Bob Cousy has played, coached and watched a whole lot of basketball over his 93 years. So, when trying to determine what's wrong with the 2021-22 Boston Celtics, the Basketball Hall of Famer and franchise icon is a good person to ask.
The Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy did just that after a recent Celtics loss and received some pretty direct feedback from Cousy about Boston's struggles.
"There’s something wrong," Cousy told Shaughnessy. "It’s just schoolyard. Run up and down and take the first shot that shows. There doesn’t seem to be intelligent direction."
Cousy also had a strong opinion about what this Celtics roster lacks.
"I think a stabilizing piece is missing," Cousy said. "They usually [expletive] it up in the fourth quarter when you need to be paying attention to business.
"I hate to bring it back to a point guard but … you don’t have that control. When we got a lead of 6-8 points, that was when I would take it home. I just would not allow us to lose the lead."
The same certainly can't be said about these Celtics, who have blown four leads of at least 15 points this season (including Thursday's 25-point collapse against the New York Knicks) and own the NBA's second-worst fourth-quarter net rating at minus-8.7.
To Cousy's point, Boston has been plagued by a lack of late-game ball movement, averaging just 4.6 fourth-quarter assists (29th in the NBA) while hitting just 41.7% of their shots (26th) in the final 12 minutes.
"Right now, at crunch time in the fourth quarter, they’re giving it to (Jaylen) Brown and (Jayson) Tatum to create for themselves and 70 percent of the time they do, but they don’t have the creating skills that a clever point guard would have, so they [expletive] it up," Cousy said.
Marcus Smart is technically Boston's starting point guard, but Cousy "(doesn't) love him as a point guard," while free-agent signing Dennis Schroder is more of a scorer than a facilitator. While the Celtics have been led by some impressive floor generals like Isaiah Thomas, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker in recent years, only Thomas had any real staying power, and this 2021-22 team seems to lack that backcourt leader.
So, is a "stabilizing" point guard what the Celtics need to maximize the talents of Tatum and Brown? If so, maybe Cousy should give Brad Stevens a call.