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5-on-5: Midseason Black & Blue

 


The season’s half over. How did that happen?

While Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce heading to Orlando, and the rest of the Celtics taking a few days off, we keep rolling with our latest 5-on-5, authored, as usual with Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston and contributions from our readers.

1. What’s the biggest Celtics-related disappointment of the first half?

Hayes Davenport: The fan reaction. The Celtics ended last season as a middling team in a second-tier conference. They barely improved in the offseason as their players all got one year older and their competition made moves all around them. Now they’re at the bottom of the East, and the majority of fans are either a) stunned, b) jumping ship, or c) confident that the record is some kind of freak accident and the Celtics are still the best team in the world because of ubuntu or something. The Celtics are not contenders right now. This should not be a surprise.

Brendan Jackson: It sounds weird because of how big the Celtics’ problems are, but the biggest disappointment was losing Jeff Green for the season. The loss of Green caused a chain reaction where Danny Ainge had to focus his attention on guys like Sasha Pavlovic and Marquis Daniels instead being more aggressive in addressing their rebounding issues. If Green were healthy this season, Ainge could have focused on getting a Reggie Evans-type player and Paul Pierce would have had a more suitable replacement at the beginning of the season.

Chris Forsberg: The bench. And that’s not entirely fair, because injuries have forced so much shuffling that neither the starters nor the reserves have had much of a chance for continuity. When this team is healthy, a second unit that includes Avery Bradley, Mickael Pietrus, Brandon Bass, and Chris Wilcox is actually intriguing (and you can even run that group with, say, Ray Allen, at times). Trouble is, this team might never be fully healthy and, right now, it needs more from the likes of Keyon Dooling and Daniels, two guys that were pegged for much bigger roles. (We’ll exclude the rookies here, but there’s a lot to be encouraged by with JaJuan Johnson, even as he goes through the natural growing pains of NBA acclimation).

Brian Robb: The inconsistency. Lose three, win four, win five, lose four. It’s been a rollercoaster ride for this team and while injuries are partially to blame, the unevenness of this squad has been straight up disturbing over the first 32 games of this season. The maddening thing is as bad as some of the team’s numbers are offensively and on the glass, they are still collectively underperforming. They squandered three or four extremely winnable games with atrocious execution down the stretch, further digging themselves into a hole they may not have a chance to dig out of.

CelticsHub Reader Crosby Tencher: The Celtics’ abysmal record is the biggest disappointment so far. With the truly grueling second half of the season looming, it’s getting tougher and tougher to imagine this team maintaining their current .500 pace. The schedule opening the season was ideal, with Boston playing host to a ton of sub-par teams… yet they haven’t been able to capitalize. This leaves very little room for error if the team plans to play past mid-April.

2. What’s the most encouraging Celtics-related development of the first half?

Davenport: Maybe a reach, but JaJuan Johnson. For the first time in six years, the Celtics have seen a player drafted in the first round show significant potential in his first season. Johnson can shoot, score inside, and get around quickly. His defense and rebounding have visibly improved in 18 games. He seems to be capable of withstanding the emotional firing squad of KG, Doc, and the Boston media. Ultimately, the move to deal MarShon Brooks straight up for him may actually not look as dumb as it currently does.

Jackson: Avery Bradley has gotten so much playing time this season out of necessity, he’s actually starting to look like an NBA player. More importantly, his confidence has skyrocketed.

Forsberg: The defense. Probably not the best answer the day after allowing a 72-point first half, but the Thunder will do that to you. And maybe it’s only because the defense looked so disjointed out of the gate and we were all wondering if they had simply lost it. Boston played its best ball this season when its defense was clicking (and masking the persistent offensive woes). Boston needs that familiar defense to make any sort of a run this season.

Robb: Almost every rotation player on the roster has shown — over a stretch — that they can still play at a high-level. Whether it was Pierce turning back the clock to 2006 over 10+ games, Allen starting the first quarter of the season shooting over 50 percent from downtown or Rondo exploding for 35 points, these things tell me this team should be able to compete once they get their act together. They should be able to go a round or two deep into the playoffs and give an Eastern Conference contender a run for their money. That alone makes me feel a bit excited about this squad being a massive underdog in Round 1.

CelticsHub Reader Michael Javid: This may seem counter-intuitive, but the most encouraging development of the first half is the fact that everything isn’t working right. It’s not a secret, and it’s out in the open. Rondo seems to be very unhappy. We may not see another game where KG, Pierce and Allen each score 20 points in the same night. No one has to guess whether or not changes have to be made, but rather, the question is: which direction is best? Danny Ainge has proven to be fearless and unconventional, and time will tell whether his next move was the right one. Any informed Celtics fan will acknowledge that this bunch will not win it all this year. I’m looking forward to the future.

3. It’s been a year since the Kendrick Perkins trade. What’s your perspective on it now?

Davenport: Unchanged! I don’t think I could have been lower on that trade if I’d known about Jeff Green’s heart condition (I would have been focused on alerting Jeff, obviously). I still think last year, not this year, was the year to let the core stay together and make a run at the Heat in the playoffs. But if the Celtics were intent on getting value for Perkins, they should have gotten more. Doesn’t bode well for a team that could potentially have 4-5 valuable pieces on the market in a matter of days.

Jackson: Ehhh…I’ve moved on. The tribute video at the Garden was incredibly moving but it happened and regardless of what anyone else says, Perkins wouldn’t have been the x-factor in any championship run. To say otherwise would be clinging to revisionist history.

Forsberg: Time hasn’t altered my view (read more HERE). In fact, I still submit that the Luke Harangody/Semih Erden for Cleveland’s second-round draft pick was far worse of a deal than the Perkins move (Erden could have helped you this year; Troy Murphy and Carlos Arroyo did not last year). The fact that Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green are not around this season will leave some even more bitter about the deal, but it’s just an unfortunate bit of circumstance. On paper, the deal made a tremendous amount of sense for Boston at the time, though the team certainly might have underestimated the initial emotional impact (by May, no one was lamenting it; the health of Shaq and Rondo at that point were the bigger story lines).

Robb: A lot of people around the country don’t get the unending sentiment for Perk from the Boston faithful. The fact he was traded is just the tip of the iceberg. Boston fans never had a chance to say goodbye to one of their favorites and reward him for rehabbing hard all season from an ACL injury. It’s not just about the fact that he was traded; it’s when it was done, a mere hour before the trade deadline which magnified the negative sentiment. While he likely would be gone now, I can’t help but look back now and see the deal as the beginning of the end for Boston’s contender prospects in this era.

CelticsHub Reader Mitch Fager: In all honesty, it probably doesn’t change anything. Sure we would have won a couple more games last year, but Perk would not have given us enough to win the title. He and Rondo are not enough to carry this team, so we would have either had to over pay him or let him walk in the off-season. It wasn’t a pretty exit, but in hindsight, it likely did not have an impact on the final results of last season.

4. What do you see in your crystal ball for Boston’s second half?

Davenport: Sweeping, devastating change. Danny’s made his position clear on several occasions: he doesn’t want to let this Big Three depreciate to zero value like the last one did. At the same time, I think some Celtics might actually be looking for a change of scenery or a shot with a better team. I think Danny’s going to consult his players, see where they’d like to go, and make moves accordingly. The next few weeks could definitely be very, very sad. I also think they could be a disgusting kind of fun.

Jackson: I see a first round playoff exit and not a lot of roster change. We’ve been discussing the pros and cons of the blowup for weeks and I think Ryan hit the nail on the head yesterday. The only player I can see being traded is Rajon Rondo because no one else will net the kind of parts a rebuilding project needs.

Forsberg: I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t expect more inconsistent play, particularly if the injury bug hangs around. I think you’ll see this team thrive when healthy; struggle when it’s not. That health will dictate how high of a seed the Celtics get in the postseason. Heck, I don’t necessarily think being a 7 or 8 seed is a bad thing. Give Miami or Chicago your best crack in the first round and, if you pull off the upset, all of a sudden Boston becomes a top seed with a more favorable second-round matchup. Crazier things will happen in the playoffs this year.

Robb: Trade rumors galore, but no major moves made involving the team’s Big Four. A seven or eight seed for the playoffs along with a spirited first round exit against Chicago or Miami. It’ll be fun while it lasts, a potential 2-2 tied series in the first round against one of those squads would keep everyone entertained, but that’s as good as it’ll probably get.

CelticsHub Reader Brian Moseley: More .500-level Basketball, a #8 seed, and a first round butt whooping by Team South Beach.

5. What has caught your attention around the Association this season?

Davenport: The top three most-publicized stories of the season have been, in order: 1) Jeremy Lin, 2) reckless Dwight Howard rumormongering, and 3) Lobs. Not making the list: maybe the greatest basketball season of all time by any player. LeBron is silently evolving from Charmeleon to Charizard right now. He’s unhandleable. He also plays for the best team in the league. Yet some basketball writers are not even selecting him for midseason MVP. This is the equivalent of the media completely ignoring Jordan’s 1990-1991 season to focus on Craig Hodges making 19 consecutive shots at the Three-Point Shootout. Is undermining LeBron because of personal distaste worth totally destroying your credibility as an expert?

Jackson: I am SOOO sick of Linsanity (no I’m not!). I have loved watching teams like Denver and Philadelphia play really well without a bonafide superstar. I also have liked watching the Kings play so poorly despite having top picks and players everyone expects to be awesome. Remember when everyone wanted the C’s to draft Hassan Whiteside?

Forsberg: Clearly the schedule is just brutal for everybody and it’s only going to get worse with March and April absolutely loaded with games. With a lack of practice time, it will be interesting to see how many teams make deadline moves given how hard it will be to integrate new faces on the fly. Ultimately, the healthiest teams might be the last ones standings, which is a concern if you’re a Boston team that’s seen players sit out a combined 58 games due to injury over the first 32 games. But they are hardly the only one trying to simply survive this condensed slate.

Robb: Jeremy Lin and mayhem in the Western Conference. I won’t go into the Lin phenomenon, but I must say I just love the unpredictability of this season and how tightly packed the West is. OKC is the frontrunner, but I’m not sure they play enough defense or rebound well enough to make it through three rounds. Playoffs should be as good as ever this year given how well the talent is spread out.

CelticsHub Reader Michael Skitsas: The Denver Nuggets. Before being struck by a bunch of injuries they were playing the most appealing basketball I’ve seen in ages. Lightning fast, pass first, selfless, fun, spectacular ball, from a young “starless” group 12 players deep. All in all, the exact opposite of watching the Celtics this season. It’s also nice to watch a franchise bounce back from all that drama, and losing their “franchise player”, without being devastated.

  • ghostfacekilllaah

    read bill simmons article on ainge. sums up everything I think about this team now. One two three UBULLSHIT!

  • Chris in Iowa

    If you thought Ryan nailed it on the head yesterday, have you seen Simmons' piece on Grantland today? Amazing and depressing all at once. Via his fake trade machine: "Look at your new team — Gasol, Brandon Bass, Marion, Pierce and Mo Williams as starters, with Odom, Wilcox, Pietrus and Bradley as your first four subs." Now what's everyone think of that? Isn't ANYTHING POSSIBLE!!??

    • Mark

      Yep, anything is possible. That crap lineup MIGHT allow this team to compete for the 4-6 seeds and still gets us knocked out by the Heat/Bulls as easily as the lineup we have now. That fits right into what Simmons, and others, take on the NBA is and what he posted in that piece.

      "you either need to bottom out or make a run, but you can't tread water. "

      That lineup Simmons posted is the definition of treading water. I've been a critic of Ainge and believe he's been pretty bad at drafting throughout the Big Three era and even worse signing free agents. Still, as many mistakes Ainge has made there is no way on gods green earth he would trade for that lineup. Anyone might/will be traded before the deadline but Simmons lame brain ideas, and I like Simmons, won't happen.

      • Mark

        Ainge is best served, in my opinion, to stand pat unless he's offered godfather like deals for Rondo/Pierce that do not severly impact the salary cap the next 3 years when some interesting guys will be hitting the market. I'd rather this team fight for the 7-8 seed, preserve a higher draft pick, or drop into the lottery during a DEEP draft year and see if the ping pong balls bounce our way for once.

        None of this Simmons "treading water" crap.

  • High Rollers

    Wow. Bill Simmons. King of Celtic basketball apocalypse. Hindsight is 20/20… and mighty vitriolic apparently. I wonder what Bill Simmons' prediction for the 2010 C's was in, say, March/April/May 2010. Man, I think he's been hanging out in the LA sun too long. Yeah, he has facts, but they're getting ground up into this nasty stew where all of a sudden absolutely nothing has gone right for the C's since they hung the banner in '08.

    Hayes is whipping out the Debbie Downer costume once again.

    I might have to take a break from C'sHub for a bit. Like a day at least. All these assumptions about who's a contender is getting a little crazy. Anybody remember the eight seed beating the one seed last year, Memphis over the Spurs? Or Dallas treating the champion Lakers as though they were an eight seed, a sweep that I guarantee you shocked most of the experts? And this is a lockout season!

    Forsberg is definitely the most reasonable of the bunch, and thankfully doesn't drink from the same watercooler as Mr. Simmons. Bill, you're entertaining as all get out, but you sure do go to some dark places.

