A couple of weeks ago, the Boston Celtics‘ 2020-21 campaign could best be described as an up-and-down affair. Sure, the team had struggled to stay above .500 for much of the season, but it also had remained firmly in the playoff race and eeked out an impressive win here and there.
There were also solid excuses for the shortfall — COVID-19, injuries, etc. — and a magical comeback during postseason play was still within the realm of possibility.
In recent days, though, the situation has descended rapidly toward lost year status. All-Star wing Jaylen Brown has been lost for the season to a wrist injury. Pivot wunderkind Rob Williams could be joining him due to turf toe. Kemba Walker continues to miss games due to “rest.”
All the while, the Celtics have lost three consecutive games and seven of their last 10. Over that span, the club has allowed opponents to put up 117.8 points per 100 possessions, a mark that ranks 25th league-wide.
Consequently, Boston finds itself on a collision course with the dreaded play-in tournament.
Extenuating circumstances notwithstanding, it has become increasingly clear throughout the campaign that the Cs need to be better. And not just on the court, either.
To that end, a longtime NBA reporter and ESPN contributor had strong words for Celtics coach Brad Stevens on Monday.
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MacMullan: Stevens Deserves Some of the Blame
Noted hoops scribe Jackie MacMullan made an appearance on NBC Sports Boston this week to discuss the Celtics’ woes. In her eyes, there is a lot of blame to go around for what has transpired in Beantown. And at least some of it has been earned by Stevens.
“Does Brad Stevens deserve blame? Of course he does. Nobody can come out of this blameless,” she said, via Boston.com.
She also added fuel to a fire that has been burning within Celtics Twitter for months on end. Specifically, the oft-parroted notion that Stevens may be getting tuned out by his squad.
“There are nights where you wonder if he’s getting to this roster,” she said. “If they’re listening, if they’re paying attention…”
MacMullan noted that Stevens’ system has been predicated on strong defensive play in the past and that the team has not acquitted itself well in that department in ’20-21. She’s not wrong, either.
In 2019-20, the Celtics ranked fourth league-wide with an impressive D-rating of 106.5. They also held opponents to just 34% shooting from three-point range. This season, those numbers have jumped to 112.2 and 37.7%, respectively.
Stevens Getting Another Shot Anyway?
According to MacMullan, Stevens will likely remain in his position next season despite the struggles his crew has experienced.
“I really do, because I don’t know if everybody remembers, they signed Brad Stevens to an extension in August of last summer,” she said. “I think he’s going to get a chance to come back because, again, I mentioned the COVID issues, the injury issues.”
Moreover, she sees him taking a more active role in building the team’s roster. She also seemed to take a shot at Celtics GM Danny Ainge for not doing more to either keep or get some kind of return on Stevens favorite Gordon Hayward, who left for the Charlotte Hornets.
“I’ll say it again, I’ve said it 100 times, everybody seemed so glad that Gordon Hayward was walking out that door,” said MacMullan. “Let me tell you guys, He was the big, strong wing defender that kept this unit humming. He was also the best facilitator on this team that sacrificed shots to make the extra pass last year. I can’t stress enough how bad it was that Gordon Hayward walked away for nothing.”
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