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Celtics Fall to 4-5

November 13, 2013 Leave a comment

Will that be the last time we see the 2013-2014 Celtics at the .500 mark? Boston’s four-game win steak snapped to Charlotte after a respectable comeback was halted at 89-83. Despite another strong performance from Jordan Crawford, the Celtics failed to generate the offensive surge necessary to bridge an early lead for the Bobcats whom shot just 36% from the field. As outside shots failed to drop, Stevens proceeded to isolate Jeff Green, using him in post-up situations and drives to the rim. While Green racked up 19 points, he was just 1-5 from three and managed only one rebound. The difference for the Bobcats was Big Al Jefferson as the former Celtic had his way with Boston’s posts to the tune of a 22-11 double double. One has to wonder how this game would have ended if Brad Stevens could have utilized Jared Sullinger against Jefferson. MRI results for Sullinger following his collision with Orlando’s Mo Harkless revealed a bruised bone which shouldn’t keep Sullinger out past today or Friday. Overall, this was an ugly, ugly game of basketball that the Celtics never led in. With 26 combined turnovers and both teams shooting in the high 30 percentile, there wasn’t much poetry in the motion between these two teams.

Next up for the Celtics is a home match up against Portland followed by a tough three-game road trip against a surging Minnesota, Houston, and San Antonio. If I’m able to sneak out of class, I should be present for the game in San Antonio.

I’ll leave you with an interesting tidbit: the Celtics currently have two players in the Eastern Conference’s top ten for Player Efficiency Rating: Jared Sullinger (22.56) and Jordan Crawford (22.18).

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Guide to Watching the Celtics and Maintaining Mental Sanity

October 30, 2013 Leave a comment

As we enter the tip off of the Celtics’ 2013-2014 season, not a single person has a clue who the Celtics’ starting five is. Nope, not even first year head coach Brad Stevens. While this is certainly further evidence of the mess Stevens has inherited, the starting five really will not matter much. In fact, Boston will probably have more combinations of starters than any other team in the league by the end of the season. Don’t expect many players outside of Avery Bradley to play more than 25 minutes tomorrow. Hell, let’s cut to the chase, abandon all fleeting hope of this team reaching a playoff series as a scrappy eight seed. Understand that four wins through the entirety of November would be a success for this sad collection of trade assets and castoffs. So how can you bear to watch this team struggle so astonishingly? 

1.) Screw the score, disregard the record

Unless you fancy yourself particularly masochistic, you will gain absolutely nothing by following this team’s box score. The losses are going to pile up quickly. Mediocre teams like the Jazz and Trailblazers will blow the Celtics out of the Garden. We’re talking 20+ point losses (at home) to teams that finished at or below the .500 mark last season. Take pride not in those fantastic corner threes off a set play that Doc Rivers cooked up or stunning flashes of grace and agility that Rondo provided. Instead watch for small step forwards by the Celtics’ future stars: a nice pick and roll between Pressey and Sullinger, a savvy interior pass from Olynyk, an imposing block from Faverani. These glimmers of hope will be much easier to glean once Rondo returns.

2.) Root for the Assets

The Assets: Brandon Bass, Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans, Jordan Crawford, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Courtney Lee. I know I just listed half the roster, but those are guys that title contender will be interested in making a trade for– experienced players with established skill sets. If the Celtics are able to increase the value of just one or two of these guys then Danny Ainge could flip them for draft picks or a promising young talent. Again, this season’s Celtics squad is not playing for 2013, but instead 2015 and beyond. It is important that Boston is able to clear additional cap space in order to acquire much-needed free agent acquisitions in 2014 and 2015.

3.) Get into Brad Stevens’ Head

Celtics fans (and the Boston media) are very much in the honeymoon period with the Godfather of Butler hoops. Stevens certainly has an enigmatic, intelligent aura to him. Recommending psychology books to Rajon Rondo has media-types labeling him as the second coming of the Zen Master. All hype aside, it’s going to be fun to feel out Steven’s playbook and substitution patterns. Stevens’ attention to detail and love for halfcourt sets should translate well to the NBA but how will his approach change with the increase in possession duration and defensive aptitude at the professional level? Perhaps more intriguing than the coach’s X’s and O’s is how he will choose to manage his players. The balance between keeping games close by playing the vets and building for the future with the young guns will be a delicate one. Will Stevens mix the two groups? There’s a certain ancillary benefit to having Pressey, Sullinger, Olynyk, Avery, etc. build chemistry together as that core group will likely be in Boston for many years to come.

In summary, this is going to be a tough year to be a fan of the Boston Celtics. The inability of this team to compete will challenge your devotion. For those of us that are here for the long haul, there is plenty to watch carefully as the Celtics do have a future in sight. Grasp the reality of this team’s situation and allow yourself to enjoy the rebuilding process by focusing on small positives rather than team wins.

An Introduction of Sorts | Celtics Preseason Game #1

October 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Hello sports fans. The gracious Goog has beckoned me to The Sporting Nerds in the hopes of providing some sort of Celtics coverage. While my schedule will prevent me from posting after every game, I’m embracing this as a personal challenge to follow the team as closely through a rebuilding year as I did in the past couple of surefire playoff seasons. While this is my first time to blog on the NBA, I have been covering my university’s basketball squad for a couple of years now at my primary blogging station. If you’re not yet following me on Twitter, you can do so here.

 

Now that the formalities are out of the way, let’s take a look at the Celtics’ first preseason game. As one would expect, the rebuilt and retooled C’s lost to the Raptors in the Garden by a score of 97-89. With the roster in its current state, the Celtics have two clear deficiencies: Interior defense and ball distribution at the point. The first weakness was properly attacked by Toronto as Tyler Hansbrough, freshly shipped over from Indiana, came off the bench to the tune of 17 points, nine rebounds, and one block on 63% shooting. Amir Johnson equally split minutes with Hansbrough– it will be interesting to see if Hansbrough can supplant him as a starter. Either way, the Raptors’ roster is looking solid. If Lowry can stay healthy and DeRozan plays within himself this squad could surprise some people.

 

While the Celtics’ defensive play from their big men was disappointing, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk both turned in solid performances on offense. While neither started (Humphries, Bass, Green, Bradley, Lee were your first five) I think we will see first-year head coach Brad Stevens give the young duo increased minutes as the season progresses. These kids are the future and Stevens will be afforded the short-term job security to develop them. Sullinger proved his health concerns following offseason back surgery were overstated, as the burly forward tossed in 14 points, six rebounds, and four assists. While a domestic violence case will loom over his head this season, Sullinger should provide a strong presence in the paint again this season. Kelly Olynyk scored only four points but showed terrific basketball IQ and court vision. With five assists, Olynyk helped to spread the floor both in transition and in half court sets. I have been high on Olynyk since he emerged on the scene at Gonzaga and I think he’ll become a terrific NBA player. His varied skill set will give Brad Stevens plenty to work with and alleviate much of the offensive stress this squad must endure with Rajon Rondo out for several months. Just give the big man a few weeks in the NBA to get his feet wet.

 

Maybe moving the ball through the bigs is the only answer for this team, as the guard play was awfully disappointing tonight. Most of us are in agreement that Avery Bradley will never develop into a true NBA point guard and his performance tonight shows little progress through the offseason. In 32 minutes of play, Bradley shot 31% from the field, passed out just three assists, and totaled three turnovers. Unfortunately Phil Pressey was unavailable, as the undrafted rookie out of Missouri could have built upon an intriguing summer league performance. There’s really no telling how the point guard position shapes up in Boston but it’s tough to stay optimistic as Rondo continues to nurse his knee injury.

 

Stray thoughts:

  • Jeff Green had a rather pedestrian effort– six points off seven shots with just one rebound. Green has a great opportunity to make himself a household name this season but he’ll need to play with aggression and create scoring opportunities.
  • Maybe Gerald Wallace doesn’t suck? He played an efficient 26 minutes off the bench, totaling 16 points on ten shots from the field. Wallace didn’t turn the ball over but snagged an errant pass that lead to a fastbreak bucket for the C’s.
  • The Celtics committed only 14 turnovers. Ball security will be crucial for the C’s as they continue to mold their offensive identity. Each possession is an opportunity to learn strengths and weaknesses and build chemistry.
  • “He’s the kind of guy you want to punch in the mouth” – Tommy Heinsohn on Tyler Hansbrough.