NBA Exec Surprised by Celtics: ‘They’re Stuck in Neutral…Maybe Going Backwards’
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
It wasn’t that long ago the Boston Celtics seemed primed to compete for titles for years with the core of Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but the former is no longer on the roster and the team as a whole lost in the first round last season after reaching three of the previous four Eastern Conference Finals.
Boston is also 10-8 this season after an inconsistent start.
“I can’t believe this whole era for them hasn’t really worked,” a league executive said, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “They’re stuck in neutral—and maybe going backwards.”
Despite the pessimism from that executive, Boston has played well of late even though Brown has appeared in just nine games this season.
A three-game losing streak dropped it to 2-5 on Nov. 1, but it is 8-3 since and is riding the momentum of a three-game winning streak that includes a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
It has moved the Celtics into the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, although they are just three games out of the No. 1 seed and could charge up the standings if they continue playing so well.
Tatum’s individual dominance has been a big reason for the turnaround, and he has scored 30 or more points in four straight games while averaging 8.5 rebounds a night during that span.
Still, Bontemps illustrated the big-picture concerns for a team that entered the 2018-19 campaign with Irving, Brown, Tatum, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris Sr.
Since then, Irving, Horford and Morris all left as free agents, although Horford is back. Promising draft picks from the Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies became Romeo Langford and Aaron Nesmith. Rozier was dealt to the Charlotte Hornets in a sign-and-trade for Kemba Walker, who was unable to lead the Celtics to the NBA Finals either and is now on the New York Knicks.
What’s more, Brad Stevens is no longer the coach and is instead the president of basketball operations.
“Ultimately, you can’t keep losing—albeit flawed—All-Star talent like Kyrie, Gordon, Kemba, Horford,” an Eastern Conference scout said. “That adds up.”
It will make competing with the likes of the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers and perhaps even upstarts like the Chicago Bulls all the more difficult come playoff time in the Eastern Conference even if Tatum is playing like one of the best players in the league.
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