It's been a while. I thought I was done posting on Celticsblog, but there are very few Celtic fans where I am from. Here are my thoughts.
1. I believe in Kyrie, but he is not getting us into our offensive sets well. He doesn't allow pick-setters (Al) to get set before he starts moving. This hasn't led to offensive fouls yet, but I think it will. He is trying to be patient working the screen, but he is not putting pressure on the defense. He goes around the pick and dribbles back, inviting the double team, but he does it too slowly, allowing helpside to get to the roll man. At that point, his vision and timing are not advanced enough yet to read the cross court option, leaving him stranded. This happened many times against a lanky defense last night.
Again, I believe in Kyrie. I think sometimes his teammates are not making the right cuts to open spots - so the blame is not all on him. I think he will get it, and be deadly when he does. But right now Kyrie-Al pick-and-rolls look way different that IT-Al did. I guess that's to be expected.
If Kyrie makes the shots he normally makes last night, we win by 10. Even without getting us into our sets well, he is a dangerous offensive threat that almost single-handedly took over that game and won it for us.
While Kyrie did have a couple defensive miscues (most notably the Dellavadova drive late the fourth), he has looked pretty good on defense. He is making plays defensively and staying active. It's only two games, but his 105 defensive rating is positive.
2. Smart looks really good to me. I like the way he is using his body. He is consistently beating his man on drives, something he hasn't done so far in his NBA career (and the reason why I started to doubt his upside). He also has had some elite offensive reads (Lebron-esque). For instance, one time last night, he ran a pick-and-roll on the right side of the court going into the middle, and threw an over-the-head, left-handed pass to the corner. The guy in the corner didn't shoot, but that pass isn't made a lot in the NBA. That puts a lot of pressure on defenses to rotate well.
It's a lot to ask of a 4th year player, but I was hoping Marcus' experience in CBS' system would help us as Kyrie got acclimated. That has not happened, but I appreciate how hard Marcus is playing and the growth to his game.
3. Brown looks really, really good too. Through 2 games, he has been our best player--did you ever think that would be the case? He is playing with so much poise and confidence right now. His shot looks improved. He is more under-control on his drives. And his defense has been elite. If he plays like that all year, he will make an All-Defense team (He will be inconsistent, and therefore won't, but when he is locked in, he is elite).
He was definitely outplayed by Lebron and Giannis, but he wasn't outmatched. That's huge for a 20 year old. Those two guys are arguably the best two forward in the NBA. Jaylen drew fouls on them, drew charges on them, played good positional defense, used his length to wreak havoc, and still scored on the other side of the ball. Again, he was outplayed, but not outmatched.
4. Tatum looks good too. His plus-minus stats aren't good, but I really like the things he is doing. He is using his length on defense and rebounds, which shows he wants to make an impact on the game. His offense is not there yet. He is too timid sometimes and other times too aggressive. We need him to be an offensive threat when he catches it.
5. Rozier looks good too. He is all over the court when he is out there. For a guy who wasn't that good of a shooter coming into the league, he is probably the second guy (after Kyrie) that I am most confident in when he shoots. He looks like he is in the mold of a Gary Harris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, or Avery Bradley.
6. Ojeyle, Theis, and Nader are all NBA players. Once they get comfortable with the system and what they are asked to do, they can give us minutes. They are not Mickey-Young-Hunter type of bench players. Ojeyle and Nader would be starting for 10 teams in the league (i'm looking at you New Orleans). Theis could get minutes on most teams in the league too.
7. I don't like Baynes. He slows down our offense and fouls way to much. I like the toughness, but he really mucks things up on both sides of the court without much positive additions.
8. Horford is still doing his Horford things. I like his defense. He missed a lot of shots he normally makes last night. I think that is largely due to offensive rhythm and will improve as the season goes.
9. I hate the inconsistency on travel calls. The officials are obviously trying to crack down on the feet shuffle when players attack closeouts, but what's the point of that if Lebron and Giannis are allowed to jumpstop (landing both feet and different times) and then shuffle their feet and take another step? Those kinds of plays get old, because it seems like (green-tinted glasses?) we don't get away with those, but other teams do.
10. CBS is frustrated, which is understandable. On top of his boy Hayward suffering a scary injury, he had the toughest opening two nights of basketball in the NBA, coaching a team that had the most turnover in the NBA. He also has one of the youngest teams in the NBA. It must be hard to see his team struggle with the basics of his system this year, after he had his full system implemented last year.
I love CBS sets, but I have noticed that when players aren't comfortable in them yet and they get the ball, they tend to be timid. Sometimes, they just try seem to run the set, instead of running an offense. The basic rule of every offense is that you have to stay aggressive. This will get better the more comfortable they get, but it's hard to watch after the well-oiled offensive sets of last year.
11. Morris could be an important piece for us, especially this year. We need a little more veteran savyness and toughness, along with offensive aggression. I'm a little concerned that, because our offense is less than sharp right now, both Irving and Morris could default to iso-ball too much, which would get our young guys into bad habits, but he is a guy who can step into some of Hayward's role and help us out.
12. For fans: CBS teaches patience. He encourages players to focus on getting better every day, and then he trusts the results to follow. Especially this year, we need to do the same. This year is going to be a key year in the development of a championship team. Every time Kyrie gets the timing right on a pick-and-roll and whips a pass to the corner is a success. Every time Tatum makes himself a threat when he catches the ball and makes a quick offensive read is a success. Every time Jaylen locks in on defense is a success. Every time Rozier snakes around a screen for a pullup 15-footer is a success. Every time Smart remembers that he is the strongest guard in the league and bullies his way into the paint on a drive/postup is a success. Etc. Etc.
Enjoy the small things. This fire is going to purify this team, and we will be better because of it.
It could be worse--we could be Knicks fans.