Celtics

Blakely's takeaways: Monroe finds his niche with Celtics

Blakely's takeaways: Monroe finds his niche with Celtics

HOUSTON – Shortly after arriving in Houston, a bunch of Boston Celtics players made their way over to the Toyota Center to get some shots up. 

This happens all the time with young players. 

But among the Celtics’ youthful contingent was 27-year-old Greg Monroe.

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While he may have more experience than many of his teammates, like them he is also trying to find his niche with this team. 

Well an opportunity to do so came Monroe’s way on Saturday night against Houston. 

And while Boston lost 123-120 to the Rockets, the play of Monroe was certainly one of the more positive aspects of the game for the Celtics.

Monroe came off the Celtics bench to score 18 points, the most he has tallied since becoming a member of the team. 

And the decision to play Monroe major minutes came at the expense of Daniel Theis who was cleared to play after missing one game with a sore right hamstring. It was only the second game this season Theis did not play (coaches decision).

“I just think you have to be able to score in the paint against these guys, otherwise you’re in trouble with all the switching they do,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “So, I thought he did a good job at both ends. It was good to see him play like that. Like we’ve said before, he’s going to have games where he gets an opportunity and we’ll need him to do so just what he did (Saturday night).”

Here are five other takeaways from Boston’s 123-120 loss to the Houston Rockets.

 

BENCH GETTING STRONGER

You certainly like the job that Greg Monroe did off the Celtics bench, but he was by no means a one-man, second-unit show. As good as Monroe was, he wasn’t the top player off Boston’s bench. He may not have even been the second-best player. Marcus Morris, looking more and more like an impactful two-way talent, led all Celtics with 21 points. And it was another strong game for Terry Rozier who had 17 points which included a perfect 3-for-3 from 3-point range. For the game, Boston’s bench scored a season-high 67 points and are among the top-3 scoring bench units in the NBA since returning from the All-Star break. 

 

AL HORFORD

Al Horford is a prideful man, one who holds himself accountable for his play, good or bad. Saturday was a bad night for Horford who had a horrible sequence in which he missed a critical, wide open 5-footer near the rim and later turned the ball over. Following the loss, Horford didn’t mince his words in accepting his role in the game’s outcome. “This was a tough one for me personally. I felt like I could have … if I would have knocked one of those shots down it would have been different,” said Horford who had 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting. “I’m going to look at this one and learn and be better.”’ 

 

JAYLEN BROWN

We have witnessed to continued growth of Jaylen Brown as a two-way player who has made no secret about striving towards becoming one of the game’s best along those lines. Saturday’s loss is another chapter in his learning process. James Harden is one of the most difficult players in the NBA to defend, and Brown saw this first-hand on Saturday. Harden was able to get Brown into foul trouble early, which led to head coach Brad Stevens having to sit Brown for longer stretches than either would have liked. And with so many calls going against him and the Celtics, Brown became irritated and frustrated which led to a technical foul being called on him. 

 

CENTER OF ATTENTION

It really does appear that Boston’s handling of the center position will be done by committee. Aron Baynes is firmly entrenched as the starter, with Al Horford possibly sliding over when Brad Stevens puts Marcus Morris with the first group instead of Baynes. Things will be interesting when it comes to who comes off the bench. Daniel Theis has been the team’s first big off the bench most nights, but Greg Monroe has more size, strength and experience. So could we be seeing him gradually get the minutes that for most of this season went to Theis? It will become a bigger issue as we get closer to the playoffs, for sure.

 

GOOD TRY, GOOD EFFORT

The Celtics were disappointed they didn’t beat Houston, but far from devastated. Boston shot 48.4 percent against a solid Houston defense that’s improving. They made more than 50 percent of their 3-pointers (13-for-24), shot better than 90 percent (19-for-21) from the free throw line and turned the ball over 12 times. It was the kind of performance that would have been good enough to beat most teams. It served as a reminder of the importance of maximizing the mundane. It was little things, like a loose ball here or a block out there, that ultimately cost the Celtics the game. “I just thought they maximized more possessions than we did,” Stevens said. “Those were two good teams playing and both teams deserve a lot of credit for how they played.”

