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.
Tatum, who turned 22 in March, vaulted toward the upper tier of stardom and was a third-team All-NBA performer. He averaged 23.4 points and 7 rebounds during the regular season and took his game to a new level after the All-Star break, when he connected on a blistering 46 percent of shots beyond the arc.
The Celtics outscored opponents by 10.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the court, a net rating that was more than 3 points better than those of Jaylen Brown and Walker. His scoring bursts received most of the attention, but Tatum also has emerged as a very good defender, and his passing skills have improved. That will be important as he faces more frequent blitzes and double teams in the coming years.
This week some beat writers wrote their reviews of the Celtics’ season. For the most part, those reviews were positive. It’s easy to forget that expectations were lowered when the Cs lost two starters and three rotation players last summer, but Boston still came within two wins of the Finals.
In that light, they actually overachieved – even though it doesn’t feel that way after being eliminated by the lower-seeded Miami Heat. That was a bad ending to a pretty good season, and the ending is all that truly matters.
Maybe the Celtics just weren’t ready yet. In the playoffs, teams with experience usually prevail. As detailed in Chuck’s recent post, the Celtics this season were the youngest team in the playoffs and the least experienced of all 30 NBA teams.
However, now the young core has been to three conference finals and the older guys, Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward, have been to their first. If they use what they learned, next time should be better.
Boston could also use one season with good health. Gordon Hayward, Kemba Walker, Rob Williams and Romeo Langford all missed major time this season with injuries. Who knows where the Cs might be right now if Gordon and Kemba had been 100% for the entire playoffs? Possibly they’d still be in the bubble.
Next season’s squad could look very much like this year’s. Almost every player is already under contract, except for Brad Wanamaker, Hayward (who has a player option and isn’t likely to turn down $34 million), and Enes Kanter (player option, $5 million). What they need to add is a veteran bench player who can provide leadership (think James Posey); a reliable back-up big man (Aron Baynes is a free agent, although maybe Robert Williams can become this player, if he figures out what Brad Stevens wants from him); and bench scoring, especially an explosive 3-point shooter (think Eddie House).
But maybe this is when Danny Ainge finally rolls the dice.
If stars become available, the Celtics still have the pieces to swing a big trade, although doing so could hurt feelings among fans in Boston.
But worrying about hurt feelings isn’t Ainge’s job. The Celtics are a contender in that they can realistically expect to get to the Eastern Conference finals, where anything might happen. Ainge’s job, in part, is to turn the Celtics into a team that can realistically expect to get to the NBA Finals, where anything might happen.
The Celtics are close, perhaps just one piece away. Ainge’s job is to figure out what that one piece might be and acquire it. Few people are more up to the task. Few tasks are harder to accomplish.
“We’ve got some work to do,” Ainge said. “No question about it. I’m not overreacting to a tough loss to a good opponent. I’m just saying that there’s some things we tried to do, we’d like to do at the trade deadline that we weren’t able to do, and there’s some things I’d like to be able to do now, this offseason, to make our team better. But we have a lot to do.”
Being realistic, three ECF losses in four years is probably this group’s ceiling. It makes sense that Ainge might make a trade to reach the next level, as long as it doesn’t include The Jays or Marcus Smart. Therefore, yes, I’d be OK with trading Kemba (cold, but not as cold as Isaiah Thomas) or Gordo (if he opts in, he could leverage a new contract).
But Danny, whatever you do … don’t screw it up.
Related – NBC Sports Boston: Forsberg: Was Stevens’ season a success or failure? It’s more complicated than that | Heavy.com: Should Celtics Pursue DeMarcus Cousins? | Boston Sports Journal: The Celtics are going to be a tax team in 2020-21 — what that means for their offseason options
On Page 2: Lakers should thank the Celtics
The Lakers won last night (sad emoji) to take a 2-0 lead in the Finals (angry emoji), and it now seems inevitable that LA will emerge from the bubble with the NBA championship (angry and cursing emoji). The Heat were underdogs anyway, but losing two starters to injury has doomed them.
It was painful to type out that paragraph, and even more painful to know that for the second time in the last 24 seasons the Lakers have managed to team up two top-five players. Shaq and Kobe were acquired by the brilliant Jerry West, but this time it happened in spite of LA’s inept front office.
Simply, LeBron wanted to be in the movie business, and Anthony Davis wanted to play with LeBron. So the Lakers, who missed the playoffs the past six years, are going to win it all just because they play near Hollywood. And their entitled fans think it was because of Lakers exceptionalism.
In yesterday’s Dump, Rich Jensen gave you the lowdown about how the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t actually on their way to their 17th championship. So here’s a different part of their history.
The Lakers moved to LA from Minneapolis in 1960. They inexplicably kept their nickname, even though Minnesota has nearly 12,000 lakes and LA has just 22. Anyway, in their first decade, they made the Finals seven times – and lost all of them. Six of those seven losses were to the Celtics.
Lakers fans love to remind Celtics fans that most Boston titles came in those olden days, when the league having fewer teams supposedly made it easy to win. But if it was easy, why couldn’t they beat the Celtics? If they had done it even once, they’d now have more rings than the Cs.
It wasn’t until 1972 that the LA Lakers finally won a title. What changed? They hired two former Celtics stars, Bill Sharman as head coach and KC Jones as assistant coach (the first ever in the entire NBA). With the Boston influence guiding them, they went 69-13, had a 33-game winning streak, and rolled through the postseason with 12 wins and just three losses.
So remember, if any Lakers fan gives you crap about championships, inform them that they couldn’t win until the Celtics taught them how.
And, finally… Bubbling over (well, almost)
Spruell was responsible for overseeing the development of the league’s competitive format of 22 teams, which included individual workouts at team facilities, travel to the bubble, team practices, scrimmages, seeding games, postseason play-in games and the traditional playoffs. He led orientation sessions with players, head coaches and staff from all 22 participating teams and the officiating staff. And he said he has had well over 100 meetings over the past several months, including with all 30 NBA general managers, representatives from the players association and the competition advisory group.
The playoffs have, at most, five games remaining (eh, probably just two), and it looks like the NBA is going to pull off a successful bubble. Shoutout to the league, from top to bottom, for getting it done with apparently only a couple of breaches and zero positive cases of COVID-19.
If only the White House had asked for some tips.
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