Celtics

7 of your questions about the Celtics, answered

Brad Stevens.

COMMENTARY

If you have a question about the Celtics, please email [email protected].

Questions have been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

What needs to happen for Brad Stevens to be in the hot seat? How long does he get? 

Chad: A scandal involving stealing the other teams’ plays or something? I suppose it could occur with a string of disappointing seasons in a row, but unless Danny Ainge brings back Kyrie Irving again to undermine everything, that’s not happening. Last year was a bummer, but Stevens’s teams have habitually overachieved otherwise, and everything seems to be repaired this year. He’s a terrific coach, and his seat shall remain chilly.

Nicole: Stevens is in his seventh season with the Celtics and, with the exception of last season, has improved the team’s record each year. Until the Celtics experience sustained disappointment or some sort of irremediable plateau — neither of which seems imminent if the team continues to build around Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum —  his job is probably safe and deservedly so.

Sam: As a card-carrying member of the Kaizen Church of Brad Stevens, I don’t even want to entertain this question. I think Leader Brad would describe his seat as already hot, citing the constant pressure to win in this league. In actuality, I think he has another three to four years to reach the Finals. Without significant success, I think a coach’s message eventually becomes stale in a locker room — or at the very least, with a specific set of players. Coaches with long tenures, like Gregg Popovich and Erik Spoelstra, can point to their rings, which is something Stevens cannot do at this point.

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I am one of many who think we need a big to help with our interior defense and rebounding, especially when it comes to playoff time. Other than supposedly Andre Drummond, who are the Celtics looking at? I really like Myles Turner if we could take him from the Pacers. I think he’d be a great fit. Thoughts?

Chad: Turner would be a good fit, but he just signed a four-year, $80 million extension, so it would be tough to make anything happen without giving up an important piece. (Gordon Hayward for Turner, Jeremy Lamb, and Doug McDermott works in the trade machine, but who wants that?) Plus, Indiana is probably pretty happy with their roster. Drummond would have been a better fit with last year’s Celtics. I want nothing to do with that guy. I can’t really see how they had a big unless Tristan Thompson gets bought out and somehow chooses Boston over Los Angeles.

Sam: The Celtics do not have a size problem. The team’s high-speed scrambling style of defense is currently third-best in the league and quite effective against every team not named the Philadelphia 76ers. There is a very short list of NBA players who can contain or slow down Joel Embiid in the post. These players are either not available on the trade market or way too expensive for the Celtics’ taste. To bring in a guy like Drummond or Turner, the Celtics would have to give up Hayward or Marcus Smart and that just doesn’t improve the team.

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The Celtics are much more likely to make a smaller move that addresses their lack of shooting off the bench. The only proposed trade target I’ve heard that makes sense is Nemanja Bejelica from the Sacramento Kings. He is a low usage big that is currently shooting over 40 percent from three and, most importantly, he would only cost the Celtics two of their lower salary players.

Nicole: If the Celtics remain healthy before the trade deadline on Feb. 6, I think the upcoming few weeks will be a valuable stretch for Ainge and the front office to evaluate the roster. As a result of injuries and illnesses, the Celtics really haven’t had an extended opportunity to assess their current team at full strength. There will soon be some challenging tests — @ Bucks, vs. Lakers, @ Heat, vs. Sixers — and perhaps those performances will sway Ainge. Should the Celtics make a move, I wouldn’t expect Hayward or Smart to be included in the package.

Why do the Celtics seem to get more slack about their performance than other Boston teams? They haven’t won a championship since 2008, haven’t made it to the Finals since 2010, and don’t look close to making it to the Finals any time soon. Nobody seems to care.

Chad: Because it’s really freaking hard to win a championship in the NBA. More than any other sport, it’s superstar-dependent. In the seasons since the Celtics last won a title, the Warriors won three (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, occasionally Kevin Durant), the Heat won two (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade), the Lakers won two (Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol), the Cavs won one (LeBron James), the Mavericks won one (peak Dirk Nowitzki), the Spurs won one (Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan), and the Raptors won one (Kawhi). Superstars win. It’s tough to get superstars.

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No, the Celtics haven’t won since 2008. But they gave us an enjoyable, highly-competitive stretch through 2012 with KG, Pierce, and Rondo at the forefront. I loved those teams even though they couldn’t hang a second banner. Then they blew it up, made an all-time brilliant trade with the Nets that brought current cornerstones Tatum and Brown, signed Al Horford, and went out and got a superstar in Kyrie, only to learn that he was a total detriment as a so-called leader.

When he bolted, they brought in Kemba Walker, a delight to watch even if he’s not going to be the best player on a title winner. Another banner would be great, and one got away in ’10. But save for Stevens’s first season, they’ve always given us compelling, competitive teams, and Ainge has rebuilt quickly with the deck stacked against him.

I wish Celtics fans who complain about this without any context about how the league is structured would acknowledge this.

Sam: As a Celtics fan, I’d like to think it is because we, as a fanbase, are somewhat reasonable and thus have realistic expectations for the team. This position feels a little bizarre, given the many unhinged tweets I read after the recent three-game losing streak, but I genuinely believe it. After the Celtics traded Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets, fans bought into the idea of the rebuild and were smart enough to realize Eastern Conference Player of the Week Jordan Crawford wasn’t leading them to the promised land. In the early seasons with Stevens at the helm, the Celtics consistently outperformed expectations, and fans were happy with the surprising playoff runs. In the one year where the Celtics did have title hopes, I think the team received the proper amount of criticism for their epic failure of a season. I would contend that with Tatum and Brown, the team is closer to the Finals than you might think. Us, smart, hyper-rational, and reasonable Celtics fans recognize that.

