Celtics

Celtics youth working through their growing pains

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Celtics youth working through their growing pains

LOS ANGELES – You never like to put too much stock into any particular stretch of the season.

But listening to the Celtics following their 103-95 loss to the now-14 win Orlando Magic, the Celtics head west searching for continuity, a rekindled resolve and maybe most important, a clearer path towards where they are and just how far they can go with this current crew.

So as basketball junkies crunch the numbers, analyze and then over-analyze the data, there’s one factor in all this that has for the most part been ignored in their ascension to the top of the Eastern Conference mountaintop – their youth.

We talk about it in the context of 19-year-old Jayson Tatum who does some amazing things that players who have been in the league for years, do not do.

But as you start to look at tis roster and see players like rookie Semi Ojeleye, 25-year-old fellow rookie Daniel Theis from Germany and Tatum play in crunch time, it’s a reminder that these kids have grown up pretty fast all things considered.

However, they are still prone to make the mistakes of youth and maybe just as significant, have stretches when they just don’t play with the kind of consistency required to be one of the top teams in the NBA.

Boston (34-13) has shown itself capable of playing with the big boys in the NBA, despite being a team littered wit bunch of young pups in terms of experience and chemistry.

And while what many may see as a team that’s trying to find its way through a rough patch of games, that’s not what’s going on.

These are growing pains, the kind that every team goes through to some extent.

But the struggles seem more pronounced with a team with so many young players.

That’s why the idea of adding a player (a shooter please) is one that the Celtics are seriously looking into on all levels of play.

Now mind you, Boston has an $8.4 million disabled player exception from the Gordon Hayward injury which they can use to add a player who is in the final year of his contract.

Most teams let it lapse without using it, but I’m told the Celtics have every intention of using it because as we’ve seen of late, there’s a clear and undeniable need for this team to add a scorer, be it in the frontcourt or on the perimeter.

They need a steady perimeter scorer, the kind of player that can hit the ground but more important, hit shots.

Boston is first going to go the G-League route which has led to them signing Jarell Eddie to a 10-day contract with the hope that he can show more promise than their current roster that’s full of perimeter players who have been inconsistent shooters all season.

Even during their season-best 16 game winning streak and later when they reeled off seven in a row, their success was rooted in good defense and ho-hum offense.

We’re deep enough into the season to have a pretty good feel for who the Celtics are, and yet there’s still enough time for them to make a radical change and still have plenty of time before the postseason arrives.

That’s why this west coast trip is about more than just trying to right the ship; it’s about determining if Danny Ainge needs to switch up the crew with some addition by subtraction.

It’s no secret that the Celtics could use some added depth in a number of areas.

But the most glaring weakness right now is perimeter shooting, which is why Jarell Eddie is here.

The Celtics signed him to a 10-day contract because the players they have already signed to guaranteed deals have been anything but a guarantee to make shots.

And while some perceive that as something lacking in the players, the only thing we know for sure that they lack is experience which is something time takes care of as this Boston team continues to come of age, one youngster at a time.

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Celtics achieve their biggest offseason goal: Re-signing Marcus Smart

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File photo

Celtics achieve their biggest offseason goal: Re-signing Marcus Smart

BOSTON -- Mission accomplished.

The Celtics went into the offseason planning to bring back all their core players from last season’s squad, which came within a victory of getting to the NBA Finals.

The last bit of business is now taken care of with Marcus Smart coming to terms on a four-year, $52 million contract.

A restricted free agent this summer, Smart was unable to secure an offer sheet from another team. The Celtics had maintained all along they would match any offer within a reasonable amount. 

They never put a specific number on how high they would go, but most league executives believed a team would have to sign Smart to an offer sheet of at least $15 million in order for the Celtics to allow him to walk.

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Signing Smart solidifies what’s shaping up as one of the deepest backcourts in the NBA. All-Star Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown are the starters, with Smart and Terry Rozier coming off the bench.

There were moments during negotiations when Smart was reportedly disappointed and frustrated by the lack of attention the Celtics were paying him through the process. But Boston maintained all along that re-signing him was its No. 1 priority, and that position never changed.

Even when Smart’s return was far from a given, the Celtics still had a roster that was viewed by many as one of the best in the NBA. When LeBron James left Cleveland to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, that instantly catapulted the Celtics to the top of the Eastern Conference. (Story continues below.)

 

At 1:26 mark: A. Sherrod Blakey, Kyle Draper, Gary Tanguay and Trenni Kusnierek discuss the Smart deal prior to its finalization

 

Now with Smart set to return, Boston’s position among its Eastern Conference brethren remains strong as ever, even with the Raptors trading for two-way standout Kawhi Leonard.

The Celtics' journey towards the NBA Finals will involve them leaning on a variety of players with a varying amount of strengths and skills. That's why re-signing Smart was so important.

The recipe for postseason success is an unpredictable one; it requires having as much elite versatility on the roster as possible. That's what Smart brings: An ability to impact games when there’s a great need for toughness defensively, which is often in the closing moments of matchups.

DJ BEAN

That’s why you’ll often find Smart on the floor in close games, regardless of how well or woeful he might be shooting that night.

Because as much as the analytics folks of the world would love to see better numbers by Smart when he’s on the floor, it always comes back to winning games for the 6-foot-4 guard.

And as much of a head-scratcher he may be when it comes to shooting, he never loses sight of the ultimate goal -- winning -- which is why Boston’s quest towards Banner 18 is even more alive and well with his return.

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kawhi Leonard finally traded; Marcus Smart back to the Celtics?

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kawhi Leonard finally traded; Marcus Smart back to the Celtics?

1:26 - Marcus Smart and the Celtics are reportedly finalizing a 4 year contract. A. Sherrod Blakey and Kyle Draper join Gary Tanguay and Trenni Kusnierek to discuss the deal and debate if the Celtics are overpaying for Smart.

6:17 - Kawhi Leonard has finally been traded. The Spurs shipped him to the Raptors in a package centered around DeMar DeRozan. Cedric Maxwell breaks down who got the best end of the deal and if he was surprised Kawhi got sent to Toronto.

11:18 - Darrelle Revis has officially retired from the NFL after 11 seasons, including one season with the Patriots where he won his only Super Bowl ring. Chris Gasper along with Tanguay and Trenni discuss Revis’ legacy.  

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