By Cam Giangrande
Brad Stevens must be fired. That’s right; the head coach of the first place Boston Celtics needs to be fired immediately.
Ok, you probably think I’ve lost my mind. The Celtics record sits at 30-10, on pace to win 60-plus games, which would almost guarantee the top seed in the East, and most likely a return visit to the Eastern Conference Finals in a rematch against the Cleveland Cavaliers. All without the services of Gordon Hayward, who’s been out all season with a broken ankle.
After beginning the season 0-2, the Celtics rattled off 16 consecutive wins, and it looked like they’d never lose again. Even after that gaudy 16-2 start, they won six out of their next eight games, sitting with a 22-4 record. That pace would have had them tinkering with a 70–win season. Of course, nobody believes this team is a 70–win team, but they should be better than the 8-6 record they’ve posted in their last 14 games. Actually, if it weren’t for their recent three-game win streak, they would be under .500 over that stretch. Something is wrong. I maintain it is their coach.
Brad Stevens asked if he has any New Year’s Resolutions: “I won’t change much tomorrow. Just kinda keep on going I guess. I’m probably not the right person to ask. I’m pretty boring.”
— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) December 31, 2017
Deep down, and at his core, Brad Stevens is a college coach. At times he looks like he’s coaching a youth league basketball game, where every kid needs to get a minimum allotment of minutes. Entering their last game vs. Brooklyn Al Horford led the team in minutes played per game, with 32.6 mpg. Kyrie Irving was second with 32.4 mpg. That ranked them 44th and 48th in the league. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo led the league in minutes, playing 38 per game. Other superstars like LeBron James, (37.4), Paul George, (37.2), James Harden, (36.4), and Russell Westbrook, (36.3), all played far more than either Horford or Irving.
You may ask, what’s the big deal about a few minutes per game? The game is 48 minutes long with five players on the court. Ideally, you’d want to have your best players on the court for the majority of time. Any time that Horford and Irving are off the court, means that those minutes must be picked up by lesser players. Since most games in the NBA are close, one or two possessions can make the difference between a win and a loss.
I looked back to see how many minutes Stevens played Isaiah Thomas when he was with the team, and a similar pattern emerged. Two seasons ago, Thomas played 32.2 minutes per game, and last season he played 33.8. And in his first season with the Celtics last year, Horford played 32.3 mpg. This is Brad Stevens’ philosophy, which is not an NBA philosophy. Stars on other teams play more minutes. Stevens is a solid coach when it comes to building a team, but his in–game management has always been lacking. In fact, heading into this season, his NBA record was only 166-162, and he finally won a playoff series in his fourth NBA season. His playoff record is only 11-17.
Call Up Larry Legend!
Stevens, by all accounts seems to be a nice man, and I wish him nothing but the best…back at college, where he belongs. President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge should call up his old teammate, Larry Bird, to coach this team going forward. Larry Legend is still a consultant for the Indiana Pacers, but I’m sure he could get out of that arrangement.
This is the perfect team for Bird to coach. It is a young, athletic team with nothing but upside potential. Even without Hayward on the roster this year, the team can win now. Bring Bird in to get comfortable with this group, and see how far he can take them. Who knows whether he’ll be able to get them to the NBA Finals: one thing is certain, Brad Stevens can’t.
Bird will be able to push Irving and get the most out of him. He’ll be able to maximize Horford’s skill set, and he’s the right man to put the team in the best position to win, night in and night out. And, he’s the best man for the job to get Jaylen Brown to the next level. Frankly, Stevens stunted his growth last season, only playing him 17 minutes per game.
Boston judges success by championships, and although “Green Teamers” are a loyal and patient bunch, they are also a very smart bunch. They know when a team is good enough to compete for a championship. This year’s team is good enough to compete for a championship. And, next year’s team is definitely good enough to not only compete, but should be considered the favorite to win it all, with Hayward coming back, and possibly Los Angeles’ first round pick.
The reality is, you don’t give the keys to the Ferrari to a first–year driver, racing in the Grand Prix; you give them to one of the best drivers of all time. You give them to Larry Bird.
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