The Road Ahead – How will the Boston Celtics go this season?

With our first proper look at the roster after an impressive season opener, what is to follow for the Celtics in 2014-2015?

In a preseason where fans expected fireworks and a top 3 pick, there was disappointment as the off-season brought the Celtics the 6th pick and low-key opportunistic moves.  This wasn’t from lack of trying by Danny Ainge and management as the Celtics were one of the most active, trying to land a big fish to pair with Rondo to turbo-charge the rebuild.  Once it became apparent that our assets were not as highly valued as we thought, the Celtics held steady – finding bargains wherever they could.  By doing this, Ainge has been able to put forth a roster that is more balanced than last year, while not sacrificing anymore cap space beyond this season.  Let’s take a look at what to expect from the Celtics in season #2 of the rebuild:

 

Front Office:

With the roster looking more rounded, Danny is still a fair way away from the finished product.  What he has done so far is just collect assets, and flipping them for more valuable assets.  The hope here is that these young assets turn out to be legitimate players and once this occurs, he can then decide on whether or not he builds around the young core, or sells the farm in hope of landing other stars.  All options are currently still open – much like Houston before they landed James Harden, which is where the Celtics are at right now.  Houston had a young, gritty team that remained competitive, but, because they kept their options open, they were able to swing for the fences and land James Harden, followed by Dwight Howard.

Although the roster makes more sense this year, look for Danny to trade away a veteran or two throughout the season, with Bass/Thornton being the prime candidates due to their expiring contracts.  There is also the small fact that our star point guard, Rajon Rondo is in the final year of his contract too, so brace yourself for another season full of Rondo trade rumours – it is difficult to see any team offering enough to Danny Ainge to pull the trigger on any Rondo trade, ultimately keeping him in green.

NBA: Boston Celtics-Brad Stevens-Press Conference

Coaching:

Besides Rondo, the biggest drawcard for potential future free agent signings could very well be Brad Stevens.  He has managed to turn discards such as Jordan Crawford and Kris Humphries into players that other teams wanted and he already looks to be doing the same with Evan Turner this year.  He seems to have the full trust of his squad and enjoys a great relationship with Rondo, who has been reported as ‘difficult’ time and time again.

With his first year now in the rear-view mirror, Coach Stevens now knows how the NBA games go, he knows exactly he wants and what buttons to push with certain players.  His players have spoken about the difference between Coach Stevens this season compared to last and show full confidence in his ability to lead the team as he tries to get this team running like the Spurs “Lite”.

 

Players:

Though starved of top-end talent, the Celtics do boast a legitimately deep squad where we see a minimal drop off between the 4th to 10th player in the squad.  Here are the players to watch out for during the season:

Rajon Rondo: With more time removed from his ACL injury in early 2013, Rondo looks to get back to his All-Star best.  Although he suffered a minor setback breaking his hand, he is ready to prove his doubters wrong and be the leader and star that this team needs.  Being in his contract year, he will be desperate to remind everybody in the league that he is still one of the best point guards in the NBA.  Questions were asked on whether or not he can play in Brad Stevens’ offense and after the season opener yesterday, it is safe to say that he will have no problems in that system.  Rondo’s biggest question mark is injuries – once thought of as durable player, he has missed 29, 44 & 52 games respectively in the previous three seasons, will he be able to stay relatively healthy this year?

ABRondo

Avery Bradley: Can Bradley live up to the 4 year, $32m extension he signed over the off-season?  That will be the question people will ask of him throughout the duration of his contract.  Avery has looked to re-dedicate himself back to his bread and butter, his defence whilst further working on his 3 point shot which is not to be ignored by other defences.  At the young age of 23, Bradley is already one of the leaders of the team as he is entering his 5th season, being the 2nd longest tenured Celtic (behind Rondo).  With Bradley playing exclusively at the shooting guard role, he should further flourish under Brad Stevens – and wreak havoc defensively with Rondo and Smart to play next to.

