The sports world is a busy place to be living in right now. March Madness is in full swing, with both the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments already down to the Sweet 16. MLB’s opening day is less than a week away, and there will be some fans in attendance this year. The NBA and NHL seasons are starting to head towards the home stretch, with both trade deadlines garnering national attention for the last few weeks.
The trade deadline day adds a fun element of intrigue to the NBA, almost a sport in itself. This is when teams decide whether to go ‘all in’ for the current season, stay put or go full ‘sell mode’ and head towards a rebuild. Fanbases of each team can grasp a better understanding of what the future is going to look like. For one Boston team, it is safe to say they have not come close to living up to their preseason expectations.
When thinking of the Boston Celtics, or any Boston sports team, most fans envision a hard-working team that is competitive every year and plays well together as a unit. It has been a brutal year all around for the Celtics, as they are sitting under 0.500 and wouldn’t have a playoff spot if the season ended today. Yes, there are some excuses –– Marcus Smart was injured, Jayson Tatum had COVID-19 at the beginning of the season and Kemba Walker does not play in back-to-backs because of his bad knee. But in spite of these obstacles it has been quite clear that when the majority of the team is on the court, they are not playing the hard-nosed brand of Celtics basketball their fans expect.
It seems as though the team is always playing slower than their opponent, hustling less and just not playing together. Offensively, they have morphed into isolation basketball, also known as “hero ball,” which appears to be decimating team chemistry while preventing better shot opportunities. It could be time to question the leadership of the two All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The dynamic duo has promise for the future, but they have had a lot of experience, and need to take on bigger leadership roles.
The NBA trade deadline has officially passed, and it was indeed a busy day. Although there weren’t many big names sent to new teams, there was movement that could impact the playoffs when the time comes. The biggest deal was one of the first of the day, with the Chicago Bulls acquiring center Nikola Vucevic from the Orlando Magic. The tandem of Vucevic and Zach LaVine should have Chicago feeling good about the immediate future. Aaron Gordon is now a member of the Denver Nuggets and Rajon Rondo was dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers. Arguably the biggest trade was the Miami Heat landing Victor Oladipo, solidifying their status as a strong threat to Boston.
Celtics fans likely did not know what to expect at the trade deadline. Due to their mediocre
record and placement in the standings, it was unknown whether General Manager Danny Ainge
would stay put or get aggressive. In the end, Ainge ended up making a move to bring guard Evan Fournier to town, a perimeter threat who averages around 20 points per game, and it would only cost the C’s two second round draft picks. Just before the deadline hit, the Celtics jettisoned Daniel Theis, Jeff Teague, and Javonte Green. In return, the Celtics received two big men, Mo Wagner and Luke Kornet. The roster was definitely shaken up, and perhaps that’s all they needed — some new blood and revitalized energy in the locker room. Theis was likely going to sign somewhere else this off-season so his departure does not seem to be a high risk.
On Wednesday night, Theis missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer which would have won the game. Who knew that would end up being his final shot in a green uniform? Nonetheless, the team needed another perimeter weapon and they got one.
Arguably the only success story of the year has been the play of center Robert “Timelord” Williams. Without his play, the Celtics may not even be in playoff contention. He has been hustling all over the court, running the floor, blocking shots and being an alley-oop threat on every possession. With former starter Theis now removed from the picture, and Tristan Thompson still being away from the team, Williams should be locked into the starting lineup to play close to 30 minutes per game. The whole organization has confidence in “Timelord”, and Celtics fans will now have the opportunity to see his full potential when he finally plays consistent minutes. As long as he continues to protect the rim and play hard on both ends, he should be a big reason why the Celtics are able to turn their season around and secure a playoff berth.
The Eastern Conference looks a lot stronger on paper now than it has in recent years so nothing will be easy for Boston as they try to climb back towards the 0.500 mark. The way things look now appears as if the Celtics will run an eight or nine-man rotation, assuming they have Fournier coming off the bench alongside Payton Pritchard and Tristan Thompson, with Williams playing occasionally. It is easy to forget about Romeo Langford, who has missed this entire season due to injury and health and safety protocols. It remains to be seen how much confidence head coach Brad Stevens has in the young second year guard when he is cleared to return.
The Miami Heat are loaded, as are the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers. All it will take is a hot streak for the C’s and they can jump all the way up to the fourth playoff seed. Will chemistry develop with the new faces and will Stevens have his guys playing hard every single possession? We will find out shortly.