Given their recent struggles, will the Boston Celtics be fine following the all-star break?
Devon Clements: The Celtics’ struggles are very real. The two main issues with their struggles are the play of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Brown is about as inconsistent as Avery Bradley offensively, and Tatum came out of the gates hot to start off the season – so we are just seeing the typical growing pains of a rookie in the NBA. These two things, paired with the absence of Marcus Smart and the incorporation of Greg Monroe into the rotation of the second unit, have given the Celtics some good reasons to go on a bit of a mid-season lull. The Monroe and Smart issues should be over soon, but Brown and Tatum’s inconsistencies will prove to be a lingering issue for the team down the stretch.
Nick Cherico: I think that the Celtics’ struggles are pretty real, but only on the offensive side. Regardless of how you feel about Smart, his absence has been a huge part of the team’s recent skid on defense. Once he returns after the all-star break they should be fine on that side, but the offense still worries me. The Gordon Hayward injury has started to show big time with this recent stretch of offensive struggles. They lack a truly consistent scorer outside of Kyrie, and I think that will be their Achilles heel in the playoffs.
Cory Prescott: Even the Golden State Warriors – 4-4 in their last eight games before the all-star break – have gone through struggles, so a difficult in-season slump is par for the 82-game schedule. The Celtics’ recent slide is certainly concerning. Their offense has slid to 28th in points per possession since Jan. 1 and 29th in the NBA during this stretch in shot attempts within the restricted area, per ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Their defense (still tops in the league) has also taken hits lately, but I’m not as concerned as others. Discounting his inaugural 25-win season, Brad Stevens owns a combined .627 winning percentage following the all-star break. Even with the crippling Hayward injury, the Celtics have too much talent to go down easily.
Hunter Perkins: I think the Celtics have some actual offensive struggles. Their starting five will only get better, but they need to start building leads for the bench. The Celtics boast one of the most inconsistent bench units in the league. Terry Rozier has shined as of late, but he’ll need to prove he can do it more times than not. The return of Smart should also boost the tenacity and defensive grit the Celtics thrived on early in the season. I’m still praying for a Hayward return, which would vault the Celtics into serious finals contention, if they aren’t already.
Brad Stevens suggested that lineup changes could be coming. Not that we’re coaches or anything, but is there anything you would change?
Clements: Some nights when there is no need for a lengthy lineup I don’t believe it would hurt to incorporate Terry Rozier into the lineup in place of Jayson Tatum. His offensive explosiveness the second half of the season is something that is much needed in the starting rotation and could prove to be a valuable asset when going against smaller lineups. When looking for offensive consistency, it might be time to remove Aron Baynes from time to time and give Greg Monroe an opportunity to score some baskets in the situation that Baynes is non-existent on the offensive side of the court – which is most nights.
Cherico: Normally I would say that a lineup change could make a difference, but not with this team. I think a lot of what goes into that kind of decision depends on how your head coach manages his players’ minutes. Brad Stevens has proven to be one of the best head coaches in the league in that regard, so I have a hard time seeing a change in the starting lineup having a big impact. He has a pretty good idea as to who he needs on the floor in key situations, so I won’t question the lineup. It’s why he does what he does, while I just sit behind my laptop and talk about him.
Brad Stevens hints changes are coming to Boston Celtics rotations after defensive struggles: “We have no excuses.” https://t.co/UD4ARF5eqd
— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) February 15, 2018
Prescott: The starting lineup should remain the same. It’s the bench rotation that has endless questions, and is something that may need to be tinkered with right down to Game No. 82. One things for certain, Marcus Smart needs to be an integral part of the rotation.
Perkins: I would start Kyrie Irving, Rozier, Jaylen Brown, Tatum and Al Horford. Rozier is a completely different player when he starts. He can do a lot of special things that Boston could use early in games. He rebounds better than a lot of guards and he has great chemistry with Irving. Starting these five would allow the Celtics to bring Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, Greg Monroe, Daniel Theis, and Aron Baynes off the bench. That’s a lot of backup size if the Celtics were to get pushed around early.
Should Kevin Garnett’s jersey get retired next?
Clements: Six years with a team and one championship does not make your jersey worthy of retirement with that respective team. If you think otherwise, then you probably also thought Isaiah Thomas deserved a tribute video after two years and no rings. If you didn’t ride and die with a team for a better part of a decade and perform at a high level for most of those seasons, to go along with multiple championships, then your jersey DOES NOT deserve to be retired.
Cherico: If the Celtics are to retire another number soon, it should be Kevin Garnett’s. The impact he had on this team and city is something that shouldn’t go unrecognized. He brought his “A” Game every single night and left it all on the floor. He changed the entire culture of that team just with his presence. And I think it should go without saying that if it wasn’t for him, there’s no chance we win that championship in ’08. No. 5 deserves to be immortalized in the rafters at the TD Garden.
Prescott: Given that the Boston Celtics have retired nearly half of the players that have played in a Celtics uniform – names like Jim Loscutoff (LOSCY), Don Nelson and Frank Ramsey – Garnett unequivocally deserves to see his No. 5 jersey retired to the Garden rafters. His impact during his six seasons in Boston was incredible, and without him the Celtics are still stuck at 16 NBA titles as a franchise.
Perkins: Absolutely. No other logical choice. Garnett brought way more to the Celtics than one title and a ton of wins. He brought an edge and an unmatched competitiveness that seemed to always give Boston the advantage. The Big Ticket was an absolute joy to watch. I feel like if he wasn’t on your team he’d be easy to hate, but you immortalize him if he was. It’s time to immortalize Garnett with the other Celtics greats.
If you could change one thing or add one event to the All-Star Game, what would it be?
Clements: Something more incentive-based for the winning conference. A little bit of cash is cool, but it’s mostly pennies for the guys out on the floor, which is why it turns into much more of an offensive game with very little defense played. Instead of $100,000 for each player on the winning team, make it $1,000,000. I know the NBA can afford it.
Cherico: The only change I would make to All-Star Weekend at this point is getting whomever the best players are on the court in the ASG regardless of conference. Having the draft was a huge step in the right direction, but I don’t want to see guys like Paul George get snubbed because too many players from the West got in ahead of him. If the whole point of having a draft is to mix the teams up, then there shouldn’t be a limit on how many players make it out of each conference. Hopefully they consider that for next year if they decide to stick with this draft format.
Prescott: Better dunk contest participants and replace the Skills Competition with H-O-R-S-E. Seriously, how has this not been introduced to All-Star Weekend yet?
Perkins: All Star Weekend was great this season. The Skills Competition goes by too fast but it’s packed with some fun. The Slam Dunk contest needs a change, but not a huge one. I think eight participants in a bracket-style competition would be successful. The dunks this year were good, but you can’t tell me Jaylen Brown or John Collins wouldn’t have made it even better. The Three-Point Contest was more of the same but still packs excitement. The All-Star Game itself was fantastic. It was competitive and packed with story-lines. Both sides genuinely wanted to win, and it showed. Players still showed off a bit, but the NBA knocked this one out of the park.
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