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Jared Weiss | Boston Celtics Insider, The Athletic

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The Truth Network Radio
July 7, 2023 5:49 am

Jared Weiss | Boston Celtics Insider, The Athletic

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence

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July 7, 2023 5:49 am

Boston Celtics insider for The Athletic Jared Weiss joins the show to talk the trades of Grant Williams & Marcus Smart, bringing in Kristaps Porzingis, and what the Celtics' identity will be moving forward.

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Visit L2R Smarter, Safer, Faster.com and start moving today. We're pleased to welcome from Las Vegas, because that's where Summer League is and that's where it's all happening. Jared Weiss, who covers the Celtics and the league for the athletic.

Jared, we'll start there. How would you describe the Celtics' strategy for the offseason at this point? Well, their strategy is very confusing, because this is a team that really prided itself on this intense physical defensive identity for years. And then last year, they were trying to augment that with this high-pace, pace and space shooting, three-point specialist team, but also could really thrive off of Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown being able to kind of get where they want and score. And now, they've traded their two toughest players. Like Marcus Smart and Grant Williams were the guys that loved getting under opponent's skin. They were versatile defensively. They made the hustle plays. And they replaced it with, so far, just Chris Ostervinkus, which he has incredible talent, but his reputation is soft. Let's be straight up. He has a soft reputation.

He's going to have to overcome that role, or that reputation in this role, which maybe he could do. But either way, they seem to be doubling down on they want to be one of the greatest offensive teams of all time, apparently, while also having this insurmountable length at the rim. And it's a weird combination, because they're losing that defensive pressure that made them so good on the perimeter, but they seem to be betting that we can stop teams at the rim, get out and run, and we can score in a way that nobody else can. Which, after watching Denver really dominate offensively and win the championship, not a terrible bet. But there's still a missing piece here.

There's still something not quite there. They need a more incisive ball handler that can really, truly live in the paint and make kick-out passes. Maybe they can get Malcolm Brogdon to be okay with the fact that he was almost traded and taken back out of the trade, keep him healthy, and turn him into a really effective point guard alongside Derek White.

But clearly there is more work for them to do to get this roster fully settled. It dawns on me, Jared, as you mentioned the Nuggets, that yes, they definitely could score and they have a variety of ways to beat you, but they also brought in two guys who were known for their defense and their tenacity, and that seemed to put them over the hump in terms of winning the title. It's funny because during the Celtics playoff run, a few players were saying defense wins championships.

There was this whole kind of back and forth that the players and the coach was having in the media, like, what is the identity of this team? Because this team always was like, we're a defensive team. That was what made them so successful under Imeo Toca. And under Missoula, who, don't forget, came into the job like a day or two before training camp, so he was put in a situation that's not fair, but he wanted to balance that out, make them really think about offense a lot more.

And, I mean, it works, right? They had 57 wins. They made the conference finals. No matter how they got there, they did make a game seven of the conference finals, even if they did it in the worst way imaginable.

So clearly this team was great, on the fringe of greatness. And the thing that was missing in the end, you know, I mean, if Jason Tatum doesn't sprain his ankle in the first play of the game and he actually can move and not be miserable and dragging around on the court, I think this would have gone differently. Who knows if they would have won, but it would have been a very close game, and maybe they end up making the finals. I think Denver probably would have beat them either way. Denver was too good this year. But this team just didn't have an intensity level on defense that they needed for their offensive philosophy to work. They needed to get lots of turnovers if they were going to score and transition the way they wanted to. And so now I don't know how that reputation works when you're getting rid of Marcus Smart, you're getting rid of Grant Williams, and you're putting Porzingis in there.

I think there has to be something else. You had a chance to catch up with Grant in the wake of the trade nears, or the side in trade for him. What did he have to say? Grant was incredibly level. You know, it was a bittersweet moment for him where it was somber to lead the Celtics, but he also, he came into this free agency knowing the likelihood of going back to the Celtics was slim, that if it was even a mid-level exception offer, which is basically what he got, that they were really on the fence about matching that.

And I reported earlier in the week that that was kind of the line that they were approaching of whether or not they were going to make the match. And I think he understood that the best situation for him was to leave, because he is capable of being a starter in the NBA. And at the Celtics, he wasn't going to start. He wasn't going to get consistent minutes. Joe Mazula did not want to play him for a lot of that year. We reported with Jay King on the athletic aspects of the season that for Grant to get back into the rotation in March, Jalen Brown and Jason Tatum had to go sit down with Joe Mazula and tell him that we want you to play Grant Williams.