Jared Sullinger: After his first fully healthy summer as a pro, Sully worked tirelessly on both his fitness base, and his 3 point shooting during the off-season, it showed in the pre-season, as he was the best on the team averaging a double-double in under 28 minutes per game.  Fairly or not, Sully was judged critically last season mainly due to his lack of conditioning after missing a large part of the off-season due to back surgery.  Fans can only hope that he takes the next leap to a double-double machine in the regular season, and even  pushes for a potential all-star selection.  He is one of the most important players on the roster due to his leadership and natural feel of the game – he is the team’s best rebounder and is also an underrated passer.  If his conditioning will allow him to play at a high level for 30+ minutes per game, he could very well be in the running for most improved player, as some experts have predicted.

sully-oly

Kelly Olynyk: Olynyk will be looking to build on the end of last season, where we saw him string together an impressive set of performances averaging 25.7 points (on 53.4% shooting), 9.3 Rebounds and 3.7 assists in just under 35 minutes in his final 3 games to close the season out.  While Olynyk has always been sound offensively, coming into his rookie season, criticism has come from the defensive end of the floor – where people question whether he was quick enough to guard fours, or strong enough to guard fives.  His rookie season did nothing to silence the critics defensively – although he wasn’t as bad as advertised, he clearly needed to work on that end of the ball.  Coming into this season, we can see that Olynyk has worked on his body as he trimmed some fat and added muscle, making him better equipped to handle the defensive duties.  Due to his range of skill, including his shooting/driving and passing ability, look for Olynyk to be a big part of the Celtics revamped offense as he has locked up the starting Centre spot.

Marcus Smart: The Celtics prized rookie has been just as good on defence as advertised, with some experts even picking him as a potential Rookie of the year candidate.  Smart has the tools to be able to contribute straight away on the defensive end, but, his offense has looked shaky at times.  As Smart plays more games, he looks to be getting more and more comfortable with his role and what he is supposed to be doing out on the court.  Will he be able to offensively impact a game and run the team?  If Smart can continue to develop his shot and show steady improvement, the sky is the limit for this prized rookie.  With a healthy squad, Smart looks to be the 6th man for this team.

Boston Celtics Unveil New Draft Picks

Evan Turner: There was no real excitement in the air when the Celtics made the low key signing of Evan Turner for 2 years, $3m per.  This was looked at as a low risk/high reward signing after Turner’s value plummeted to an all-time low following his season/playoffs in Indiana.  In pre-season, coach Stevens had Turner playing all positions from 1-3 with great success, can this equate to the regular season, and will Turner be able to run the point as good as he did in college, where he was 2010 NCAA Big 10 top scorer and National Player of the Year en route to being the #2 pick in 2010?  For the relatively low salary he is on, Turner can turn out to be a bargain as he now has a coach/system where his potential could actually be fulfilled.

Marcus Thornton: Marcus Thornton has been a pleasant surprise for the Celtics, being the spark plug off the bench with lights out shooting and deserves a special mention, but given the logjam at the guard spots, and his expiring contract, is he playing his way out of Boston, or will he be a major part of the team for the whole season?

Every player on the Celtics roster has questions against their names.  Can Zeller be the centre that the Celtics so desperately need?  Will Thornton/Bass be on the team after the trade deadline?  Will Jeff Green be more aggressive and average 20+ ppg?  Will James Young show enough to get regular minutes?  Can Vitor come back and excite everyone like he did early last season?


At times this season, this young Celtics team will be fun to watch with high energy D, fast paced action, and 3 point barrages.  Given the average age of the team, there will be games that we would like to forget, but, expect a more competitive team compared to last year.  For this season, the Celtics have a near 100% Rondo, an extra year experience for Coach Stevens, and extra year for our young veterans, and 2 rookies who have tremendous upside.  The Celtics may not be contenders, nor they likely may not make the playoffs (I hope I’m wrong), but there is enough talent there to be cautiously optimistic about this team for the upcoming season.

