There's an interesting word that keeps coming up when people discuss the Boston Celtics. Fun.
Last year's team had their moments (like say beating LeBron and the Heat with a Jeff Green catch-and-fling buzzer beater 3 point bomb). But by the end of the year it was just sad seeing Rajon Rondo at only half speed and a long line of injuries that forced the team to trot out D-Leaguers as fill-ins. That wasn't fun. That was brutal at times.
This year's team still isn't winning a lot of games, but they are a lot more entertaining to watch. Just ask twitter.
Why is that? Well, a lot of it has to do with style and system.
"There is reason to watch these guys; they’re fun to watch, they play hard, and they play a type of game that is fun to watch. They take a lot of shots, so it’s not like they’re milking the clock and trying to squeak by people. "They’re pacing the game, pushing the ball and taking shots early in the shot clock. They’ve turned out to be a very good offensive rebounding team so they can go after their own misses. They have to shore it up defensively, but offensive teams are always fun to watch and fun to call. Tommy [Heinsohn] is happy because they’re running, so my life is easier."
Let's see, is a fast pace, running team fun to watch? Sure.
Is a team that passes well and shares the ball fun to watch? Yep.
Is a young team that hustles and doesn't give up when they are down fun to watch? You bet.
In Rondo you've got a creative, quirky, flashy, and dynamic player who makes passes and plays that few (if any) in the league can hope to imitate.
The Celtics have an oddly fun inside-out team where the big men are shooting 3's and the point guard is a great rebounder.
Jeff Green is capable of explosive scoring nights and his equally explosive dunks show up regularly on the Top Plays.
But many of those guys were around last year too. So you have to give some of the credit to the new blood.
When he's healthy Marcus Smart is an absolute bulldog on defense and he creates a lot of fast breaks off his steals at the top of the key.
Marcus Thornton has stretches where it just feels like anything he throws up is going in.
Tyler Zeller is surprisingly efficient around the basket and has a good pick-and-roll chemistry with Rondo.
Evan Turner is a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get (and you might enjoy it for a while but too much of it will make you sick).
Plus, Brad Stevens has this young team playing believing in themselves and relentlessly fighting to win the game.
Of course, it isn't all puppies and ice cream with this team. One of the reasons why games involving the Celtics are must-see-TV is because the other team seems to be playing well also. I think in some cases they simply feed off of the energy and the up-tempo style to play their own transition game. However, there's also a not-so-secret problem with this Celtics team. They are struggling on defense.
If you watch that video, you'll see that Tas is giving the Celtics a backhanded compliment (at best). He points out that the Celtics have allowed 8 different players to score their season high in points against the Celtics. Basically, the Celtics have a bad habit of letting guys go off on them.
So the Celtics are running and moving the ball and scoring a lot. But they are also letting other teams score a lot and the good teams are taking advantage.
Stevens said in training camp that they'd be playing a more aggressive style of defense. It could simply be taking this team a little bit of time to get used to that style and develop the trust that it takes to make the right rotations to get good stops.
Interestingly, the Celtics are at least taking care of the bad teams on their schedule.
C's are 3-1 vs. teams below .500 (lost to OKC) & 1-5 vs. teams .500 or better (beat CHI). Next 5 games are vs. teams .500 or better.— Ben Rohrbach (@brohrbach) November 20, 2014
The record says that this team is still among the worst in the league. There's a lot of young players that haven't yet hit their full potential. They need an upgrade in talent but are waiting for the right deals to come along.
Still, if the Celtics can shore up that defense (and hopefully getting Marcus Smart back will help) then they have a chance of turning some of these close losses into wins. They would have a shot at being both fun and good at the same time.
That would be even more fun, now wouldn't it?