Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
With Sunday’s 110-106 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, the Boston Celtics disposed of their first-round playoff opponent in a clean sweep for the second straight year.
That’s a fact that might be easy to forget for many Celtics fans. They, of course, watched the C’s fizzle out in the second round last year, ultimately succumbing to the Milwaukee Bucks in just five games after cruising past the Indiana Pacers, 4-0, in the opening round best-of-seven. In fact, the 2019 playoff C’s won their first five postseason contests before things went south quicker than a Kyrie Irving mood swing.
Last year’s Celtics were a study in poor chemistry. The results didn’t come close to meeting the talent. The mercurial point guard Irving grew more and more disgruntled by the day in Boston and the all-star became a total nonfactor in that Bucks series. As predicted, Irving bolted from Boston last offseason and joined the Brooklyn Nets. Steady big man Al Horford also left in free agency to join the 76ers in an attempt to wash his hands of the embarassing mess left behind in Boston and bolster a Philly squad that appeared closer to title contention.
I’m going to take exception to a few of the comments in that article. First off, as I’ve said elsewhere, I think Kyrie Irving has untreated mental health issues. Not as severe as Delonte West, but to a point where just in hearing comments (on the record, even) from guys like Mike Gorman, Marcus Smart and Danny Ainge, I feel for him, because he’s not where he wants to be mentally. And the move to Brooklyn seems unlikely to have changed that.
Also, I don’t think Al Horford bolted because of the chemistry problems. He bolted for two reasons: Money and position. The Sixers offered him more guaranteed money and a chance to play alongside Embiid, rather than having to body against him in the post.
Finally, where’s the mention of Terry Rozier? If you want to find the leading cause of last season’s issues you don’t even have to go to anonymous sources for that. Rozier basically said as much himself within weeks of the season’s abrupt end.
But anyway, having rehashed the change in personnel from year to year, this year’s sweep feels different, and not just because it was easier to sweep the Sixers due to the lack of a road environment for the C’s. This feels different because the Celtics’ took the correct lessons from last year’s second round debacle, as Jaylen Brown said after the win on Sunday:
We gotta be ready to hit first and play for a full 48 minutes against Toronto. They’re a good team. …
“I think we’re clicking on all cylinders with this unit that we have here. Last year we had a lot of talent and I think this year we’re better as a team. Going into the next series, we have to be ready to fight. Last year we swept as well in the first round and, in the second round, I think we lost in 5. We have it in the back of our heads, the guys that have been here, we gotta continue to come out and play. Hopefully, things turn out a little bit different for us. I think we have a better team and I think we’ll prove it here in the second round.”
Sweeping the Sixers means exactly one thing. They’re in the second round. And although they beat the Sixers in four straight, there were several points in those games where a better team could’ve seized the advantage from Boston. The Raptors are, talent-wise, perhaps not a better team than the Sixers, but they are definitely a better coached team. The C’s won the season series with the Raptors 3-1, but that doesn’t mean much, given that the Sixers won the season series with the Celtics 3-1.
Surprisingly, this will be the first ever playoff meeting between the Raptors and the Celtics.
The Raptors’ Kyle Lowry sprained his ankle in the closeout game against Brooklyn, but it appears to be less severe than Hayward’s, and he’ll be a game-time decision on Thursday.
Page 2: Where we gaze at the wreckage of “The Process”
The Sixers had this grand plan, if you’ll recall: They were going to play to lose, assemble a wreck of a team that barely met the league’s salary floor, and accumulate draft picks in order to put together a dynasty. They were going to ignore free agency and trades, and just build through the draft.
Now defenders of “The Process” will tell you that Hinkie wasn’t able to carry out his scheme, having been replaced about half way through his efforts to assemble a juggernaut.
But here’s the thing. We imagine that Brett Brown was Hinkie’s choice not just to stink up the league, but also to carry the Sixers to unprecedented heights.
And Brett Brown is not a very good coach.
Back when the C’s were looking to replace Doc Rivers, Brett Brown’s name was tossed out as a potential candidate, based on his connections to the area. When the Sixers landed Brown, I wondered if the C’s had missed an opportunity. That was June 27, 2013. Not even a week later, the C’s announced the hiring of Brad Stevens, and I knew they’d made the right call (I’ve got the twitter receipts to prove that, too).
You can make the case that Brown was not given much to work with, but certainly he was given enough. You can make the case that, because the team was expected to lose, bad habits became engrained in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
You can make the case that Hinkie’s plan of building exclusively through the draft was not going to work, given that the league gives teams three different ways to assemble a quality roster (trades, draft, free agency).
But the bottom line is still there: Brett Brown couldn’t figure out how to use Al Horford in starting lineups with Joel Embiid. He couldn’t motivate Embiid and Simmons to get off their asses and improve their skill and basketball IQ–leaving them to coast through their careers on athletic ability alone.
And now he’s gone and the Sixers are, amusingly enough, in roughly the same position they were eight years ago: They’ve got a mishmash of bad contracts and young players, they have no coach, and they have no idea what to do next.
So they’re probably going to follow the Mediocre NBA Team’s Strategy Guide: They’re going to hire a retread coach with years of experience achieving average results, they’re going to trade guys, maybe even Simmons, and in a year or two, they’ll fire Elton Brand too, and it’ll be lather-rinse-repeat. Oh, and before they fire Brand, there will be all sorts of anonymous quotes about how the Sixers are “stuck” with awful contracts that Brand is responsible for, and the team’s subpar performance is mainly his fault.