I predict that the Celtics record for the upcoming season will be: 35-47.

What about you?  How do you think the Celtics will go this season?

Sullinger Is Ready To Star

With the beginning of a new NBA season upon us, it’s that time of year where we can make big statements about what to expect this year. While many people talk of who will win the championship, Most Valuable Player, or who will make the playoffs, I’m turning focus to a third-year power forward that is just primed for a big season.

Jared Sullinger is ready. After showing glimpses of the player he can become in his rookie season, it was ended prematurely by a back injury. He established himself as a consistent starter and important offensive weapon in his second year, which was an achievement in itself. Coming off back surgery, he had a limited fitness base to begin with, and an injury to his shooting hand hampered his jump shot for the final months of the year.

Heading into 2014/15, Sully has been able to get into the best shape of his young NBA career. He has dropped a noticeable amount of weight, and has continued to fine-tune his outside game. Consider this: Sullinger connected on 50% of his attempts from 3-point range this preseason at an average of 3.8 shots per game.

Coupled with his soft touch at the rim, he averaged 14.9 points in just 26 minutes per contest over the past month. Then there’s his average of 10.9 boards per game despite limited minutes. In one game against the Nets, Sullinger produced a game of 21 points and 19 rebounds in just 29 minutes of action. In case those numbers aren’t enough, Sully has become smarter with his defensive work. He no longer commits ‘rookie fouls’ in games, and has adapted well to the pace of his opponents at that end of the floor.

Last season, Sullinger began to receive praise from his peers after he began to rebound the ball at an excellent rate and find a great balance between taking outside shots and knowing when to attack the paint. This resulted in some 20-20 games, while he also displayed an ability to make tough shots in close contests.

Yes, it’s only October, and we have 82 games ahead of us. However, I believe Sully is ready to become an emerging star in this league. I know I can’t wait to find out how well he goes over the next six months.

Share your thoughts with us!

- Michael (@mickyt34)

Keeping his talents in South Beach?

It appears that everyone around the league is waiting to see what LeBron will do with his free agency. He has exercised his early termination option in Miami, which means he is technically a free agent. Does anyone think that he’ll really leave Miami?! Some maybe as there is a growing cohort of Cleveland Cavs fans that hope for the prodigal son to return. No, I am not buying it either.

So what is all this LeBron talk doing on Celtics Down Under? Are we all about our boys in green? Shouldn’t we be discussing what Danny has promised to be off season fireworks? Well like him or hate him, LeBron’s decision will have a bearing on what other teams can and can’t do, including our Celtics. Danny Ainge has reportedly been burning the midnight oil to put together a deal for Kevin Love to have a new home at Causeway Street. Like the previous Kevin from Minnesota, he would be a high impact player and if we can keep Rondo and add another piece begin a rebuild properly.

Which brings me to the next piece. Roy Hibbert. Yes the Pacers fans had been critical as they see Roy’s playoff performance as disappointing  . I always liked the way he played and think he’d be a good fit with K-Love and Rondo if we can swing that trade.

I mean, check this out:

(I love the rejection on ‘Melo and you know Bostonians love good D.)

The other Pacer that The Celtics are reportedly interested in is Lance Stephenson. I like Lance as well especially things like this

as he reminds me of KG doing whatever it took to get in to the head of the opponent. He is one of those guys that you’d love playing for you, hate ‘em against you.

Slightly unhinged? Maybe.
Entertaining? Definitely.

Let’s hope LeBron makes his intentions clear so we can get on with our rebuild, because two things are definite.

First, LeBron isn’t coming to Boston.

Secondly, our boys in green will have to go through him to get Banner 18.

Smart Move Signals A Changing Of The Guard

First off I would like to congratulate Marcus Smart and James Young on becoming the newest members of the Boston Celtics. I can’t wait to see what both are able to bring to the floor.

We all know that Danny Ainge went in to the draft with the tactic of drafting the best player available, not based on what the team needs right now. This is an obvious thing to do as it is clear the Celtics are a long way from title contenders.

