Arnon Dror | What’s Bugging the Celtics
The Boston Celtics were supposed to be good this year, Arnon Dror says. The team has reached the Eastern Conference Finals the past two seasons, finishing first and second in the conference in 2016-17 and 2017-18, respectively. In 2016-17, they put together a 53-29 record through the gargantuan efforts of Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas; the following season, they went 55-27 despite losing key addition Gordon Hayward to a fractured tibia. This season, with Kyrie Irving leading the team and its young players steadily developing their game, Arnon Dror thought they’d be wrapping up yet another first-place finish in the Eastern Conference and get an easy match-up in the playoffs.
Things have been anything but rosy for the Celtics this season, though. As of March 4, the Celtics are at fifth in the conference, and at 38-26, are 10.5 games behind the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks, who are at 48-15. While Arnon Dror thinks that the Raptors, who might have finally found their savior in Kawhi Leonard, and the 76ers, who are in the culminating stages of “The Process”, are peaking at the right time, he did not expect the Celtics and its collection of fine young talent to be fighting for a playoff spot, much less homecourt advantage at this stage of the season. Image Source: Boston Herald
It’s clear to Arnon Dror that something’s amiss in Boston. They had lost five of six games since the All-Star break, with the only win coming against a Wizards team that might have decided to tank the season after losing John Wall to a heel injury. They have also lost to the Chicago Bulls, who are just above the Cavaliers and the Knicks in the East. Their defense has been inconsistent, and they have been shooting poorly from behind the arc as a team (23.9% in the past four games). In fact, Arnon Dror computed for the Celtics’ true shooting percentage, and found that it’s a league-worst 52.1%.
There are whispers of discontent in Kyrie Irving’s camp. The Ringer reported at the start of the month that there has been a change in Irving’s demeanor even before the trade deadline, which is something that Arnon Dror worries about, considering that Uncle Drew is normally calm and confident. Arnon has noticed that ever since Irving was asked about a possible move to New York, he has been under closer scrutiny from the media, with each loss adding to the rumor mill. In fact, Arnon Dror believes that Irving’s remarks might have had the same effect on the Celtics as the Anthony Davis rumors had on the Lakers’ chemistry. With the off-season fast approaching, the Celtics front office might make a move on Davis, thus reducing the roles of the team’s young guns, including Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown.
At this point, head coach Brad Stevens should re-evaluate everyone’s roles on the team, including that of Irving and starting small forward Gordon Hayward. Hayward, in particular, is clearly not yet in the form that earned him an All-Star appearance with Utah. While Arnon Dror thinks that the Celtics are a lock for a playoffs spot with just 18 games left in the regular season, the coaching staff should start shaking off the rust.