Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics have followed up their train wreck of a month-long stretch with a multi-vehicle car crash.
The Celtics blew a 24-point third-quarter lead against the previous 12-17 New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday. For now, it will be considered Boston’s “worst loss of the season” until the C’s overwrite it. After all, it’s been a campaign where there have been plenty of candidates.
It also was Boston’s second defeat in three games after a string of 10 losses in 15 games from mid-January to mid-February. There are an extensive number of individuals worthy of blame.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, for one, admitted he hasn’t built a championship-caliber team. That’s true. But ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith took it a step further and threw in Boston’s head coach right beside him.
“I have to look at Brad Stevens because, listen I like Brad Stevens, I think he is an exceptional basketball mind,” Smith said Monday during an episode of ESPN’s “First Take.”
“… But in the end, when you have a star like Jayson Tatum — and make no mistake about it, ladies and gentleman, that brother is a star, Jayson Tatum is a star, and guess what, so is Jaylen Brown — the bottom line is you should be better than a .500 team,” Smith continued.
Smith expressed that while he considers Stevens among the best in terms of his on-court IQ, the eighth-year coach has not alleviated any doubt when it comes to his ability as a leader.
“It’s up to Brad Stevens to figure that out. And when I look at Brad Stevens, here’s what I see: I see a guy who knows the game of basketball and can coach his butt off. My question is the motivational skills that he has available to him in his arsenal,” Smith said. “Are you the kind of guy who can galvanize the troops and maximize the potential around you?
” … It’s something about you, as a coach when you shove aside the X’s and O’s — because everyone knows what the other is doing — that’s able to peel something out from inside of you and say ‘OK, I’m gonna maximize the potential, potential you did not even know you had.’ That is the element I have not seen from Brad Stevens.”
It certainly is fair criticism seeing how the Celtics, as Smith noted, have a pair of players in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum that could each be granted NBA All-Star selections. So while the Celtics have battled injuries with Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart, specifically, and while even Ainge himself won’t blame Stevens, Smith isn’t sure how long that mindset will last.
“I have not seen that (motivational difference) yet, and as a result, I think you’re gonna hear a lot of noise about Brad Stevens if this stuff continues in Boston with these guys struggling,” Smith said. “You’re going to hear a lot of people talking about ‘Why have we raved about Brad Stevens so much?’ They’re going to be asking that question. Fair or unfair. You got Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. This is the sport of basketball. You should not be a .500 team with two studs like that.”
The 15-15 Celtics will return to the floor Tuesday against the Dallas Mavericks.