So if that's the situation, why would you come back to that? He's a restricting agent, so he might not have a choice. It worked out best for him because he goes to Dallas, where he's most likely going to start, and he's next to Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic, two guys that can draw a crowd, kick it out to him, and Grant can just fire away from 3 in the corner. Grant can be a short-willed guy, which is something that he could do in college. I think he could do pretty well in the NBA because he has really good passing vision. So I think Dallas is going to unlock a lot of his game. It really is a best-case scenario for him. When you think back over his role with the Celtics, as much as he would like to start, it seemed as though he played a key role in them having the success they did the last couple years. That tenacity he always brought that to, and it's certainly a defensive guy. So if it's not going to be defense, are they just going to double down offensively and continue to fire up? I don't know, double the number of 3s?

Is this it, Jared? What else are they planning to do? No, I think there has to be something else. You're making a few good points. An important thing to remember with Grant and Marcus, and I think this happens with any sort of defensive specialist who also wants to play me, is that there's going to be a lot of erraticism. There's going to be a lot of turnovers and mistakes, a lot of gambles. It's really hard to evaluate, is this a net positive benefit? I think in Marcus' case, I think easily it was a net positive. In Grant's case, I think it was still a net positive, but also he really struggled with the inconsistency of his role.

And he also, he was turning it over because he would get the ball and he had a rare chance of attack, and he would do the same attack over and over, and defenses knew it was coming. But if you put him in a role where he has more comfort and more security, I think it gives him more patience. It allows him to not make those kind of mistakes.

So it makes sense why the situation's played out that way. But to answer your biggest question, they obviously have to make another move because they have to restore some of this toughness. But I think that offensively, they're looking at this as, we don't have to rely on being a patient in space team and checking out 45 3s because we have someone like Chris Osburson, who is an absolute menace rolling through the paint. He's someone that you could feed the ball to in a mismatch in the high post that he can create from there. They can even have him play make out of the post, which I think he got better at in the last year or so. So they have more variety to this team.

And this offense was just missing variety. It was something that you may have Doka mentioned after the finals. It was something that I at least asked Joe Mazula about.

He tried to pretend like it wasn't the case, but come on, Joe. We know that it was an issue and it's okay. You know, it's okay for the teams that have a shortcoming on offense because Brad Stevens, I think, has done a really good job of trying to address it. But in addressing that, they are taking away a ton from their defense and they need to do something else in order to make that balance at least be enough that they can be a championship team because they're close. But I don't know if they're that much closer after losing both Marcus and Grant. It's a rhetorical question, a good one that we don't actually have the answer to. Jared Weiss covers the Celtics for the athletic is with us from Vegas, where right now it's the center of the NBA world.

It's after hours here on CBS Sports Radio. How much do you think this has to do with them coming so close and not being able to win another NBA championship, especially these last two seasons? Yeah, I think that, you know, there's probably some patient frustration there, but I think it's really more about if they're about to commit a double supermax to Jason and Jalen and the new double apron rules that come along with that.

I think they're just thinking we need to have the foundation in place. We need to find that third offensive player that can compliment these guys. It's also almost a bit of a recognition of Jalen and Jason are great, but we probably need another offensive player that can help carry the weight if they're going to be able to actually win.

So I think kind of repositioning there. I also think Derek White was so good last year. He was such a revelation last year because his offense came around.

His defense was still pretty good that they didn't have to have Marcus more anymore. And they were willing to take that risk. It is a huge risk, especially because Porzingis' health is a major question mark.

But if it hits, it hits. Any reaction so far from Jalen or Jason, considering that they're losing, specifically Marcus, a guy that they've really been through the fire with? Yeah, I think they were both obviously a little concerned. Here's the thing with Marcus. Marcus is for love. He's a brother there.

He's also alive. And I think there is always a constant push and pull between embracing and being frustrated. And I think at the end of the day, Marcus always wins out. I really think he does.

I think that he proves himself to be so irreplaceable at the end of the day because he sets up on people just alone. And I think they recognize that there is so much more on those two guys to lead defensively, to be better playmakers. We all remember how Jalen finished the season, right? Jalen had one of the worst playmaking games of his career.

It was a disaster. Jalen's better than that. He knows he's better.

He'll prove it. I think at this point, these guys need to prove it. They recognize that. And so I think they're okay with the tradeoff because Porzingis is going to help alleviate a lot of the overwork that they really suffered through last year. When you think about one of their major challenges last regular season, and even a couple times in the playoffs we saw it, it was about closing games and about being able to protect leads sometimes and slam the door. So again, I think about what they've done and I wonder, does that address the problem of not being able to keep teams from rallying past them or keep teams from putting together big runs? You know what?

I don't know. Because I feel like defensive letdowns, I think the two reasons they had it was they lost defensive intensity or they had a second unit lineup that had no idea how to score. Okay, you addressed one of those issues there. Porzingis helps allow you to have offensive lineups with at least two elite scorers on the floor at all times. It takes the pressure off of Jalen Brown to coordinate the second unit effectively. So I do think that it allows their offense to be consistent and they're going to be able to score 150 and 120 every single night. And maybe that offsets the defense, especially because Porzingis is such a good rim protector. And I don't know how they're going to utilize them guarding fours and threes at times, maybe they will, but at the very least they're always going to have an unstoppable rim protector down there to clean up whatever's going on and they'll always have multiple scorers.

Jared Weiss of The Athletic is with us from Vegas here on CBS Sports Radio. At times their offense became so one-dimensional that the only thing they would do was shoot threes, but I always wonder why, because both Jason and Jalen can get to the rim. I think Jason Tatum's drive numbers are pretty good. I think he was pretty high up in free throw rate. Over the course of the game, the way that they were designed, they kind of needed Tatum to get to the line 12 times.

He gets to the line about, I think, eight times off the top of my head, but still really high. But it's not Giannis or Juela B. That's kind of what they needed him to be because JT did not shoot the ball well this year, or last year. Brown did not shoot the ball well last year. It's amazing that Jason Tatum averaged 30 points a game. He had a bad shooting season, considering the way he plays. It's a credit to how much he's evolved as a triple penetrator. If he shoots 37% from three, he's going to win a scoring title.

So I think they're okay in that regard. Jalen, he got so good with his mid-range pull-up game last year that I think it took away a little bit from his aggressiveness attacking the rim. But I also wonder if part of that is that he falls so much, he crashes so much, and maybe to preserve his body, now that he's hitting his prime, he needs to maybe not do an up-and-under hanging in the air for five seconds and then fall on his wrist every single time.

So I think part of getting to your prime, honestly, is getting smarter and simpler about the way you score. So you look at the way that Tatum scores the ball now compared to two years ago. He's much more like Kawhi Leonard, where he uses his muscle and he just shoots right in front of you. While in the past, he used to do double-cross, the side-step. Remember he was really famous for that massive side-step? He doesn't even take it anymore. I was asking him and his trainer, like, I don't see this shot anymore, where is it? And they're like, yeah, he doesn't even really need it anymore, but it's still in his bag.

So it's all about being smart and conserving energy when your role is that massive. Before I let you go, if the Celtics were to make another move, and there is some speculation out there that they must have something else, that Brad Stevens must be working on something else, what else is left, or what would make sense, Jared? The irony is they probably need point guard help, but their main trade chip right now is Malcolm Brogdon, who's a point guard. So I don't know if it's getting a different type of point guard. Brogdon was good last year, and I think he would be good again this year, but I've met just a few places, like, they traded him, or they were about to trade him, and everyone knows.

And then they took him out of the deal, they did the Marcus Smart deal, and Brogdon was told after the season was over that he wasn't going to get traded. Apparently all these guys were told that. They should have known better. I tried warning a few of their camps that they might get traded. Everyone thinks that they're safe when they're being told they're safe, but no one's ever safe with this. I might get traded while we're still on the phone. Who knows?

My voice is already going, so I wouldn't be surprised if it happens to go to Vegas. But the point being is that they need to have a point guard that can control the ball effectively under duress. And Marcus Smart was very good at that. For all the mistakes he made, he could dribble into a trap and work his way out of it. He was fine getting swarmed by people in the paint, and he could make good plays out of it. He also could turn the ball over out of it. He was a very, you know, boomer bus player, and I'm sure he'll be great in Memphis. Derek White cannot handle the ball explicitly like that, although I do like some of his point guard skills and the high pick and roll when he's operating out in space. Brogdon is more of a bully ball driver where he gets steeped, and then he kind of stops and he looks and he makes those reads.

So he's good. It's not the same style as Marcus. I think they probably need somebody that has that little smoother style like Marcus has to work in a lot of the ways that they operate. But even if they don't get that, if Brogdon is on board and everything's hunky dory, they should be okay.

Still, potentially it could be some more moves with Brad Stevens. And we've got to let Jared go because he's got a voice that's hanging on by a thread. So find him on Twitter at Jared Weiss, N-B-A-W-E-I-S-S. Covers the Celtics for the athletic.

Right now from Vegas, though. Jared, thank you so much for a couple of minutes. I'm going to drink some hot tea and get ready for the next one. Introducing L2R Smarter, Safer, Faster.com. Your solution to combat the negative effects of sitting at a desk. Sitting at a desk eight hours a day is as harmful as smoking.

If you're stuck at a desk all day, you don't need to quit your job. You need to join our Desk to 5K program. No running experience is required. As a doctor of physical therapy, I'll be honored to guide you every step of the way to reach your running and fitness goals. Let's conquer running together and make it enjoyable. Visit L2R Smarter, Safer, Faster.com and start moving today.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-07 06:48:00 / 2023-07-07 06:56:07 / 8

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