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Headed to the Play-In: 10 Takeaways (sort of) from Celtics-Cavaliers

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We’re flipping the script and asking you some questions today

NBA: Miami Heat at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

This game wasn’t really worth recapping with our standard version of the Takeaways. The Celtics largely played poorly without a bunch of key players and lost to a really bad team. There were a handful of nice plays, but not enough to bother pulling clips. Instead, I thought we’d have some fun and ask a series of question to you the reader.

But, there’s a twist! These questions are being asked based on the most commonly said things in the replies to me on Twitter or in comments here on CelticsBlog. These aren’t in any particular order, but these are the top-10 things I hear/read regularly that have me curious!

1. Fire Brad!

I’m sure you’ve all seen this one. Heck, I bet some of you reading have said it yourselves! It’s ok if you have. This is a safe space today. We’re just having fun!

You know what you’ve never seen though? A realistic suggestion for who Boston should hire to coach the team if they fire Brad Stevens.

Question: If you say “Fire Brad!” who should be the next coach?

2. Fire Danny!

This one comes in the same vein as the prior one. Now, I’ve been critical in this space of the team building approach. Especially after nailing the Jaylen Brown/Jayson Tatum picks. Hoarding the picks further built an overly-young roster. And now the team is faced with some depth issues.

That doesn’t mean this space supports firing Danny Ainge though. It’s simply a criticism of how he put together the team over 4–5-year period.

And, just like with Brad Stevens, there’s never a suggestion for who should take over the team. There’s rarely even a suggestion of what Ainge should have done differently.

Question: If you say “Fire Danny!” who should be the next GM?

3. Trade (insert any one of the 17 Celtics players)!

In order, the players most often mentioned here are: Marcus Smart, Kemba Walker, Tristan Thompson, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Yes, the last two are mentioned so often that they warrant inclusion here.

It’s not that the Celtics have perfect players who are all untouchable. That’s not even remotely the case. But that some “fans” are buying into Jaylen Brown and/or Jayson Tatum (yes, some say both) needing to be traded is crazy. They are young, productive All-Stars that are signed long-term. No one trades guys like that.

Question: If you buy into trading Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum, what should the return be? Also, WHY?

4. Trade (insert whatever Celtics player has caught the ire that day) for (insert superstar)!

This one actually makes me laugh. Again, not because Celtics players are untradable, but because this usually involves a player who makes about $3 million being “offered” for a player that makes $25 million or more.

Question: Do you even bother to look at the salaries before hitting send/tweet/post?

5. Cut (insert backup Celtics player)!

The most common names mentioned here are, in order: Grant Williams, Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford, Aaron Nesmith (although that has cooled in the last month) and Tremont Waters. Again, none are perfect, but this gets a little silly with how far the hate goes towards young backups.

Question: Is this just venting or is there actual belief that these players should be cut? Additionally, do you just eat the dead money that comes from cutting most of these guys?

6. I’m not even watching anymore. If they don’t care, why should I?

This one always strikes me as odd. You start with the premise that you shouldn’t care, but you care enough to post. And some of you say this during every game! Clearly, you’re still watching!

Question: If you hate this so much, why invest your time in it? This isn’t directed towards those who are upset, but still care. This is solely for those who say they don’t care anymore.

7. Why are Tremont Waters and Tacko Fall even on this team? We can’t do better than that? Cut them!

It’s always weird to me when the Two-Way guys are catching strays. Yes, the occasional Two-Way player becomes a key guy for their team. The vast majority are fringe players. Cutting them would replace them with another fringe player.

Again, this one is never accompanied with suggestion of who should replace Waters or Fall.

Question: Who is a Two-Way eligible player you really want that should replace Waters or Fall?

8. Can we just sign some stars in free agency already? Everyone else does!

Not that all of these signings have worked out perfectly, but in three straight years Boston signed Al Horford, Gordon Hayward and Kemba Walker. That’s three All-Stars. No one has cap space to do that every year. And the Celtics certainly don’t have the cap space to do that with Walker on the books and Brown and Tatum having signed extensions.

