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.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Rajon Rondo was a rookie member of the 2006-07 Celtics team that lost 18 straight games.
The streak remains a franchise record, and as Rondo has watched this year’s team struggle through its ongoing eight-game slump while recovering from knee surgery, his words are strangely soothing. His teammates don’t have it as bad as he once did.
The Celtics have to cling to that now, coming off an 0-5 road trip through the Western Conference (they’ll return against a weaker collection of teams in February), stuck in their eight-game slide, and losers of 11 of their last 12 games.
Hope is a tool right now. Hope is what comes through in the voice of Avery Bradley as he attempts to make sense of all this losing.
“He’s one of the most positive guys in the locker room,” Bradley said of Rondo. “It’s hard to go through adversity. But veterans like him, Gerald (Wallace) and Keith (Bogans) are keeping us together.
“We all believe that we can turn this thing around. We can turn around and win (eight) in a row. . . . We would love to have Rondo back, but the main thing for him is to get healed all the way. We’re his brothers and we want him to be 100 percent.”
The Celtics didn’t quite take the road we thought to 13-25 and the fifth-worst record in the NBA mid-way through January, but this is pretty much where we thought they’d be.
The Celtics are currently oh-for-January, but the potential exists for a 5-and-5 finish to the month (Philly, Washington, Orlando, the Lakers, and Toronto all seem like possible wins to me), and that might be better if Rajon Rondo returns this month and makes an immediate impact.
Rondo is Andy Dufresne because like Andy in that scene, we can’t get the visions of him dropping spectacular dimes all over the floor out of our heads either. Like Andy, those images provide us hope that there’s something on the outside of this eight-game slide… that there’s something out there that will make us feel alive this season (at least something out there that will wear an NBA uniform before July Summer Leagues). And, like Andy, we know that he’s getting out of his prison of knee rehabilitation. He’s going to break free at some point and stand at center court again… hands raised… as cheers rain down upon him.
For now, though, we have the hope. And this season especially, hope is a dangerous thing.
Page 2: Bayless is shaking up the entire backcourt picture
There’s no doubt that Lee was having an excellent individual season, shooting at career-high rates from the field and beyond the arc. But the numbers suggested the bench didn’t thrive when Lee was on the floor. As the team prepares for Jordan Crawford to shuffle to a reserve role with the impending return of Rajon Rondo, Lee and his bloated contract became expendable.
Enter Bayless, who in four games since joining the Celtics has handed out 17 assists. By comparison, Lee had 16 assists in the entire month of December.
[...] Along with Rondo’s return, Bayless’ arrival will diminish playing time for rookie Phil Pressey, who logged a rare DNP versus Golden State but played 11 minutes against Portland on a back-to-back. If backcourt minutes clog up, you can’t help but wonder if the Celtics would consider time for Pressey in the D-League to improve confidence in his shot and offer increased game reps. Pressey has been a quality defender and has the potential to be a nice low-cost depth option moving forward.
Bayless, meanwhile, is on his fifth NBA team in six seasons, a career path similar to that of the departed Lee. When he joined the Celtics, Bayless noted he would like to establish some roots with a team.
Even with his expiring deal, Boston will have a chance to retain Bayless this summer. At the right price, he could be a quality backup option. The Celtics have had success recently shaping combo guards and finding ways for them to thrive, whether it’s been Terrence Williams or Crawford.
The addition of Bayless certainly changes the dynamic of the C’s backcourt. There’s no doubt he’s an upgrade over Pressey, who is a half a foot shorter (at least), and nowhere near the shooter. I appreciate what Pressey has done, and I know the Celtics have a soft spot for him, but if Bayless ends up staying, then Pressey is going.
So might Crawford, who might go from starting point guard to DNP in short order upon Rondo’s return. At the very least, his 31 minutes a game will be whittled down significantly. Bayless will have the opportunity to build some continuity with the second unit and work his way into the back-up point guard role that seemed to be destined for Crawford.
But the Crawford that won the Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors is gone. His shooting has dropped, his decision-making has suffered, and his declining performance has a direct correlation to the team’s dive in the standings.
Enter Bayless, who at least has the shot to back up Rondo whenever Rondo returns, sliding Crawford back to the two, where he could potentially shoot his way out of the rotation. Once Rondo gets back up to his normal 30+ minutes per game, he and Avery Bradley will be playing a bulk of the minutes at guard, potentially leading to a mostly three-guard rotation (especially on nights where Brad Stevens decides to go big more often with Jeff Green at the two). The fourth guard, whomever it might be, might be lucky to see more than 10 minutes some nights.
The logjam at guard still exists. There isn’t enough room for all of them to get the playing time they feel they deserve. The question now becomes this:
Has Jerryd Bayless’ arrival shaken up the situation so significantly that it ultimately phases Jordan Crawford out of the lineup, or will it be Bayless who sees his minutes dwindle once the Celtics get their true point guard back?
Thanks, Jared Sullinger, for starting to pick up KG’s slack not only on the boards, but in the food analogy department:
“When I was younger, two years ago, I would hold on to [the losses],” Sullinger said. “Now you just learn from it. You go into the next game with a clear mind. Every game has a different flavor to it. It’s not all the same Kool-Aid. So you just have to keep playing hard.”
The rest of the links: