The Boston Celtics clearly have a problem right now. There is something going on with the chemistry. The guys on the team don't seem to really like one another. It seems as if Jayson Tatum is all but ready to be traded this summer. Kyrie Irving looks fed up. It just seems like a real mess. That being said, they are still in the thick of the playoff race, with, most likely, home court advantage in the first round. But, while all these other guys are taking heat, especially Irving, I want to pose a question.
That question, why is this all Kyrie's fault? What about Brad Stevens, and the Boston sports fan base's white hope, Gordon Hayward? Why do they never, ever seem to get any of the blame? The people that defend Hayward may say the typical stuff, he's coming off a gruesome injury, he needs time, and no one has come back the very next season after a brutal ankle injury like the one he suffered. I will give you all of that. But, he is taking away critical minutes from younger guys that are much better than him, and proved that in last season's playoffs. Jaylen Brown, Tatum, even a guy like Terry Rozier, played lights out during their run to the conference finals last year. This season though, their minutes have dipped because the coaching staff feels like they need to work Hayward back because they seem to think he will be integral to them in the playoffs. He won't. He is still hurt, and he is playing scared. He doesn't attack like he did before the injury. He isn't as good a shooter as he was in Utah. He doesn't take games over. He looks like he is playing scared. And even when he has a "good" game, it is nothing special. I didn't think he would be the "answer" they were looking for when they maxed him out 2 years ago, and that was before the injury. He just isn't the same guy, and he is not letting younger, stronger and better players get the minutes they rightfully earned last season. If I were Brown, Tatum and even a guy like Semi Ojeleye, I'd be pissed that Gordon Hayward was taking crucial playing time away from me. He isn't washed yet, but he is starting to look like he may never be the same player he was while in Utah. He, right now, is playing scared. I personally think it is hilarious because dumbass Boston fans were thinking they were getting the next Larry Bird. Hayward isn't even the 6th or 7th best guy on that team.
This leads me to Brad Stevens. Stevens up to this point has earned a pass. He coached this team up real well since he has been there. He got an influx of talent last year, lost guys to injuries and still made the conference finals. But this was supposed to be the year that he finally started to take over the East. LeBron is gone, Hayward was coming back from injury and Kyrie was back to full health. He also had all that young talent gain meaningful playing time because they were thrust into it last year, and they were the presumed top team in the East. Even after Toronto got Kawhi in a trade everyone said the Celtics were better. Even with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons coming into the year at full health, the Celtics were considered the better team. Even with Milwaukee getting a new head coach, and the continued growth of Giannis, Boston was still considered the best team. All of that was due to what Stevens had done up to that point.
Well, and I believe I even questioned this going into the season, we have gotten to see how he coaches a team that have a super star, and a supposed super star. He has had it rough. His lineups are odd and kind of crazy. He doesn't seem to know how to stagger the minutes. He is trying way too hard to insert Hayward into the lineup. Terry Rozier is barely seeing the court. Marcus Smart was only recently put into the starting lineup, and he is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. It shouldn't take a top tier coach that long to realize that. Jaylen Brown has regressed due to minutes being cut. And like I said at the top, Tatum seems all but ready to leave, and that kid is on his way to becoming a star. I attribute all of this to Brad Stevens. If he wants to be mentioned in the same breath as guys like Greg Poppovich or Steve Kerr or Mike Budeholzer or Nick Nurse or even Mike Malone, he needs to learn how to coach a team with multiple super stars. That is how you win in the modern NBA, and he is struggling mightily with that right now. Tatum wants out. Irving definitely wants out. And I wouldn't be surprised if guys like Al Horford and Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier leave in the offseason.
Every sports journalist talks about, "what happens if one of the top 4 teams in the East loses in the first round, what happens to them then", and I can only think of that happening to the Celtics. It would bring me great joy to see them get bounced early, and then to see what happens. But, while Kyrie is taking the brunt of the criticism, I feel like that is a bit unfair to him. He has won a title, been to two other finals and hit one of, if not the, biggest shots in NBA history. Gordon Hayward has never been out of the second round, and Brad Stevens, while making one conference finals, has never been put under the microscope like he is getting right now.
The blame needs to be spread out around that whole team, and Hayward and Stevens should be seeing the most right now, in my opinion.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing, the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast, and the greatest basketball writer on the internet.
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