Aron Baynes

How ex-Celtics players are performing on new teams at NBA's midseason mark

How ex-Celtics players are performing on new teams at NBA's midseason mark

Doesn't the 2018-19 season seem like a lifetime ago?

We're just eight months removed from watching the Boston Celtics flame out in the second round of the NBA playoffs despite a wealth of offensive talent.

That talent has dispersed throughout the league since last May, as five major contributors from last season's club -- Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes -- now are on different teams.

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We know how Kemba Walker and the new-look Celtics have fared through the halfway point of the 2019-20 season (28-14 through 42 games, with Walker 22.1 points per game).

But how have the former C's been holding up? Here's a quick breakdown, complete with stats, player grades, highlights and how much Boston misses each player.

Kyrie Irving, Guard, Brooklyn Nets

2019-20 stats (15 games played)
32.7 minutes, 26.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game; 45.9 field goal percentage, 36.2 3-point percentage

Grade: C+
Irving is scoring at a career-high pace this season. He's also played in just 15 games this season with a 5-10 record in those contests while creating unnecessary distractions with his locker room diatribes. The headache currently outweighs the talent.

Do the Celtics miss him?
You think the Celtics miss this?

 

Al Horford, Forward, Philadelphia 76ers

2019-20 stats (41 games played)
30.9 minutes, 12.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.0 blocks and 0.9 steals per game; 45.3 field goal percentage, 32.4 3-point percentage

Grade: B
Horford has shown signs of life after a serious late-December funk, tallying 10 points or more in seven of his last eight games and dropping 19 points in a win over Irving's Nets. Philly will need more of that production from the veteran big man with Joel Embiid sidelined due to a finger injury.

Do the Celtics miss him?
Yes. Enes Kanter has played very well of late, but the Celtics still haven't quite replaced all the little things Horford did well on both ends of the floor with Boston.

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Terry Rozier, Guard, Charlotte Hornets

2019-20 stats (45 games played)
34.1 minutes, 17.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.2 steals per game; 42.0 field goal percentage, 39.5 3-point percentage

Grade: B+
Rozier continues to fill it up as Charlotte's starting point guard, dropping 20 or more points in seven of his last nine games and shooting at a career-high clip (42 percent). The Hornets lost seven of those nine games and are 15 games under .500, but at least Rozier is proving he's a legitimate starting guard.

Do the Celtics miss him?
Yes and no. The C's could use a better backup to Kembw Walker than Brad Wanamaker or Carsen Edwards, but Rozier wasn't going to play second fiddle to another Celtics point guard after sitting behind Kyrie Irving. It is what it is.

 

Marcus Morris, Forward, New York Knicks

2019-20 stats (36 games played)
31.9 minutes, 19.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 0.8 steals per game; 44.0 field goal percentage, 45.7 3-point percentage

Grade: B+
Morris missed five games due to injury earlier this month, but he's still the leading scorer on a lottery-bound Knicks team. If he keeps producing, he'll set himself up for another fine deal in free agency next summer.

Do the Celtics miss him?
Not especially. The Celtics have had enough trouble finding an offensive flow with talented wings Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown and don't need Morris putting up 10-plus shots per game.

Aron Baynes, Forward, Phoenix Suns

2019-20 stats (33 games played)
22.9 minutes, 11.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 0.6 blocks per game; 49.0 field goal percentage, 33.3 3-point percentage

Grade: B
Baynes has come back down to earth following his red-hot first 10 games for the Suns, but he's managed to stay (relatively) healthy after missing nine games early in the season and is a solid starting center in Phoenix.

Do the Celtics miss him?
Occasionally. The C's could have used Baynes' muscle against bigger teams like the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers, but they still boast the NBA's fourth-best defense this season without him.

 

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What's ailing the Celtics' defense? Here are some theories

What's ailing the Celtics' defense? Here are some theories

BOSTON — Having clawed their way back from 16 points down to make it a one-possession game with a minute to play, the Boston Celtics needed against Phoenix on Saturday what used to be a given in these stressful moments: a defensive stop.

As Phoenix’s Mikal Bridges’ fadeaway jumper in the paint left his fingertips and hung on the rim’s lip for what seemed like an eternity, there was a moment in time when the chances of that ball dropping through the net were just as good as they were for it to roll out. 

It eventually fell through the net, the Celtics went on to lose 123-119, and the team’s defense once again came up short when they were most needed.

