By Ben Kuchipudi
The Boston Celtics have been one of the most consistent teams in the past decade, missing the postseason only once in the past 10 seasons, but after years of underwhelming playoff performances, general manager Danny Ainge stepped down and head coach Brad Stevens was promoted to that position. They then hired first year coach Ime Udoka to replace Stevens, and right now, they are off to a shaky start to say the least. As I am writing this, they are 4-6 through their first 10 games, and they are winless at home at 0-3, those losses being a 115-83 loss to the Toronto Raptors, a 116-107 loss to the Washington Wizards, and a 128-114 loss to the Chicago Bulls in which they got outscored 39-11 in the fourth quarter. With the Eastern Conference looking more competitive than it has in recent years, there is a chance that Celtics could miss the postseason for the first time since 2014.
There are a number of reasons why the Celtics have underwhelmed, but the biggest reason by far is the struggles of Jayson Tatum. He’s averaging 23 points per game, but he’s doing that on 39.5% shooting from the field and 32.1% from three, both career lows. He hasn’t been himself, and right now that is hurting the Celtics. To make matters worse, co-star Jaylen Brown is expected to miss one to two weeks with a hamstring injury, and now the Celtics have to rely on someone like Dennis Schroder, Al Horford, or Marcus Smart to make up for Brown’s scoring. Speaking of Marcus Smart, after the Celtics’ collapse against the Bulls, Smart came out and bashed Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, saying “There’s only so much I can do without the ball in my hands. I’m just standing in the corner.” He’s not really in a position to talk considering he’s having the worst season of his career, but those comments said a lot about the chemistry of this team.
The Celtics added Al Horford, Dennis Schroder, and Josh Richardson in the offseason, and it looks like only the Horford addition is working out. Schroder is scoring, but he is extremely inefficient and Richardson isn’t even scoring. Those two need to step up if the Celtics want to win, because Boston isn’t winning with the way they are playing right now. Horford has arguably been the best player on the Celtics, averaging 13.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks, and he has also served as a mentor for the young Robert Williams, who is averaging almost two blocks a game. Other than Horford, Williams, and Jaylen Brown, no one has stepped up for the Celtics and if things don’t change, it could be a rough year for Boston.
If this was any other season, I wouldn’t be concerned for the Celtics, but this is a season where the Eastern Conference is deeper than recent years, and they have already lost to the New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, and Chicago Bulls, all of whom are currently above Boston in the standings. If players don’t step up (looking at you Jayson Tatum), the Celtics will more than likely miss the playoffs, which would be a huge failure considering it is Ime Udoka’s first season as coach and Brad Stevens’ first year as general manager. The Celtics have the talent to turn it around, but they seem worse than last season when they were a seven seed, so it’s not looking so hot for the C’s.
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