17 random Celtics thoughts

17 random Celtics thoughts
March 14, 2014, 12:15 pm
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It’s been a long season for the Celtics, but the end of the road is fast approaching. In fact, starting with tonight’s visit from the Phoenix Suns, the C’s have only 17 games left. And seeing how that’s a significant number, what with the 17 NBA titles and all, here are 17 random Celtics thoughts to take you into the weekend.
 
1. The best story heading into tonight is the return of Gerald Green. This isn’t his first game back in Boston, but it’s the first time since everything clicked and Gerald made the leap from a journeyman/cautionary tale to a legitimate pro. He’s still a little scatter-brained and is far from a complete player, but he’s finally harnessed his absurd athleticism and pure basketball ability into a real NBA career. The 28-year-old is averaging 15.6 points and almost 30 minutes a game.
 
It took stops in Boston, Minnesota, Houston, Dallas, two years in Russia, New Jersey, Indiana and now Phoenix to get there, but it’s great to see him do it. And just as surprising. It’s like if Laurence Maroney suddenly re-emerged next season as the Cardinals goal line back.
 
2. The Suns are basically living every Celtics fans worst nightmare. They began (in theory) among the worst teams in the league; one that needed to be bad to eventually be good, with no use for anything but a very high draft pick. Instead, the Suns caught fire. They won their first two games and never looked back until they were in the heat of the Western Conference playoff race. Only problem is that in the long run, they couldn’t keep up with the rest of the West. They enter tonight with an impressive 36-28 record, but they’re currently the ninth seed, two games behind the Grizzlies. There’s a very good chance that the Suns will end up right where they were supposed to — in the lottery — only now with just about zero chance of landing even a top six or seven pick.
 
Although it helps that the Suns will have at least three first round picks this summer: Their own, Washington’s and Indiana’s.
 
3. Rondo will be back on the court tonight after missing Wednesday’s game against the Knicks, and can now resume his pursuit of a fun but incredibly meaningless streak. I wrote about this earlier, but one of the craziest stats from last season was that Rondo still led the Celtics in total assists despite only playing in 38 games. It was his sixth straight year leading Boston in that category and he’s got a very good chance to do it again (despite playing even fewer).
 
Rondo currently has 166 assists, which leaves him 59 shy of passing Jordan Crawford for the team lead. If he played all 17 games, he’d need to average only 3.5 assists to get there. But we know Rondo won’t play that many. He’ll miss at least four thanks to back-to-backs. Still, it will be a shock if he doesn’t pass Crawford. Even if Rondo only plays 10 more games, he needs to average only six assists a night. He’s averaging 8.7 on the season.
 
4. Danny Ainge recently announced that Rondo won’t play on the second night of back-to-backs for the rest of the year, and that’s totally fine. There’s no reason for Rondo to push it. But that’s not because he shouldn’t be out there. Make no mistake, if the Celtics were in a playoff race, Rondo would be back-to-backing his brains out. In this case, there’s no reason to push it because there’s no reason for him to be out there at all. Every game without Rondo is another potential ping pong ball.
 
5. So does that mean the Celtics are tanking?
 
I’d answer that question, but I gave up the word tanking for Lent. I might give it up for life. It’s a horrible word that’s been twisted and misconstrued so many different ways that at this point it can mean anything or it could mean nothing. It is what it is, and nothing will change until the Lottery system does first.
 
6. Speaking of which, of the Celtics 17 remaining games, only three are against teams with no shot of making the playoffs. The first one comes this Sunday against the Pelicans, but they’re still trying to win because they don’t have their first round pick anyway. The other two? Well those come against the free-falling 76ers, who have lost 18 straight games and could very well lose their final 18 — unless the Celtics do something about it.
 
That’s why, for one of these games, Boston has to go all in and play spoiler (or is it freshener?) against Sam Hinkie’s grand plan. They need to lose one of those games! I don’t care if they start Brian Doo at point guard and Corinne Grousbeck at center. The Celtics must lose! And teach the 76ers a lesson.
 
7. For most of this season, I’ve been a Joel Embiid guy. He’s the one I wanted if the Celtics landed the top pick. I was fascinated with his size, his agility, his timing and just his overall feel for the game despite only having played for a few years. And I still am fascinated, but I’m also frightened. A stress fracture in the back is a scary situation for any potential top pick, but especially a seven-footer. When a big guy’s body starts to give out, it rarely stops.
 
