Blakely's takeaways from a rough West Coast trip

Blakely's takeaways from a rough West Coast trip
January 12, 2014, 6:45 pm
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The plane ride back home wasn't nearly as enjoyable for the Boston Celtics as it could have been had they been able to pull out a game or two during their now-completed trip out West.

Five games.

Five losses.

In keeping with that theme, we have five takeaways from a trip that didn't produce anything in terms of wins.

However, measuring success for this team isn't that cut and dry.

More than anything else, this trip adds clarity to a team that in so many respects is still trying to find itself and establish an identity.

Here are some of the more notable developments to come out of this trip.


CRAWFORD BACK TO EARTH

Jordan Crawford has had a solid season for the Celtics, but his play of late is more in line with what most anticipated.

The West Coast trip afforded him an opportunity to face some of the NBA's best guards, players like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson with Golden State, and Damian Lillard in Portland.

And while Crawford's numbers on most of those nights suggested that he held his own, this was not a good trip for him.

The best part about Crawford's play this season has been the imprint he has made on games at point guard.

Not just scoring the ball, but actually making an impact in a positive way.

Far too many times during the last five games, he made bad decisions either shooting or passing.

But by no means does this mean the Celtics should just give up on him or discard him to the end of the bench.

Rajon Rondo's return will cut into his minutes significantly.

And that raises another question: How will Crawford handle the demotion?

He has said all the right things so far, well aware that 1) he has no choice in the matter and 2), the last thing someone in his shoes needs to do is create controversy over something that shouldn't be controversial.

You just hope that Crawford's reduction in time won't result in a drop in him doing the kind of things that have not only helped the Celtics be competitive most nights, but also has allowed rookie head coach Brad Stevens to feel comfortable enough trusting him in running the offense.

HUMPHRIES' EMERGENCE

Let it be known to all that this Kris Humphries' emergence into a starter was not part of the Celtics' rebuilding plan.

And to that extent, he should be commended for the way he handled the entire situation.

All he did was make plays whenever he got a chance, even when those chances were sporadic for reasons that had nothing to do with him or his performance.

The Celtics wanted to evaluate as much of this roster as possible.

And now as we near the halfway point of the season, Humphries is once again making a name for himself in a way that has nothing to do with reality TV or his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian.

Boston has only used him as a starter in the last three games, but there's no reason to believe that's going to change anytime soon.

He's providing solid play with the first unit as a scorer and rebounder, and the guy he replaced - Jared Sullinger - seems to be playing some of his best basketball of late coming off the bench.

Look for Humphries to stay a starter when the team returns home this week. But if Stevens decides to have him come off the bench again, no worries.

Hump will do what Hump does, which is to keep working and make the most of his playing time - however big or small that may be.


RONDO'S RETURN MAKES C'S PLAYOFF CONTENDER

It won't happen immediately, but if the Celtics can have Rajon Rondo for half a season which looks very likely right now, this team will very much be in the hunt for one of the last two playoff spots.

But it will not be easy, not with early season underachievers like Brooklyn and New York starting to string together wins and in doing so, distance themselves more from the Celtics (13-25) who currently have the fifth-worst record in the NBA.


ONE MORE PRE-DEADLINE TRADE?

As the losses grow, so will the Celtics' eagerness to shed at least one more multi-year contract and thus create even more salary cap flexibility going forward. Boston trading Courtney Lee to Memphis for Jerryd Bayless earlier this month was a salary dump that fortunately for them, also yielded a decent player who comes off the books this summer.

Boston would love to find a home for Gerald Wallace's contract that has $20.2 million owed to him after this season. But a more likely contract to move would be that of Brandon Bass who is having his most productive season as a Celtic. He has just one year remaining on his deal after this season that will pay him $6.9 million.

And of course there's Rajon Rondo who is due $12.9 million next season and will be a free agent in 2015. He too is a possibility to be traded no matter how often Danny Ainge publicly states that he's not looking to trade his four-time All-Star.


GREEN REMAINS X-FACTOR

Jeff Green remains the biggest wild card on this Celtics roster now, and he will be that for as long as he remains a Celtic.

The West Coast trip proved yet again that there are very few players with Green's all-around game in this league.

And on any given night, he puts those skills together and the result is a complete player that blows you away with his potential to dominate.

But sadly, this trip also reminded us of how those very same traits can inexplicably disappear, only to re-appear at a later date and time.

However, Green seemed to operate at a high level more often than not in the past five games which gives the Celtics hope that maybe just maybe, he can put it all together for the second half of the season and just be more consistent.

No one expects him to score 20 points and grab 10 boards every single night. But he's just too talented and this team is just too short-handed when it comes to big-time scorers, for him to not be putting up those kind of numbers more periodically.

He knows this.

So does anyone who has seen him play.

But knowing and doing, as Green reminds us frequently, are two very different things.