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Boston’s Demolition of Cavs Amazing, Conflicting

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.

  • High Rollers

    Great shot of Steez and Green!

  • The Cardinal

    See "Bennett, Anthony" and convince me tanking in hopes of getting the player you want is less of a rebuilding strategy gamble than developing the core young players you have and then using future cap space to sign a couple of top 10-veterans-at their position players. We will still have flexibility to switch or give up a future draft pick, and/or trade one or two of the current core on draft night if we truly believe some rookie is the player we want for the future.

    Remember the tank season in hopes of landing Duncan and how well that worked out? Trivia questions: Who were our selections at 3 and 6? Hint: we traded 3, who somewhat briefly became a top 5- 7 player at his position after about 5 or 6 years in the league, and we kept 6, who was out of the league after a few seasons. Just sayin'…

    • CG12

      Man, does Bennett look just awful out there. I was yelling at my TV to go after him. Tanking is definitely not a sure way to get the top pick, which is why it is great to see the Celts are trying to build a winning culture. The got rid of old assets whose value was declining and got a lot of future assets in return. The talent level is low enough that their draft pick will be decent. Combine those accumulated assets and their own picks, and this thing could turn around pretty fast.

  • Jim

    All of you at Celtics hub give Jordan Crawford little or no credit for what he has done filling the point guard position which leads me to believe you guys do not watch all of the games. If Bradley was back at point guard turning the ball over and missing shots none of you would be on him like you are on Crawford. Truth be said Crawford has made a huge difference in the way the team plays.
    Do you really think Rondo has never stat padded his way to a triple double?.Watch the games he plays on national TV compared to when the Celtics play some lesser teams.

  • tbunny

    Barring significant trade or injury, I think the Celtics will probably make the playoffs. Why do I think that? Well, this team is probably going to win at least 30 games. Assuming they get at least somewhat better with Rondo back in 2014, they will probably win around 40 games. If they win 40 games, not only will they be a playoff team in the putrid east, they will probably win the division and be a 4 seed. Because they other teams in the Atlantic all look awful right now.

    • The Cardinal

      "The worst division in the history of the NBA" is also part of the worst conference in the history of the NBA, so you are right on target with your speculations. I also agree with "Jim" about the pettiness of the ongoing, snide Crawford remarks. Inserting Crawford into the lineup as the defacto PG has been the single, biggest reason for the somewhat surprising success of this team.

      This kid plays his heart out every minute of every game, and if any one player has earned the right to be viewed "as is" vs. "as what we thought he was," Crawford is that guy. I want to see him in green for years to come.

      • Jim

        Amen, I could not agree more. I truly think our new coach has brought about the best in Crawford. I want to see him in green for a long time myself.

  • Tdawg

    I totally disagree with the notion this team was built to tank. I don’t believe that for one second. They lost two over the hill veterans and now they are trying to rebuild for the future. It seems to me they have some pretty good pieces to build with and if they get a center who can protect the rim and score in the post sky is the limit.

  • Michael Simp

    Great article! I feel the same way. Being a die hard Celtic fan since the 4th grade I have always fell in love with whoever was a Celtic at the time. Whether it was the Walker, McCarty, Delk, Potepenko, Williams, Mercer team.. The Walker, Pierce, Lafrentz, Payton team… Even team with Pierce, G Green, Tony Allen, Jefferson, Rondo…
    I have always wanted them to develop the players and have them stay instead of tanking or trading. Of course the Ray Allen and Garnett trades were awesome!
    Whenever someone is a Celtic they kind of develop a bond with me. And I’d rather see Crawford stay than Ainge trade him because he is doing so well right now. If Crawford, Bradley, or Green get traded because of their success this year so the C’s can tank I will be pretty upset for a bit.
    To me, Ainge should see he has a good thing going right and keep this group, unless offered just too great a deal I guess, and make a playoff run. They could be a 5th/6th see and avoid Indy and Miami. Then what Steven’s has done without Rondo for half the season should look pretty attractive to free agents like maybe LaMarcus Aldridge!! Go after him this off season and have Rondo, Bradley, Green, and Aldridge!! Then at Center?? Not sure yet.

    But I do love this team tho. And coach.
    Keep it up guys!!!

  • skeeds

    Man, nights like these the team looks one Rajon Rondo away from a deep run into May. So what do we do? At this point the only realistic scenario of tanking is by getting rid of some of our guys having strong seasons, essentially making the team bad enough to tank. But why shoot ourselves in the foot.
    I say stick it through, see how this works with Rondo. If it works well, then 1-2 well placed moves might be the only thing we need. (Varejao can't be really happy with his situation right now, for example). If not, then he becomes as tradeable as anybody else, and Ainge is in a sweet position, especially with most of his other players doubling their value as the season goes on…
    I am getting less and less optimistic about building a contender soon, not because of who we get and how, but because, for all the turmoil the league is in right now, the top tier teams are out of their mind good. There's at least 4 teams playing championship caliber ball right now and it's not even December yet. I don't remember an era with so many legit contenders since the early 90's. We could trade for Dwight Howard and James Harden tomorrow and still wouldn't be considered a favorite.
    So whatever, let's just not be a sucky team, so that we can enjoy watching our C's, let's play a good kind of basketball (thank you Brad Stevens) and see where it takes us!

  • BeanTownMan

    We're going to be competing for the NBA championship in two years at the latest. No doubt about it. Stevens was the hire of the decade! The dude was handed arguably the worst roster in the league, and has managed to to exceed the wildest expectations.

  • Matt

    I believe if we had brad stevens as the head coach instead of doc rivers we would have gotten further than we did last post season. Doc uses an outdated mentallity of playing his veterans into the ground and that younger players have to “earn” their play time. Personally I just think brad stevens is much better at developing talent and changing his system into something that fits everyones playstyle rather than trying to force everyone to play under one system like doc.

  • Matt

    Also it was great seeing green show up. I have always believed green is an all star calibur player he just needs to be aggressive and demand the ball where he wants it. He has the talent and tools to be a 25ppg player he just has to demand it from himself and his teammates. Overall I am very excited about this year. I would love to see a starting lineup of 1. Rondo 2. Bradley 3. Green 4. Sully 5. “Center we trade for” with crawford being the sixth man. Also lets get marshon brooks some playing time. He is young and that kid can get buckets. Given time I believe brad stevens can teach him how to play some solid defense as well.

  • hax

    Brad Stevens can coach less talented teams to overachieve. Those Butler teams that went back to back NCAA Finals? Only Shelvin Mack(benchwarmer) and Gordon Hayward(before he got this good) are notable players on those teams. They stunk, but they had a superior coach. And most fans already think the Heat/Pacers are in the east finals. Don't count out Brad. 😉 Not saying we will make the play-offs and do some things there. Just that we can because we have DEFENSE & BETTER COACHING

  • NZNICK33

    So Jeff Green has his best game of the season and it doesn’t get a single mention except in the comments. I know the writers on this site don’t really like Green (contrast the write-ups here with celticsblog) but at least acknowledge that Green had a great game. It only takes a sentence.

    • Jim

      The writers on this site also do not care for a few other players on the team . How many positive comments do you ever hear about Crawford,Green or Humphries.? I miss Zach Lowe. He could write.