The Celtics are 22 - 57 in 2014 so far (one game left). This year can't end soon enough for me. With that said, we had another great year covering our beloved boys in Boston right here on CelticsBlog and I figured it was a good time to reflect on the past calendar year.
Just for kicks, let's go through this month by month.
The year kicked off with a trade. Farewell and good luck Courtney Lee.
Hey, remember when Steez was Player of the Week? Well, that was already old news by January of 2014.
In a strange way, Tom Petty's classic song, "Free Fallin'" has mirrored Jordan Crawford's 2013/14 season. On that record, the main character, a "bad boy," has a fling with a "good girl," before dumping her and breaking her heart. He drives away on the highway and feels freedom, which is all he thinks he needs. But quickly, he realizes that the feelings he had for her were real, and he begins to free fall into nothingness.
Meanwhile, we were all on the Rajon Rondo return watch:
And I was already getting annoyed at trade rumors. (Click the link to see my venn diagram at the bottom)
You see, I'm not a complete Rondo apologist. I can see the rationale behind trading him. I just don't think you can get equal value for him and it makes a lot more sense to see what you can do around him going forward.
The Rondo stuff didn't get any better in February. In fact, I started taking it out on all of you (with a playful smirk of course)
So, in case you missed it, I made a really bad decision by requesting your "best" trade ideas. I'm not going to link to the post because I'm afraid you people will keep submitting them. My eyes, they burn. Can't un-see.
But at least Kevin got us distracted with draft coverage. Hey, I wonder what he thought of Marcus Smart.
He's also shooting a miserable 10-of-45 from three-point range, the worst drought of his college career. As turnovers remain a major problem, one must wonder: Is Marcus Smart really cut out to be a point guard in the NBA? The last two months of the college season might provide the answer.
At the deadline there was a rumor that Rondo could have been headed to the Rockets but that didn't happen and nothing else happened either. Partly because Ainge might have been overvaluing his assets.
Having failed to make a move prior to today's NBA trade deadline, it appears that Danny Ainge and the Celtics have decided it would be in their best interest to ride out the remainder of the season with what they currently have.
This allowed us to actually look at ...you know, basketball. Alex Skillin looked at Rondo's jumper.
But beyond the rust and inconsistency that Rondo has shown, one facet of his game has proven to be a pleasant surprise since his return in January. The 28-year-old’s jump shot, long his biggest weakness, has looked much improved so far this season.
Oops, just kidding, we had more non-basketball stuff to talk about that month. Like Birthdaygate!
The media is an odd sort of thing. Sometimes things that seem like a big deal are handled lightly and sometimes that seem like a small thing are blown out of proportion. I tend to believe that this Birthdaygate business with Rondo falls into the latter category, but enough people are obviously concerned about it so I feel obligated to cover it.
Also, I had dreams of Fireworks long before Wyc uttered those fateful words. In fact, I may have gotten a little crazy with the ideas.
In March, Kevin mercifully brought us back to the basketball court with an amazing 6 part series on the Celtics pick and roll defense.
Throughout the season, the Celtics have had trouble defending the pick and roll. Teams have been able to choose their spots, or use favorable matchups to their advantage. But it's nearly impossible to assign "credit" or "blame" on defense with one simple statistic.
Also, wjsy looked at the impact Rajon Rondo had on the offense.
Since Rondo's return, Green has been a model of consistency and I think you can expect more improvement from other guys like Sullinger, Olynyk, and especially Bradley as they come back from injury to close out the season. As Rondo comes into form himself, he is proving to be the rising tide that lifts all boats.
And Kevin had some deep thoughts on Rondo.
Brad Stevens and Rajon Rondo are in the process of constructing the skeleton of the offense, but it will be Danny Ainge's job to put the meat on the bones this offseason with new pieces that fit the system.
But our attention was never pulled that far from the horizon.
While Wyc had starry ideas...
...Danny was feeling a little more grounded.
And of course, things were getting worse on the court.
Not much to summarize here. The team is giving up a progressively higher level of efficiency in the critical areas of the court while maintaining a stagnant level of efficiency themselves. The team needs are clear - interior presence and superior perimeter threats.
So I started biding my time by talking to people in the media in a series I called High Five with CelticsBlog. It included interviews with...
- CelticsBlog high five with Steve Bulpett
- CelticsBlog High Five with Sean Grande
- CelticsBlog High Five with Paul Flannery
- CelticsBlog High Five with Abby Chin
- CelticsBlog High Five with Mike Gorman
- CelticsBlog High Five with Jeff Goodman
In April, fans (and GMs probably) had their eyes focused on the loss column.
But that doesn't mean that the players were "tanking" games.
But for the guys who actually occupy the locker rooms of the NBA's worst teams in early April? There's no such thing as losing on purpose. Their bosses in the front office may not be going for the gold, but there's absolutely no denying that winning still matters to the coaches and players alike.
Kevin looked at Rondo's free throw form (a preview of future troubles?).
The technical problems with Rajon Rondo's free throw attempts are correctable -- or at least they should be. If he accomplishes this, it'll lead to increased confidence, a more consistent form, and then the results will come naturally.
In May we did Exit Interviews for all the players.
We also began the Summer of Love.
Then there was the Draft Lottery.
Kevin had some ideas on how to fix the lottery.
I prepped everyone on how it would work this past year.
It turned out that the Celtics got the 6th pick.
So I started pondering the nuclear option.
Let's say that Kevin Love is not traded to the Celtics. Let's say that the Celtics can't get any value for the picks that we have. Let's make wild speculation that Rondo is impatient with the rebuilding process and isn't on board with the current administration. Let's say that he (quietly) asks Danny Ainge to finally find a new home for him.
Not far off actually.
Draft month! Kevin got us ready for the draft with his fantastic Draft Guide.
It's finally that time! Kevin O'Connor's 2014 NBA Draft Guide is now available! With 60 full page, full color scouting reports, player analysis of the rest of my top 100 big board, a "two-in-one" mock draft, team-by-team draft previews, and eight in-depth articles, you are receiving the best NBA Draft guide on the market.
Then Kevin Love visited Fenway and everything went nuts (for like, a day or so).
Kevin Love might end up being traded to the Boston Celtics, but it won't be because of his visit this past weekend; it'll only happen if Danny Ainge is able to sustain the best possible trade offer until draft night, when Minnesota will probably pull the trigger on Love.
I did an experiment with my fellow NBA bloggers and turned our mock draft into a massive trade haul that put us on the road back to a championship ...if only in my dreams.
Rajon Rondo, Arron Afflalo, Jeff Green, Kevin Love, and Omer Asik
The draft took place and the Celtics got Young and Smart.
This Celtics roster is tough. Marcus Smart's story has been obviously outlined above, but James Young also brings a "clutch factor" in that he will never back down from the "moment" off the court; as we saw during his incredible run in the National Championship.
July featured the Summer League, NBA free agents signing (mostly elsewhere) and a lot of waiting around to see what Kevin Love and LeBron James would do.
Kevin looked at possible Rondo landing spots (sorry Kev, but you missed Dallas).
You know it, I know it, the Celtics know it, and the NBA knows it: Rondo rumors are coming. The point of this article isn't to create speculation; it's just to spark thoughts within the minds of fans.
Avery Bradley re-signed.
And the Celtics made a savvy trade (allowing Cleveland to sign LeBron James).
The Boston Celtics will acquire Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton, a 2016 first round draft pick as a part of a three-way deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Brooklyn Nets, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.
Free agency was just beginning, but we were already looking ahead to the following July.
Chris Forsberg lines out how the Celtics could free up as much as $48M or more in cap room next season. He assumes that Jeff Green could opt out of his deal next summer (given the way GMs spend money these days, that's not a bad assumption) and the team could use a draft pick to get a team with cap room to take the last year of Gerald Wallace's deal.
And finally the Celtics signed Evan Turner.
Clearly Boston is planning for Turner to be a versatile player off of their bench, which will give him some unique opportunities depending on the teammates he's playing with. Turner will need to continue to improve his shot selection on his own, but helping him develop is more about putting him in position to succeed, just like Philadelphia began to do last season.
In September, training camp was drawing nearer and we counted down the days by looking at each player on the roster.
Oh, and the Celtics rounded out their 15 man roster by making a minor trade. Proving once again that Ainge will never simply let a contract expire if he can trade that contract for a 2nd round pick or two.
According to Jeff Goodman, the Celtics will receive Dwight Powell, Erik Murphy, John Lucas III, Malcolm Thomas, and Cleveland's 2016 and 2017 second round draft picks. Boston will also get a trade exception worth $5.3 million.
As usual, wjsy preached patience while praising Brad Stevens
Tomorrow will mark the second year in Stevens' six-year contract with the team and most predict another rough season for Boston. He'll have to coach through more Rondo noise while he recovers from his broken hand, muddle through trade rumors surrounding his vets, and juggle minutes between ten players 26-years-old and younger. Patience, everybody.
We also did our annual NBA Previews series - championed by a talented and hard working new writer Dustin Chapman.
It's safe to say Cavs fans are enjoying the last laugh these days. Not only did LeBron come home this summer, they've been fortunate enough to acquire Kevin Love alongside King James and Kyrie Irving, and it's on like Donkey Kong.
Training camp was starting! The long offseason was over and the games were nearly back on again. To celebrate the occasion (and to lift some of the burden off our core writing staff) we added some more new faces to the blog. A big CelticsBlog hat tip too...
The NBA has reached an agreement to renew their television contract with ESPN and TNT for an additional nine years. According to a report from the New York Times, the networks will pay the league a staggering $24 billion over the course of the agreement, which begins in the 2016-17 season.
But despite achieving greatness as a groundbreaking scorer, passer and ballhandler, championship-level team success eluded Pistol Pete. He never played on a great team until the last year of his career, when in a cruel irony he was unable to play at or near his peak.
Avery Bradley is coming into this season with the high expectations that come along with having a freshly inked 32 million dollar contract. However, the writers at CelticsBlog projected a drop in both scoring and three-point percentage with a marginal increase in field goal percentage.
As the face of the Celtics for over a decade, The Truth has to be the most obvious choice to keep tabs on this year. But there are better reasons than just nostalgia to watch him play for the Wizards.
What makes Pressey an NBA player is his ability to pass the ball. He is a born leader and has great court vision, consistently giving the other four guys on the court the ball in the best position for them to score.
We kept preaching patience.
Every year is slightly different but I generally like to promote a "20 game rule" which isn't so much a rule as it is a recommendation or guideline. 4 or 5 games isn't enough of a sample size to make up your mind about a team and the season that they are having.
Evans got introspective about LeBron.
In Boston, we used to hate LeBron. He represented a fundamental clash of basketball ideologies. He was the glamorized individual star, anointed as a king before he'd won a thing; the Celtics were the complete team, with the "ubuntu" and the team spirit. It was easy to chastise LeBron then. Of course, winning changes everything, and LeBron's in another place now.
And we started to appreciate Tyler Zeller.
Zeller shined on Monday night, with 19 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and countless hustle plays that go beyond the box score. Yet, after the game, the discussion centered on the "emergence" of Zeller, as if it was his first game with a noticeable positive impact.
In December we had (what else?) another round of Rondo rumors, kicked off by his breakfast with Kobe.
While the Kobe-Rondo breakfast summit was reportedly purely a social event, it seems that the idea of Celtics and Lakers considering a trade isn't all that far fetched.
So I continued leading the "Don't trade Rondo" march.
While I understand the case for trading Rajon Rondo, I'm more optimistic about his future with the team. I do think he's a max player and I do think he'll re-sign with the Celtics because they have the most money to offer and a chance to build a title contending team in the near future.
Which Ainge promptly ignored and finally decided to trade Rajon Rondo.
So, with heavy heart, I penned my goodbye to Rajon.
For me, Rajon Rondo represented a tie to the past and a hope for the future. He was part of one of the greatest Celtics teams I've had the pleasure of watching (2008). He was one of the 2 best players on the 2010 team that was a quarter away from winning a title. When Danny Ainge decided to move on from that era and traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, it wasn't clear what the plan was with Rondo.
And Kevin and Eric Weiss looked at the rebuilding project as a whole.
To many Boston Celtics fans, the trading of Rajon Rondo signifies the dreaded "long rebuild." The assumption is that this requires a four-to-five year period of abject awfulness, comparable in both pain and patience to the Philadelphia Experiment. Many are anticipating an unwatchable product with little competitive basketball to be seen, but that will not be the case.
To be honest, everything after that has been kind of a blur, despite the fact that it should be fresh in my mind. So I'll just leave us there.
Looking back it is clear that 2014 was one long, convoluted, at times painful process of saying goodbye to Rajon Rondo (even if we didn't know it till after the fact). That combined with all the losses makes me happy to see the year go. Here's hoping for better times in 2015. Either way, CelticsBlog will be here with you to cover everything from superstar trade rumors to pick and roll defense and everything in between.
Cheers everyone, and Happy New Year.