As much as I love the insanity of the offseason, I’m glad that we’ll be starting games soon. Well, assuming... well, let’s just knock on wood and leave it at that. Finally, we’ll be getting real games to watch instead of having to read endless theoretical prattling from “experts” like me. So to honor the occasion, I thought I’d write endless prattling thoughts about the Celtics.
To provide some modicum of sanity, I shall confine my random thoughts to short-ish snippets on each player. I have no plan, no outline, just a blank page. Let’s see where this takes us, shall we?
Where else can we start but here? If you want me to save you a whole lot of time, you can just assume that this team will only win a title this year if Tatum has actualized his full potential and entered the MVP conversation in a real way. Period, the end, no need to blog further.
Of course that’s boring and I shall not stop there.
Even though Tatum shall be forever 19 in our hearts, he’s all grown up now. The new car smell is gone and he’s going to wear a big target on his back from now on. Maybe he can fit a new tattoo of it under the “God’s Will” one. Seriously, this is right about the time in the Boston star story arch where things turn from “how great is he going to be?” to “why hasn’t he won a title yet?” and it turns frightfully fast.
Kemba has a great smile, Brown is the conscience, and Smart is the heart, but make no mistake, Tatum is the face of this franchise going forward. That’s a heavy burden and doesn’t always take with some guys right away. I have high hopes that Tatum can handle it. He’s thoughtful, cordial, and careful. He doesn’t have to be charismatic, he just has to be himself. Oh yeah, and he has to win.
I don’t mean to throw shade at Jaylen Brown when I’m putting all this pressure and focus on Tatum. If anything, I know full well how critical Brown is going to be to this team’s success. In fact, I think it is a compliment that I’m just assuming that Jaylen Brown is not only going to pick up where he left off, but improve his game again. Think of it this way. We all know that Tatum could put up Trae Young numbers for a lottery team going nowhere. But I believe so strongly in Brown, Kemba, and Smart that I know that they can be so much more than that.
I really like Jaylen’s game, too. He’s not afraid of the moment, he’s relentless when he’s rolling, and he’s extremely versatile. He can launch from outside with good efficiency, and he can attack the rim aggressively. Pin downs, back cuts, pick-n-pops, and now, more playmaking. He keeps adding to his game. The game has already slowed down for him and now he’s going into full Queen’s Gambit mode. You love to see it.
Is it weird that I list Smart ahead of Kemba? I don’t care, it is my column and I’ll do what I like.
If there’s one guy that I want on the Celtics for his whole NBA career ...it is Tatum. But if there’s another guy that I’d want, it would be Smart (again, not trying to slander Brown here - I want them all to be lifers). There’s just something about Marcus that fits in Boston uniquely.
I’ve basically lost all logical perspective when it comes to Marcus. There are trades that I would absolutely veto (if I had any say whatsoever) simply because they involved Marcus Smart. I wouldn’t care what superstar we were getting in return. Smart would be the deal breaker.
Let’s get this out of the way right up front: the knee scares me and it should scare everyone at this point. An undersized point guard that relies on his burst to get separation? That isn’t the profile of a player that is going to age well into the final years of his max contract.
With all of that said, this team doesn’t need him to be the A1 superstar that he was in Charlotte for all those years. This team has Tatum and Brown to carry that load. Kemba is transitioning into that Chris Paul veteran mentor phase of his career. This year in particular he’s going to need to be load-managed to the point where he’s a luxury for this team instead of a driving force.
The way he looked in the playoffs was a near term concern. The fact that there’s apparently no “fix it” surgery solution is a long term concern. But perhaps under the right supervision he can still be the old Kemba when we need him (instead of “Old Kemba”).
I think I’ll save my thoughts on Theis, Thompson, and the rest of the Celtics depth chart for Part II.