Bad starts are just that. Bad. However, the Celtics aren’t the only ones struggling. The league itself is overall much tougher. Less teams are tanking and things are wide open as far as what defines a playoff team. Perennial tankers like the Bulls, Knicks, and Hornets look playoff bound while more established teams are facing struggles.
The defending champion Bucks are under .500, and finals favorite Lakers and Nets were 3-3 before wins against the literal two worst teams in the NBA from last season. Dysfunctional Philadelphia is surprisingly 4-2 and historic tankers, the Kings, are also 3-3. Nothing is currently unfolding the way it should.
So what does all of this mean? Firstly, that it is far too early to start making judgments. The league is still finding its balance after two years of strange scheduling through the pandemic. Every team is dealing with adversity and overall things are unpredictable. Boston has also had three overtime games already, resulting in one win and two losses. They could easily be flipped the other way.
All that being said though, that doesn’t mean this Celtics team is going to be just fine. There are a few questions that need to be addressed.
Why can’t this team close?
In the overtimes mentioned this team has had difficulties holding on to leads, letting the opponent back into the game. Their defense is spectacular in specific moments but appears to allow teams to go on runs late in games. The intensity seems to be picked and chosen instead of brought to the court full-time.
On paper this team is better than what they are producing, and they know it. The fact that Udoka hasn’t been shy about publicly holding guys accountable is saying a lot about his style. The team really like and respects him and will hopefully find a groove as the season progresses.
Why aren’t the young shooters playing?
Payton Prichard received his first DNP coach’s decision of his career this year, and Aaron Nesmith has barely seen the court, nor made a point this season. Both of these players are known for their shooting, something the Celtics are lacking right now after shooting less than 8% on threes in the last lost versus Washington.
If coach Ime Udoka doesn’t trust the youth that’s his prerogative, but it seems like they may need more from their perimeter and these guys could provide some of that. Not to mention the offensive spark they could have provided in overtimes when other players are exhausted.
Is this what the team will look like in a couple months?
Brad Stevens wasn’t shy about making moves when he first stepped into his GM role. It’s very possible he wants to see what players are simply poor fits or what player around the league may be available closer to the trade deadline. In this NBA, no one should ever think a roster is a finished product.
It’s been a rocky start and there isn’t going to be a magical switch to fix things. It may be exactly what this team needs though. The adversity could push them over the edge in the long run and things will eventually start to come together. The grind of any season can make or break a team and the last few years things have been more difficult than not, both on and off the court. This year could turn around but it also could plummet. It makes fans feel better that other teams are facing problems but that doesn’t mean their aren’t clear problems with the team thus far.
Photo: (Brian Fluharty – USA TODAY Sports)
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