Three straight losses is cause for frustration, both for the fans and the team. Marcus Smart’s tirade was ill-advised and not what you want to see from a young player, but you can at least respect where his emotions were stemming from. Everyone is rightfully frustrated with how the team is playing.
That doesn’t mean that this is time to panic though.
The Hawks and Wizards are creeping up on the Celtics in the standings and Boston hasn’t been able to capitalize on Toronto’s recent struggles. But every team goes through bad stretches and on the whole the Celtics have had a very good season thus far. They are actually on pace to match their record from a year ago (48 wins).
Keep in mind that the goal is (as always) to win a Championship. Even heading into this season it was clear that this team wasn’t prepared to be a Championship contender and that hasn’t changed. As we’ve been saying all along, they are at least one big move away from getting into that conversation.
So what does 3 straight losses mean to the big picture? Not much really. The way they are losing is instructive. The way teams are playing the Celtics is worth review. But without a major trade, this team is going to be stuck a level below the Cavs and Warriors for at least the rest of this year.
We know that Danny Ainge is always looking for that ever elusive star. Failing that, the temptation is to push for a smaller trade that addresses the team’s most glaring needs. I’m sure if he found a deal that fits the team’s goals for both the short term and long term, he wouldn’t hesitate to make that move. But Danny isn’t going to make a panic move at the expense of the future.
A panic move would be to give up promising young players and future draft picks for a partial solution while sacrificing future cap flexibility. For example: Would dealing Terry Rozier, cap filler, and/or a future non-Nets pick for Tyson Chandler make the Celtics marginally better this season? Perhaps. But Chandler’s best years are behind him and over $13M per season is ahead of him for the next 2 seasons after this. That would eliminate any ability the Celtics have of signing an impact free agent this offseason.
I prefer to take the long view at times like this. We aren’t where the Cavs and Warriors are at, but we also aren’t where the Knicks or Magic or Mavs are at either. The Celtics are already one of the top 10 teams in the league and they have 2 high lottery picks coming up. They are in an enviable position to develop young talent in a winning culture. That’s going to pay off in the not-too-distant future.
The team is certainly struggling lately. Defense, rebounding, and overall focus are issues that need to be looked at closely and addressed. Health is another issue that (hopefully) will work itself out in time. But through it all, Brad Stevens is going to be repeating the same mantra that he’s been preaching since the day he arrived in Boston: Process over results.
The Celtics probably aren’t winning the Championship this year. But they are in a good position to get to that level sometime in the next few years. They can’t afford to make a panic move that would jeopardize that.