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.
Comforting to know that Brad Stevens melted into an 11-year-old yesterday like the rest of us while reading Isaiah Thomas’ heartfelt goodbye to Boston (Rich Jensen covered that for us when the piece was published yesterday). For all of the accolades Brad gets for his basketball mind, his ability to get the best out of players (I.T. included) and his comportment under pressure, Stevens’ relationship-building often gets overlooked. Guys love playing for Stevens and he really enjoys getting to know them as men as well as athletes (no, I don’t know this for a fact, but just watch some of the clips of him coaching in the All-Star Game this past winter). Brad didn’t get a paragraph of devotion from Thomas, but there’s no doubt in I.T’s mind that he and these last two Celtics’ teams aren’t nearly as successful without the guy with the clipboard.
This one hurt Brad like I’m sure it hurt Danny and ownership. That’s probably the last that Stevens will really reflect on the trade until opening night when he looks down the court and sees Thomas in Cavs’ threads — even then he probably won’t, because he’ll be too focused on the game at hand. Because bottom line, as I.T. bluntly put it in his reflection, this is a business. But it’s good to see that player, coach, team and fan-base alike can take some time to process what happened.
On page 2, if you’re looking for Marcus Smart, he’s in the gym
Boston Celtics training camp won’t open until later this month, but we already have the first instance of #MuscleWatch, or, in this case, #WeightWatch.
That revelation means Smart played last season at close to 240 pounds, an outrageous weight for a point guard type thing (or whatever position you want to say he plays). Though he has a natural linebacker’s build, he needed to trim down, especially now that he won’t be used nearly as much at small forward.
How much could additional explosiveness help? Smart’s most obvious deficiency is 3-point accuracy, but he has also been missing juice on his way to the hoop. That’s partly why his free throw attempts (3.2 per game last season) and finishing within three feet (48.8 percent, according to Basketball-Reference.com) were both underwhelming for such a big, physical guard. He doesn’t achieve much separation off the bounce and has never had much burst near the rim; though he went wild from behind the arc during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, he also had too much trouble late in that series beating Cleveland’s bigs on switches.
Off-season reports of players in “the best shape of their lives” are always served best with a side of skepticism. I’m glad Marcus is taking the off-season seriously, and Jay King does a nice job of laying out what a loss of 20 pounds could do to Marcus’ still improving pro game.
I’ll believe it when I see it, though. Not the 20 pound weight loss, I don’t think you’re lying, Marcus, but more so what it means in game.
The biggest revelation out of all of this: Tommy Heinsohn was right when he called Smart out for being 15 pounds overweight. I’ll give him a +/- of 5 pounds. Good eye, Tommy.
And finally, Andrew Sharp, Celtics rebuild hater, dishes on the Irving trade
Over the past two years I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time wondering what the Celtics might do with their Nets picks. I don’t think I’m alone here. The Nets Pick Celtics were the perfect team for the basketball internet. Everything the Celtics accomplished in the moment was just a prelude to what might come next. Three years of Nets lottery picks put them at the center of every trade rumor, and they breathed life into arguments that sustained us for months on end. Questions like, “Should Boston be looking to own 2018 or 2025?” were asked in earnest, and every amateur GM had a different trade machine answer.
It was the rich man’s Process. It was perfect nonsense for a generation of basketball fans who are interested in team-building as they are actual teams. I miss it already.
Now that it’s over—Kyrie’s in Boston, and the latest Nets pick rumors are now emerging from Cleveland—let’s talk about what happened. Yes, there’s still a Lakers/Kings lottery pick twisting in the wind, a few more assets stowed away beyond that, and more rumors coming. But the Kyrie trade and the rest of the Celtics’ summer went a long way toward defining this team for the foreseeable future. It comes with positives, risks, and one twist that puts a perfect bow on the Nets Pick Era.
Sharp has been super critical of Danny Ainge’s patience since February. He was critical of the team’s draft and has been imploring the Cs to cash in. His piece in SI re-hashes plenty of the pros and cons of the Irving trade that we’ve all read in other places by now, but his argument (and title) that this was the only trade left for the Celtics is one with which I disagree. The plan has not been to with a championship this season– it’s to set this team up to compete for the long term while remaining competitive and getting better season by season. The Cs were set up to complete this exact aim without the Irving trade. They could have marched into the season with their load of picks and assets and waited once more. It’s not like at midnight the whole damn set of assets turns into a pumpkin– young players get better and new opportunities present themselves.
I’m excited (with some mixed emotions, of course) about the Irving trade and what’s to come, but let’s not act like Ainge’s hand was forced.
The rest of the links: