Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there's nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Through three games, the Celtics are 27th in Defensive Efficiency, and when you dig deeper it's an ugly 27th. Boston's opponents are shooting 49.6 percent from the floor; only Houston is worse, and the Rockets have only played one game.
They can't defend without fouling, either, as too many opponents are getting the ball at or near the rim and forcing desperate measures from the Boston defense. Celtics' opponents average .494 free throw attempts per field goal attempt through three games; only Dallas and Milwaukee have been worse. Boston fans aren't used to seeing all these whistles, but the simple reason is that opponents are getting the ball in much better positions than before.
Even the Celtics' good stats are bad. Boston opponents have only tried 14 3-pointers per game, the league's fifth-lowest rate. Why bother when it's so easy to get layups and free throws?
Can the Celtics right the ship with the current personnel, or does Doc Rivers need to shake up the rotation?
Instead, these past three games shone a spotlight on the failings of the Celtics' supporting cast. I expected Boston would get more out of Jermaine O'Neal this season and that Avery Bradley would step up to be a rotation-worthy player; both those assumptions now appear to have been wildly optimistic. O'Neal has 13 fouls and three blocks to show for his 60 minutes, while his offense has been anemic. The Celtics almost certainly need to make a change here, starting Brandon Bass, getting more run for rookie JaJuan Johnson and limiting O'Neal's minutes to backup center duty.
As for Bradley, his offensive numbers in the D-League last year were cause for concern, and his output for the Celtics has been similarly puny. He has no points and one rebound in three games, and has already lost his rotation spot to rookie second-round pick E'Twaun Moore.
Boston's other moves to fill in the gaps have also fallen short thus far. Marquis Daniels looks like he lost some zip as a result of last season's back injury. Chris Wilcox may help the offense but doesn't defend and is injured. And apologies if I'm taking out the dead horse for another beating, but Sasha Pavlovic is still terrible. Things are so bad that Boston fans have their hopes pinned on Mickael Pietrus to save the day.
Doc's first order of business is to bench Jermaine O'Neal. Who gets the starting nod? Starting Brandon Bass will severly impact the offensive production of the second unit. Greg Stiemsma is raw, but can he really play any worse than JO? I'd plug-in Steimsma and see what happens.
What do Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge see in Sasha Pavlovic? They may be the only two men who think he can play legitimate minutes in the NBA. I know he's been forced into the spotlight because of the Pierce injury, but I question his inclusion on this roster. There had to be somebody better out there.
I don't expect Doc to adjust his rotation until Paul Pierce returns. If the team's defense remains woeful even with the Truth, then Doc needs to pull the trigger on some major moves.
On Page 2, the schedule gets a lot softer.
The Celtics' next five games are against Detroit, Washington (back-to-back, home-and-away), New Jersey and Indiana. The only road game is the New Year's night affair in Washington. They should be no worse than 4-4 at that point and really should be 5-3. Even better for the Celtics, after their game against Indiana on Jan. 6, they do not play again until Jan. 11.
That stretch of no games in five days is a veritable mother lode for Rivers and his staff, if for no other reason than it may provide them with their first days of practice since the start of the season. The stretch will (hopefully) give Mickael Pietrus time to integrate with his new team. It will (hopefully) give Paul Pierce time to integrate with his old team. It will (definitely) give those who need a rest some time to actually get some downtime. (Right now, that looks like everyone but JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore.)
Wait, there's more. Starting with Friday's game against Detroit, the Celtics play 19 of their next 25 at home. If they can't right the ship with a favorable stretch like that, a period that includes nine games against Washington, Toronto, Cleveland and (I know they're better, but … ) the Pacers, then everyone should just bookmark Chad Ford's 2012 Mock Draft as your home page and start watching college games. There are some really good games in that stretch as well, all at home (Chicago, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Orlando and the Lakers.)
Sure, the Celtics immediate schedule is friendly. But payback is looming. Just wait until March and April.
The rest of the links:
Herald – Garnett to get limited stake in Roma soccer club | Pierce very close to return | CSNNE – Ricky Davis starts NBA comeback | Worcester T&G – Celtics seek 1st win vs Detroit | CBS – Pistons/Celtics preview |