After entering the 2020-21 campaign with the look of a contender in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics suddenly find themselves in a full-on flounder. The team has now lost three straight contests and eight of its last 11 after getting blasted by a red-hot Danilo Gallinari and the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.
While things have been difficult at times on the hardwood, though, Celtics coach Brad Stevens has similarly battled the bad luck blues away from the court.
In the wake of his squad’s 15-point setback, its biggest loss in more than a month, Stevens revealed that he had also suffered through some extensive dental work and the theft of his identity.
“I was just telling my wife, ‘I had a root canal and my identity stolen last week and I think those were two of my better days in the last eight days,’” he said on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Zolak & Bertrand.”
‘Not Coach Stevens’ Gets a Target Card
Clearly, Stevens has a lot on his plate right now. For one, his floor general — former All-Star Kemba Walker — has yet to truly rediscover himself after he received a stem-cell injection in his left knee during the offseason.
Fortunately, Walker was spared the embarrassment against the Hawks as Boston continues to keep him out of back-to-backs. However, he has posted an effective field goal percentage in the mid-40s since returning to the floor in late January. Moreover, he is assisting on a career-low 21.5 percent of his team’s buckets when he is on the floor, per Basketball Reference estimates.
Meanwhile, Marcus Smart has missed all of February with a left calf strain and Gordon Hayward is currently showing out for the Charlotte Hornets, leaving the Celtics with less depth and experience than they’ve had in some time.
Now, throw in the legitimately terrifying scenario where somebody is opening credit cards and running up debt in your name and one begins to understand the wild reality in which Stevens has been existing.
“It was the real stuff. People were trying to open up cards and all this stuff,” he told host Marc Bertrand and guest co-host Rob ‘Hardy’ Poole. “Calling Target, like I would have a lot of interest in opening up a Target card right now in this stretch.”
Finding the Celtics’ Identity
Stevens’ brush with identity theft comes just as the Celtics are seemingly struggling to find their own identity on the hardwood. After falling flat in the NBA’s Orlando, Florida bubble to close out the 2019-20 campaign, the club’s Jekyll and Hyde act is still running strong.
In the season’s opening week, Stevens lamented not knowing exactly which team would show up from one quarter to the next.
“The hardest part for me right now is gauging, is that more who we are at the start of the game with that group? Or is the start of the third quarter more who we are, right? Because they’re two totally different stories,” he said following a loss to the Indiana Pacers.
Those questions remain as pertinent now on the eve of game No. 33 as they were after the Celtics’ third contest of the year.
As it stands, Boston’s up-and-down play has it situated around the middle of the pack league-wide in statistical categories it formerly dominated. After Wednesday’s loss, the Celtics are putting up 111.5 points per 100 possessions while posting a defensive rating of 111.0, marks that are good for 15th and 16th in the Association, respectively.
That is a far cry from the team that ranked in the top four on both sides of the ball last season.
One could point to a myriad of factors for the Celtics’ middle-of-the-road results and current sub-.500 record, but the team’s TV announcer, Mike Gorman, thinks the turnaround starts with young All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
“We need these two guys to come back from the All-Star break and stop thinking in individual terms,” he said, as relayed via Heavy. “Stop thinking about the numbers that they’re getting and start looking at the wins and the losses.”