Having said that, by drafting Smart with the 6th pick there is obviously going to be ramifications for the rest of the guards that Boston already possesses.

Credit: Brad Penner

Credit: Brad Penner

Rajon Rondo was the name that many people thought of first.  I truly believe that Smart and Rondo can co-exist. They are both brutal competitors and could form a very dangerous back court duo.

The trade rumours are obviously going to be crazy this off season, but I don’t think Ainge will actively shop Rondo. He is a four time All Star and Captain of the team, they don’t just grow on trees. It will take a huge offer for Ainge to pull the trigger, and I hope the offer doesn’t come.

The player I believe the selection of Smart effects most is Avery Bradley, who is a restricted free-agent. If Smart moves to the shooting guard position, and plays alongside Rondo, Bradley is left as the odd one out. Smart’s rookie contract is going to be a lot cheaper than retaining Bradley, who could ask for up to $9 million this off season.

Avery Bradley has always been known for his defence. Much like Bradley, Smart plays great defence and never gives up on a play. Smart is 1″ taller, and has a 2″ longer wingspan than Bradley. This may not sound like much but on the defensive end a long wingspan is so very valuable.  This only adds to the fact that Bradley could now been seen as dispensable by Ainge.

As much as I love what Bradley brings to the Celtics, I don’t believe he is worth $9 million. Sadly, I think we’ve seen the last of Avery Bradley in Boston.

Phil Pressey showed tremendous promise throughout his rookie season in 2013/14. He went undrafted but showed he can definitely have an impact in the NBA.

The drafting of Smart will have a huge effect on Pressey’s minutes going forward. Smart will take a lot of the minutes that Pressey saw last season. That being said, if Smart is moved to the two guard position, Pressey will most likely still see some court time as Rondo’s primary back up.

I think Pressey is definitely worth keeping around, especially due to the fact that he is cheap and is learning from one of the best in Rajon Rondo.

Jerryd Bayless came to Boston in the Courtney Lee trade last season. Mainly seen as a cost-saving move, he did provide some quality games for the Celtics and was a solid contributor once he became familiar with sBrad Steven’ system.

This off season, Bayless becomes an unrestricted free-agent. Unlike Bradley, Bayless could be signed for a reasonable amount. If the Celtics can sign him for a good price I think he will still have a role to play for the team. He could slot in nicely as a sixth man, behind Rondo at the point and Smart at shooting guard.

Marcus Smart brings so much fight and heart to the Celtics. He is mature beyond his years and has an NBA ready frame and mindset. Whilst his selection could be problematic for individuals, the future of the Celtics looks to be in good hands.

All You Need Is Love

If you’re a fan of the NBA, you would be well aware of Kevin Love’s pending free agency in the summer of 2015. If you’re a fan of the Boston Celtics, you may also be aware the superstar power forward just spent the entire weekend in the city of Boston.

 

Artwork by CDU's own @lil_kaino

Artwork by CDU’s own @lil_kaino

With reports that Love wants out of Minnesota as soon as possible and won’t re-sign with the team next year, it’s hard not to get excited at the realistic possibility of K-Love teaming up with Rajon Rondo and the Celtics.

 

Yes, every team should be targeting such a talent. A rebounding machine, talented shooter and a fierce competitor, Love will draw a huge asking price to pry him away from the Timberwolves. This is where the Celtics have the upper hand on almost every other franchise in the league.

 

Danny Ainge has been stockpiling away those picks for something big, and this could definitely be what we have all been waiting for. Holding pick #6 in this year’s draft, the top prospects are out of our grasp, so it makes a lot of sense to trade away the draft selection along with one of our many other assets to convince the Timberwolves to play along and bring Kevin Love to the city of Boston.

 

It’s worth revisiting quotes from 2014’s All-Star weekend, when Love shared his opinion of the 2013/14 version of the C’s

“I’ve never really spent much time in Boston. I don’t know it too well,” he said. “But I think as far as playing there, we love competing against those guys. I think they have a great coach and they have a ton of youngsters that are up-and-comers.

