: Loss in Miami and a kerfuffle between Marcus Morris Sr. and Jaylen Brown.

Saturday 1/12: Loss in Orlando, Kyrie takes a nutty, let’s teammates hear about it in the postgame.

Monday 1/14: Kyrie clears the air on comments Saturday, Celtics take another loss in Brooklyn, Jaylen Brown speaks out postgame.

Tuesday 1/15: Terry Rozier (Per Yahoo! Sports) says this about the Celtics struggles.

“Kyrie said a lot after the last game and it was probably stuff that people didn’t want to hear,” Terry Rozier III told Yahoo Sports. “But it’s showing.”

Monday was the gift and curse, Irving’s words coming to life. Nonchalant play against a Nets team that played harder and with more conviction led to the lopsided score and chants of “Kyrie’s leaving!” from a confident Barclays Center crowd.

“I don’t think we’ve all been on a team like this,” Rozier told Yahoo. “Young guys who can play, guys who did things in their career, the group that was together last year, then you bring Kyrie and Hayward back, it’s a lot with it.”

When asked if the roster was too talented, Rozier didn’t back down.

“Too talented, yeah. Too talented.”

There is a lot to sift through there from only a week and there has to be a question of what this means for the Celtics going forward. While it all could be the normal peaks and valleys of an NBA season, it also could be a real issue for this team. Frustration, ugly losses, calling out teammates, and an overall disconnect between the players is not something we expected for the Celtics coming into this season. My rebuttal to that would be: should we have seen this coming?

They were one game away from The Finals without two of the most important pieces on the roster. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier all saw vastly inflated roles at such a young age and saw themselves succeed in those roles. They were down key players, had no expectations, and STILL almost dethroned The King. At such a young age, while I’m not saying they’re airheads, that stuff can go to your head. Enter Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, and things get a bit cluttered. A lot of people looked up and down the roster and picked out Marcus Morris as the guy who would get lost in the shuffle. In hindsight, it was a pretty foolish thing to assume. Compared to the young guys, Morris know what he’s good at, knows how he can fit in, and does performs on a consistent basis. The young guys are all so young that they might not even know for sure what their strengths are, let alone how to fit in seamlessly on a team with this much talent.

Another factor here is I think we all underestimated how difficult it is to come together with so many new pieces no matter how talented they all are. We were spoiled in 2007-08 as that team came together immediately en route to a 66-16 record and a title. That isn’t how that usually works out, it usually takes time. Look at the Heat in 2010-11 the first year of their big three. They started out at 9-8 and eventually were taken out in The Finals by a Mavericks team who wasn’t nearly as talented as them. The first year the Lakers had Shaq they were bounced in 5 games in the second round by Utah. It took Jordan 4 years to finally reach the Eastern Conference Finals and two more to reach The Finals. While I’m not saying this year’s iteration of the Celtics is doomed, we’ve seen this before. Teams take time to come together and it isn’t always sunshine and rainbows from start to finish.

This also hasn’t been the most ideal situation for the Celtics as a whole. The day LeBron went West was the same day the collective basketball world anointed the Celtics as the kings of the East for years to come. This also put a gigantic “everyone says we’re the best team ever” target on their backs and every single team gives the Celtics their best effort. They want to see nothing more than this whole thing to crash and burn and the Celtics haven’t dealt with that well thus far. They were the team that plays the hardest for years and now they’re seeing teams play with the same effort they did and they’ve crumbled.

Gordon Hayward’s health is also another thing that has mucked this whole situation up. We all expected him to return to form by now and he’s still not 100% yet. With the injury came a stunt in his overall athleticism and he’s been working to remake his game on the fly. Mike Gorman mentioned this on the Celtics Beat podcast as he said that “Gordon Hayward is learning to play the game more below the rim than above the rim. He’s got great basketball instincts, he’s a really great basketball player, but he’s still not back athletically to where he was before.”  I couldn’t agree more and his whole adjustment has compromised the Celtics ability to play great basketball at points in time. While in terms of wins and losses, this isn’t ideal, it’s more about getting him back to 100% rather than sitting him for stretches to get a win.

All of these factors have assisted in things boiling over as of late. They hear what the media says, and they hear how much of a disappointment they’ve been over the first 43 games of the season. With a group of guys as competitive as they are it makes sense that stuff like this may happen. The part here that’s notable is how much of these problems have reared their ugly heads in just 6 days. We’ve had more media fodder this week than we did all of last season. It’d be foolish of me not to recognize these issues, but it would also be foolish of me to jump to conclusions about this team. I do not think the season’s over, I do not think Kyrie Irving is leaving in the off-season, and I do not think they can’t overcome this.

Should the Celtics be 25-18 and closer to being out of the playoffs than the first seed? No, they should not, but here we are. It’s all about getting better and it’s all about coming together as a team. While that loss in Brooklyn was frustrating, how Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown performed down the stretch will do way more for them than just a win in January. For the young guys it’s about not only fitting in on the team, but developing and improving every single day. For the veterans, it’s about helping the young guys in any way possible and streamlining this team’s growth.

I don’t see them catching Toronto nor Milwaukee but I think the 3rd seed is on a silver platter for them. If things click into gear by playoff time, I don’t care who has home court advantage, this team will have a say in who goes to the NBA Finals.

(Also, I miss Aron Baynes, plz come back soon <3, maybe even tonight)

-Chuck

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