SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell compiled a list of the seven teams that will be the most desperate at this season’s NBA trade deadline. Coming in at number five? The Boston Celtics, who O’Donnell summarized in the following fell swoop:
Is there a team with worse vibes than the Celtics this season? New head coach Ime Udoka is constantly throwing his players on the bus, the offense suffers from a serious lack of playmaking, and there have been rumors the Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown pairing could eventually be broken up. Brown is more likely to be dealt, but that would be a franchise-altering decision. Instead, the Celtics probably want to explore the point guard market and see what the offense looks like with a better facilitator.
To conclude his Celtics bullet, O’Donnell wrote, “It’s clear the Celtics need a significant shake-up, but there are several different paths they could take to get there and no easy answers.” As the poet Shawn Carter once wrote, “I got 99 problems.” No, I don’t believe there was a second part to that line. No, don’t look it up. It’s not necessary.
Among the 99 problems, depending on how you wish to slice it, is the fact that a Celtics legend is out here sending stray shots at the guys striving to become legends themselves. (Okay, so that’s not exactly how it went down, but this is a clickbait business.) In an interview with Sirius XM NBA’s Zach Harper and Amin Elhassan on Thursday, Robert Parish looked to offer a bevy of ways for the Celtics to improve amidst a season of strife and struggle. Much of what he said was harmless, if not sound advice from a sage old-timer. Then he had to go and fire up the take machine.
“Well, first of all, they need a distributor, a point guard. They have a solid foundation because they have two dynamic wingmen in Brown and Tatum,” Parish said. “They’re both explosive ... They command a lot of attention from the defense.”
Yes, yes, keep going!
“... the problem with that, in my opinion: Brown and Tatum don’t have the ability to make their teammates better.”
“I think it’s one of the reasons why we were so successful going back to the ‘80s was because of Larry (Bird’s) ability to make people around him better.”
So close. But alas. Cue the aggregators.
Parish went on to talk more about how he and Kevin McHale were great in their own right back in the day, and how “the way Larry was mixing it up and creating all that havoc and attention just made things easier for Kevin and myself... I think that’s what the Celtics need. They need somebody that can command the respect and the attention from the officials.”
"Brown and Tatum don't have the ability to make their teammates better"#Celtics Legend Robert Parish tells @talkhoops and @DarthAmin why Boston has struggled so much this season and what needs to improve #BleedGreen pic.twitter.com/3VUbJMvxnj— SiriusXM NBA Radio (@SiriusXMNBA) January 20, 2022
It’s not clear how Parish arrived at a point where the officials came into play, but never mind that. What most have taken away from this interview, for reasons that are plenty understandable, is obvious: a player who made his name in Boston, won titles in Boston, and has his jersey hanging in the rafters in Boston has criticized the two players hopeful to make Boston great again. You hear that faint-but-grating noise? That’s the sound of pitchforks being sharpened.
What’s getting lost in this one piece of criticism is a greater message, one that the Celtics could benefit from heeding. Parish further pointed out that the Celtics really only have two scorers, “so if one of them is struggling, the Celtics don’t have a chance to win.” If you’re mad at that, might I point you toward your own Twitter feed, in which you called for Boston to trade for a third scorer 412 times in the last calendar year alone. “For the Celtics to have a chance to be in the game and win a game every night, Brown and Tatum gotta be spectacular,” Parish said. “And that’s impossible to do every night. They don’t have enough scoring.”
He also pointed out that Boston’s center at the moment, Robert Williams III, doesn’t instill fear in opponents quite like the bigs of yore could. “The center they have doesn’t seem like the opposition fears him, or them. There’s no deterrent and that’s what they need to cut down on some of those easy baskets the other team is getting. They need to do a better job rebounding, also. That’s just a personal will, not skill.”
In short, Parish is not too far off base. The Celtics are lacking that final piece that would or could put Boston over the evasive edge, where teams like the Nets and Bucks are currently hanging out. Those teams, the East’s elite — Boston’s primary competition for supremacy for what I imagine will be the next 10 years, if they’re lucky — feel complete. The Celtics, meanwhile, feel like an incomplete sum of its parts.