“Boston is a great city. I’m sure free agents would love to go there, especially with [Brad] Stevens as a coach. He’s a guy that can win basketball games. He gets guys to play for him. They’ve been having good success there, even in his first year, and he has a lot of young players. The coach has a lot to do with it, but yeah, Boston is a great place.”

 

Over the weekend, Love was spotted in a few establishments that would have opened his eyes to the city’s proud sporting culture. Across the road from TD Garden, Love enjoyed a dinner at The Greatest Sports Bar, and a conversation with a co-owner who told The Boston Globe

“It went great,” Fairweather told the Globe on Sunday. “The kid is a real gentleman. I think he has a real appreciation with the Celtics’ history and tradition.”

 

The most stirring sighting however, was left to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, where Captain Rondo and Kevin Love were snapped having a laugh together (courtesy of @BigDub on Twitter). The combination of Rondo dropping dimes and Love cleaning the glass is the stuff championship-calibre teams can be built on. It’s hard not to get carried away.

 

However Flip Saunders, president of basketball operations for the T-Wolves, tried his best to put a wet blanket over the entire weekend

“The last I knew Kevin was under contract with us, and I expect him to be playing for us next year,” Saunders told reporters in Minneapolis on Sunday. “I don’t really dictate where guys go on vacation or what they do. They can go wherever they want to go.”

With regard to the teams that are interested in Love, Saunders said, “I know there’s a feeding frenzy out there from a lot of teams. Unfortunately, they have no say. I plan on Kevin being here.”

 

This is the sort of thing you expect to hear from a team hoping to keep their star player, as Celtics fans this is something I would choose to overlook and instead believe we have a good chance of landing the 25-year-old from UCLA. It has also been reported that Love will speak to former UCLA and Celtic Bill Walton about the experience of playing for the Boston faithful. Draft night cannot come quickly enough.

 

Future first-round draft picks, playoff-calibre players, a trade exception, and expiring contracts are all part of Ainge’s arsenal right now. While trades cannot be done until draft night, the sign that Love is interested in the city of Boston makes it really hard for Celtics fans not to get their hopes up. After all, Love is all you need.

 

- Michael (@mickyt34)

Aussie Prospects For The 2014 Draft

With the Celtics’ offseason beginning earlier than fans have become accustomed to in recent seasons, the lack of news surrounding the C’s has been deflating. In the lead up to this week’s lottery, we take a look at the two Australians vying for their chance to join the NBA – hopefully in a green uniform as far as we’re concerned.

The first Australian (that some of you may have heard of), is potential top-5 pick Dante Exum. While there has been conjecture on his preferred position as a point or shooting guard, the 18 year old can play. He is a product of the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra and stands at 6’6” with a 6’9” wingspan.

Having impressed at the Nike Hoop Summit and leading the Australian Emus to fourth in the Under 19 World Championships last year (averaging 18.2 points per game), Exum has played sparingly at a top-level competition since. This has added intrigue to exactly where Exum will go in the draft, but the general consensus surrounding the combo-guard is that he won’t last beyond the fifth pick.

With the NBA’s Draft Combine taking place in Chicago, the Sydney Morning Herald noted how Exum performed

The 18-year-old lived up to the hype at the NBA Draft combine in Chicago, impressing team executives, coaches and the US media with his speed, jumping ability, wingspan and intelligence.

In speed tests, Exum eclipsed every other shooting guard.

With the lottery coming up this week and Avery Bradley’s restricted free agent status pending, I hope the Celtics are in the mix for the young Aussie. After all, Celtics insider A. Sherrod Blakley tweeted about it a few days ago

Time will tell.

