We’re just a few weeks out from Thanksgiving, which means we’re about a month away from Christmas, which means we’re about two months away from the time when Celtics fans should start hitting the panic button.
For the first time since Brad Stevens took over as head coach, the Celtics are underachieving with a 7-6 record (as of writing) and are sitting at fifth place in the Eastern Conference. For all the negativity online you might think they were winless.
It’s true that despite regaining two all-stars, the Celtics look like a shell of the team that made a run to the conference finals last year. Even when they’ve won, they haven’t looked great doing it. It’s gotten to the point that Gordon Hayward, the all-star they signed for $128 million last summer, has said he is open to coming off the bench.
While I do appreciate Hayward’s willingness to put the team above his own pride, we’re not quite at that point yet.
Hayward hasn’t looked as advertised. He’s averaging 9.9 points per game and shooting below 40 percent from the field. He’s been bad, I won’t argue that. But I think we should cut him some slack for not looking right this season when his foot looked like a right angle a year ago. Before October, it had been almost a full year and a half since Hayward played more than 10 minutes of NBA-caliber basketball in a game. To have to train your body to regain playing shape with that amount of time off is tough, even more so when you can’t use both of your legs.
Besides Hayward, the biggest loser of the Celtics’ attempts to fully nurse him back to health is Jaylen Brown. After making massive strides in his sophomore year, Brown is shooting 36 percent from the field and 27 percent from 3-point land. Due to the Celtics’ major injuries last season, Brown had the luxury of becoming a major focus of the offense. He is now the fifth option. He has to pick and choose his spots now. In each of his three seasons, Brown has had to adjust to a new role. First he was a bench player, then an impact starter and now a role player. Let’s not write him off just yet.
While the Celtics’ defense has remained elite, their offense has taken a step back this season. Despite having arguably the best starting lineup outside of Golden State, their offense ranks 26th in the league.
This can partially be attributed to Hayward’s struggles, but it’s also a little misleading. The Celtics are the second worst team in the NBA at hitting open jump shots, hitting them at a 38 percent clip. That’s a trend that isn’t going to continue for a team sporting Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum.
When the shots aren’t falling, Boston falls back into bouts of isolation hero ball. The Celtics lead the league in taking long-contested twos with 19 a game, a stat that would make multiple front office executives pull out their hair.
These are all things that are fixable, whether through Brad Stevens’ adjustments or by just naturally letting the players figure out how they fit together.
Everyone needs to take a deep breath and chill out. The Celtics have never disappointed in the Brad Stevens era and I don’t think they will this season when it’s all said and done. This is a team that needs to know what they are in April, not in November.
To borrow a phrase from an Eastern Conference rival: Trust the process.
Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.