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.
Two nights after holding the Warriors, the highest scoring team in the league, to 86 points, the Celts dribbled into Denver and found their Kryptonite. The Nuggets slowed considerably in the last quarter, but they still burned the Bostonians in a 119-99 beating.
The wire-to-wire loss left the C’s with a 2-3 road trip.
After talking a great deal about how they needed to do a better job valuing the basketball and not giving away possessions, the Celtics promptly left the lessons in the dressing room. They turned the rock over on three of the first six times they got their hands on it. That led to the Nuggets scoring the game’s first five points, and the C’s were again in chase position from the get-go.
For the first quarter, they gave it up five times for seven Denver points, which covers most of the Celts’ 35-25 deficit after 12 minutes. The rest can pretty well be explained by an inability to stay with Wilson Chandler.
Over the last six games, your Boston Celtics beat the Cavs, the Lakers and the Warriors by a combined 37 points–and lost to the Clippers, Suns and Nuggets by a combined 37 points.
The Celtics are unquestionably better than they were last year. However, they are far from where they need to be, as their three losses on this road trip demonstrated. It may be tempting to blame last night’s loss to the Nuggets on altitude, or the end of the road trip, to act as though the schedule beat the Celtics and not Denver. It wouldn’t be the first time such a silly argument has been made. But doing so ignores the fact that the Celtics looked equally helpless and hapless against the Nuggets in Boston.
There are teams Boston just does not match up well against, like Denver, and there are games where Boston does not do what they need to do to win–against Phoenix and the Clippers they gave up leads, and against Phoenix, in particular, they were more or less owned by a team whose greatest accomplishment this season will be their draft pick.
Bottom line: the C’s are not a complete team. They have had multiple opportunities over the last week to pick up ground on Cleveland for the number one seed in the east, and have not done so. Regardless of whether the Celtics are capable of drawing the number one seed, at least thus far, they’ve shown that when push comes to shove, they are not number one seed material. Of course, things may change for the better, and if they do, you won’t hear me complaining.
Page 2: Where Larry Sanders and Omri Casspi are coming back, but do the Celtics care?
I don’t get paid enough to decide whether Sanders or Casspi are worth pursuing.
There were conflicting reports last night about Sanders. The connected folks at Yahoo said that Sanders was hammering out a deal with the Cavs, while LeBron James spokesman Brian Windhorst countered with a tweet saying that the Cavs were looking at multiple players and had not decided on Sanders.
One thing I would expect if the Celtics were to sign either of these guys: They will secure a second year team option on the contract. Whether Casspi is an upgrade over Jerebko, I couldn’t say; nor can I say whether Sanders would be better than Zeller. It seems unlikely that either would be initially, given that they’d have to learn Boston’s schemes at a point in the year when practice time is all but nonexistent. If Ainge signs either of these guys it won’t be primarily about this year, although helping on the stretch run is undoubtedly a consideration.
Page 3: Where the Dancing Bear is coming to the states and may even play basketball here
Boston Celtics draft pick Guerschon Yabusele is headed stateside soon after concluding his season in China but whether he plays for the Maine Red Claws has not been decided.
Yabusele averaged 20.9 points and 9.4 rebounds during his lone season in China, but because of the competition level it’s tough to predict how that performance will translate in the NBA. As somebody recently described the league to me, each CBA team has two imports who essentially play 2-on-2 against the opponent’s imports while their teammates act like “traffic cones.”
After a year in that setting, Yabusele could benefit from some D-League experience. A short stretch there would also give the Celtics a better opportunity to gauge what they have.
The Celtics picked Yabusele ahead of Zizic, which suggests they saw more potential with him than with a guy who’s gotten rave reviews in Europe.
The main draw with Yabusele seems to be his athleticism, because other than that, who knows anything at all about him? Essentially, Yabusele is a gamble–one that the Celtics could easily afford, having three first round picks last year. It may be too much to expect that the Celtics hit on all three first rounders last year, but if they do, well it’ll be fun to watch the Celtics for the next several years.
Finally: Indulge me in a little celebration of my alma mater’s basketball team
Started the season 1-5, started the conference schedule 1-6, but are riding a six game winning streak. They’re not going to make it out of the round of 64, but it’s been fun (or, I should say, it was eventually fun) watching them figure things out under a rookie head coach.
The rest of the links
Game recaps (for those who want to be reminded of the steaming pile of basketball the Celtics left in Denver)
Boston Globe: Celtics rest on laurels in loss to Nuggets