Question: Is the expectation really that the team should have cap space every year? If so, why?

9. I’m just frustrated. Why isn’t this team better?

This one is genuine and deserves a genuine response.

Sadly, there isn’t one thing to point to. It’s a collection of things that range from minor to major that have sunk the Celtics this year. The short offseason, the young roster, COVID, traditional injuries, poor roster management, curious coaching decisions, lack of leadership, struggles as young players step into starring roles, and so on and so forth. We could put together a really long list of things that have gone wrong this season. But there isn’t a single, fixable answer.

Question: What’s your number one reason for why the Celtics have struggled so much?

10. How do you do this every day?

I’ll close with a fun one. Some version of this question is asked to me every single day, and multiple times on game days. It’s usually after someone says something particularly crazy. Sometimes it’s after someone says something really personally insulting towards me. And sometimes it’s just asked out of frustration after yet another disappointing result.

My standard answer is: I’d rather being doing this than almost anything else. Outside of working for a team, I’m living my dream. I get paid to watch, then write, talk and tweet about basketball. How can I hate that?

I left a very stable 9-5 job with a major corporation that I truly loved. I did it because I love basketball more. Every day I start my day by re-watching the Celtics game (assuming they played the night before), followed by writing. Then I’ll watch some other games I put on the DVR that interest me. Followed by more writing, doing radio and podcast appearances, hosting Locker Room chats and working on roster/salary cap projects.

Sure, I have bad days. Everyone does. When that happens, I try to take a deep breath, reset and think about how fortunate I am. Even my worst day covering the NBA is better than most of the best days I had before this was my job. That said, I could do without the people who get extremely personal and say truly vile and hateful stuff. But I’ve learned that comes with the territory. I’m trying to be better about letting it roll off my back. It’s a journey.

Question: What can I do better for you as a reader/follower/listener? Let me know, as you’re my most important “client”!

Bonus This is a real comment that I received a lot lately, so I wanted to add it as a bonus: How do you stay so positive?

It’s a battle sometimes for sure. I’ve always tended to be an outwardly positive person, but I can be pretty negative internally. Anyone that I worked with knows I was fond of saying “We can complain for an hour and then get to work. Or we can just get to work and spend that hour on something else later.” I would say this knowing that sometimes the hour of complaining is necessary. It’s a mental health and a release for some.

A while back, I was struggling with being overly negative both outwardly and inwardly. After a particularly bad period where I was spiraling and dragging everyone else down with me, I realized it just wasn’t worth it.

One of my best friends gave me simple, yet amazing advice: Focus on what you can control.

I have no control over the Celtics winning or losing. I have no control over their effort level. I have no control over how the team is built or coached.

What I can control is my own attitude and how I respond to those thing.

Negativity is a weight. It really does drag you down and hold you back. And too often it gets said “I’m not negative, I’m realistic.” That’s a crock and a really sad statement.

I’m realistic. Because so much of what I do in basketball is focused on the salary cap, I live in a hyper-realistic basketball world. My CelticsBlog teammates will tell you that I’m a huge wet blanket when they bring up trade ideas.

But I’m trying really hard not to be negative while being realistic. I know this version of the Celtics isn’t going to win a championship. I knew that preseason and picked them to finish 5th in the East. This always felt like a reset year to me. That’s me being realistic.

This roster has issues. The leadership isn’t perfect. The injuries are a huge concern. That’s me being realistic.

But that doesn’t mean I need to crap on them at every turn. I’m trying to focus on what I can control and to look for positives in a down season. They’re there. Trust me.

Mostly, basketball should be fun. I try to never take that for granted. Yes, winning basketball is the most fun. But I still like watching the team, even with lowered expectations beyond my already-low ones to begin with. If I ever find myself not wanting to watch basketball, it’s time for a change. I can’t imagine that ever happening.

Question: What’s one positive thing you’ve taken from this Celtics season? A real one please! Not someone getting fired of cut. Something you actually like and enjoy!