 

The other Australian in the mix as a second-round option is 6’9” Power Forward Cameron Bairstow. A product of New Mexico, Bairstow played all four years of College to prepare for this opportunity. Basketball Australia’s own website provides a good summary of how far the hustle player has come over the past year and a half

Coming off an outstanding senior year for the University of New Mexico, Bairstow has become one of the bolters into NBA Draft contention, announcing himself as one of the premier forwards in college basketball.

The 23-year-old led the Lobos to the Mountain West Conference tournament title and finished second in MWC Player of the Year voting, coming off a brilliant international season that saw him become a key player in the Boomers program.

Brought into the training squad ahead of the 2013 Sino-Australia Challenge, Bairstow would go on to play a major role in Head Coach Andrej Lemanis’ first series win, before going on to lead the Emerging Boomers to their first World University Games medal – silver in Russia.

This ensured Bairstow would be part of the team that would secure the 2013 FIBA Oceania Championship for the Boomers. In all, Bairstow played more than 20 games for his country during the college off-season, preparing him well for his senior year.

Such was his impact on the Lobos, Bairstow would finish the season in the top 20 in scoring at more than 20 points per game.

Bairstow is an energy guy that could carve out a role off the bench in the NBA. He plays hard and with physicality, can hit the mid-range shot and he can go to work down in the post. I hope he is lucky enough to secure a spot in this league alongside Australia’s growing list of players in the NBA.

Hard to believe the draft is still a whole month away!

- Michael (@mickyt34)

 

 

Offseason Dreaming: Gortat In Green

Although the Celtics season of mediocrity isn’t quite over yet, the remaining 7 games can’t come quickly enough in what has been a long 82-game stand. With this in mind, it’s never too early to look towards the period in June and July this year where Danny Ainge is expected to be very active.

Polish center Marcin Gortat displayed his affections for the C’s in yesterday’s game against the Wizards in DC, which grabbed my attention as a fan excitedly looking towards the offseason.

Early in the contest, Rondo displayed his signature behind-the-back fake pass that left Gortat with his feet nailed to the floor. Down the other end, Trevor Booker attempted a pair of free throws while Rondo and Gortat shared a laugh over the previous play. This may not seem like much, but there is definitely a mutual respect between the pair, as the Polish Hammer took to Twitter after the game to illustrate this point:

As the 3rd quarter wound down with Jeff Green getting ready to sink some free throws, the Celtics players huddled round for a quick discussion, only to be joined by a certain #4 in a Wizards uniform. It was another mischievous act in yesterday’s game, which was literally embraced by Rondo by having his arm around Gortat as well.

Admittedly, these are only two small things that really don’t point to much on their own. Last year in the offseason, Brandon Bass and Gortat worked out together. The former Orlando Magic teammates clearly share a good relationship to still be catching up and playing ball together, which could work well in any recruitment pitches the Celtics may put to the center.

Becoming an unrestricted free agent after this season, Gortat is earning $7.27 million this year and could demand a similar figure on the open market. While the Wizards are obviously eager to re-sign him, with Marc Stein reporting his signature ‘as a top priority’ for Washington, he has the choice of signing with any team around the league.

The Celtics desperately need a quality center on their roster moving forward, if the Omer Asik trade rumours were anything to go by in December last year. At 30 years of age, Gortat has plenty of good years left in the NBA.

Putting together mutual respect between Gortat and the Captain of the Celtics, his relationship with former teammate Bass, his status as an unrestricted free agent and the Celtics with a plethora of picks and money to make it happen, here’s hoping that fun he had with the Celtics yesterday is the start of something much bigger.

Share your thoughts with us!

- Michael (@mickyt34)

 

Kelly’s Playing Olright

The expectations on most rookie big men must be set reasonably low as players transition from the tempo of the college game into the faster pace of the NBA. However, this isn’t always the case when those rookie bigs are drafted in the top 15 of their class.

Kelly Olynyk displayed a high basketball IQ from the word go, especially when he was named player of the tournament for the 2013 Summer League in Orlando. However, the pace of real NBA games meant Olynyk had trouble finding his feet over the first few months of the season proper.

