Boston Celtics fans, all is not well over on Causeway Street. Sure, everything might seem fine to you now, with it being the offseason and all, but your Celtics are soon to be in jeopardy of allowing the same insidious forces that destroyed their season last year to do so again.
Boston Celtics fans, I’m going to tell you this right now, because I don’t want you to say I didn’t warn you later on: if Enes Kanter is your starting center during the 2019-2020 NBA season, said season will end in bitter disappointment.
That’s because the drama of last year will once again rear its ugly head. You thought you were safe because Kyrie Irving left for the Brooklyn Nets?
Well, you couldn’t have been more wrong.
There may be somewhat of a different looking cast of characters suiting it up for the Boston Celtics this season, but there could be the same terrible result. However, this might have less to do with Kanter than it does human nature.
Last season, a lack of opportunity resulted in Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown becoming disengaged and vastly under-performing. This is especially true in consideration of the heightened expectations coming on the heels of that unexpected charge all the way up until game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals the season prior — a charge which was led by Rozier, Tatum, and Brown.
Instead of taking steps forward from one year to the next, though, as every hard-working young athlete is reasonably expected to, Rozier, Tatum, and Brown all saw their games go down the toilet for the better part of 2019. While Tatum and Brown were eventually able to battle back to salvage their seasons to one extent or another, Rozier never could straighten things out.
But at no point throughout the whole fiasco that was the 2018-2019 Boston Celtics’ season, or looking back now with all the benefit hindsight has to offer, have I felt these players’ poor performances were for a lack of trying. All three were trying their best to stay engaged, trying to maximize their reduced opportunities, and trying to help their team win. Rozier, Tatum, and Brown had never before demonstrated a lack of effort to Boston Celtics fans.
If anything, these young players may have wanted “it” (the minutes, the opportunities… a real chance) a little too much given the circumstances they found themselves in. But human nature left them vulnerable to disillusionment, and their play ultimately suffered. For this not to have happened, the three would have had to conquer nothing short of their own humanity.
That’s what they were up against in trying to completely subjugate all of their own interests for those, not of “the team”— but of some type of Kyrie Irving-led monstrosity, no more likely to win a championship than any other fatally flawed group led by an iso-balling “star.”
Indeed, Rozier, Tatum, and Brown are professional athletes. At the end of the day, they are paid handsomely to perform to the best of their abilities despite any amount of adversity they face. Yet it’s important to keep in mind that these were young men, still growing both as players and as people, and that none of the group was older than twenty-four years old heading into last season.
Now, our unconscious-selves play a greater role than we are inclined to believe in determining how we respond to our environment. We’re just not as in control of things, specifically our behavior, as we’d all like to think.
For instance, despite any efforts to the contrary, if we’re miserable, the fruits of our labor are very likely to be commensurately miserable. Is it any wonder then that Rozier, the player who had the most taken from him last year, who was the most miserable, was also the poorest performing of this young, talented trio?
Certainly not. After-all, it’s human nature.
Ya, whatever, Jeff. I really don’t wanna’ hear it. Our “unconscious-selves,” my rear-end. These guys get paid millions of dollars to suck it up. So suck it up!!
But I’d like to share with you the results of a very interesting study examining the influence that even the very smallest of things can have on us and our behavior, because it might just blow your mind… and prove my point.
The best way to sum the whole thing up might be to say that if you had just had a hot cup of tea, coffee, some warm oatmeal, a steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup, or anything warm, you might just be more inclined to think of me and my writing in generous terms. Why? No one really knows.
What the Yale researchers were able to determine was that people, and I quote, “are more likely to give something to others if they had just held something warm and more likely to take something for themselves if they held something cold.” In a similarly focused study, these same researchers found that “people judged others to be more generous and caring if they had just held a warm cup of coffee and less so if they had held an iced coffee.”
The point I’m trying to make is that if something so seemingly insignificant as the temperature of what we might be holding from one second to the next has an observable impact on how we view the world, and on our behavior, how could we reasonably expect young men in their early twenties, not far removed from their childhoods, mind you, to overcome the assuredly far more powerful influences of: the promises of victory and glory on the national stage, recognition/fame, reputation and millions of dollars in advertisement opportunities and future contracts.
