Let us give credit where credit is due. After tearing down the Boston Celtics, month-by-month and trade-by-trade, GM Danny Ainge has begun to build an intriguing roster. As of today (Thursday, March 5) the Celtics sit on the edge of the playoff wall, two losses behind both Miami and Charlotte for the 7th and 8th seeds in the Eastern Conference. More importantly, they have won 4 of their last 6 games, including a very competitive loss to the Golden State Warriors, in which they blew an early 26-point lead. Boston has reason to hope, and that reason comes in the form of newly-acquired pint-sized point guard Isaiah Thomas. Since arriving, Thomas has recharged what was a sputtering Celtics offense. Thomas has scored 19 or more points in all but one of the 7 games, while playing fewer than 30 minutes per contest. Instant offense. Is Nescafe a truly awful nickname? Probably, but he’s instant something. In a promising development over the last week, Isaiah has 21 assists to only 8 turnovers in his last four games. All this goodness is happening without burly power forward Jared Sullinger, who went down with a stress fracture to his left foot on February 11. Many Celtics fans, myself included, thought the injury spelled the end of what was turning into a six-team race for the final two East playoff spots.
Instead, the Celtics are beating decent teams (Phoenix and Charlotte) and playing gritty basketball. It’s a refreshing scene.
I was about to write about Javale McGee and how, even though he’s become something of a punching bag, he will provide an intriguing rim protector for the Celtics bench, and gives fans one more reason to watch these final 20-plus games. Instead, I find that McGee has NOT agreed to the deal that was rumored this morning. The mirage of NBA rumors strikes a false note once again. Apparently there was a disagreement about next year’s option. According to NBC’s ProBasketball Talk, McGee wanted a player-option, while the Celtics wanted the team-option. After the injuries and lackluster production this year (only played in 23 games, totaling 256 total minutes), McGee was traded to Philadelphia, who needed the salary to reach the cap floor, and then waived after 6 games.
So…back to having no backup big man as of yet. Tyler Zeller, who hit the game-winning, twisting, up-faking lay-up to beat Utah last night, remains the man in the middle.