Your Morning Dump… Where once again it’s put up or shut up time

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Boston Celtics

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.

“It’s not time to dream about the future — it’s time to do it now,” Stevens said. “We need to play better. We need to show up and compete every night with great urgency all the way through the game, regardless of what just happened.

“So, I don’t really care about the future and I don’t really care about the first 48 games. What are we going to do and that’s the question. It’s time to show up.”

The defensive issues are evident and the Celtics seem like they’re right on the cusp of collapse. While the talent indicates better returns — which is why Boston’s been to three of four Eastern Conference Finals — the outside expectations haven’t matched reality.

Boston showed some blips of life throughout the season. The four-game win streak ahead of the All-Star break looked like a turning point; a jolt of energy right as the team recharged for a week.

Instead it’s been a 4-8 record since the break with few signs of improvement. The offense has been humming along despite its bumps, but the defense continues to be an enigma that doesn’t look like it can be fixed this season.

“I don’t know,” Marcus Smart said of the defensive issues. “Trust me, if I knew, we wouldn’t be here talking about it. We try to go out there, we try to play defense, and it just seems like every time we go out there and try to be aggressive it backfires on us. We don’t get rewarded for our aggressiveness. So it’s tough.”


A fascinating aspect of this season has been watching various fans, writers, players, coaches, and others draw lines in the sand and say, ‘this is the low point’ of the season, or ‘this is a turning point.’ Only to have the C’s struggle on afterward and yet still–somehow–remain part of the playoff conversation.

This latest low-point came against the Mavs. However, the C’s had Wednesday’s game down to a single possession late, after starting Mo Wagner.

Mo Wagner was, for those keeping track at home, the C’s fifteenth different starter this season. Only four players that have seen time on the court with the C’s this season have not started a game. Wednesday’s surprise start for Wagner came because Rob Williams was a late scratch at center due to an illness and Tristan Thompson is, as we all know, sick with COVID-19–as he has been for the past two weeks.

I don’t want to say that this is a ‘lost season’ because there is still a lot of season left to play and the C’s aren’t the only team struggling with this wacked out schedule and this wacked out year. But if it is a lost season, I think we need to pause before we assess this roster as ‘flawed‘. It is, with the replacement of Hayward with Fournier, essentially the same roster as last year’s.

In Ainge’s weekly radio appearance yesterday he talked about a lack of leadership from the players, and Chuck highlighted that yesterday. And, to a certain extent, I get that. At the same time, I don’t think these guys need their feet held to the fire. I don’t think that the oft-cited ‘lack of effort’ is coming from a bad place, mentally–that these guys are capable of doing more and simply aren’t.

I don’t think we can look at the chaos that has surrounded this team off the court and expect them to somehow create consistency on the court out of thin air. They are entering almost every game they play without multiple rotation players, and the missing players are more or less random. Monday it was Thompson and Brown. Wednesday it was Thompson and Williams. I almost said that everyone’s available tonight because I forgot that Thompson is still sick with COVID. Langford is back–but he said his knees felt like jelly after Monday’s workout, so don’t expect much from him.

Page 2: Where we look at Stevens the motivator

There’s no room for hand-holding in the NBA, and the notion that Stevens needs to constantly motivate his team is laughable. These are the elite of the elite; a league of about 500 human beings occupying the most coveted basketball jobs on the planet. 

If they can’t find a way to get up for games and stay engaged, then that’s on them. 

Stevens does have some role to play in managing the personalities and egos on this team. And, frankly, the circumstances of this season have not allowed for the necessary downtime to escape, as a team, and build some of the necessary off-court camaraderie that they usually can. There are no team dinners or group outings allowed, especially on the road. 

“Can’t do anything. Literally can’t do anything,” Walker recently said. “We can go outside for, what, an hour I guess now,  but everything is just different. Like, you can’t go to dinner, can’t go visit your friends that you have on the road. It’s just most of the time you’re just kind of cooped up in the room or just around the hotel. It’s just different.”

This all puts more pressure on the players to find their own motivation. Stevens can’t come up with “rah rah” speeches like Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday. Maybe if he had a team of Hollywood writers working for him every day, he could come up with something good from time to time. If he can get an orchestra to play something dramatic that crescendos at the peak of his speech, then maybe the Celtics can complete their comebacks. 

Or the guys on the floor can be the professionals they’re paid to be.

Boston Sports Journal

This is something I’ve said for a few years now. If you’re being paid eight figures per year to do something, you should not need someone on the sidelines (getting paid less than you, by the way) yelling at you to convince you to do your job properly. You should be enough of a professional to go out and perform, period.

But I don’t see a team that lacks motivation here. I see a team that is losing because they can’t overcome the cumulative adversity this season has thrown at them.

As a fan, I just want this team to be healthy long enough to rediscover how to play as a team. Once that happens, anything’s possible.

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