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Bean: Kawhi in Cleveland makes great theater for everyone

Bean: Kawhi in Cleveland makes great theater for everyone

Other than LeBron Watch, Kawhi Watch will likely be the most captivating Watch of the NBA offseason,  and there's obviously a chance the two end up in the same place. Regardless of what happens with LeBron, I've officially decided where I want Kawhi to land. 

Cleveland. 

I've got my reasons, but I'll start with why I'm not clamoring for the C's to get one of the five best players in the league. Yes, the C's can offer the best package, but I don't want them to make an offer the Spurs can't refuse. I don't want them to trade Jaylen Brown and the Sacramento pick for a flight risk. I don't want them to trade Kyrie Irving. I want them to be loaded, as they currently are, and set to add to that in the future. 

Leonard supposedly wants to be traded to the Lakers. The more well-connected basketball reporters have noted the Spurs wouldn't have any motivation to turn the Lakers into a Western Conference powerhouse, which makes sense. 

So, if it's not going to be the Lakers, make it the Cavaliers. 

This might sound ridiculous, but I want LeBron James to be a character in this Celtics group's run. One of the things that made the 2017-18 Celtics' run so exciting was that it culminated in a showdown with LeBron, the best player in the league and the centerpiece of great Celtics series past. 

I don't want the Celtics to go on runs with LeBron in a different time zone. I want battling (and beating) the best player of this generation to be part of what the Tatum Era does. If the Cavs can land Leonard, maybe that will keep James from bolting in free agency. 

They're also rumored to be inquiring about Kemba Walker's availability from Charlotte to help surround LeBron with another star.

To be fair, I wrote last week that I'm fine with LeBron going to the Lakers and even forming a super team with Kawhi and Paul George. That's because I think either that team or the Warriors would be all tuckered out by the time they got to the finals against a Celtics team that just waltzed through the East. 

That wouldn't be as fun though, especially if the Lakers kept getting eliminated by Golden State. If the Celtics have another championship run coming during the final years of LeBron's career, I want it to involve a Kyrie/LeBron matchup. I certainly want it to involve a competitive underdog, and I don't trust the 76ers for that yet. Considering they probably wouldn't be able to get much else, a team of LeBron, Kawhi and a bunch of junk still wouldn't be favored against the Celtics at full health. 

If LeBron goes somewhere West this offseason, I'd still want the Cavs to get Kawhi. Assuming Kawhi actually plays, he'd at least keep the Cavaliers a playoff team and an interesting opponent. 

Could the Cavaliers actually get Kawhi? I don't see why not. If his status as a player who can opt out after next season scares some teams away, the eighth overall pick and whatever they could get for Kevin Love would already make their offer better than whatever the Lakers would try to scrape together. Sacramento could always trump everyone by offering the second overall pick for Leonard, but that would be stupid. Then again, sometimes the Kings are stupid. 

Kawhi in Boston? Not at the likely price, and not if it means that much risk. LA? Predictable. Put Kawhi in Cleveland, keep the East exciting and give LeBron a real decision to make. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BREAKFAST POD: Jaylen and Rozier for Kawhi?

BREAKFAST POD: Jaylen and Rozier for Kawhi?

1:43 - Chris Mannix joined Gary Tanguay and Kyle Draper on Early Edition to discuss if the Celtics could trade up in the draft, and if the Celtics have any chance of acquiring Kawhi Leonard.

6:35 - Phil Perry talks about Albert Breer’s report that the Patriots talked with four teams (Lions, Titans, 49ers, Texans) about trading Rob Gronkowski. We also hear from Holley, Merloni, and DJ Bean about Tom Brady commenting “cuarenta y cinco” in response to an Instagram post about when he’ll retire.

10:34 - Lou Merloni and Chris Gasper debate how important it is for the Red Sox to avoid the Wild Card play-in game and win the AL East over the Yankees. 

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NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE