The Boston Celtics cannot afford to have as many locker-room issues as they did during the 2018-19 season. Are there signs of trouble brewing?
I recently developed serious concerns over responses given by Marcus Smart in an interview conducted by Amanda Pflugrad and posted to the Boston Celtics official team website.
During the interview, Smart announced his intention to be less “passive” this upcoming season. He went on to say that in the past he has been “too unselfish” of a player, it wasn’t going to be “the same me”, and he was “coming in with a mission” that everything was about business.
These sentiments represent a strange shift in attitude for a player who until now has always seemed to put his team first — and they might be especially worrisome viewed in the larger context of Marcus’ limited offensive repertoire. A more assertive Marcus Smart could be a dangerous thing, and in a very bad way.
I then began to think about the rest of this Boston Celtics roster and which players on it might also stir up trouble this coming season, should they find themselves not being given the opportunities/playing the role they’d envisioned.
So, guys and gals, which Celtics player is most likely to fall victim to letting his own interests supplant those of his team’s as his primary motivation next year, thus jeopardizing the team’s chances of success?
The Candidates —
If we asked “the veterans” from last year’s team (I’m looking at you Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris), and likely Marcus Smart as well, who had been “the problem,” I think it’s safe to say they would all point the finger squarely at Jaylen Brown.
And they could have a strong case to make. Statistical data discussed during an early summer broadcast of the Felger and Mazz program, on 98.5 The Sports Hub, proved Brown was the least likely of all Celtics players to pass the basketball this past season. And on a team overflowing with a capacity for selfish play, this speaks volumes.
Nonetheless, a part of me can’t help but feel Jaylen’s teammates were too hard on him at times.
Kyrie’s constant whining to the media about “the young players” was a clear indictment that included Brown. There was the in-game incident in which Marcus Morris shoved Jaylen during a team huddle on the sideline. And of course, we can’t forget Smart’s on the court eruptions of anger and frustration whenever Brown committed some minor misstep.
It was pretty darn clear to anyone paying attention that they weren’t fans of ol’ Jaylen’s.
To Brown’s credit, though, he would eventually accept a reduced role coming off the team’s bench, would even come to embrace it, and by season’s end, he had begun to thrive in the role — unlike one Mr. Terry Rozier, for example.
Brown was perhaps Boston’s best player down the final stretch of the season and into the playoffs.
Kanter’s reputation as a gregarious and outspoken individual is well-deserved. His outspokenness has even gotten him into serious hot water with the Turkish government. Though, I can’t say I blame him for wanting to speak out against a government he views as harshly oppressive.
However, I can imagine a scenario in which his outspokenness wouldn’t serve the Boston Celtics terribly well if by chance Kanter becomes disgruntled.
Since Kanter’s signing was announced, I’ve struggled to understand how he fits with the other members our presumed starting lineup of Walker, Brown, Hayward, and Tatum.
Kanter’s aggressiveness on offense has caused him to be described by some as something just short of a blackhole. And whereas the rest of the starting line-up will be comprised of players who either are or fancy themselves to be high volume scorers, this wouldn’t seem to be a match made in heaven, to say the least.
Kanter would fit better with a bench unit made up of Smart, Edwards, Ojeyele, Theis, Grant Williams, etc., whereas the role of “scorer” is not quite as fully cast here. Yes, that means Robert Williams slides into your starting lineup
Would Kanter be as accepting of this type of role as he has been in the past? Or at this point in his career, has he tired of being just another back-up? Only time will tell.
Tatum began last season with the set determination to miss as many mid-range fade-away jumpers as a Kobe Bryant-inspired style of play can make possible. And to Boston Celtics fans’ great dismay, Jayson was tremendously successful at times in this regard.
From the very start of the year, it was fast becoming obvious that this new approach of Jayson’s wasn’t doing anyone any favors.
On an early season episode of Early Edition, I recall Jackie McMullan attesting to the level of frustration Tatum’s dedication to “iso-ball” had caused those within the Celtics’ organization.
There was a definite selfishness evident in Tatum stubbornly impersonating Bryant despite the poor returns.
Fortunately for Jayson, the Boston Celtics, and their fans, however, the young star realized the error in his ways early enough not to drag the team down, at least for too long. For this, he deserves a modicum of credit.
The topic of Marcus Smart’s candidacy has already been delved into a little. But in thinking more and more about Smart and, in particular, about how his resume as the ultimate team-first guy holds up under scrutiny, I believe I may have found a hole in said resume — and a gaping one at that, Celtics fans.
Every serious NBA fan knows Marcus Smart’s reputation. He never hesitates to dive onto the floor for loose balls, gives all out effort every play on the defensive end, and he makes the tough-nosed, winning basketball plays down the stretch in close games that your team needs.
However, he has also shown a serious proclivity for taking too many ill-advised three-pointers, not demonstrating the least bit of self-awareness regarding his very poor career shooting percentage from deep.
Smart’s three-point shot did improve this past season to the point of respectability (thank freakin’ God), but do any of us doubt for one second he would have taken just as many threes, regardless of what the results had been?
Of course we don’t. Because we’ve seen this routine before from Marcus. And unfortunately, that’s compelling evidence of Smart’s vulnerability to a self-serving and potentially harmful attitude.
The Dark Horse
Hayward was surprisingly vocal last year regarding frustrations about role, opportunity, etc.
Not Gordon. Robyn. As in the his wife.
Robyn took to instagram to discuss her feelings about matters one evening on the heels of a particularly impressive performance by Gordon — you know, one of those seldom 30 point outbursts which gave us all what turned out to be false hope?
Robyn proclaimed to the world of social media that Gordon’s stellar play on the night could be expected, if only her “baby” got the needed minutes and the offense would flow through him more regularly.
While Gordon himself hadn’t made these remarks, it’s a safe bet his wife’s social media musings weren’t antithetical to his own feelings about how things were shaking out inside the TD Garden.
So a sort of quiet discontentment might be something to watch out for from Hayward. Gordon, that is.
The Verdict —
My vote is for Marcus Smart — followed by Jayson, then Jaylen, then the Hayward household, and lastly, Kanter.
I believe Marcus has been the most consistently selfish, when considering whether his past shooting habits belong on the resume of any truly unselfish player.
And those recent comments of Smart’s continue swirling around in my mind, despite my best efforts.
Who do you think is the most likely candidate to cause trouble this upcoming season, Boston Celtics fans? Am I missing anyone?
I’m interested to hear from you in the comments section.