Celtics fans across New England are hitting the panic button, and it may be justified as the Celtics have come out extremely sluggish to start the season.
Through seven games, the Celtics are currently 2-5 with bad home losses to both the Wizards and the Raptors. The struggles culminated with a 128-114 loss to the Bulls Monday night. While on paper it doesn’t seem monumental, the stats of that game paint a very concerning picture. The Celtics were up by 17 with 29 seconds left in the third quarter, and they just simply took their foot off the gas. What resulted from that was a 41-12 run by the Chicago Bulls that left both the Celtics and the fans at the Garden absolutely stunned. What seemed like a night that couldn’t get much worse did get worse as Marcus Smart spoke to the media after the loss. Smart did not pull any punches on the way the team, and in particular Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, played.
“I think everybody’s scouting report is to make those guys try to pass the ball,” Smart said after the stunning loss. “They don’t want to pass the ball, and that’s something they’re gonna learn.”
Celtics fans read these remarks and went understandably crazy, wondering what is happening to a team that just a few years ago was seen as a title contender. Yes, there is a small sample size with only seven games played in the season, and Ime Udoka is still trying to figure out what his identity is as a head coach in the NBA.
The issues that Celtics are having right now is something that needs to be addressed soon. Tatum and Brown have been taking heat, and as the stars of the team the blame by default falls to them. It’s also not a good look that after a loss like this, neither Tatum or Brown made themselves available to speak to the media after the game. Tatum and Brown are the best players on the team, there’s no debating that, but they have yet to take on the leadership role. While having a presence of players such as Smart and Al Horford will benefit Boston, it needs to fall on Brown and Tatum to become the full blown leaders for this Celtics team.
Marcus Smart isn’t out of the woods either. While Smart can say he’s “tired of standing in the corner,” his stats so far this season don’t warrant the claim for higher usage. Smart is averaging nine points a game so far this season, the lowest since his rookie year. Along with the low scoring, he has shot 29% from the field and 28% from behind the arc. If Smart was making more shots, his comments for more usage would be warranted, but that simply is not the case. For everything good that he brings to a team — which is a lot — Smart is not capable offensively to be a third star for a team. He has the ability to be a valuable offensive player, but his questionable shot selection at times shows a player who at times doesn’t understand his role in the offense. His choosing to go public with these comments might not have been the best idea, as it makes the Celtics look like a divided team.
The good news is there is more than enough time for Boston to figure it out and become a competitive playoff team, but if we continue to see games like the ones we’ve seen so far out of the Celtics, fans better strap in for a long season.