The New Orleans Pelicans and Boston Celtics will meet for their second time within two weeks. While New Orleans has traded wins and losses of late, Boston seems to have figured out a few things and are on a five-game winning streak. For more solely on the matchup, check out our full game preview here
In our Outsider’s Perspective series we go deep into each Pelicans opponent by gathering various contributors and editors from around the basketball community. Today we caught up with Keith Smith from Celticsblog.com.
The buck doesn’t just stop there for Keith, however, as he also contributes for RealGM.com and now Yahoo Sports. You can follow Keith on Twitter @KeithSmithNBA. In today’s edition Keith breaks down Boston’s early struggles, recent winning streak, and why he’s went against the grain repeatedly with his thought on Anthony Davis’ future in New Orleans.
Hope everyone enjoys our latest installment of Outsider’s Perspective!
- When you look at the Boston Celtics from afar this season, it only seems like a matter of time before they put it all together. After a 10-10 start they’ve won five straight and are climbing back up the ladder in a much improved Eastern Conference — Albeit it hasn’t been easy for Boston as they’ve dealt with Kyrie Irving free agency rumors, Terry Rozier’s apparent unhappiness with his role, and a few rotation changes. In total, head coach Brad Stevens has had his hands quite full.
How much of Boston’s inconsistent start was due to “rich people problems” and simply finding a way to keep their talented and deep roster happy in their roles, while finding successful lineups that supports each player’s minutes? Have they found a formula that should stick?
A large chunk of the Celtics issues early was having too many guys who needed to play, while also having Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis finding their footing after season-ending injuries last year. In the NBA there are three forms of currency: salary, playing time and shots. While several Celtics were rich in the first, they weren’t as rich in the second. And with a couple of guys in contract years, that is tough for the coach to manage.
That said, Brad Stevens has found some stuff that works. Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris replacing Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown in the starting lineup has brought balance. It’s also helped to get Hayward and Brown going recently, as they are playing against lesser competition on the second unit. While the schedule has softened considerably for the Celtics, the lineup changes have also pushed the recent success.
2. Keith you’ve become somewhat of a folk hero in New Orleans. While several media members and fans have already written Anthony Davis out of NOLA, you’ve been one of the few to express the exact opposite. You throw out the “Rose Rule” every time a Boston/Davis pairing is brought up this season, and if that isn’t enough, you’ve spoken of the Pelicans roster, the supermax, and Davis’ overall temperament in defending your stance as well.
Neither of us know the future of AD with the Pelicans and there’s a possibility he could truthfully leave or force his way out at some point. What’s made you go against the grain and see things a little differently in comparison with many other national figures, especially those related to Boston? Are you secretly from New Orleans?
That’s funny! I’m not secretly from New Orleans. I grew up south of Boston and now live in Orlando. But there are a couple of reasons I see things differently when it comes to Anthony Davis. As it pertains to Boston, it simply isn’t possible. At least not until Kyrie Irving is no longer playing on his current contract. Because the writing I do for Yahoo Sports and RealGM is based around the salary cap and CBA, I tend to be hyper-realistic about roster-related issues. If it can’t happen because of the rules, it can’t happen.
Beyond that, I see no reason to doubt Davis that he wants to be in New Orleans. I tend to take players at their word until they give us reason not to.
If, and only if, Davis turns down a Designated Veteran Player Extension this summer, then speculation about his next destination should start. Until then, it’s not overly meaningful. I think it’s unfair to the team (players, coaches, front office) and cruel to fans to continually talk as if Davis is as good as gone. Maybe someday, but today is not that day.
3. The overall consensus from the majority of NBA pre-season predictions had the Celtics representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. There’s more than enough time for those predictions to come to fruition, but it appears the road eventually traveled will be much more difficult than originally believed. With Toronto, Milwaukee and Philadelphia all seemingly ready for deep playoff runs, who do you think poses as Boston’s stiffest challenge?
I think the Celtics biggest challenge is still the Toronto Raptors. They’ve had trouble with Toronto for years and this year is no different. Their first two games have been battles, and I would expect similar interactions in all future matchups this season.
As for Milwaukee and Philadelphia, both are very good teams, but Boston has beaten both of them already. And it’s happened in the playoffs and in the regular season. Now, neither team is the same as last year’s playoffs, but the Celtics are a different team too. Mostly, it’s just really enjoyable that the East has four really great teams slugging it out at the top of the conference.
4. What’s the biggest misconception about the Boston Celtics?
That they can’t keep this team together. Ownership has repeatedly said they have no problem paying the luxury tax for a contender. And there is no reason to doubt them, as they paid the tax several years during the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen era. It won’t be money that breaks up the Celtics.
Guys like Terry Rozier or Marcus Morris could leave town for bigger roles, but Danny Ainge and ownership won’t cheap out on offering them contracts. In addition, the Celtics have some extra draft picks still coming their way. That should help replace any depth they lose via free agency.
5. Outside Perspective on the Pelicans?
I think they’ve been up and down, as witnessed by their record. When they push the ball and fly up and down the floor, the Pelicans are very tough to defend. Davis is a handful and everyone else fits around him quite well. The challenge is that the defense just isn’t good enough. Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday are All-Defense candidates, but the rest of the guys are average to below-average defenders.
In addition, because of the lack of draft picks and some free agency misses, the depth isn’t as great. An injury or two seems to hurt the Pelicans more than most. When everyone is healthy, this team is pretty good. Unfortunately, those days have been few and far between in recent seasons. I still think New Orleans is a playoff contender, but the Western Conference is so deep that any misstep feels magnified tenfold.
Celtics win a close one. They’ve got it rolling right now and have found some lineup combos that work. That’s enough to take the victory at home.
That was our time with Keith Smith. Hope you all enjoyed Keith’s thoughts on the Celtics and his candor in regards to Anthony Davis and the Pelicans as an entity. He drops basketball content on the regular so if you enjoy a fresh outlook on different basketball topics be certain to keep up with his work. Enjoy the game and as always, Geaux Pels!