Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Jaylen Brown’s injury-filled season is over.
The Celtics confirmed a Shams Charania report that Brown has a season-ending “Left Scapholunate Ligament Tear” (wrist) and tweeted Monday:
“This past weekend Celtics forward Jaylen Brown was diagnosed with a torn scapholunate ligament in his left wrist. Brown is expected to have the torn ligament surgically repaired later this week, and will be out for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.”
Recovery time for this surgery can be up to six months, so it looks like Jaylen’s going to miss training camp and the start of the 2021/22 season as well.
So, token playoff appearance aside, this should pretty much put a bow on what has been the most injury- and illness-filled season in Celtics history.
What happens next?
Well, with all due respect to Chuck, it’s never appropriate to agree with Dan Shaughnessy. If you find yourself saying, ‘that guy’s got some good ideas’, you probably need to check your assumptions, because Dan is not in the habit of churning out good ideas. I’m sure he’s capable of them, but frankly, it’s a part of his brain that he just doesn’t use all that often.
For starters, let’s take the notion that the C’s need to ‘shake things up’: Firing Ainge, firing Stevens, firing assistants, trading players:
If you think that the motive behind any of those moves is anything but frustration, you’re lying to yourself—and if you’re propounding those notions on social media, you’re lying to everyone else as well.
There is no rational basis for blowing up this team, just a lot of irrational frustration based on what were—due to factors largely beyond the team’s control—unrealistic expectations.
Now you can try to backfill your irrational opinions and basketball nostrums with trite phrases like, “the team lacks leadership,” and “Brad Stevens has lost the team,” and “Ainge put together a flawed roster.” But all of the “evidence” in support of these claims boils down to tautologies and circular reasoning: “Ainge built a flawed roster because the roster is flawed and Ainge built the roster.”
And before you assume that my less-than-morose view of the team is due to some congenital predisposition toward unfounded optimism, I refer you to my review of the C’s 2018/19 season.
We are not talking about a team that was largely healthy playing under what could even remotely be construed as ‘normal’ circumstances.
This team, from the get-go was beset with injuries and illnesses such that by this point in time, eight different players have started at least 10 games and only two players have started more than 50. After Jayson Tatum (61 of 68) and Jaylen Brown (58 of 68), the next closest starting-caliber player is Marcus Smart who has missed 21 games.
That’s damn near a third of the season.
People have criticized Brown and Tatum for trying to do too much on offense… Well, look at the statistics. Look at the baffling array of fill-ins that they’ve had to share the court with. This team, again, for reasons that are largely out of its control, has not had anything approaching consistent rotations at any point during the season—and you wonder why it is that Brown and Tatum have tried to do too much on offense, both to the detriment of the C’s offense and the team’s defense.
And before you talk about how the only acceptable conclusion to a Celtic season is a championship, let’s turn back the clock.
Let’s turn back the clock to Bill Russell’s second season with the C’s.
The team went to the Finals and lost to Ed Macauley and the St. Louis Hawks.
I can just about imagine what some of today’s zero-perspective-drastic-solution fans would have suggested: “TRADE RUSSELL. FIRE AUERBACH. THE RUSSELL TRADE WAS A MISTAKE. RUSSELL WAS OUTPLAYED.”
And I know that this is what these fans would have said back then because here’s a secret: perpetual complainers love to complain. Guys like Shaughnessy don’t enjoy basketball so much as they enjoy winding up Celtics fans. ‘Fans’ that kvetch about everything aren’t C’s fans so much as they are fans of kvetching about the C’s.
Why did the C’s lose to the Hawks that year?
Russell was injured.
Now the kind of people who want the C’s blown up this year would’ve probably said, back then, that if Russell was fit enough to play, there was no excuse for the team losing, but that’s not how Auerbach saw it—fortunately.
Guys who assert that the only acceptable outcome for any C’s season is a championship frequently cite Auerbach as their authority, but Auerbach was never that foolish.
There are ‘lost seasons’ that you, a fan, should be angry about. Seasons like 2018/19, where the team was basically healthy, deep and talented, and where they displayed a shocking lack of maturity. And before you say that guys who demonstrated their immaturity that season—especially Tatum and Brown—had already ‘proven’ their maturity by going to the ECF, check yourself and see if you’ve accused either of those guys of being immature this season. Because you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that they were already mature, and thus their immaturity was not at fault in that train-wreck of a season, and then turn around and blame them for being immature in this train-wreck of a season.
You have every right to be mad about the 2018/19 season because what went wrong that season was almost entirely within the control of the guys on the court and the guys on the bench.
But this season?
I’m sorry. But unless and until it emerges that the C’s were regularly flouting the league’s COVID protocols, the decimation of the team by the virus can be filed under ‘just one of those things’: There was always going to be a team more affected by COVID than any other, just as there was always going to be a team less affected by COVID than any other, and ending up at either end of the spectrum may be due almost entirely to chance. Certainly, there doesn’t seem to be any pattern to the numbers. The Lakers have lost more than twice as many days to COVID as the Clippers and those two teams are probably as close to identical as any in terms of environment. The Raptors and Heat are near the top of the list, but the Magic are well down toward the bottom, so it doesn’t appear that state regs have any bearing, nor does population density appear to be a factor, with the Celtics being at the top, in the densely populated Boston metro, but the Knicks and Nets, in equally dense NYC sit a ways below average at 41 & 46 days.
So, again, unless it emerges that the C’s were flouting the league’s COVID rules, it’s hard to see what the team could have done differently.
And that’s pretty much where I’m leaving it. This team, had it been fully healthy for the duration of the playoffs, could have made some serious noise. Had they had even an average run of injuries and illnesses this season, they could have made some serious noise.
But they weren’t and they didn’t.
And that, ultimately, informs my opinion on Ainge, on Stevens and on “team leadership.”
If a guy with a sprained ankle shows up at a 100M dash on crutches and fails to win, it would be the height of stupidity to insist that his failure to win is due to poor coaching, or a ‘lack of leadership’ or any other pet theory. That much is obvious to even the dullest of observers. Yet, when an entire team is decimated by injury and illness on a scale that is, essentially, unprecedented, there are those among us who are all to eager to blame the players themselves, the coaches, the management, anyone at all, in spite of the blatantly obvious fact that the team has played every game without at least one rotation player.
I mean there has not been ONE GAME this season where everyone has been healthy and available.
Not ONE GAME.
And, again, for emphasis:
NOT. ONE. GAME.
And we’re not talking about losing one guy to a season-ending injury early on. We’re talking about multiple guys with multiple issues.
So, yeah, Brown’s injury just sticks a fork in a season that can’t be put in the rearview mirror fast enough, for my tastes.
And if the C’s don’t make drastic changes over the summer, just be glad, once next season starts, that the team doesn’t have an owner who feels the need to placate the most shortsighted ‘fans’ of the team, just because they’re the ones that kvetch the loudest.