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.
As we all know, this has been a “wow!” type week for the Celtics franchise, with winning both a Game 7 and the Draft Lottery, then hosting Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. OK, that last one didn’t go so well. But let’s look at the three key topics that have all of Celtics Nation talking. First, the Cavs:
But it’s not a given that Green’s more youthful teammates understand what it means to be in the Conference finals.
That’s why Green has spent the past couple days emphasizing how valuable it is to have a heightened sense of urgency for this series which for some players, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“We shouldn’t be happy to be here,” Green told CSNNE.com. “We should want to take it to the next level. We should be excited we get to go against one of the greatest players of all time and maybe one of the greatest teams. We should be thankful about this opportunity; be excited and not just happy to be here.
Green added, “Happy to be here is not the mentality we need to have. We earned our way to be here. We earned the right to be the top seed. We need to make it a competition instead of looking like were happy to be here.”
“I’m very confident (about Game 2),” Thomas said after a Celtics film session Thursday afternoon. “Because I am. I believe in these guys. We’re not scared of Cleveland. They’re not the Monstars. They’re not on Space Jam. Like, they lace up their shoes just like us. They just happened to play better than us in Game 1, and we’ve just got to protect home court in Game 2 and get the win.”
If the Cavs are not going to let Thomas beat them, Brad Stevens needs to ensure he has the necessary shooting on the floor to make the Cavs pay for that attention. Don’t be surprised to see more offensive-minded players (Gerald Green) with more minutes in Game 2 or a smaller wing inserted into the starting five in place of Amir Johnson. Ultimately though, it comes down to execution. The Celtics fought their way into the Eastern Conference Finals largely based on their ability to make the Bulls and Wizards pay with the 3-ball. If they want to have a chance against the Cavs, they need to shoot confidently on uncontested looks from the opening tip.
Even if you’re so die-hard that you paint your face green on game days, you probably still didn’t pick the Celtics to beat Cleveland in the ECF. The Cavs are loaded, they’re the defending champs, and they have one of the greatest players to ever lace up sneakers. Home-court advantage? Irrelevant to LeBron.
Being realistic, we all knew that getting through two playoff rounds was the ceiling for this current Celtics squad. They need another top player or two, plus a whole lot more experience, before they can have legitimate championship aspirations.
Unfortunately, Monday night proved that. All the Celtics’ flaws came out in an ugly loss, made worse by the Cs displaying a mysterious lack of confidence. The major disappointment was not so much the loss, but the failure to compete.
But look at the quotes above, and you can find some optimism for Game 2. The Celtics are appreciating this opportunity and are not going to back down. They played better in the second half of Game 1 than they did in the first half. Perhaps they can build on that, especially if they accomplish the four things listed in the Boston.com article (the main one being: knock down the open shots).
At least that’s what we’re going to cling to tonight. Now excuse me while I go paint my face.
ESPN Boston – Isaiah Thomas: Being counted out ‘nothing new’ for Celtics
Boston.com – Behold, the lowest moments from the Celtics’ Game 1 destruction by LeBron’s Cavs | Jaylen Brown is the Celtics’ silver lining from a dark Game 1 | If Celtics added Paul George or Jimmy Butler right now, could they beat Cavs in this series? | Boston Public Library used book spine ‘smack talk’ to defend the Celtics’ playoff loss against Cleveland
Providence Journal – Crowder looks to bounce back after LeBron takes him to the cleaners in Game 1
CBS Boston – What To Watch For: Celtics-Cavaliers Game 2
On Page 2: The Draft
Both Thomas and Fultz are University of Washington products and have crossed paths on campus there in recent years. They both have said in the past that they could coexist in the same backcourt at the NBA level.
“He’s excited,” Thomas said. “I mean, he obviously doesn’t know where he’s going, but … he’s excited about the opportunity.”
Thomas said Fultz inquired about the culture of the Celtics organization, to which Thomas has offered insight into how things work.
“He asks questions; I answer them,” Thomas said. “He’s a good friend of mine. If it happens, we’ll figure out how to play together. If not, we’ll go from there.”
It seems like fate that the Celtics finally won the Draft Lottery this year. Markelle Fultz is the consensus top pick, he and IT have the U. of W. connection, and Fultz has given every indication that he wants to come to Boston. He’s the anti-Lonzo.
The talk now is whether the Celtics should draft Fultz or trade the pick – but according to Wyc Grousbeck, a trade is decidedly unlikely.
Agreeing with that approach is the most informed member of NBA media, Adrian Wojnarowski. Woj and his Vertical team discussed the trade-or-draft question, and their conclusions echoed what we say regularly here at Red’s Army and on the Locked On Celtics podcasts: Be patient.
Here’s the money quote from Woj:
“They’ve been able to do something pretty rare in this league: win in the present and preserve your future. They haven’t had to go all in … and give up draft picks and young players to go for it. Other teams in this league are waiting out Cleveland and Golden State. Boston can tread water here for a couple more years … Jimmy Butler or even Paul George doesn’t guarantee they get by Cleveland. They can keep these young assets, develop a No. 1 pick this year, a No. 1 pick next year, and try to go out in free agency and get Hayward, which is their number one focus, I’m told. Boston has played this just right. This is as good of a rebuild – textbook – as anyone has done in the league, what Danny Ainge has done over the last four years.”
If you have five minutes, watch the entire discussion below (or click here for the video on The Vertical site). It’s worth it.
CSNNE – O’Connor: Why Markelle Fultz Earns No. 1 Overall Ranking (video)
MassLive – Boston Celtics NBA Draft 2017: Markelle Fultz asking Isaiah Thomas about team; Thomas, Al Horford trusting Danny Ainge | Markelle Fultz didn’t make varsity team as sophomore at DeMatha Catholic High School
On Page 3: Free Agency
Gordon Hayward — The former Butler star fell just short of a spot on the All-NBA third-team, so the Utah Jazz won’t be able to offer him the super max that could have been worth up to five years and $207 million this summer. Instead, they’ll be limited to 30 percent of the salary cap, just like his free agent suitors, with the added carrot of offering a fifth year (the Celtics and other suitors can only offer four). Essentially, with the super max off the table, Hayward has a lot less to lose financially by leaving town, giving the C’s and other suitors a more realistic chance of recruiting the swingman. Hayward has a player option for the 2017-18 season, but he’s highly expected to opt out and hit the open market this summer.
As Woj stated in the Page 2 item, it appears the Cs will go all out to sign Brad Stevens’ former Butler star. If Ainge can accomplish that, it will be the best of both worlds: keep the top draft pick to grab Fultz and add one of the league’s best young wings without trading anyone. Roster adjustments will be necessary for salary cap purposes, and Ainge will have some decisions to make. But picture the core of today’s team, supplemented by Hayward and Fultz, meeting the Cavs in next year’s playoffs. Who says no?
Well, other than Jazz fans.
The Ringer – Five Takeaways From the All-NBA Team Announcement