  • CG12

    Agreed. The apocalyptic predictions of doom are way over the top. This is a weird season and that is just the way it is. How about the last lockout year – number 8 Knicks take some momentum into the playoffs and make the Finals. Everyone needs to just chill. I'm not sure if it is because this a blog, rather than a "mainstream" news outfit, but you guys seem to have a very easy time putting on your emotional fan hats, rather than remaining objective. Example – the Avery Bradley / E'twuan Moore "debate" (and I use the term loosely). It is like the last game was the only thing that ever happened in predicting which of them would be a legit NBA player, hence the Moore bubble after his big Orlando game.

    I think this may be an intentional effort into provoking Kid Prince or whatever that guy's (boy's) name is into proposing more delightfully inane trades featuring Hasheem Thabeet.

    • Ryan DeGama

      I'd strongly contest the notion that our writing is emotional and fan-based, unless we specifically concede that for the odd comment.

      • CG12

        Fair enough. I guess only with hindsight can one render judgment on what is an appropriate level of pessimism or optimism. Perhaps I'm the emotional one who isn't seeing things clearly. The staff writing at CHub seems to tilt negatively of late, but, again, maybe that's because the Cs are genuinely in bad shape.

        The thing I object to, whether from professional writers or fans, is the ease with which people apparently forget how this team has consistently produced the goods when it mattered over the last few years. Is this the season where that doesn't hold true? Could be, but I feel strongly that Danny and Doc have earned the benefit of the doubt with this recent run. Simmons and co. want to attribute this run to a Forrest Gump-like confluence of circumstances, that basically boils down to luck and Kevin McHale, and has happened in spite of semi-incompetent management. Maybe I'm a chump, but it strikes me as an over-simplification to attribute this success to random factors. It just doesn't work that way.

        Any way, didn't mean to insult anybody. You guys provide informative and entertaining analysis, so keep up the good work.

  • Batman

    Simmons is still a Celtics fan? Oh I couldn't tell with all his Clipper bs
    That Rondo pic on the very top is preeety creepy

  • High Rollers

    Agreed, Ryan. But Hayes' birthday ode to Rondo was a bit odd. That kind of back-handed compare-me-to-bit-players-and-their-stats-then-call-me-special-'cause-it's-my-birthday compliment was very Simmons-esque. Then just a few days later saying you're disappointed in the fans, implying that they haven't dropped their expectations low enough… C'mon. That's cold and a little absurd. Nevertheless, there's a study out that says hearing things you don't like or things that just seem plain wrong can stimulate more creative responses and associations. So keep it up, Haynes!

  • ghostfacekilllaah

    ONE, TWO, THREE…..UBULLSHIT

  • dtlala

    "The fan reaction."

    You're an moron and an asshole.

  • IBleedGreen

    Bill Simmons kicks ass…the best in the business.

    • ghostfacekilllaah

      every time when shit is going through my head about this team…simmons come thru with an article that nails it. i.e. his article about rondo and now his roast of the clown ainge

      • IBleedGreen

        Exactly. He gets his points across and most importantly, he's funny as hell.

  • salvaje50

    Simmons loves these over-the-top articles that make us all feel bad for whatever Boston team happens to be be losing. I HATE Pau Gasol…I can't even stand looking at him and he cries when things don't go his way…Lamar Odom? He sulks more than Rondo and Gasol COMBINED do. Moe Williams? How many times has Simmons made fun of him in the last three years…and then let's add an old as shit Shawn Marion on top for good luck! Yet now he wants all those guys? Nice try Simmons. Back to the drawing board with that one. That L.A chronic has you bent, homie

  • High Rollers

    One thing I did notice last night is that KG really gets up to school his old friend Perk. Then after the horn pulls him and Paul together for a three way hug. That's nice.

  • celtic fan

    Basketball is all about chemistry. The celtics had it. They haven't had it since Perkins was traded and ubuntu was completely undermined. You can't just plug people in and expect to win based on talent alone. Look at last years Heat as an example. None of the dummies writing for the hub seem to get that. How can they say Perkins did not matter, when the Celtics have not been the same since? Simmons does understand the fragile nature of team sports.

    • Batman

      How did the heat lose due to chemistry? they lost cause Dallas got hot and Lebron disappeared

      • celtic fan

        when a team with that many closers doesn't know how to execute at the end of tight games, that's all about team chemistry

    • dunny dun dun

      CELTICS, CELTICS,……UBULLSHIT!!!!

