As is tradition, the time has come to break down the end of season presser by the man tasked with running the Boston Celtics. Back when we used to do this with Ainge, it was much harder. You had to read in between the lines and see what he was saying without actually saying it.
With Brad Stevens, things are a little more clear cut. Now that doesn't mean he always tells the truth, but ever since he became the coach Brad has always seemed to be open and tell it like it is. The same was true once he moved upstairs. So after another season of falling short of a title, this time in Game 7 of the ECF, I think we were all very interested in hearing what Brad had to say as the Celts enter what is a pretty massive offseason for the future of their franchise.
Let's just hop right in
We may as well start with Joe. Since the day he was awarded the job, there were those out there that felt he needed to be fired. Despite what the Celts were doing on the floor, none of that really mattered for some people. As Brad said, Joe is not perfect. He for sure made mistakes, but what NBA coach is perfect? All you had to do was listen to Brad's answer for how he and the organization feels and thinks about Joe.
At the end of the day, if Brad and Wyc believe in Joe, and guys like Tatum and Brown believe in Joe, then nothing else really matters. It doesn't matter what I think, it doesn't matter what doomers on Twitter think, it doesn't matter what talk radio thinks, and it doesn't matter what talking heads think. We all trusted Brad in his decision to hire a rookie head coach in Ime, and given the situation Joe was thrown into you can see the success the team had obviously made an impact. Once we learned that he got a 3/14M extension, I think you're out of your mind if you thought the Celts would cut ties. Joe is not the reason the season ended.
The more important part of the coaching topic came in terms of what they plan to do with Joe's staff
My guess is it's going to be many more than one considering Ime is about to bring his guys to Houston. Logically I think most expect Stephen Silas and maybe Frank Vogel if he doesn't land a head coaching gig this summer, and with a competent staff and a full offseason to prepare, it's hard to imagine things won't improve in that department. If there's one knock on Brad heading into the year it's that they didn't figure that out before the season, and then once Stoudamire left it appears bringing in additional help just wasn't possible.
It's a good sign that everyone in the building realizes how important this is to address this summer, and I think it's the easiest way to make a tangible difference in the 2023-24 season.
OK, now the next biggest item on the menu. Jaylen Brown.
There are a few things you HAVE to consider with any GM that is in this spot. For starters, they can't really say shit per NBA rules. I can't imagine anyone expected Brad to go up there and tell them their plans. That's not realistic.
It's also very unrealistic to think Brad would go up there and be like, nope, we're all set with Jaylen. On some level, of course he's going to talk the way he did, it's all part of the negotiation process.
But what I think you can put stock into is how he talks about the belief in Jaylen and his value and importance to this team. I say that because it's all Brad has ever talked about since he got the job. Investing in Tatum and Brown. Building things around those two players. I know fans have been going crazy over the new CBA and what it means for the future, but again do we really think Brad/Zarren were completely blindsided by Jaylen making All NBA? If they weren't prepared for this reality, don't you think they would have moved him before the season? While we might not know the path right now, I'm pretty sure they have a handful of scenarios mapped out, just like all front offices do.
As it always does when it comes to contracts, talk is relatively cheap. We'll see how they feel based on the extension they offer. From there, the ball is in Jaylen's court. If they don't offer a supermax and Jaylen is only interested in extending if it's a supermax, they almost have to trade him. Maybe they offer it and he accepts it. Maybe they come together and settle on a slightly lower number. Only time will tell, but it's very clear that Brad and the organization are not emotional based off one Game 7 performance or one bad series. There's a reason fans are not GMs.
This is the type of perspective I was trying to hint at the other day. The Celtics roster is not one that needs a major overhaul. They do not need to peel off franchise pillars in order to break through. They have things they need to address, but it's marginal. Big man depth is probably #1 on the list at this point followed by the coaching staff.
