The Boston Celtics have been a disappointment much of the season — not terrible by any means, but not “team to beat in the East” good, which many pundits projected them to be (*raises hand*). It led to a lot of speculation about what has gone wrong — too many good players all looking for touches and shots, not sacrificing for the team, was the conventional wisdom — and why weren’t the players all pulling the rope in the same direction?
Then the Celtics seemed to hit their stride, won 9-of-10 in January into early February, they were moving up in the East standings… but a defeat to the Lakers at home Friday, where Boston led by 18 in the first half but couldn’t knock L.A. out and lost on a buzzer beater, seemed to burst that bubble.
Saturday night it got uglier yet — a blown 28 point lead to the Clippers that ended in another loss. Kyrie Irving did leave the game with a sprained knee, but this was more than that, and Celtics fans knew it as they booed the team off the court.
“I watch all these other teams in the league, they’re jumping on the court, all the stuff that looks like they’re enjoying their teammates’ success. And they’re playing together, and they’re playing to win. When I look at us I see a bunch of individuals.”
That’s a punch to the gut.
And he’s right.
There is no joy in Boston’s game, something Morris said multiple times. Maybe it goes back to Irving calling out the young core earlier in the season. Maybe it’s those young guys — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier — believing they deserve a bigger role after the playoffs last season only to be forced into a smaller box because Irving is back. Maybe the idea they could be traded for Anthony Davis or another star weighs on them.
Whatever it is, the Celtics are running out of season to figure it out.
So what has to change?
“The goal has to be to win; the bottom line,” he said. “We have to play to win. That’s sacrificing, playing hard; that’s sacrificing, being a better teammate. That’s sacrificing, whatever it is we have to put it to the side. No one’s getting traded. The trade deadline is over. We’re competing for a championship and that’s how we have to approach the game. Win, lose or draw, you’re gonna lose games. But we don’t have no attitude, we don’t have no toughness. We ain’t having fun. It’s gonna be a long season.”