  • guest

    The only way I'd trade Rondo is if the Nets were high and gave us Deron Williams for him, then we use him as part of the Dwight Howard bait. If the C's could get those two, get all of the big 3 back reduced and keep most of this bench, then it is on…

  • High Rollers

    I'm glad Rondo's joining Pierce in Orlando. Maybe they'll talk and come up with a plan for meshing their games better in the second half. It simply can't be, "You play well, and I'll stand around and gawk," "No, you play well, and I'll stand around and gawk." Quality time has been bestowed by the Commish. Use it.

  • I_Love_Green

    Seems like a lot of people missed Simmon's editors note. He did this same thing in '10 saying he wouldn't be surprised if we lost in 6 to the Heat in the first round. He goes with the reverse jinx technique.

  • jesus shuttersworth

    trade everyone except our rookies,bradly,pietrus,bass and paul.
    just start all over and trade everyone, trade rondo and danials for d.willaims just so it might be easier to bring in d.howard next year. trade ray for caron butler,trade j.o for beasley, kg for kevin martin and jordan hill. and keep paul so he can retire with the best team in the NBA

    • ripsonics

      another great trade idea from Ray Allen himself!

      you got game my friend.

      • KY-Celtic

        ha no one in their right mind would take j.o. for beasley, kg for the new k-mart and hill… and daniels and rondo for Dwill, very unlikely.

    • CelticsBIG3

      His last name is ShuttlESworth

  • ripsonics

    Most negatives I've seen on a chub post in a while. But I will say this in defense of the writers. I'd rather them make it sound worse than it is, vs. better than it is.

    They may be pessimistic, but that's because there is nothing to be happy about this season.

    DW2012

  • skeeds

    Sligthly off topic, but I loved how "Linsanity" was destroyed last night, even if it was the Heat that did it. This whole "saga" has been damn near ridiculous to watch the past couple of weeks.
    1 field goal, 8 turnovers, 3 assists. Yeah, about time he got back down to earth…

    • smalltownID

      Skeeds, you could be my younger brother. Everything that comes out of your mouth I absolutely disagree with. Well almost, I agree the TO's are consistently high but did you see Lin the game before his breakout game against Boston? I am happy to say I was a fan before he made it big. Thank goodness he didn't play in the 2nd half versus Boston.

      Kid will be a solid pg in the NBA. He may never be an all-star, still a little early.

      • skeeds

        See, you misunderstand me man. If you noticed, I said how "Linsanity" was destroyed. Not Lin. Lin's gonna be fine, I'm happy for any kid that breaks out. He's gonna have tons and tons of trouble making all those advancements in his game that he needs to be considered an elite pg. Especially in this league.

        I was bothered by the ridiculous "phenom" thing, with the Times cover, and reporters hunting his relatives and harassing his grandma, and a book being written about his life. Basketball should be about basketball, and with those 2 humbling defeats from the Nets and Heat, all the noise should quiet down a bit. Now that we know he's not a superhero, is when we see if this kid can really keep improving and REALLY make it. I hope he does.

  • Aaron from Spokane

    Davenport is at it again. The guy actually made a Pokemon reference in a Celtics 5-on-5? This is not writing. This…is…not…writing. Who does this guy work for, anyways? I'd say the real question of the mid-season is, could it be time to find new Celtics Hub talent?

    P.S. Hayes, have you looked at Perk's stat line recently? 4.4 PPG, 1.2 BPG? I think JO is having a comparable season (except with more points and blocks in fewer minutes).

    • High Rollers

      Hayes writes well and makes plenty of valid, intriguing points. I assume he knew he was playing with fire pegging his disappointment on the fans, in terms of the kind of responses he'd receive. Although, folks didn't really seem to mind it too much. (We must be reasonable fans after all!)

      Mr. Davenport probably just didn't want to risk anybody else either A) jumping off the C's bumpy bandwagon out of frustration or B) sneaking into Health Point Fitness Center and zealously stitching a giant 18 on that blank banner prematurely. That's fair enough.

      CHub rocks.

  • smalltownID

    I have a lot more respect for HD than most of the "sports pundits" out there. He actually has talent, yet he doesn't get paid for it. However, Aaron, the Pokemon shot is a pretty good one. That makes me laugh. But so does Hayes. Perhaps because I appreciate his sense of humor in 4 out of 5 articles he writes it masks weaknesses in his basketball analytic, but I think not.

    1 in 10 articles I get that "he's trying to hard" to be funny.

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