All were very much at stake for Rozier, Tatum, and Brown last season, as they are for every NBA player every season. You’d need one “helluva” big straw to suck all of that up.
Rozier, Tatum, and Brown were forced to watch as all of this was put into jeopardy because preference was given to others, who, in the two most obvious of cases, were far less deserving, albeit for very different reasons.
Irving compiled characteristically impressive statistics last season. But it was his style of play and the reverberation effect that this had on the team which prevented the team-basketball from being played that the Boston Celtics had so successfully used the year before to find themselves just minutes away from a trip to the NBA Finals.
Gordon Hayward’s play was atrocious, all other considerations aside. His production, or lack-thereof, simply did not justify the investment he received from coach Brad Stevens. Rozier, Tatum, and Brown were marginalized, and their performances in their newly reduced roles predictably suffered. They went from being “rising stars” one moment, to the very next being “the kids” or “the young guys,” and being the constant subjects of public derision both locally and nationally.
Everyone was wondering “what’s wrong with the Boston Celtics?” Too often the finger-pointing started and ended with “the kids.”
All for the benefit of a megalomaniac ball-hog in Irving, and a hobbled (whether mentally or physically, or both) shell of himself in Hayward. Aside from the issue of how Irving affected the Boston Celtics’ overall style of play, the fallout from the disillusionment of Rozier, Tatum, and Brown was perhaps the biggest reason the team failed to meet expectations.
How can a catastrophe of a similar nature be avoided during the 2019-2020 season? Well simply put, Enes Kanter must not start. And it really could be that simple. Kanter’s reputation is that of an excellent rebounder and relatively poor defender, but also a near black-hole on the offensive end of the floor. To this point in his career, if Kanter had ever found himself with the ball in his hands while within fifteen feet or so, let’s say, of the basket, you could very safely bet your Turkish liras that he would shoot it.
Now, Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge seem to have designs on Kanter extending his range all the way out to the three point line, resulting in him being perhaps even less likely to pass the ball. Kanter will now have the green-light to shoot it from anywhere on the floor, it would seem. The problem is that there’s no room for players with a score-first mentality in a presumptive Celtics’ starting lineup already dangerously crowded with players having this type of mindset:
1. Kemba Walker is accustomed to scoring well over twenty points per game and is one of the highest usage players in the entire NBA.
2. Jayson Tatum has already announced to the world his intentions to score twenty points a night, in his own right, and establish himself as a first time all-star.
3. Does anyone doubt that Brown has ambitions closely resembling those of Tatum’s?
4. Hayward will be eager to prove himself again as a high-scoring, all-star caliber player, the kind of player he worked so hard to become while in Utah.
Kanter does not fit into this “equation.” Period. Used correctly, the addition of Kanter could prove to be a tremendous boon for this Celtics team. It goes without saying that as of late, a player with his rebounding prowess has been sorely needed. His scoring, however, like a puzzle piece, must find the right fit. The Boston Celtics bench unit would be one such fit. Kanter’s ability to put the ball in the hoop could pay the perfect complement to a Celtics’ bench that does not currently boast any established NBA scorers.
Marcus Smart, Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford/Semi, and Daniel Theis/Grant Williams are all either more complementary offensive pieces or have yet to play a single minute of game action during the regular season. In contrast, grouping Kanter with the starters risks everything. A scarcity of opportunity for deserving players would once again plague the team resulting in under-performance on a destructive scale.
Now, it’s up to the Boston Celtics front office and coaching staff to have learned from the mistakes of last year. If they haven’t, miserable players will deliver another set of miserable results. Unless, of course, there are some nice, warm beverages kept close at-hand in the locker before each game, just to keep everyone smiling…
Who should start in Kanter’s place? Where do you think Kanter’s best lineup fit is? Am I overreacting again?
Let me hear from you in the comments sections.
Thanks for reading.