The Boston Celtics are one of the most iconic franchises in all of sports, and Bill Russell, a Hall of Famer with 11 championship rings, is one of their most iconic athletes to ever play for them. One of the most memorable nights of his career was on Feb. 15, 1958. On this date, the Celtics beat the Philadelphia Warriors 110-96, with Russell securing 18 points and 35 rebounds. This number of rebounds is unheard of, especially in today’s NBA, but the Boston legend had games in his career where he topped over 40 rebounds in a single game, including a career-high 51 on Feb. 5, 1960.
Russell was known as a winner, and as the definition of a great team leader. Any basketball team would welcome a player of Russell’s caliber, but today’s Celtics are especially desperate for help if they want to be considered serious championship contenders this season. This year’s team has struggled with the little things, in addition to a lack of depth on their bench, and it has put them in a tough spot as the trade deadline approaches.
The Celtics need a few things if they are going to get close to being a championship caliber team. First, like any successful team, they need to stay healthy. Jayson Tatum missed a few weeks after testing positive for COVID-19, Kemba Walker missed the beginning of the season recovering from a knee injury and Marcus Smart is currently out for some time due to a calf strain. This seems to be a recurring theme for the Celtics over the past few years, where the team’s top players are not able to play many games together in the regular season, and struggle to gain chemistry heading into the playoffs.
Second, the team needs to attack the basket and just play more aggressively in general. The team is putting up too many low-percentage threes and waiting until late in the shot clock to make a play, a recipe for disaster in the NBA. When players like Jaylen Brown put their head down and drive into the paint it leads to easier shots from the perimeter and a more open floor.
Lastly, with the trade deadline approaching, the Celtics have a trade exception for $28 million as a result of losing Gordon Hayward in the off-season. Typically, when NBA teams trade players, there needs to be a level of parity in the salaries that are traded in order to stay under the NBA’s salary cap. When a team trades a salary but doesn’t take any back, they can then use a trade player exception (TPE) later in the season to trade for another player without having to give up similar salaries. The Celtics’ TPE puts them in an unprecedented and potentially season-changing position as it is the largest in league history.
One of the issues with the team is depth at the wing position. While Semi Ojeleye can hold his ground at times, he is not the solution to getting this team over the playoff hump. Harrison Barnes from the Kings is a player that General Manager Danny Ainge will likely consider acquiring because the Kings are rebuilding, and Barnes offers a level of experience and talent that would boost the bench of this team. Barnes has also played with some of the Celtics core on tTeam USA before, so it’ will be interesting to see if that plays a part in trade efforts.
The Celtics have not been to the NBA Finals since 2010. They have been close, and they have the talent this year, assuming Ainge can make an effective move at the deadline. Although their record is not where it was projected to be, a lot of the teams in the East hold similar records due to the unusual season. The top of the conference is not as far away as Celtics fans might think; top seeds in the Eastern Conference likely will not be clinched until the last week in the season, creating plenty of drama for basketball fans. The bottom line is that the Celtics need to get healthy and stay healthy throughout the second half of the season and bring in one or two new faces who will fit in and give the squad the much needed boost on both ends of the floor. Or maybe they just need a pep talk from Bill Russell.