The Boston Celtics are limping home following a 1-4 west coast road trip that dropped the team below .500 once again this season. The Celtics currently sit at 13-14, good for 10th in the Eastern Conference.
On Friday, Boston got blown out by a short-handed Phoenix Suns team in another isolation-heavy game.
Former SI and NBA writer Ian Thomsen went on the Celtics Beat Podcast on CLNS Media and doubled down on what many have been saying about the Celtics: they are playing a selfish, individual brand of basketball.
“That’s who these guys are as individuals. They’re self-obsessed,” Thomsen told hosts Adam Kaufman and Evan Valenti. “They just don’t see the bigger picture. It doesn’t mean they can’t, they’re just immature as basketball players and as a team. This is like middle school kind of stuff, where you’re worried about your own game first. They should be way past that, but they aren’t.”
Boston only tallied 13 assists on 35 made baskets in their loss to the Suns. It was the least amount of assists they have notched in a game all season. Jayson Tatum and Dennis Schroder dominated the ball, combining for 39 of the Celtics’ 90 points.
This isn’t a new issue, either. Head coach Ime Udoka has spoken out about the Celtics’ inability to play as a team in the past. Most notably, he called out his starters after the team’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs on November 26:
“It’s habits that we need to break,” said Udoka. “Not trying to go isolation. We got Marcus, Jaylen, Jayson, and Dennis starting. They need to learn to play together, not try to just get baskets for themselves.”
Thomsen acknowledged Udoka has done a good job holding his players accountable, and he’s doing it in a constructive way.
“He isn’t yelling about it,” Thomsen said. “He’s just saying what the facts are, and it’s being done with respect. And I bet a lot of fans wish he would yell because they’re all yelling at the TV watching the game. I think he has a much better chance of reaching them if he says, ‘look, we’re all in this together’... And develop that kind of partnership.”
Last year, the Atlanta Hawks started 14-20 and ended up in the Eastern Conference Finals. Boston, theoretically, has plenty of time to turn things around. There are still 55 games left in the season, but the Celtics have a long way to go, according to Thomsen.
“If these guys are going into games looking to get themselves started, which we all know is true watching, then it just shows how far they have to go to develop it. It’s not going to happen quickly.”