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Who is the most underrated and overrated player on the team right now?

Nicole: I think Walker has been a bit underrated, if that’s possible. The development of Brown and Tatum has dominated the conversation so often that Boston’s max point guard seems to fly under the radar at times. Walker’s contributions have been critical, though, as he often is the one making shots to either keep the Celtics in a game or seal the victory. With the understanding that correlation does not equal causation, Boston’s recent funk also occurred when Walker was sidelined with the flu. As for overrated, I’d have to say Tacko Fall. That distinction is to no fault of his own, however, and mainly a reflection of the fan-created mania surrounding him.

Chad: Underrated: Daniel Theis. He’s averaging 7.4 points, 6 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in a little over 21 minutes per game while constantly dealing with much larger centers. Overrated: I’m not sure there is one in the regular rotation. I hate saying this because he’s a minor piece of this and such a likable guy, but it’s probably Tacko, just because there’s a segment of the fanbase that believes he’s ready to help now.

Sam: Underrated: Enes Kanter. Some Celtics fans absolutely love to hate Kanter. They are quick to point out his defensive shortcomings, especially his inability to do anything to stop a pick-and-roll ball handler. Their criticisms ignore the fact that the Celtics have a staggering 13.8 net rating when Kanter is on the floor.

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Overrated: Enes Kanter. The fancy net rating is cool, but the double-doubles and counting stats feel empty. Kanter’s best quality seems to be standing near the basket while being 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds. Many of his buckets fall into his lap after one of Boston’s ball-handlers has drawn the attention of his defender. Also, so many of his offensive rebounds come after his own missed shots that even Stevens recently poked fun at him.

Which Celtics do you expect to be named All-Stars?

Chad: Can I just say that Kyrie Irving’s return to the Nets after there were reports a week or two ago that he might need surgery is so predictable? I guarantee you he’s back because he wants to play in the All-Star Game and will be shut down again within a week after it’s over. I bring this up only because — well, because he’s so annoying — but also because he’ll probably keep Walker from his deserved spot in the starting lineup. He’ll make it, though. I think Tatum makes it too — that 41-point game got him some extra notice — while Brown will be an unfortunate snub. If it were up to me, I’d go with Jaylen over Jayson. He’s been more consistent and well-rounded.

Nicole: Walker will definitely get in. Tatum and/or Brown most likely will have to get in as reserves, which means their fate is at the discretion of head coaches not named Brad Stevens. It’s completely feasible both are snubbed, but my guess is Tatum gets in — even though Brown is equally, if not more, deserving. As an aside, I do wonder if Hayward would still be in the conversation if he didn’t fracture his hand.

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Sam: Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum. Walker has already started in an All-Star Game and is shooting over 40 percent on over eight three-point attempts per game, while Tatum is averaging nearly 21 points and 7 rebounds and playing elite defense. I think Brown, largely due to his shooting struggles over the last two weeks, will ultimately come up short.

Tell me something I don’t know about this year’s Celtics.

Chad: That Al Horford is working as a double-agent to bring down the Sixers from the inside. And it’s working.

Nicole: Javonte Green regularly uses Tatum’s toiletries in the locker room. Their lockers are in the same vicinity, so it’s pretty easy for Green to just snipe Tatum’s lotion and deodorant, sometimes right in front of him. I asked Green about it once and he said, “Sharing is caring.”

Sam: They love to raise the roof. Watch the bench after a big block or homicidal dunk and you are likely to see Grant Williams and Javonte Green exuberantly pushing the air above their head. It’s a wonderful throwback to the celebratory dances of yesteryear. The roof-raising takes the bench’s cheerleading from very good to elite.

GIF by NBA

Smart also raised the roof after freeing one of the lodged balls behind the backboard.

GIF by NBA

Who has a better shot of getting to the Finals, the Celtics or the Bruins?

Sam: I don’t know anything about the Bruins or the NHL, but I’m going to pick the Bruins because it gives me the opportunity to rail against the inferior sport of hockey. In basketball, scoring is dependent on repeated excellence and thus, talent and consistency are rewarded. In hockey, where goals come at a premium, luck has a much bigger impact on the game. A team can dominate a shift but still give up a goal after a lucky bounce.

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Currently, the Celtics probably don’t have the top-end talent to get past the Bucks or Sixers, while all the Bruins need is some puck luck while Tuukka Rask ”stands on his head”? What malarkey!

Nicole: Probably the Bruins, but that’s likely recency bias speaking. They made it to the Stanley Cup Final last year, so why can’t they do it again? NHL standings seem to corroborate the possibility. I don’t think a Celtics trip to the Finals is entirely out of the question, although they will likely need to be the No. 2 seed in the East to avoid playing the Sixers, Heat, Pacers, or Raptors in the first round as well as potentially the Bucks in the second round.

Chad: Neither would surprise me, but I’d say the Bruins have a slightly better chance. Even with their recent slump, they’re just one point out of the league lead (behind St. Louis and Washington), and hey, they did it last year, so they’re hardly underdogs here. The Celtics have a tougher road, with a truly dominating team in the Bucks ahead of them, plus they’ll probably have to deal with the Sixers along the way, and as underachieving as they are, they’re a tough matchup for the C’s. The Celtics are way better in shootouts, though.

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