This Celtics team, assembled to lose, now has better record than alleged title contenders New York and Brooklyn, and alleged up-and-comer Detroit, and with the addition of Rajon Rondo at some point in the next couple of months, may actually resolve to a playoff team, albeit one that likely gets shredded in the first round by Indiana or Miami. That’s counterproductive to the pursuit of banner #18, but even pro-tankers like me have to admit to a certain excitement seeing Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger evolving, and the way Brad Stevens is maximizing the pieces he’s been given by Danny Ainge. I particularly love the idea that Stevens seems dogmatic only in pursuit of that which is effective.
Jordan Crawford stat-padded his way to a triple-double against the Cavs, which is a bit unseemly, but who among us would have put money Crawford being capable of that feat at all given what we knew of him coming into this season? I remember walking from the press room to the locker room with Brendan and Michael last season, soon after Crawford and Terrence Williams had joined the Celtics and posing the question: if you could only have one of the two, which would you choose? All three of us chose Williams. Without pause. Alas, hindsight.
Bradley is now 16-24 in his last two games and playing with more pace and aggression. You hate to see him shooting so many mid-range jumpers but he’s efficient from that area of the floor. Gerald Wallace is mostly useless on offense but he only played 15 minutes last night, a shift from Boston’s previous coach who tended to go long minutes with his veterans, full stop. Without a serious rim-protector, Celtics are still the 10th best defensive team in the league. With 2-13 Milwaukee due up Saturday night, another win is in the offing to close November. This month has been, versus expectations, a huge success.
So, here in the wee smalls of Saturday morning, I’m still conflicted. I love the prospect of Stevens working with a championship roster because I think by the time it’s in place, he’ll have matured further as an NBA coach and will be able to maximize his roster the way he did at Butler. There’s an argument the Celtics of the Garnett-Pierce-Rivers era failed to get the most out of the teams they had each season (I’ll never be convinced the Lakers were the better team in 2010, but that’s probably a rant for another day). I don’t think that will prove true for the Stevens era. But how to get there? Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins sure would accelerate the process. So, each game, I find myself hoping for player improvement and positive signs in the context of a competitive loss. But I’m not sure I feel good about it.