Boston Celtics: The Outsiders’ Perspective

By Shaun Whalen
@TheSPFW

As a teacher, I have the unique opportunity to influence the hearts and minds of our youth in hopes they find a moment of clarity in this strange, muddled, mixed-up world. 

And I’m doing a damn poor job because I have converted nary a single one to becoming a Celtics fan. 

Kids will begrudgingly respect the Celtics now that Kyrie is here (and at least took note of IT’s heroics), but otherwise have no room on their ADD-addled Fortnitey brains for the beauty of Celtics Basketball.  The Warriors have taken over as the team-du-jour, Lebron holds a rarified air even amongst the youngbloods, and the rest barely seem to matter.

As basketball (specifically the NBA) is consumed on a grander and grander stage, the reality is most people get the larger majority of their NBA highlights from Instagram (Twitter is still a vastly underwhelming Social Media scene in term of high schoolers—at least in my experience [S/O NBATwitter for being a top ten thing on earth])  Watching an entire game—much less 82—seems an overwrought and insane proposition for most of the populace, thus the hot-take cycle reigns supreme for many fans.  This is bitterly sad, but also inherently important to know when dealing with the plebeians and maintaining a normal conversation.

Besides potentially and truthfully affecting the route of someone’s life, one of the other major perks of begin a teacher is vacation.

(Any teacher-vacation related comments can be hardily placed within your own ass.  Parents beg teachers to take their kids away from them by the end of the vacation.)

Any number of random circumstances led me this spring break to my beloved, New Orleans, and Wrestlemania.  I am not a big wrestling fan, but the people watching alone in that debaucherous city was worth the price of admission.

While there, I ended up sitting at a bar with a friend (a Kobe/Lakers fan—he is a general consumer of the sport, but tends toward the MambaMentality in life) and watching the end of the Pelicans-Warriors game from April 8.  We had ordered some drinks and began talking with the oyster-shuckers, NOLA locals and Pellie fans.  It was the fourth quarter of an eventual Pelicans 126-120 victory, and when we ordered oysters, we told them not to shuck them until the next commercial.  The manager of the restaurant and multiple waiters stopped completely in their tracks to watch the end of the game—kudos to them.  I had encountered an entirely different NBA fanbase and I was curious how they felt about the league and the Celtics in general.  (It should be noted that realizing a real-to-life NBA fan usually only takes about 1-3 minutes once the subject is set upon.)  I asked them liberally about the Celtics and individual players while slurping the massive oysters (and classily sipping my drink). 

As someone immersed in Celtics Basketball, it can be difficult to remove the inherent interest I have in how well Scary Terry and the Dancing Bear might be playing.  So as the Celtics enter the portion of the season in which every game is broadcast on national television, what follows is a conglomeration of ideas/thoughts/opinions from the NOLA-Shuckers (S/O Bourbon House, Perry, and Lee), the Lakers fan, my aforementioned students, and the Knicks fans (HAHAHAHAHA) I call friends to better inform us of the larger opinion of our Celtics.

Author’s Note (AN):

  • Quotes are general and not attributed to a specific individual or group unless otherwise noted.
  • Players are presented in the order in which the Google search “boston celtics roster” returned them.
  • All stats are procured through the immortal, unbelievable, and otherwise otherworldly Basketball-Reference.com

 Kyrie

Kyrie Irving:

  • The only player that universally gets respect
  • “That Uncle Drew shit is hilarious.”
  • “Buckets on buckets for that dude.”
  • Slowly becoming a One-Name guy: Lebron, Giannis, Kyrie….
  • “Has he dunked this year? Does he need to?”
  • “Dunno about the flat earth, but he is Woke AF.”
  • “Smooth as a baby’s bottom.”
  • “Better than Russ”
  • Untucked Kyrie is a phenom.

I truthfully never knew just how good Kyrie was until this season. Obviously I was aware of his handles and shot-making, but I had no idea just how consistently his degree of difficulty was off the charts.  There are 4-5 shots a game that Kyrie sinks that most of the world couldn’t do in their local gym with no defenders.  Even then, Kyrie does one thing a game that blows your mind— for me it is usually a double-crossover into a spin move followed by a deft floater that barely touches the net on the way through. 

How does he begin to expand his game further?  Too small to post people up, so extend his range even farther?  How long until Kyrie puts up 50-40-90 season (he went 49-40-89 in his abbreviated year this year)?  Give him Gordon Hayward and another year Jaylen improvements from the field…can he average 10 + assists?  I am giddy to see what this man does.

Jaylen Brown:

 

  • “Fly as a mothafucka.”
  • The pre-eminent high top fade in the game today (AN: Fuck you, Shump). Could become iconic given career trajectory.
  • Woke even before he met Kyrie. “Wonder what their convos are like?”
  • Dude can get up.
  • Athletic with dunks for days.

I am really amazed at how little most of the rest of the people I have spoken to understand about Jaylen.  Ignoring the whole “super smart, acts as his own agent, is a shoo-in for a TED talk/NBAPA president”, people are really sleeping on this guy.  A lot of people mentioned a handful of dunks they remembered (the Insta-Theory), but nothing of his defense or his improving 3-point shot (he shot a tidy .395 this year).  Everything about Jaylen comes with an understanding that his minutes were supposed to be far fewer this year (or while playing up/down a position) because of G-Hay and JayTay.  An embarrassment of riches, but I—personally—think Jaylen is going to be Kawhi-lite.  The comparison is actually startling.  Jaylen has a far higher usage rate than Kawhi (21.4-16.4) at the same age and played almost 350 more minutes.  This Kawhi season came in 2012-2013 (the Ray Allen for the Heat championship season); in the next year however, Kawhi would claim the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award while effectively dismantling the Lebron-led Heat.  It would still be another three seasons until Kawhi became a 20 PPG scorer, so the growth potential is enormous yet for Jaylen (and his High-top). 

 

Jayson Tatum:

  • “Light-skinned dudes can always shoot.”
  • “He’s got long ass arms.”
  • Better shooter than people realize
  • “Smooth AF.”
  • “He ain’t Simmons.”
  • “Isn’t he like 20?”
  • A number of girls at school who could not care less about basketball have a HUGE crush on JayBae (as they call him)

The comparison to Simmons is really interesting because Tatum should be tied to Fultz, but because of this insane ROY race, people have begun to lump Simmons in with Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Kuzma, and Tatum.  While the comparisons are inevitable, they are really unfair.  Simmons is a once in a generation (lifetime?) thing—he’s inscrutable and unique in so many ways.  The comparisons with Mitchell and Kuzma are much more apt and I would gladly take Tatum over them, despite the impressiveness of Mitchell’s rookie season.  With the ongoing revolution of small ball, Tatum projects as a scorer in every sense of the word—he can shoot the three (43.5 percent), drive to the basket, and iso at the end of games if need be (his Dirk-esque fadeaway is sweet). In his last eleven games played this season (with a largely hospitalized roster), Tatum scored at least 20 five times, a sign of his maturation and ability to be the scorer.  Now slot him next to Kyrie and the next guy we havent’t spoken about yet, and there are buckets to be had.

And in case you didn’t hear every announcer mention it, he only just turned twenty years old.

Gordon Hayward:

  • “Oh, shit. I forgot about him.”
  • “That shit was gross.”

o   Cue a convo about every awful injury that has happened (highlights include Shaun Livingston, Kevin Ware, and Joe Theismann).

  • “He was alright. Good signing, but he’s not changing a playoff series.”
  • “Celts got a lot of wings. How you gonna play them all?”
  • “Reppin for the white boys.”
  • “That yodel kid reminds me of him.”

I fall victim to the same spell because of how well the Killer Jays have played, but HOLY FUCK Gordon Hayward played 5 minutes this season.  He averaged 22-5.5-3.5 while shooting 47-40-88 for Utah in his last full season played.  Look at this list(sorted by descending Win Shares) of those who have accomplished the same numbers in the 3-point era (since 1979-80): Holy HOFers.  And this is a guy who many people thought could not be a #1, but might be better as a second banana…..People are somehow sleeping on this man and it is blowing my mind. 

See you soon, G.

This is how I feel about the “too many wings” argument, for what it is worth:

 

Marcus Smart:

  • “Baller”
  • “Dude can play.”
  • “Take him on my team in a second.”
  • “Glue guy in every sense of the word.”
  • “Hustler”
  • People actually think he shoots far better than he does (~~35-37 % from 3 when asked)
  • “Bulldog”

 

Aside from Kyrie, people had more to say about Marcus than any other Celtic; I was dumbfounded.  As a sixth man largely predicated upon hustle, I knew his hype had grown due to his defense against Harden early in the season, but had no idea to what length.  For a team that has seen so much turnover over the past three seasons, Marcus has been the rock upon which Brad has built his church.  His grit and game-changing plays cannot be overstated in what has become an increasingly skill-based league.  While his real shooting numbers are dismal (he shot a career high 30.1 % this year….), he is the guy who takes a shot in crunch time and the whole crowd feels good about it.  Every successful team needs a guy like Marcus—no complaints, pure energy, won’t back down from challenges—and I wouldn’t want another one.  His contract has been exercised through next season, but beyond that, Marcus has undoubtedly made himself a lot of money with his play over the past few years.  What remains to be seen is how he fits into the rotation given a healthy lineup and how much Danny is willing to invest in him.  It is going to be even more interesting because of the increased role and skill Terry Rozier has been showing given the chance.  For my money, give me Marcus, his bottled rage, and the infinite possibility of him guarding every position (purposefully) in a single NBA finals game.    

 

Al Horford:

  • “He aight.”
  • “Boring.”
  • “Meh.”
  • “Whatever”

The fact that the most important Celtic is sixth on the Google search and widely disregarded as a non-entity in the world is proof-positive of the Insta-Theory.  While NCAA champion teammates Corey Brewer (energy guy, at best) and Joakim Noah (equivalent of the Titanic on the Knicks’ salary cap [HAHAHAHA—seriously he’s owed 18.5, and 19.2 MILLION in the next two years]), Al made another All-Star team at 31—his fifth.  He might be the most boring All-Star of all time, but he is a DAMN good basketball player as his assists numbers have ballooned since meeting Brad Stevens and his Illuminati offense—2.7 during his time in ATL compared to 4.85 in The Bean.   A defensive stalwart and magician despite his limited frame, Al can guard almost anyone on the court and has caused havoc on a nightly basis in the best way possible.  The only scary issue is his age—31, closing in on 32—doesn’t match up with the young core of the Celts.  But for the meantime, Al is the equivalent of the of an Indie band that hasn’t reached the full potential yet…..

 

And now, for the rest of the roster, allow me to shorten it to a few quick GIFs as almost anyone I asked about was met with silence and the following question: 


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