It’s mid-October, and a lot of people are saying and writing a lot of things about the Celtics. Some of those things are accurate, some are not. So I’m here right now to set the record straight on a couple of early narratives:
1: The Celtics are not “old”
It’s easy to call them that because Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry are all between 34-36 years old. Those are all important players, but take a good look at the rest of the roster… Jason Collins, who’ll rarely play is 33, and Chris Wilcox is 30. That’s all the C’s have in the 30+ range. Everyone else is 27 or younger. The average age of the Celtics has gone from 29 to 27.6, and that doesn’t include the guys like Dionte Christmas or Jamar Smith who may or may not make the team.
A few players on the team are old. And yes, those are important players. But the majority of this team is actually in its basketball prime. Key players like Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, and Brandon Bass are all 26 or 27… which is athlete’s absolute physical prime.
The “old” reference is, itself, old. It’s not as true as it used to be.
2: They need to crash the boards more.
This is only half-true. The Celtics need to crash the DEFENSIVE glass more. During the 2011 playoffs, I wrote about how the Celtics sacrifice offensive rebounds for the sake of transition defense. It still holds true.
This, admittedly, is more of a direct response to John Hollinger blasting the C’s for their terrible offensive rebounding numbers (insider link). But it’s also not uncommon to link the C’s offensive rebounding in with the overall shoddy rebounding numbers.
The truth of the matter is, the Celtics need to make sure they’re preventing other teams from wearing them down by grabbing more DEFENSIVE rebounds. I went on a little mini-rant about this on Twitter yesterday… but if you didn’t see it, here’s the gist of it:
The Celtics worst moments over the past few years have almost always included their opponents crashing the offensive glass and extending possessions or scoring off misses when there should have been stops. It started, really, in the 2010 Finals Game 7… and it extends all the way to Game 7 of the ECF last year when Miami got late offensive rebounds to put the C’s away.
The rebounding HAS to get better, but not necessarily on the offensive end. The Celtics are a jump shooting team. All of their bigs are facing the basket and taking 15-20 footers. (a) that puts them in terrible rebounding position and (b) those rebounds tend to go long. If you crash from a horrible angle and the ball goes flying over your head, then the other team is off and running on the break.
If the Celtics played more of a post up game, then I’d say they should crash the boards more because rebounds off little jump hooks and post moves are short rebounds that can be batted around and tipped in. The risk of giving up the long rebound and being out of position is lessened. Until then, then I see no reason for the C’s to change their approach. Get back after long jumpers (unless you’re Rondo, maybe, and you can gamble a bit more because you’re faster and you don’t have to get all the way to the baseline) and attack a little more on post moves.
Defensive rebounding is where it’s at. If the C’s can end more possessions after the other team’s first shot, they’ll score more, and they won’t be as worn out from playing defense beyond 24 seconds so much.
3: Jeff Green does not suck
Green is becoming a victim of his contract. People see his contract, they say he’s not worth it, and proceed to list every deficiency in the world that he’s had. I’ve already explained how Danny had no choice with the contract, so I’m leaving that out of this discussion.
Again, Hollinger struck a nerve:
I can’t stress this enough: Green is 26 and played four full seasons in the league, and after all that time there’s no evidence he’s actually any good and considerable evidence that he’s a health risk. Yet he’s being paid like a second-tier star. This was, without a doubt, the worst contract of the summer.
I’m going to be nice here and simply state that you don’t average 14 points a game in the NBA and then deserve the line “there’s no evidence he’s actually any good.” I know some Hollinger disciple just rolled his eyes at my last line, but that simple, most basic statistic, is evidence that Green is good on at least SOME level. You can’t score in this league without being good at some level. There’s real evidence that Green IS at least kinda good. And after just four years, how are we going to make any determination about a player just hitting his prime?
As for the “considerable evidence that he’s a health risk,”…. where is that? A heart problem that has healed? Just because you don’t get to see it on an MRI and know that ligaments, tendons or muscles have repaired themselves doesn’t mean this hasn’t healed, or that he’s a risk to have it happen again. The Celtics have gone to the best experts and they’ve told him to play basketball.
As far as I’m concerned, I’m taking the word of medical professionals over the fears of members of the media. “Considerable health risk” is a gross overstatement of what’s happened.
The truth about Jeff Green is he’s got work to do, but he’s been decent over his first four years. Not great, but not terrible, and certainly better than the hyperbole people throw out there when destroying his contract. The first two preseason games have gone well for Green, and we’ll see if that continues. But the criticism of him has been overly harsh because people are blinded by contract numbers.
Those, my friends, are three truths about the Celtics so far. How they impact the season is yet to be determined. And while you may read differently elsewhere, these are the facts.