Through the first 41 games of this season, of which they’ve won only 20, the Celtics are so upset that a good chunk of the fan base wishes they didn’t see a trade almost certainly regrettable. This now and.
And what is it, exactly? An extravagant, exhausting knack for dating, and often finding, a disaster late in the game in which they once had a huge edge.
That’s the only consistent thing about them, really. And sometimes predicting how they will crumble this time of crisis is the only interesting thing about them.
Going back to a Christmas Day game against the Bucks in their last nine games in which they held a 19-point lead, the Celtics:
- Burnt by Jaylen Novell and Greg Monroe – not exactly a dream “NBA Jam” tandem – in a 108-103 loss to the Timberwolves;
- 4 shots for 42 from 3-point range in a 91-82 loss to the Clippers;
- Lost to Spurs, 99–97, when Jaylen Brown could not convert a hard enough layup on the buzzer;
- Ivan Fournier was given 41 points and an RJ Barrett banked-in 3-pointer on the buzzer 108-105, lost to the Knicks.
I’m telling you, when tanking disappointingly for Tim Duncan in 1996-97, the Celtics didn’t find many creative ways to lose.
It should be noted that the Celtics have on occasion averted self-inflicted disaster, including a 116–111 overtime win against the Magic team that ended on January 2, when regulation was delayed by almost 24 seconds. Within, we found the quintessential Marcus. Smartest sequence we’ll ever see: defensive rebound, 4-foot miss, transmission of complaints to officer while running back on defense, brutal steal from Franz Wagner, clever but risky bounce pass to Brown for tying layup.
The Celtics are reportedly ‘open for business’ but ‘not interested’ in trading Jaylen Brown or Jason Tatum
As innovative as the Celtics have been on losing the lead of late, let’s get it on the record for now: Trading Brown or Jason Tatum would be a panic move right now that will almost certainly haunt the franchise for years.
Do not get me wrong. I get why Celtics fans would fall for the temptations of the “trade machine”. Tatum and Brown are excellent individual players – the former is probably a top-15 player in the league, the latter, what, top 30? — but in their fifth season as teammates, they have yet to maximize each other’s skills.
There’s a lot of Tatum step-back 23-footers with 12 seconds on the shot clock, too many Browns running the hoop with his head and the defense closes, too many my-turn basketballs. When a game starts to get tight their isolation-ball habits are unlike that of Celtics basketball, not to mention aesthetically unsatisfactory unless one of them catches fire, such as when the Browns hit the Magic. 50 dropped.
The “trade machine” tells you what can be done. It doesn’t tell you what to do. And there are many reasons not to trade Tatum or — and his name comes up more often, probably because he’s considered a slightly lesser player — Brown.
First of all, have you ever heard of a potential trade that is getting the same value to the Celtics in return?
Ben Simmons, you say? He’s a malicious, a historically bad shooter (the Celtics need more shooting, if anything), and since when is Greeley Tribune an obligation to relieve Philadelphia’s chronic headache?
Maybe D’Aaron Fox from Sacramento? good player Funny player. Soon. Get it done, Brad Stevens! (Checks out Fox’s basketball-reference page.) Uh… what is this? He is a worse career shooter from 3-point range than Smart (24.7 percent this season), and averages fewer assists per game than Smart (5.3 to 5.1). The Celtics need a commanding, playmaking point guard to take the reins late in the game. Fox is not that. Anyone know where to find the next Chris Paul?
What about Domantas Sabonis from the Pacers? OK, OK, this could be interesting. He’s clever and well-rounded (he recently had a 42-point game and a triple-double), and he could fit in with Tatum. But he won’t do much to help the Celtics’ perimeter shooting woes (he’s at 32.3 percent on 3-pointers), and Brown is the better all-rounder.
The second key argument for what holds Tatum and Brown together: Contrary to what is sometimes revealed by their shot selection, they care. They believe it’s not counterfeit as it should, and they want it to work. Brown mentioned as much after his win over the Knicks last Saturday. It was Tatum’s turn to acknowledge his desire to flourish as a teammate after Monday’s win over the Pacers.
,[There are] There are not many players like JB in the league,” Tatum said. “The grass isn’t always greener. We’ve had some great stretches and this year hasn’t been what we expected, but I think it will be good for us in the long run. We have to figure out a few things, but I think the most important thing is that we both want it so bad. We want to try to figure it out together. So it’s extremely important for us to just be on the same page. We got along with each other. And we’re going to give it all we’ve got to figure it out, no matter what people say.”
The Celtics don’t need to break them. They need to get the right help. Perhaps Robert Williams, who was in tears since coach Ime Udoka (who had a steep learning curve in his first head coaching gig) criticized him after the loss to the Timberwolves, could grow into a third star. With two minutes remaining in the Pacers’ game, his block led to a Grant Williams 3-pointer, arguably the crucial game in the game. Robert Williams has bad habits to break defensively, but he is easily the funniest player to watch on this team.
Many Celtics, including Tatum, are shooting well below their career averages. Might suggest that a group of Celtics are about to warm up at the same time. But it is clear that he needs more shoots on the roster. Aaron Nesmith and Peyton Pritchard should be allowed to grow. Grant Williams will have to play in tough times. Smart and Dennis Schroder cannot be linked when the game is on the line. (Schroder did not play in overtime on Monday after Smart was injured. It was a wise decision by Udoka.)
For all the words we’ve spent here on creative ways to lose them, there have been recent hints that it might be salvageable. They have won four of six, entering Wednesday night’s rematch with the Pacers, including a 15-point win over the Suns on New Year’s Eve without Tatum, which was in COVID-19 protocol.
Now both Tatum and Brown are healthy, and they vow that they are going to get this right together. Step away from the “trade machines” and give them a chance. These Celtics need more players with their particular level of talent, not less.
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