Robert Parish shares why he thinks the Celtics are struggling by comparing Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to Larry Bird

"Brown and Tatum don't have the ability to make their teammates better."

Robert Parish won three titles with Larry Bird when the two were teammates on the Celtics.

Former Celtics legends have a lot of thoughts on the current Celtics group, which is just 23-23 this season despite having two young All-Stars on the roster in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

A common theme among the criticisms on this Celtics group is that they need to upgrade at point guard. First, it was Bob Cousy, who stated that they needed someone to stabilize the offense. Now, it’s Robert Parish, who believes the team needs a distributor.

To diagnose the current day Celtics’ problems, Parish compared Brown and Tatum to his 1980s Celtics squad, which won three titles with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Parish as part of the “Big 3.”


“They have a solid foundation because they have a dynamic tandem of wingmen in Brown and Tatum,” Parish said in an interview on SiriusXM NBA Radio. “They’re both explosive, they’re dynamic, [they] command a lot of attention from the defense.

“But the problem with that, in my opinion, is that Brown and Tatum don’t have the ability to make their teammates better. I think that’s one of the reasons why we were so successful, going back into the ’80s, was because of Larry’s ability to make people around him better. Kevin and I were great in our own right. The way Larry was mixing it up and creating all that havoc and attention, that just made things easier for Kevin and myself. That’s what the Celtics need. They need somebody that can command and get the respect from the officials.”

Parish believes the fix for the Celtics’ offensive issues (they rank 21st in the league in offensive rating) is to “get everybody involved.”

“When Brown and Tatum are doing their thing, everybody’s just standing around,” Parish said. “They really only have two scorers, so if one of them is really struggling, the Celtics don’t have a chance to win. For the Celtics to have a chance to win or be in the game every single night, Brown and Tatum got to be spectacular — and that’s impossible to do every night. So, they don’t have scoring. They need scoring. They need a distributor.”


The Celtics have had struggles generating offense outside of Brown and Tatum. They rank 22nd in assists per game (22.7) while their two main point guards, Marcus Smart and Dennis Schroder, rank 29th (5.3) and 39th (4.7) in assists per game, respectively.

Parish also took issue with the team’s play on defense, specifically how they play in the paint.

“They need a defensive presence because they are a small team,” Parish said. “They don’t have someone in the middle that’s going to be a consistent deterrent because there’s too much traffic going to the basket. The center they have doesn’t seem like the opposition fears him, so there’s no deterrent. That’s what they need, the deterrent in the middle to cut down on some of that easy baskets the (other) team is getting. And they need to do a better job rebounding, also. That’s just [matter] of will, not skill.”

Some of Parish’s critiques on the Celtics’ defense might be a bit off-base. Starting center Robert Williams is fourth in the league in blocks with 2.1 per game and they have the fifth-best defensive rating in the league (107.8).

The Celtics could stand to get a bit better at defending around the rim. They’ve allowed opponents to shoot 63 percent within five feet of the rim this season, which ranks 20th in the league. However, they’ve allowed the third-least amount of shots per game in that area this season (24.8), which suggests that teams aren’t shooting as much around the rim against the Celtics compared to other teams.


Boston ranks relatively well on the defensive glass. They’re seventh in adjusted defensive rebound chance percentage (69.0), which calculates the percentage of rebounds gathered when given a rebound chance on defense.

While Parish and Cousy have shared their concerns with this Celtics group, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are adamant that Brown and Tatum shouldn’t be split.

“You’ve got to put the pieces around them,” Pierce said on Garnett’s “KG Certified.” “A lot of talk has been like ‘Split ’em up. Trade them.’ You don’t split guys that you have that are All-Stars on your team. You add to it. If you’re trying to make a run at a championship, you add to those pieces. People keep saying ‘Split them up, get something.’ What are you going to get? You’re going to regress. You’ve got two All-Star talents, you build on that.”

Garnett also likes a couple of players around Brown and Tatum that set the Celtics up well.

“I think they got a good foundation,” Garnett said. “They still got Marcus Smart. I like the kid Rob Williams, he’s coming into his own. I just think they need to continue to keep adding, keep doing what Celtics nation knows what to do: which is bringing in a lot of talent, bringing strong teams together.”


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com