It’s normal for NBA fans this time of year to have lots of questions for their teams. What are we? A contender? An almost-contender? A tanking team? Somewhere in the play-in purgatory where it’s all tepid hope, sadness, and confusion?
If you or someone you love starts asking these questions, It might be time to have the talk.
As the trade deadline looms on February 8th, each team will have to make some hard decisions about who they are this year, and who they are going to be come April. So, teams will have to sit their fans down and explain to them the facts of life.
The Pistons are like a dejected parent whose kid already hates them. Nothing they say will mend the relationship at this point, and so the obligatory Bojan Bogdanovic trade that happens won’t mean anything to fans. They’ll just light another cigarette and lock the door to their room, resigned to not come out until the draft.
I’d imagine the Bulls are looking on web forums for a family therapist, as while it seems like everything is okay, there’s something off in the household. There’s just one extra ounce of side eye with every loss, each kid wondering what their parents are even doing with their lives these days other than reminiscing about their 90s glory days.
The Raptors have fallen on some hard times, but they are getting back on their feet. Pascal Siakam starts a new job next week and they just sold their last bad investment in their bright-orange Audi. The Pacers, on the other hand, just got a promotion, and bought that very same car for sticker price.
And then there’s the Celtics. Levitating above all the noise and striving for something greater than mere stability. The kids are in college already, the mortgage is paid off, and all that’s left to do is crack the secrets of the universe. How to actually do that is anyone’s guess, but some of us have taken to meditating in a treehouse hoping to attain enlightenment, while others are digging a hole in the backyard to look for buried scrolls of knowledge.
And then there’s me, sitting at my desk sipping a cup of lukewarm tea. As Celtics fans are gearing up for the stretch run of the season, I am skipping the doomsday prepping in favor of feeling plenty geared up already.
Just picture me furiously planting a flag in the parquet, because the Celtics should trade for absolutely nobody, and should sign absolutely no one. But just for the sake of it, here are some questions I’ve heard batted around the block this week.
Do we need another “big wing?” Another defensive guard to take pressure off of Payton Pritchard? Perhaps some center depth to insure Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford? If so, how do we get that? Is Kelly Olynyk available? What about Gordon Hayward, could he be bought out? Would you trade two first round picks for Alex Caruso?
If you just came here for answers to all those questions, here you go: no, no, maybe but probably not, we don’t, no he isn’t, we literally can’t sign him even if he was, no.
It’s tempting when one wants an NBA title more than they want fresh air to succumb to the “do something” impulse, wanting to shore up any cracks in the hull as the ship barrels towards the storm.
Identifying those cracks is where things get tricky. Sure, we can entertain an endless string of what-ifs and create needs out of thin air. Exhibit A: What if something happens to Derrick White or Jrue Holiday? Pritchard can’t handle that kind of responsibility long term! (hyperventilates)
That’s not a very common question in Celtics Nation since both guys play games like it’s their job, which I guess it is. A much more real question is the health of Porzingis and Horford, as the Celtics are left with Luke Kornet, Neemias Queta and small-ball-center Oshae Brissett if both were to go down.
It would be nice to package a bunch of stuff together a make a move for a big, but I just don’t see who that would even be. Instead, I would recommend a deep breath, as trying to solve problems before they happen leads to nothing but fear and sadness.
But let’s just quickly knock on wood and say Porzingis does get hurt, what then? Would the Celtics be remiss if they failed to trade two second round picks for Jock Landale or ship a few contracts for Andre Drummond?
I’d say not, as it is plainly impossible to replace Porzingis with some sort of preventative trade. The Celtics sit in the extremely-limiting second apron of the luxury tax, meaning they can’t even sign any buyout players that made more than the Mid-Level Exception last year. Sorry, Gordon Hayward.
Nor can they take back very much salary in a trade, further constraining what they can do with the roster. Should Porzingis actually go down, the Celtics will be completely unable to replace him or even come close to recreating him, and will have to dramatically recalibrate their rotations and offensive game plan.
And while this may sound crazy, I’d honestly rather not have an insurance policy if that were to happen. Forcing a transplant from out of town into a role that they didn’t sign up for won’t necessarily be better than leaning on Queta and Kornet as some sort of Moneyball aggregate answer. Preventative answers are just not worth it.
Now that we’ve ruled out worrying about the future, what about now? Does the Celtics’ ideal top eight leave anything to be desired? Not to me, as the Celtics’ playoff rotation should be old reliable White-Holiday-Brown-Tatum-Porzingis, with Horford, Pritchard, and Hauser holding down the bench.
That’s rock solid, and nothing so far leads me to believe this lineup needs anything. Most of the Celtics’ losses have been very close, and there hasn’t been a weakness that teams have been able to exploit consistently. Sure, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander might find a step against Holiday and White one night, but Anthony Edwards couldn’t find that same step down the stretch one week later.
So, for now, I think I’ll skip the tree house and the backyard hole, as I’m confident any and all answers to life’s problems are already in the building. The Celtics’ season has gone suspiciously well so far, but things are going to go wrong, they always do. But solutions will have to be reactive rather than proactive, as no plan survives first contact.
For now, I’m going to make some more tea.