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.
Among the factors easiest to pinpoint for the slide is the absence of Marcus Smart, whose anger would be helpful now but most certainly wasn’t when he punched a picture in his hotel room on Jan. 24 in Beverly Hills and lacerated his right hand on the frame.
We caught up with him late Wednesday night, and he has progressed to the point where all he’s beating up now is himself. Smart knows his actions have deprived his team of an important and badly needed element, and he admitted he hasn’t let the Marcus Smart from the hotel room off the hook.
I’ve been on myself pretty bad,” he said, “especially when I have to just sit back there and watch those guys struggle — and there’s nothing I can do. But we’ve got the break coming up. We’ve got to come back and be ready.”
In eight of the 11 games he has missed, the Celtics have given up more points than their season average. They’ve surrendered 105.6 per outing in that stretch, raising their overall allowance to 99.6 a night.
To be fair, however, the problems were coming to the surface prior to that. In the five games before Smart lost to the picture frame, the C’s gave up an average of 103.8 — and that’s even with holding Philadelphia to 89 in a nine-point loss in the Garden on January 18th.
While the Celtics were disintegrating this week, someone said Smart not playing has increased his value for his upcoming contract. Yeah … no.
Screwing up your team is not a good negotiating strategy. And how many strikes does Smart get? At some point, you have to realize you cannot continue to confront fans; whack Matt Bonner in the ‘nads; argue with your coaches; punch a hole in a wall; or flip off fans during a playoff game.
Please, Marcus, no more. Just get back out on the court and impact winning, okay?
On Page 2: Managing expectations
The Boston Celtics are not a good basketball team right now.
That’s a weird thing to say about a team with the fourth-best record in the league, but it is the ugly truth. The Celtics lost their third-straight game Wednesday night, a 129-119 drubbing by the Los Angeles Clippers, in which they allowed a season-high in total points for the second-straight game (121 vs. Cleveland on Sunday). Over the last month, Boston has dropped nine of their last 15 games, which has knocked them out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
The fact of the matter is we are seeing the flawed group many of us expected after Gordon Hayward went down on opening night. After a stellar first two months, we are seeing a regression to and below the mean. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have both fallen back to earth with their shooting and defense the past few weeks. Al Horford is an All-Star but he certainly looks like a 31-year-old a lot. Semi Ojeleye can defend, but he can’t shoot. Greg Monroe can score, but he can’t defend. Aron Baynes can’t stop fouling. Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier take too many shots. These issues don’t emerge every night, but they are becoming more prevalent lately on both sides of the court.
Boston Sports Journal: Robb: With Celtics skidding, Brad Stevens faces his biggest challenge
What if, before this season began, I had told you the Celtics would go to the All-Star break at 40-19? That’s a .678 winning percentage, which equates to 55 wins over a full season. You’d probably have been happy, right? Because the way I remember, most fans/bloggers/media were in that mid-50s range for their win predictions.
Then what if I had also told you the Cs would be 40-19 without Gordon Hayward? You probably would’ve been shocked and amazed.
So why is Celtics Nation bummed out today? Because of expectations.
The Cs have spent this entire season doing the unexpected, both good and bad. When Hayward was hurt, I figured they would still be a top-tier team, but all title hopes were out the window. Low expectations.
Then they won 16 straight. And then seven in a row. Epic comebacks became routine, Tatum was the second coming, and Brad was a lock for Coach of the Year. Expectations went through the roof, and we all started asking: When do the Finals start?
After beating the Sixers in London, Boston was 34-10 and comfortably on top of the East. Our expectations were so high that the debate became: can they win 60 games?
Since then, the Celts have lost nine of 15. They have twice lost three straight at home. This week, they allowed a total of 250 points in two dispiriting home losses on national TV. Toronto has blown past them and holds first place by two games, perhaps never to be caught. Our expectations have plunged through the floor.
When the season resumes, the Celtics are going to have to prove all over again that they are a top-tier team. I’m confident they will. But until then, I truly don’t know what to expect.
Related – NBC Sports Boston: Brad Stevens’ leadership will be vital to end Celtics’ struggles
And, finally… Is Janos
Danny Ainge responded to a dyed-in-green-wool Celtics fan on Twitter Wednesday, agreeing with the fan’s assessment of the time Ray Allen and Doc Rivers spent in Boston.
“Well said,” Boston’s general manager wrote.
And well said it was. Janos, the fan Ainge responded to, is something of a cult hero on Celtics Twitter. Janos tweets advice to the Boston players, abuse to the opposing team, and heartbreaking laments about Rajon Rondo to everyone else.
He doesn’t use perfect grammar or spelling, but Janos’s English isn’t broken. It’s beautiful.
It took a day for the media to catch up to this story. Janos might be a real person or he might be a spoof account, but either way his tweets are highly entertaining. If you’re familiar with Janos, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re on Twitter but don’t yet follow him, what are you waiting for?
The Rest of the Links:
NBC Sports Boston: Smart’s return would pay bigger dividends for C’s than Hayward one