The turnaround in Kelly’s game over the past two months or so can be put down to something rather simple: confidence. This added confidence can be attributed to several factors. A familiarity with Coach Stevens’ system and his teammates (especially Phil Pressey), an understanding of the tempo of the game and his opponents, and just being comfortable knowing his own game is good enough at this level.

Tommy Heinsohn noted that Olynyk’s selection to the Rising Stars game at All-Star weekend may have helped him feel like he truly belongs at this level.

He is no longer hesitating with the ball in his hands, instead taking the shots that are available to him straightaway, demonstrating a higher arc on his jump shots too. If the shots aren’t there, he simply illustrates a very smart passing game to find an open teammate. Olynyk runs the floor very well for a big man, and his ability to finish around the rim is very impressive. In February he averaged 8.4 points per game, substantially improving on averages in December and January of 6.1 and 6.3 points per contest.

Since his return from a toe injury, Kelly has posted averages of 16 points at 53% field goal percentage, 6 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 22.5 minutes of court time over those 3 games.

Not only is Olynyk putting up better numbers and looking comfortable in offensive sets, he is also playing with an added aggression which has seen a spike in his rebounding numbers. Over the months of December and January, Olynyk averaged 3.6 and 3.8 boards per contest respectively. In February, those numbers jumped to 6.5 rebounds per game. This is no coincidence, as he actively pursues rebounds and positions himself a lot better than he used to.

It also seems as though Kris Humphries’ tutelage has been working on Olynyk, as he looks to have added some size and muscle since the start of the season.

Danny Ainge has now drafted Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk over the past two offseasons, with both big men showing enormous potential to be something special for the Celtics going forward. As Kelly continues to improve, it’s exciting to think about what the future holds for this young and promising team.

- Michael (@mickyt34)

Getting to the finish line.

20-41. 61 games played, 21 games to go.

it-s-all-about-the-future-rajon-rondo-16544040-1920-1200

We all know it’s about the future, but knowing is different from feeling. One can only imagine the morale of the team at this point. Battered and bruised, they valiantly battle for a win every night, only to fall short at the end to better teams. We all knew this season was never going to be pretty, but reality still hits hard. The situation certainly isn’t as ugly as it was before the modern Big Three era, but it takes a lot of beer and positivity to get this season over and done with. The early season was a really fun ride, but the roster’s been thinned out some since then, which certainly didn’t help. Not forgetting the fact that you can only play so hard and win that many games with an undersized, unbalanced roster that lacks a rim protector, has not yet learnt to rotate defensively on pick and roll plays well enough (check out Kevin O’Connor’s analysis on the team), doesn’t even make a third of its three-point attempts, and sputters along on offense (26th in league) whenever our recently recovered All-Star point guard gets off the floor. None of it is really their fault, it’s just the rigours of getting through a rebuilding system with a young roster finding its ways with a new coach.

I’m really proud of the fact that there hasn’t been any intentional losing crap (read: tanking) and few games where the guys just decide to throw the towel in on defense and let the other team roll over them. A loss is a loss, but at least we’re trying. (I’m morbidly cheered up by the crazy way the Clippers absolutely mutilated the Lakers today by the way.)

On the positive side: Olynyk’s getting more confident and adjusted to the game pace, Rondo’s found a new offensive option in his long range shots, Humphries is a maniac I’d love to keep, Sully’s hustling as always, and Bass is doing the usual Bass-like things, that I like. There’s absolutely no doubt the team can and will get better, it’s just brutal to watch.

Looking at the remainder of the schedule, I can see a whole bunch of games that look like definite losses (read: Miami, Indiana, Brooklyn x2, Detroit x2, Chicago x2 and Phoenix.) Which is a good thing. Or bad, depending on which way you look at it. One thing for sure, I’m just gonna keep telling myself, “NEXT!” up till game #82 rolls around on 17 April 2014. Goodbye Wizards, goodbye season 2013/14.

Like Evans Clinchy wrote, it’s about playing for pride.

