Boston Celtics: New Team, Same Old Frustrations

Jan 12, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Derrick Williams (23) reacts after scoring in front of Boston Celtics forward Amir Johnson (90) during the second half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks defeated the Celtics 120-114. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 12, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Derrick Williams (23) reacts after scoring in front of Boston Celtics forward Amir Johnson (90) during the second half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks defeated the Celtics 120-114. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports /

I’m sure many Boston Celtics fans share the sentiment that this team (after the Big Three era) is one of the most frustrating teams in the NBA. The Celtics were expected to perform better than they have so far this season. Players were supposed to progress more, and the team was supposed to win more games than they have. That isn’t the case now, and it’s making me wonder how much experts and fans alike have overrated the Boston Celtics. They are right at .500 in a crowded Eastern Conference, but it feels more like the season has become a disappointment as we enter January.

The most recent skid by the Celtics (losers of six of their last seven) feels like the worst they’ve had this season. Not only did they lose to the Brooklyn Nets (no excuse for that) and the Los Angeles Lakers, but they blew a double-digit lead in Memphis and couldn’t finish off a Carmelo-less (in the 2nd half) New York Knicks team.

Regarding their loss to Memphis, I thought blowing a double-digit lead was a thing of the past with THESE Celtics. It felt as if the team’s culture had changed once Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder were acquired by Danny Ainge. If the Celtics want to be taken seriously as a 45-50 win team, they cannot lose to inferior competition, nor can they continue to blow huge leads against any team. They were expected to take the next step forward, yet they continue to lose games that they shouldn’t. It’s almost as if this team has forgotten how to win close games when they were able to at the end of last season (while making the playoffs). Losing leads the way the Celtics have makes this writer worried about the short-term future of the team, and maybe its long-term future, too.

It feels that the progression of the Celtics’ young core has stopped moving in a positive direction. For me, watching Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk is one of the more frustrating things an NBA fan can do right now. Sullinger, in particular, has tailed off after starting the season red-hot. In fact, I went so far to say at that time that he was the best option the team had in their front court.

Sullinger was rebounding and scoring at a better rate, making me believe that he had become a desirable asset. He’s still averaging a career-high in rebounds (8.9 per game), but his points per game have dipped, as has his overall field goal percentage (9.7 points, 42 percent shooting respectively). Now all of the momentum that Sullinger had accumulated has died down as Sullinger looks lost on the floor during this recent skid (excluding that fourth quarter against the Knicks). I’m starting to see why some folks think he is a total disappointment on the Celtics roster.

Some of the frustration that Celtics fans feel can also be aimed at Kelly Olynyk. His season puts many fans on a roller coaster of emotions (one minute he’s scoring at an efficient rate, and the next he’s just standing around not contributing). He’s had some incredible stretches, even on defense (having the team’s best defensive rating at one point). Not to mention he went on a scoring tear, averaging no less than 17 points off the bench.

It eventually earned him starting minutes, making some believe that his potential was realized. But then he began to fall off, and it makes me wonder if he was worth the first-round pick that the Celtics used on him. His defense has regressed, and his shots haven’t been falling as they were earlier in the season. I get frustrated with how soft he plays for a seven-footer (he plays like he’s the same height as Isaiah Thomas). I understand his strength is his shooting ability, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him develop some low block moves on defense and offense.

It’s easy to pile on players like Olynyk, Sullinger for their faults and lapses, but what about a player that Boston seems to be enamored with? Yes, I’m talking about Marcus Smart. Doesn’t it seem like he’s underperformed this season as well? Some might point out that he’s been injured, but that is a major part of his issues.’s Chris Forsberg has already written about Smart’s injury history. It’s troubling, to say the least, and makes me worry if he can ever consistently stay on the court for a full season (healthy).

Some writers and experts rip on All-Star point guards like Kyrie Irving and John Wall for their injury history, so why should Smart get a pass from Boston fans? Fellow writer Jeff Clark broke down how he might not become the franchise player Celtics fans were hoping for when he was drafted. That’s an idea that many Celtics fans don’t want to consider. After all, his projections suggest otherwise, but what if Smart doesn’t become what they predict? That’s not what fans are looking for when talking about the Celtics future.

I do not completely agree with Clark and his assessment of Smart. I think Celtics fans might be feeling impatient to have him become a “star” when he apparently needs more time to grow (kind of like how Cleveland treated Irving when he was drafted). The Celtics are in an awkward situation, considering they have three guards who all deserve to start.

Some believed that Brad Stevens should have a lineup of all three guards playing together in his regular rotation. I’m not a huge buyer of that kind of lineup, due to how quickly the Celtics fell into foul trouble against the Knicks. If the team has to pick two, I don’t think Smart should be on the bench in the future. The front office wouldn’t get a clear picture as to what he can become unless he gets more playing time. Yes, he’s made some frustrating moves recently, but I’d rather he continue to learn and grow than to just sit on the bench and do nothing.

On the other hand, if Smart is going to warrant starter minutes, he needs to shoot better. His field goal percentage is 31%right now. Thirty-one percent! That’s putrid, and not what a future franchise star should be shooting. I do think Celtics fans are holding out hope on Smart, but things have taken a troubling turn with his offensive game. The team drafted him to become a complete player, not a glorified Tony Allen (even if I’m a fan of Tony Allen).

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Maybe Brad Stevens can right the ship; at least, I hope he can. I do believe in his basketball mind, but the inconsistency of the team has been such a pain for fans of the franchise. Some mistakes just shouldn’t happen anymore with the players on the current roster. The team is still blowing leads, not making shots, and having defensive lapses that make many cringe. I can accept the team losing to teams with superior talent such as Cleveland, San Antonio, or Golden State. But they should be able to handle teams like New York, Philadelphia, and especially Brooklyn. It just feels like a lot of these inferior teams have at least a piece or two in place to become a title contender in the future. But the Celtics just continue to be frustrating for the fans.

C.J Maffris is a writer for He might need to take a break from the Celtics, for his health (but he won’t). Feel free to follow C.J on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris