The Westfield Voice

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The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

What’s Up With the Celtics?

This is not quite the start we all envisioned. After falling one game shy of the NBA Finals last year, off the backs of their young guys and role players, theCeltics hit a brick wall out of the gates this season. With a record of just 9-9, this loaded Boston team has had trouble gelling cohesively, with talented players underperforming on an individual and team level.

The one undeniably bright spot on this roster has been Kyrie Irving. A lights out first option, the rebirth of NBA finals superstar Irving seems to have sprang from the death of Kiri Hendrix. After just shooting 39% from the field through the first six games, and scoring less then 10 points twice, the month of November has seen a statistical explosion. 55% from the field, 49% from 3, nearly 6 assists, Kyrie has been instrumental in their recent successes. He has gone toe-to-toe with stars in Devin Booker and Kawhi Leonard, trading buckets with them to win for Boston in the clutch. Kyrie’s play is how the Celtics will win. The Celtics need Kyrie to be the superstar he has been, as his scoring, playmaking, and surprisingly his defense have been the grease that get the gears of this team spinning.

Gordon Hayward, on the other hand, has not exactly been the Hayward that secured the max contract after stellar play in Utah. Coming off a serious injury that will have an impact on him physically and psychologically, Hayward has not had smooth sailing to start the year. Boston needs Hayward to be a swiss army knife on the wing, and after shooting just 39% from the field, less then 30% from 3, and getting torched on 1 on 1 defense, he just has not been that. After getting ferociously booed in Utah and underplaying this year, the big thing with Hayward is going to be getting his confidence back. He has always been a good shooter, soBoston must assume that will eventually come, and when he starts getting his speed and footing back, that will help his defense and create easier looks for him on the offensive end.

Hayward might not ever be what he was in Utah again, it cannot be expected of somebody with an injury that severe to ever fully bounce back to 100%, but that is okay. Boston does not need him to be the superstar he was in Utah, it would help, but he does have to continually make strides for this team to improve their lot. I see no reason why that won’t happen.

Jayson Tatum got the superstar treatment this summer. He bumped LeBron after spiking a dunk on him, got listed as one of the league’s most overrated players (a rite of passage for all superstars), and partied  it up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.There has been a lot of talk on social media about how Tatum has under performed this season, but honestly, it is all trash. Tatum has really been fine in terms of statistical output. A pure scorer, he’s upped his points per game by over a full point even with more weapons on the floor, improved his assists per game, and has one more rebound per game. His averages clearly point to his development being right on course.

Where he has failed, however, is the eye test on offense. He’s knocking down his open looks for the most part, but the Kobe idolizer has settled for too many early shot-clock, deep, contested 2 pointers. In the modern NBA, you must go to the rim or look for the 3, shooting early shot clock mid ranges on the run cannot be part of a sustainable winning formula. Tatum can fix this, but he will have to adjust his individual offensive game plan.

Jaylen Brown has been all sorts of a mess to start the year. He will have stretches where he is looking like he is back to form, then revert to poor play and struggle to even get on the floor down the stretch. An athletic freak who is at his best when he hangs his hat on the defensive end, Jaylen’s offensive game has an apparent effect on his defensive play. When the shots don’t fall, he tends to hang his head and get lost on that side of the ball. He remains aggressive, attacking the rim, but they just don’t seem to be going in at the rate they should. This all should rectify itself as Brown is an immensely talented player who plays with Boston brand toughness and grit.

As the season goes on, and roles can become a little more defined within the starting 5, Brown may benefit the most. He has the skillset to be one of the league’s most potent 3 and D players. He’ll never hit 3’s at the clip of Klay Thompson but may be more versatile on defensive end and enter Klay’s atmosphere as the absolute pinnacle of the 3 and D player. Brown needs some confidence in how his game fits with this lineup, and that should come as the year goes on.

With this much talent, the Celtics really should not be losing this much. Sure, they have a decent record, but we can all agree that this is not the start that we thought we would be getting from this team. The good thing is, Celtics fans, we still have one of the most talented and deep lineups in the league, probably second to the Warriors.

The play of Irving, Brown, Tatum, Hayward, and Al Horford (who has been nothing short of his usual self) is paramount to this team’s success. The Celtics need Kyrie to keep course, and allow Brown, Tatum and Hayward to get their chemistry playing with each other as the season progresses. The losing will stop, but seeding is important, so the Celtics need to figure this out before they lose home court advantage in the playoffs.

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