Green Thoughts

Chronicling the Boston Celtics quest for banner number 17... and beyond.

Friday, March 17, 2006

In November, Celts fans have little to be thankful for

So... my beloved Celtics are 4-7. They've lost four of their last five games. Two of the losses came against the bottom-dwelling Seattle Supersonics (5-6) and... gulp... Atlanta Hawks (1-9, the 1 coming courtesy of the Celtics).Shira Springer was dead on in the Globe this morning. The Celtics can talk about the youth of the team all they like, but when you give up 120 points to the worst team in the league, experience isn't the problem, showing up is.

In fact, the kids are alright. Last night was something of a coming out party for Justin Reed, the second year, second rounder the Celtics touted last season. Reed shot well, made good decisions and, most of all, played stifling defense. On a night when veterans Raef LaFrentz and Mark Blount were making Al Harrington look like Kevin Garnett, Reed was the only Celtic to put the clamps on. Orien Greene started at point in place of the oft injured Delonte West and, despite the fact that the Globe's Springer was unimpressed, seemed to play with composure, to play defense and to take care of the ball. Not bad for a rookie second round pick. Allen and West are hurt, and someone may need to mention to Al Jefferson that he's not quite ready for Springfield yet (playing defense would help), but again, the youngsters aren't the problem.

Seven footer Mark Blount (one rebound and five turnovers in 25 minutes) may be. LaFrentz too has been unimpressive on defense. Dan Dickau has showed he can shoot the ball, but is also a defensive liability, and fouled out stupidly at the end of the game just when the Celtics needed a little scoring. From quarter to quarter, Ricky Davis seems either to be taking over a game or almost completely MIA, as when he dribbled into Orien Greene last night, another costly mistake at the end of a game.

As a team, the Celts fall apart in the fourth quarter. They turn the ball over. They don't execute. And what hapened to the running game the Celtics were supposedly committed to? I watched nearly the entire second half and, other than a Ricky Davis sneak away, everything was half court, which is problematic when your bigs won't rebound and the team can't effectively run the plays you've drawn up.

We're hardly a month into the season, of course, but the trends are troubling. Moreover, the Celtics' early season schedule is heavy with home games and some mediore teams. Boston has yet to win on the road. Just a guess, but if you can't win in Atlanta, I'm thinking you're not going to win in San Antonio. Or New Jersey for that matter.So... what to do. Trades? Ainge has already traded or released most of the team he inherited. Hell, he traded Antoine Walker twice. People talk about moving Pierce, but he's not the problem. In fact, Pierce seems to have taken things up a notch from last year, which was arguably one of his best seasons. He scores. Many nights he pulls down more boards than LaFrentz and Blount combined. And anybody catch his steal on Joe Johnson in the fourth quarter against the Hawks? Brilliant. Spare me the crap about body language. Pierce is playing his guts out.

Be nice to move LaFrentz and Blount, but those contracts Danny took on make them "immobilare." And even if they had great contracts, I don't imagine that Blount, for instance, has a whole lot of value. Teams aren't looking for seven footers who don't rebound or play defense, then bitch to their coach about wanting more touches on offense.No one's talking about it, but if things haven't changed after another ten games, or if they've worsened, Ainge may need to take a look at the coach. The Celtics aren't competing and the players a beginning to look a little like they're tuning Rivers out. People will say it's early to start pointing fingers at the coach, and the Celtics gave him a long term deal for big money, but the Rivers coached Celts have followed up last year's disappointing playoff loss with a disappointing start. If he can't turn the team around by the quarter point in the season, Ainge may have to start thinking about taking the reins.

In the long-term, though, Ainge himself has to take some heat. He's brought on some terrific young talent and made some smart trades, but Ainge has also taken on some hideous contracts that have left the team unable to fill holes or bring on veterans to balance out the kids. The Celtics have been whining about the salary cap ever since the inception of free agency. If Ainge wants to be remembered as a successful GM, though, he's going to have to figure out a way to clear some space so the team can do more than dip a toe into the market. Otherwise, the Celtics will be perpetually green. And perpetually disappointing.


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