“We still have our pride,” said Green. “We don’t want to keep embarrassing ourselves. That’s the mentality we’re going to have. I don’t think this group wants to continue having games like this. We’ve just got to keep fighting and do the best we can to finish out the season strong.”

Whatever lies ahead in the off-season, I’d like to say a word of thanks to all the players for roughing it out through this season. Thanks for not giving up, and fighting on no matter what. Thanks to coach Stevens for steering the ship so well in your first season as head coach; for being calm and ever maintaining that consistent, reassuring exterior. It’s not the easiest job in the league, but I think we’ve got a better shot at getting out of this rut compared to some other teams out there – hello New York!

To the team: keep fighting, stay positive and hang on. We’re all behind you! 21 more bloody games, let’s do it. #CelticPride

Navigating The Rest Of Season 2013/14

As the February trade deadline passed and no moves were made by Danny Ainge since mid-January, the 2013/14 version of the Boston Celtics won’t be one of the most memorable teams in the franchise’s decorated history. Since the beginning of the season and the appointment of rookie Coach Brad Stevens, this season was always about development and working towards something great in the near future. With 23 games remaining and injuries mounting, surely it is time to throw caution to the wind and see what the more inexperienced players have in their arsenal.

With the news Gerald Wallace may miss the final seven weeks of the season, an opportunity for substantial playing time is now up for grabs. As Avery Bradley will return soon, most minutes will be distributed to Jerryd Bayless, Kelly Olynyk and Kris Humphries (in addition to the starting five of Rondo, Bradley, Green, Bass and Sullinger). This is assuming all players will be available to play at the same time, something that has been a rare occurrence with the amount of injuries this team has been dealt with.

This leaves a great opportunity for the likes of Chris Johnson, Phil Pressey and 10-day contract recipient Chris Babb to compete for extended minutes at the guard/forward positions.

Phil Pressey has shown flashes of the player he can become, starting in place of Rajon Rondo on second nights of back-to-backs and playing with the composure required of an NBA-calibre point guard. In January, an impressive night against Toronto in his first career start saw him dish out 10 assists with 0 turnovers, followed later in the week by a 20 point and 4 assist outing against Washington, highlights what Pressey is capable of.

His future with the Celtics appears bright after Danny Ainge traded away Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks to give the 5’11” rookie some meaningful playing time. It might be time to give Pressey a more established role behind Rajon Rondo to showcase what he can do on a consistent basis, instead of barely playing to starting from one game to the next.

Chris Johnson really forced his way onto this team, and since being signed to a multi-year deal at the beginning of February, he has continued to play hard on both ends of the floor. Playing to his strengths and knowing his limitations, Johnson would seem the most likely candidate to take the majority of Gerald Wallace’s minutes. It will be interesting to see how Johnson responds to the added responsibility.

Finally, Danny Ainge signed Chris Babb to a 10-day contract to cover the plethora of injuries the Celtics roster currently holds. Babb appeared in five preseason games for the C’s, most notably a 12-point outing in only 8 minutes of action against the Knicks, knocking down 4-5 shots from 3-point land. Babb was unlucky with the amount of guards that jammed the roster at the beginning of the season, but now finds an opportunity to show what he can do at the highest level.

Coach Stevens has been thrown many curveballs in his first season in the NBA, and has been able to navigate his way through all the surprises along the ride very well to this point. Injuries, player frustration, an imbalanced roster, and many losses have all reared their ugly heads at different times. Stevens has always preached never getting too high or too low, and has always instilled confidence into his players whilst keeping a level head at all times. He has been the perfect man for the job.

With Boston headed for the lottery in this draft, now is the time to embrace the injuries the Celtics have been handed and to identify which players will stick as the team moves forward. With a decent selection in the draft, two trade exceptions, and a huge amount of picks at his disposal, Danny Ainge is looking at who will remain in green this offseason, as the Celtics look to climb back into contention at a rapid rate.

- Michael (@mickyt34)

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