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.
They have enough talent to be really good. Hard to know if anyone is good enough to beat Golden State, but Boston certainly has a chance. Maybe a better shot than anyone else.
The challenge for Brad Stevens is making it come together. The Celtics coach backed up his boy-wonder coaching genius reputation last year by taking a team missing two stars to within a game of the NBA finals. Barring a similar run of injuries, Stevens has the opposite concerns. He’ll try to balance competition and chemistry.
Will winning keep everybody happy? Does the allure of a championship ring and hanging another banner in the Garden hold enough allure to produce a roster pulling in the same direction? There are guys on the roster, who’d certainly be starters on a lot of other teams. If things came together right, they might even be All-Stars.
Can Stevens convince them to subjugate their egos for the greater good, while keeping them ready to standout if called upon? It’s a delicate balance.
I look at it this way–Steve Kerr is not as good a coach as Brad Stevens is, and Bob Myers is not as good a GM as Danny Ainge is (luck has played a greater role in the assembly of this Warriors roster than appears at first glance: Durant’s on the team only because they had cap space due to Curry’s questionable ankles in his first free agent contract, and Draymond Green was a guess–their first pick that year was Harrison Barnes, the number 7 pick, two years younger than Green, and roughly the same size–plainly, they projected Green as nothing more than depth behind Barnes). Without those two guys, you’ve got ‘the splash brothers’ and … what, exactly?
So yeah, the Celtics have the opportunity to be really special.
And there’s probably not a team out there that has a better legacy to draw off of when it comes to outstanding individual talents that sacrificed their stats to be a part of something special.
Irving had a chance to spend some time chatting with Russell.
“If you ever had a chance to talk to him, he’s as cultured as they come,” Irving said. “As great a personality, knowledgeable and still doing it, showing up and supporting the Boston Celtics. He’s a Celtic for life. I wouldn’t be able to talk about the Celtics tradition without Bill Russell doing what he did and laying down a great foundation.”
And while Irving is used to having others take photos primarily to get a shot of him in the picture, it was he who became fanboy for a minute as he discussed how cool it was to have a picture taken with Russell.
“That opportunity,” Irving said, “I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Last season, John, Mike and I got to spend time putting together profiles of every Celtic with a retired number (or nickname). There is something of a consensus elsewhere in the league that the Celtics have ‘too many’ retired numbers. Why, they retired the number of pretty much every starter in the 60s.
However, go back and take a look at the players the Celtics had in those years. They had guys like Sam Jones, who might’ve been a legend on another team; instead he has had to content himself with the consolation prize of ten world championships and a string of epic clutch baskets. Guys like John Havlicek, who could’ve started for any team in the league including the Boston Celtics, embraced a bench role because it worked, and because they knew that the coach didn’t play favorites. If you were good, you played–and the coach decided when you’d play and it was as simple as that.
The Celtics have another coach in the same mold. It’s hard to imagine a coach with a different sideline demeanor than Red Auerbach, yet when it comes to basketball essentials, both got the most out of each individual player without turning the team into a bunch of individual players looking to pad their stats.*
That’s an incredibly rare skill–if you’re talking about coaches who have demonstrated that ability, you’re talking a shorter list than the lists usually drawn up for ‘GOAT’ players. If you say the jury’s still out on Stevens, you’re left with Pop and Red and… that’s it.
So yeah, it helps that the Celtics have a coach who knows where he fits in the organization–who doesn’t make it all about him (cough-PHILJACKSON-cough-cough-PATRILEY-cough-cough)**–and a team that not only has a legacy of giving up individual achievements (the Celtics won 8 consecutive titles and no individual Celtic ever even caught a whiff of a scoring title), but a legacy that they still keep very much around.
The Celtics have–through a variety of savvy moves–put themselves in position to be very good for a very long time (granted, a lot hinges on the next CBA and how much money the NBA manages to squeeze out of various casinos in exchange for privileged access to data). In the sort of minor details that some fans obsess over (i.e. where shots are taken from and whether players ‘look like plumbers’), the game has changed quite a bit since the 60s. But in its essentials, it really hasn’t. What worked then when it comes to managing people–and players are people first and foremost–still works today, because people haven’t changed.
*Except David Lee–who, I mean, geez. He was worse than Gerald Wallace, who I actually kind of liked, even though he was pretty beat up by the time he got to the Celtics.
**Yes, I hear you saying that Red Auerbach made it ‘all about him’, but find any one of his players that has a bad thing to say about how he treated them when he wasn’t on the sidelines making a spectacle of himself.
Page 2: Where Robert Williams wouldn’t have it any other way
A player picked at an arbitrary slot near the end of the lottery (we will go with 12th, for illustration purposes) makes significantly more. The rookie scale offers $2.67 million, with a maximum 120 percent of $3.21 million.
Spread out over three years, those numbers add up — 17 draft slots nearly cut a player’s potential salary in half.
Those numbers provide a little context to the question Boston Celtics rookie Robert Williams received at Celtics media day on Monday: Does he regret staying at Texas A&M for a second year, a decision which may have resulted in a precipitous drop in draft stock?
He does not.
“I’d do it the same way, man,” Williams said. “The same way. I’m here, like I said, around great coaches, great staff, great players, (expletive), great community. I feel like I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Williams — who was picked 27th by the Celtics in June after being projected in the mid-teens throughout the draft process — spent the summer living in an apartment two minutes from the practice facility, working out with Celtics trainers and coaches. He told reporters earlier this summer that Brad Stevens is one of the most hands-on coaches he has ever worked with.
If Williams does a good job on his rookie contract, you can pretty much guarantee that the money he lost by sliding back to the end of the first round will amount to little more than a rounding error on his next contract. But–as he’s about to find out–signing a million-dollar-a-year contract does not make you a millionaire. Not after nearly every state and city in the league hits you with a jock tax, not after your agent takes their 15%, and not after federal income tax. It certainly doesn’t give you enough money to satisfy the importunities of every relative and sketchy acquaintance who suddenly views you as their meal ticket.
At any rate, Williams is here and he’s ready to work:
“What I’ve seen from Robert is just a guy that’s come in and is working hard,” Al Horford said. “Right away, I feel like he understands what he’s stepping into, as far as the team dynamic and all the talent that we have here. He’s really done a good job of coming in, committing, working on his body, working on his game as much as he can, and just learn. I just see a willingness in him to learn and be better and that’s great to see.”
Finally: Evan Turner drops an ET-bomb
A thoroughly in-character tweet from the NBA’s king of dead-pan humor.