Accountability (n): the quality or state of being accountable — especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.
Yup, must be the time of year when I look back at what I wrote in the preseason and hold myself accountable. This is an annual tradition of verbal self flagellation that I like to do in order to prove to everyone that I don’t take myself too seriously. At least this year I don’t think I’m the only one that expected more from this team in the regular season. (At least I didn’t repeatedly tell people on twitter to “hammer the over” or anything)
Let’s get right to it. Here’s the link to my preview in October in all its overconfident glory. Now I quote myself and make fun of myself. Fun for everyone.
You’ve heard the cliche “what do you get the man who has everything?” This is a case of “what do you add to a team that seems to have it all?”
In retrospect, perhaps less would have been more. Or more specifically, fewer younger guys in exchange for more veteran role players.
Injuries robbed this team of a chance at the NBA Finals. Now, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are back on the court and participating without limitations in training camp.
Yeah, about that. Hayward ended up having a second surgery that pushed his timeline back but he was still hoping to be at full speed out of training camp. That didn’t work too well and it wasn’t too long before he was out of the starting rotation. He’s gotten progressively better throughout the season but it hasn’t been what anyone would have hoped for.
What are the team’s biggest strengths? Where do I start?
Oh shut your pie hole.
The Celtics have an elite defense anchored by one of the best defensive bigs in the league in Al Horford. Marcus Smart creates havoc in the best way possible. But the effectiveness goes well beyond the contributions of a few individuals. Coach Stevens has them on a string, hedging, covering, flashing, recovering, switching, doubling, each tailored to the situation and opponent.
Meh. Through 81 games the Celtics have the 6th best Defensive Rating. They’ve obviously been good at times but there are still far too many career scoring nights for players and backdoor dunks on some nights. The continual story with this year’s team was inconsistency. Game to game or even quarter to quarter you were never sure if you were getting “Championship Aspirations” Celtics or “moody teenager unwilling to get out of bed” Celtics. I guess on the aggregate that was good enough for 6th in the league.
Oh, and they should be pretty good on offense as well.
10th best Offensive Rating and at times it was very offensive.
Versatility will be the name of the game with this group. There’s so many ways they can score. Ball movement or isolation. Pick and roll or drive and kick. Long 3’s or backdoor alley-oops. Ankle breaking drives or touch passes. They’re going to make art and the full pallet of colors is available to them.
(gag) So many long two’s early in the shot clock. So much hero-ball isolation play. Again, there were moments when things were clicking and it was beautiful basketball. Then a few shots would clang off the rim, guys started pressing, more shots wouldn’t fall, panic would set in, and the avalanche would wipe out entire villages.
What are the team’s biggest weaknesses? Um, they work too hard and care too much? About the only thing that people have been pointing to is the fact that the Celtics have too much depth. I guess the theory is that there aren’t enough minutes to keep everyone happy.
I think I made a mountain into a molehill here. Turns out that things like reduced roles for young players, fitting in star players, and working in a rehabbing player was a lot harder than it sounded at the time.
Of course they also have Brad Stevens who knows a thing or two about managing minutes, keeping people fresh for the playoffs, and getting his players to buy into his philosophy of continual progress. Besides, winning tends to keep people’s spirits high.
And losing tends to have the opposite effect. Long time readers know how much I respect and admire Brad Stevens. But he deserves his own share of the blame here. Perhaps he should have had a shorter leash on some guys. Perhaps he should have altered his lineups and rotations faster. Perhaps he could have prepared them better for what they were about to face. I don’t know, coaching is hard, he can’t play the game for them, but everyone gets a slice of the blame pie, including Brad Stevens. (And yes, I still want Brad to be the coach of this team for basically forever.)
What are the goals for this team? Just to get better every day. Right, Brad? Yeah, whatever. We know the goal has never changed but this is the first time in a long time when it has seemed a lot closer to reality.
The new goal is to not get bounced in the 1st round. Anything beyond that is a minor win (though of course anything short of a Championship is a big L in the big picture).
Will Kyrie Irving’s impending free agency be a distraction?
Based on Kyrie’s latest comments, I don’t think so.
Anything can happen a year from now. The NBA is weird like that and Kyrie is a weird guy. But I don’t know what other positive signs you could ask for with this situation. It will be a story all year because that’s how these things go, but personally I’m not worried about it.
I’m more worried now. We’ve said all along that Kyrie is a different kind of dude. Turns out it was a distraction (at least it seemed to be from here). I still think that his best option is to return to Boston but I’m not sure if he sees it that way and we’re all going to have to wait till July 1st to see what’s next in his plans.
Will the team make a move to avoid the luxury tax this year?
What is Terry Rozier’s role on this team? ... So what is he to this team? A glorified insurance policy to Kyrie Irving’s free agency? A trade chip? An embarrassment of riches?
Let’s just say that things didn’t go according to plan here and move on.
Just how good can Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown be?
Still waiting to find out the answer to this question. Both had their moments, both had their struggles. On the aggregate it seems like they each had a plateau season, making progress in some areas but not enough in other areas. They are still young though, they have more time to figure things out (either in Boston or elsewhere).
Who will be the finishing five? ... Pearls will be clutched and talk shows will be buzzing, but at the end of the day it is a math problem. There are too many finishing quality players to let them all close out every game.
What storyline are we sleeping on? Personally I think it is Daniel Theis.
Perhaps that was wishful thinking. Daniel is a good enough role player but he (like this team) is very inconsistent.
Bonus: Bold prediction - Marcus Smart - Finals MVP
(I’m speaking this into existence.)
You know what? I’m sticking with this prediction. Let’s go Celtics.