After the Celtics opened up their season with a 16 point victory over the Brooklyn Nets last week, the team found themselves in a bit of a tailspin. They dropped their next three games before picking a victory last night. They are 2-3 on the season.
If you factor in how bad the Pacers (last night's opponent), the Lakers and the Cavaliers have started off, the Celtics aren't looking nearly as bad as observers might have thought. Of course, that's how their season started out last year and that ended up in a 25-57 record, so hopefully people don't get too excited just yet.
So far this season, Jeff Green has been a model of consistency. He's been in double figures for each game played. While he isn't quite yet lighting it up (save the game against Dallas), he's been a big source of offensive production. In the 104-90 loss to Houston last week, he led the team with 17 points. The game itself was the first of two in a row where the Celtics had to overcome a poor start on their part to try and win. The Rockets took control of the game with a 37-22 first quarter edge and never really looked back after that. James Harden led Houston with 26 points.
For Boston, Jared Sullinger scored 14 points and 9 rebounds while the walking trade rumor, Rajon Rondo, had 4 points, 8 assists and 10 rebounds.
The Celtics next faced off against the Dallas Mavericks and after another poor start saw the team down 67-41 at half-time, the Celtics woke up their offense. They staged a massive rally that invariably fell short 118-113. This was Jeff Green's big night as he led the comeback with 35 points and 7 boards. Avery Bradley scored 32 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Rondo had 7 points, 15 assists and 9 rebounds and Jared Sullinger had 14 opints and 7 boards.
And while the rally was great entertainment, the players did acknowledge after the game that they are shooting themselves in the foot when they come out of the starting gate so poorly.
Much like a two year old child, the team is likely to experience these bad start/good start mood swings given the relative youth of the players who will see the bulk of the playing time this year.
An example of this was their 110-107 loss to the Toronto Raptors. This time the Celtics came out on fire and built a 16 point lead. But they were unable to hold it and saw that lead cut down to 3 points by half-time on their way to coughing up another game to their opponent.
Green led the team with 20 points while Sullinger scored 19 points and had 16 boards. Kelly Olynyk added 18 points and 13 boards while Avery Bradley finished with 16 points. Rondo had his first triple double of the season with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists. Rookie Marcus Smart scored 12 points.
It may have been the fifth loss in a row for the Indiana Pacers last night, but they sure made the Celtics work for the 101-98 victory. And it could very well be a costly victory as the team saw Smart go down with a left ankle injury. As I write this, there is no word on if it is a bad sprain or a broken ankle, but it didn't look very good as he was carted off the floor last night. The Celtics rallied themselves to clinch the victory, but given the high hopes the team has on the development of Smart, this is a body blow no one saw coming. Sullinger had 17 points to lead Boston with Green scoring 15 points. Olynyk had 12 points while Brandon Bass had 10 points.
So what are we seeing out of the team thus far? They are being competitive, but the sustained youth movement on the team finds the mix of veterans and rookies not quite there in terms of gelling as a team thus far. The up and down nature of how Boston starts games seems to determine what the final result will be.
Brad Stevens is still working on figuring out a rotation. While most of the new blood is seeing playing time, he hasn't yet been able to find much court time for Tyler Zeller. And Brandon Bass, who was a key figure in last year's team, has largely become a forgotten man. When I saw that he had 10 points in the box score from last night's game, it surprised me because I can't really recall hearing his name mentioned since the preseason. It is a shame considering how much of a presence he can give the team in the post as a rebounder.
Jared Sullinger has improved his three point shooting which gives him that extended offensive range. It takes him away from being a post presence when he shoots the three ball, but if the Celtics can get more production down low from other players, it won't present as much of a problem.
Rondo is Rondo, he's going to make great numbers while dishing out one assist after another. But the continued questions about his status with the team is going to become a distraction as the trading deadline draws near. Of course, depending on the severity of the injury to Smart, Rondo may end up staying in Boston (as both he and management have stated they want). I think this is a good thing if they can get a contract worked out. But if not, Rondo walks at the end of the year and the Celtics get nothing. You'd lose your best player and trade asset.
Marcus Smart doesn't quite have an NBA caliber shot just yet and if the Celtics are left with him and Bradley on the perimeter, opposing teams aren't going to worry about them hitting that big outside shot as much.
Kelly Olynyk has been a solid player so far this season. I like him and think he can be a valuable piece of the franchise. My buddy Brian has an opposing view and it will be interesting to see which of us is right in the end.
There hasn't been a whole of time to evaluate some of the players on the roster yet. Whether still rehabbing injuries or simply not having much playing time, I can't really say what Vitor Faverani, James Young, Gerald Wallace, Dwight Powell or Phil Pressey will bring to the Celtics this season. I know that Marcus Thornton is going to be looked at to provide some stability off the bench.
As for Evan Turner, just five games into the season and I'm already seeing stuff online saying he's absolutely horrible. His name hasn't really popped up that much in the game recaps either.
Oh, and in a bit of off the court news, the Celtics have unveiled their "Parquet Pride" alternate uniforms and memorabilia collection. These uniforms will be used 6 times this season and in those six games get ready to absolutely vomit at these gross abomination sleeved uniforms. You can read about these hideous things HERE.
The thing about the Celtics uniforms is that they didn't bow to modern trends. They were the classic basketball uniform. The Celtics or Boston on the front was all you needed. This new uniform being used 6 times this season is 6 times too many. They are ruining a uniform brand that has stood the test of time and remains better than anything that has been deemed a more "modern" uniform.
THIS IS AN EMBARRASSMENT:
But back to the team itself now...
I don't know rightly what to expect from the Celtics this year. After the failure to lure a big name free agent to Boston, I said that 25-57 might look good given the roster the team was going to have. But that same feeling I had when the Celtics started out decently (record wise) last year is mysteriously still present within me this year. If they can avoid long losing streaks and maintain their early season level of competitiveness, this Celtics team might actually end up surprising people.
The players are buying into what Brad Stevens is preaching/teaching and as they play more games, I can see the team growing up together. Will that mean more wins, I don't know. But I do like that for now, I have a sense of optimism.