Contending in the NBA is hard as hell. Success is not linear. But pretty much every Celts fan that watched this team during the year considered the roster good enough to win the title. They fell short due to execution, not talent. That to me is why you do not make major changes. You found a combination and a formula that wins at a high level. While the goal will always be a title, I think it would be silly to overlook what the Celts have built and have the ability to continue to do.
Aside from the Jaylen extension, this is the other big roster decision the Celts have to make that unfortunately isn't really in their control. They'll offer Grant his $8.4M qualifying offer to make him a RFA, and then he has to make a choice. Does he accept that number (double his salary) to then enter UFA next summer? Or, does he turn it down and go to the market? If he feels like Joe has him out of the rotation, why should he stay? There are some younger rebuilding teams with a fuck ton of space (DET/SA/HOU) who could simply present Grant with an offer sheet that is too high for the Celts to match. At that point, unless you figure out some sort of sign and trade, Grant walks for nothing.
The question then becomes, what is Grant's market price and how high will the Celts go? If it's $12M, do they match? If someone comes over the top with like $16M, do the Celts thank Grant for his time in Boston and move on? We know he wanted $20M, but I think those days are gone, at least from a Celts perspective.
This one, this one cut me deep.
It honestly makes no sense how poorly the Celts have played in their own building these last two years. It cost them a spot in the Finals and a potential title. There's no way around there and frankly, there's no excuse for it. You simply have to win at home in the postseason. Relying on needing to secure multiple road wins leaves way too much up to chance. Whether it was Game 5 vs ATL, Game 1 & 5 vs PHI, or Games 1, 2 and 7 vs MIA, the point is the same. Not protecting your home floor is what ultimately ended your season, and Brad's right. That is a tough pill to swallow considering the Celts went 32-9 at home during the regular season
Think about that. 9 losses in 41 regular season games and 6 losses in 11 postseason games. How is that even possible?
If you're curious, DEN is 8-0 at home this postseason and MIA is 6-2. Seems pretty important if you ask me.
Unfortunate timing. That's really it. Not exactly why their season is over, they certainly weren't the only team dealing with injuries, it just sucks that after a mostly clean year and a clean postseason run, it all hit in the ECF. That's tough.
Then again, this is why you cannot fuck around and lose all these games at home. As we learned, you're one sprained ankle away from ending your season.
I partly agree with this. It's true, their clutch time defense was absolutely pathetic in the ECF. They had a 126 Drtg in those moments, which is beyond terrible. Not getting stops and allowing the Heat to get back and set their defense absolutely helped.
But….that's not really the entire story of their late game issues. Continuing to attack the zone from the wings as opposed to putting your best player/passer at the nail consistently was more impactful. Not attacking it from the baseline was more impactful.
In the possessions the Heat weren't in zone, we once again had to live through a slow paced offense where the guards were sent to the corner and Tatum initiated things late, often times taking up way too much of the clock before things got going, which basically meant we were going to get a poor quality shot late. I get Brogdon was hurt, but you still have guards available to you that can help run actual offense. Until the Celts either get it through to Tatum/Brown that they should not be offense initiators late, the end of game offense will look the same and the same problems will exist.
That doesn't mean you don't involve those guys, but you need to do it in different ways than we've been seeing. If the guards actually do get the ball, they need to establish the pace, something that Smart sometimes did not do as well. To me that's on Joe, that's on the staff, and that's on the players. This is not their first rodeo in these spots, so they have to find a way to get on the same page with what is causing these late game issues.
Overall, things went pretty much as I expected them to. I thought it was important Brad end any and all speculation about Joe's job as they enter the summer, and the stuff about Jaylen I knew was going to be boilerplate answers given what they are even allowed to say. For those begging for major shake ups, it didn't really give off the vibes that those are coming, but we're still way too early in that process to know for sure. It just seems like Brad's mindset is this team has enough, is built correctly, and just needs some work around the edges to get over the hump and win a title. I tend to agree.
I can't lie though, I really wish this was a blog previewing the Finals as opposed to an end of season presser. That's going to sting for a while.