In that possession, like so many lately, the Celtics did most of what was necessary. But this team isn’t built to be successful by just doing a pretty good job. 

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The margin for error to be one of the NBA's best teams is razor thin. That's partly why many of their losses of late fall into the good, but not good enough to win, category. 

“I mean, there’s 50 things to do on a possession,” said head coach Brad Stevens. “Right now we’re doing about 46 on our best ones, and we need to do 50.”

Of course, that’s easier said than done. 

It’s not like it’s one or two of the same things that are problematic for their defense — which, by the way, not so long ago was considered one of the league's best. 

The Celtics' defensive rating of 105.6 still puts them at the fifth-best in the NBA this season.  But over the last eight games, that shot up to 111.8, which ranks 16th in the league during that span. 

It hasn’t helped that most of the teams Boston has faced lately, have come into the game playing some of their best basketball of the season. The Suns for example, have struggled for most of the season but won three of four headed into Saturday. 

That may be a factor. But players are quick to point out that the bigger issues defensively stem from a lack of the consistency we'd seen earlier this season. 

“Just not really running our system on the defensive end,” Marcus Smart said. “You know we gave up a lot of easy, easy, easy lay-ups at the rim. Guys are supposed to be pulled in and it’s like we don’t know what we are doing out there and that’s a problem. 

"We’re not really holding guys accountable on the defensive end. We can score the ball with the best of them but for some reason we are allowing, when we go in those rolls, we’re missing (shots) to affect our defense.”

Gordon Hayward added, “For whatever reason guys are scoring on us at a high clip so we have to figure what we have to do to shut that down.”

There are ample factors contributing to the team’s defensive struggles of late. Stevens knows what has to get better for his team at that end of the floor. 

“Everything,” he said. “I just … everything. Just every … every single angle you take on a pick-and-roll, how much you get into the body, how much do you chase, how, when do you switch, how high are you as a big, when do you step back, how you guard the down-screen, do you trail it? Do you go under it? Do you meet them on a catch? What do you do?”

For Boston to get back on that track, the jobs to be done lie on the defensive side of the ball. 

“It takes everybody, you know, and it’s not easy,” Smart said. “You know, coming in you’ve got a team that’s really talented. They’re coming in to play and beat you so we got to be on top of our games and we just got to understand that we’re going to have nights where we don’t shoot the ball well but we can’t have nights where we just don’t bring it on the defensive end.”

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Struggles today setting stage for success later? Former Celtic Aron Baynes thinks so

Struggles today setting stage for success later? Former Celtic Aron Baynes thinks so

BOSTON — There’s no getting around the fact that the Boston Celtics (27-14) have come upon hard times, a team searching for solutions after dropping a 123-119 loss to Phoenix on Saturday, their sixth loss in the last eight games. 

Suns center Aron Baynes, who spent the previous two seasons playing for Boston, remembered stretches of bad play similar to this. They found themselves fighting off the urge to throw a pity party which is something that ails many teams in similar predicaments. 

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Last season, Boston lost seven of 10 in November only to bounce back and win nine of their next 10. They had another stretch later in the season in which they lost five of eight games and came back to win four in a row. 

Then in March, they lost four straight, only to close out the regular season winning six of their last eight. That set the tone for their first-round series sweep of the Indiana Pacers. 

Those tough times, Baynes recalls, became a necessary catalyst for future success. He predicts that will once again come to fruition for the Celtics, with head coach Brad Stevens playing a prominent role in that turn-around. 

“The best thing about it was, Brad really used it to get the team focused, get going, good runs after that,” Baynes said. “That was kind of, a number of those lulls turned into good stretches to finish out before the All-Star break and going into the playoffs.”

There was no mistaking Stevens' disappointment after Saturday's loss. His team once again came out slow and waited for the game to be too far out of hand before they began to play Celtics-like basketball.

The way Stevens sees it, the struggles of the moment are setting the table for success in the (near) future. 

“This will be a good stretch when we look back on it, because it’ll force improvement,” Stevens said. “It’ll force urgency on every detail. It’ll force the ‘do your job; for 48 minutes. And so that’s … these are never fun to go through. You know, it sucks, but these are usually what you look back on and say was a springboard for you.”

Baynes echoed similar sentiments.

“We had a couple of these things kind of spring-boarded us into good runs,” Baynes said. “I know they are going to do the same thing. They’ve shown over the course of the year. They’ll be able to get it going for sure.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Lakers, which begins Monday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.