So for now, I’m #SorryForJabari. Andrew Wiggins keeps improving, and in a perfect world, probably has a higher ceiling than Parker, but Jabari is a sure thing. He’s a scorer. He’s a go to guy. He’s a rock. He’s the closest thing to the next Paul Pierce. And seeing how that ship has already sailed on Jeff Green, Parker is exactly what the Celtics need.
 
8. It’s time to for the Celtics to find Green another home. Not only is he clearly unable to be the player they need him to be, but his mopey attitude is long past salvageable. For all the talk about the negative effect that Rondo might have on the young players, I worry about Green’s attitude even more. At least Rondo backs his up. Anyway, getting rid of Green won’t be an easy task, but it should be near the top of Ainge’s to-do list.
 
9. If I can only pick five players from this year to be on the team next year (considering salaries and the state of the franchise), I’m going with Rondo, Jared Sullinger, Kris Humphries, Kelly Olynyk and Chris Johnson.
 
10. This week, Creighton’s Doug McDermott was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in a recreation of the famous 1977 cover with Larry Bird and two Indiana State cheerleaders.
 
This has some folks up in arms. Like, “How dare you compare McDermott to Larry Bird!?” But honestly, wouldn’t it be a bigger shock if the media didn’t? Is it really worth getting emotional when you know that there’s a 100 percent chance that every 6-9 or taller white college star with a jump shot will be compared to Larry from now until the end of time?
 
And for those who don’t think McDermott will be as good as Bird, chew on this: Last night, McDermott scored 35 points in his Big East tournament debut. That’s 35 more points than Bird scored in his entire Big East career!
 
11. Speaking of faux outrage, a lot of people are upset that the Celtics are wearing their new sleeved jerseys for St. Patrick’s Day. And I agree that they’re pretty ugly. But I’d also argue that it’s more offensive to see a 22-43 Celtics team wearing the originals.
 
12. The Celtics haven’t done many things well this season, but what’s the one thing that they do best? Defend the three-pointer. They rank fifth in the league in three-pointers allowed, seventh in defensive three-point percentage, and this week over at Celtics Hub, Michael Pina had a great look at how the C’s have been so successful.
 
Of course, you have to credit the players here. At the end of the day, it’s all about the players. But Brad Stevens is the one who has instilled and hammered home these defensive tenants. Overall, the Celtics are still playing better defense than half the teams in the league. And again, this has to leave you feeling good about what Stevens will be able to do when he has a real team to work with.
 
13. This last month has to been hard on Avery Bradley. Here he is, on the verge of hitting the open market, in search of his first significant raise, and he can’t get on the floor. The injury-prone tag that’s hovered over him for most of his career will now define his swim through the free agent waters.
 
The good news (for everyone but Avery) is that it might result in him ending up back here for cheap.
 
14. Want to know why the Knicks are such a disaster? Tommy Heinsohn hit the nail on the head during Wednesday’s broadcast: “The reason is they’ve always tried to buy a team instead of developing players. You’re at the mercy of injuries. They went out and signed guys to big, long-term contracts, and then when injuries hit, they have no ability or have flexibility to make a move or a trade.”
 
(This quote is also good for the Patriots pundits who love tearing apart Belichick and Kraft for not wildly pissing away all their cap room.)
 
15. Hiring Phil Jackson won’t change any of the Knicks problems. Red Auerbach in his prime couldn’t save this Knicks team. That’s why, in the end, I still don’t think that Phil will end up in New York. This is all a ploy to force the Lakers hand, and pry a mega-offer from Jim Buss’ grimy hands. And I think it will work.
 
16. But the Lakers aren’t in great shape either. They might land a top pick in this year’s draft. They still have the draw of Hollywood living. But Kobe’s contract is a killer, and he’s the only one who doesn’t seem to realize it.
 
For all the indecision and budding desperation around the Celtics, you can’t help but look at the mess in New York and Los Angeles and feel pretty good about where the Celtics are, confident in the guys calling the shots and well aware that no matter how bad it is, it could be a lot worse.
 
17. Only 67 days until the Lottery
 
Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine

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