Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Consider coach Scott Skiles’ description of one such stretch.“They’ve got big, strong guys that blow right through things,” he said. “We hung in a little bit in the third, and then (it went) turnover basket, missed coverage/basket, missed coverage/basket, timeout and now we are in trouble.”
Those runs, especially by Boston’s bench, were characteristic of the Celtics’ best play early in the season. Last night the team’s depth, cohesion and defense combined to bust the game wide open in the second half.
Boston has now won eight of its last ten games, stretching back to a Wednesday, January 13, game against the Pacers.
Over that period, the Celtics’ play has gotten increasingly better. There seems to be a number of reasons for this: Marcus Smart’s health has improved steadily over that period, Brad Stevens–to his credit–has tightened the rotations and effectively Doc Rivers’ed RJ Hunter and James Young, and overall the team appears to have developed a winning mindset.
During the long slump that preceded this positive stretch there was much talk about the Celtics roster needing to be overhauled and that maybe the team really wasn’t very good. I think the past couple weeks have shown that the Celtics can indeed be very good–when they are focused on the task at hand and playing cohesively.
Time will tell if this team will continue to put in the work needed to win consistently, but the seven games leading up to the All Star break include five definitely winnable contests (Orlando, New York, Detroit, Sacramento and Milwaukee) and two tougher contests (Cleveland and the Clippers). If the C’s take five of seven, they’ll enter the All Star break nine games over .500 and likely on target for a top four seed and home court advantage in at least the first round of the playoffs.
Page 2: Do Celtics fans like Crowder too much?
A (probably very small) subset of Cs fans don’t seem to get that to get a star player, you have to trade, like, real stuff.
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) January 29, 2016
My point being that it’s not unrealistic for Crowder to come back even better next season. He’s 25 and improved tremendously in one summer.
— Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) January 29, 2016
Zach Lowe’s tweet was tied to his suggestion that trading Bradley, Crowder, two picks and big for Blake Griffin would be a good deal for everyone concerned. My theoretical boss on this blog, Chuck, laid out his support for the trade yesterday. The question Zach implies is an interesting one, though. Do Celtics fans overvalue Jae Crowder?
First of all, seeing that he’s the only decent SF on the Celtics roster, I think the Celtics themselves are going to overvalue him. It will take a lot more to pry loose Jae Crowder than, say, Avery Bradley, I believe, because the Celtics have depth at Bradley’s position. They don’t at Jae’s.
Secondly, Jae has improved steadily since the Celtics acquired him, and he’s only 25 years old. I think it’s way too soon to say that he’s peaked and that the Celtics are in position to ‘sell high’ on him. We’re not talking about a somewhat flaky guy with an iffy track record like say Jordan Crawford; every indication we have is that Crowder’s got his head on straight and that he puts in the work needed to improve his game. I don’t like picking current or past players and saying, “_____ is his ceiling,” because every player is different. But I can tell you that I don’t like the idea of trading out a guy like Crowder for anything less than the foundational piece of a championship team.
I just don’t see Blake Griffin as that kind of a player. Put another way, I don’t know if you’re going to win a championship if Blake Griffin is the best player on your team. I tend to see him as being somewhat like Carmelo Anthony–a guy who can deliver impressive numbers but who usually fails to make his teammates better.
Page 3: Jordan Mickey’s also an All-Star
“I think really highly of Jordan,” Stevens said of Boston’s third selection in this year’s draft. “I was disappointed that he came down with the ankle sprain because I think he’s got a lot of good things going for him and has been really consistent up [in Maine] every single night. I think the biggest thing about Jordan that you’ll all see more of down the road is he is a consistent personality. He works the same way and he doesn’t change his demeanor. He’s going to play the same way in Sioux Falls in a D-League as he will when he gets his opportunity in the NBA.”
Mickey seems to understand his situation and, unlike some young players who struggle to embrace the opportunity the D-League affords, has embraced the chance to develop and showcase his talents.
“Coming in, I figured I wasn’t going to get a lot of playing time, and I was going to have to go into the D-League and work anyways,” said Mickey. “Hard work is nothing new to me. I’ll go work to get better, listen to what the coaches tell me [in Boston], and implement it [in Maine].”
Okay, first off, you don’t need to big-time my home town, Brad! Sioux Falls–and South Dakota in general–have a pretty solid basketball tradition. Amusingly, the NBADL team in Sioux Falls, the Skyforce, are only a year younger than their NBA affiliate, the Miami Heat and are easily the oldest team in the NBADL.
But enough about that. Where was I? Oh yes. Jordan Mickey. Jordan Mickey who is one-half of the return on the Jordan Crawford trade, is going to be in the NBADL All-Star game played on the same weekend as the NBA All-Star game, as part of the NBA’s belief that no minute of All-Star weekend should be left without a basketball activity of some sort.
Mickey has a real opportunity to show the value of the D-League if he’s able to progress into a legitimate NBA player by rounding out his skills through extensive play at that level.
I used to think that the best way for college players to prep for the pro game was to stay in college, but I’m starting to rethink that. College basketball is increasingly an old man’s game played by young men. The resistance to rule changes that would bring the men’s game closer to the NBA (women’s teams switched from halves to quarters and got rid of the one-and-one this year–that’ll probably happen with the men sometime around 2050), and the resistance of elderly college coaches to playing ‘pro-style’ offenses may very well hinder the development of professional-caliber players. For players like Mickey, Rozier, and James Young it may be time to stop stigmatizing D-League assignments.
The rest of the links
CSNNE: Disappearing act (game recap) | Celtics bench ‘the difference’ vs. Magic with 62 points | Thomas: ‘Fun’ playing in front of good friend Mayweather | Stars, studs and duds: Thomas gets teammates involved