This team has me so conflicted. When they win, I see all the great qualities of this team and I’m convinced that they can put things together. When they lose, I feel like they’re stuck in the mud and doomed to repeat past mistakes over and over again. So, at some point I just start arguing with myself like Smeagol and Gollum in Lord of the Rings.
I thought it would be fun to give you some insight into that internal debate (without all the raw fish and “my precious” ravings). Let’s call the optimistic side of my brain “Jeff” (because of the innocence of youth) and the pessimistic/realist side “Clarkie” (my nickname in high school when I learned that I was never going to be one of the cool kids).
Jeff: Everything is going to be fine. Tatum is starting to look like an All-NBA player again, the team has established itself as a defensive minded group, and Ime Udoka is figuring things out. Once we get Jaylen Brown back and get through this tough December schedule, we’ll hit our stride. It is a long season, and there’s plenty of time to turn it around. Especially with so many teams jumbled together in the standings.
Clarkie: If by “fine” you mean “hovering around .500,” then sure. This team is 49-49 since the beginning of last season. Is that a large enough sample size to tell you that they are spinning their Goodyears on black ice on a 15-degree slope? The Boston Celtics don’t settle for “good enough and better luck next year.” They are measured by banners and there has been a distinct lack of additional nylon in the past 13 years or so. This team needs a change.
Jeff: Well, sure, we could always use an upgrade in talent. I’m all for it. I like championships as much as you do.
Clarkie: Ok, great. So if you really want to shake things up you have to at least think about trading Jayl...
Jeff: PPPPPPPPPPPPPPFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT WHAAT???? Stop right there. First of all, you owe me a drink. (I’ll clean this up later) Secondly, no. Just ...no.
Clarkie: Ok, ok. I love Brown as much as anyone. He’s everything I want a Celtic to be. I just don’t know if I can stomach the my-turn, your-turn offense much longer.
Jeff: They are smart players and they’ll figure out how to play together. You don’t break up a core like this at the hardest positions to fill in the modern NBA just because you can’t figure out how to move the ball more. If Brad Stevens can’t surround them with talent that unlocks their skillsets, then what are we even doing here? You might as well go full Thunder and start all over.
Clarkie: I’ve been tempted, but fair enough point. So, if you aren’t breaking up the Tatum/Brown duo, then you have to look at the rest of the core. What about Marcus Smart?
Jeff: Are you kidding? The heart and soul? The “we love him and trust him” president of vibes? We need MORE players like Marcus Smart, not fewer. If we want to keep a defensive identity, then we have to keep the head of the snake. Don’t you try to take my Marcus away from me. Don’t you put that evil on me, Ricky Bobby.
Clarkie: (Sigh) I thought you’d say that. Moving on. The next most moveable trade chips are Robert Williams and Al Horford (and his not-fully-guaranteed contract).
Jeff: Well, again, Rob is the kind of guy you build around, not jettison as a trade chip. And we have been reminded about out how valuable Al Horford is and I don’t think I could part with him again. Don’t send him back to the Siberia Thunder. You can’t do that to him and his family.
Clarkie: Calm down already. What are we even talking about here then? How can you “shake up” a roster if you hold onto everyone? It doesn’t work like that. If you want something of value, you have to give back value. At a minimum, you are talking about packaging together a salary (Josh Richardson? Dennis Schröder?) with a young player (Pritchard, Nesmith, Langford, Grant) and potentially picks depending on what you are getting back in return.
Jeff: Well, I get that Richardson was always going to be a potential trade chip, but he’s playing really well and I am starting to see why Stevens liked him so much. And Schröder has his faults, but I don’t know if we could replace him with someone that could help us out this year. Also, I’m not sure if I want to give up on the young guys just yet. They can actually shoot from long range and we need more shooting, not less.
Clarkie: (staring dumbfounded) So let me get this straight, you don’t want to trade the starters, or the rotation guys, or the young guys that can’t even earn minutes. So, what you are saying is that you’d like to trade Juancho, Bruno, and a pick or two and get back an impact player?
Jeff: I mean, that would be great. Can we keep the picks, too?
Clarkie: THAT’S NOT HOW THIS WORKS!!!
Jeff: Ok, calm down. I was just asking.
Clarkie: Look, if you want to sing Kumbaya and bury your head in the sand for another season, be my guest. But this team isn’t sniffing the 2nd round, never mind a title any time soon. Some hard decisions are going to have to be made in the coming months. Maybe not at the trade deadline, but certainly by the summer. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Do something different.
Jeff: Hey, don’t we have a trade exception?
Clarkie: (walks away, slams door)
Jeff: What? I mean, it could happen.