Celtics Treading Lightly as NBA Trade Deadline Approaches

Brad Stevens, Celtics

Getty Brad Stevens, Celtics

With Thursday’s NBA trade deadline coming into sharper focus by the hour, front offices around the circuit are deciding how much they want to get in that game.

“Teams are having some pretty serious meetings to figure out where they really are,” a league source told Heavy Sports. “It’s time for them to get real with themselves. Like, ‘Do we really have a chance to compete for the title this year?’ We’ve been having that talk in my place for a while now. It’s the coaches, the basketball ops people, the financial people and the owner.

“You have to be honest with yourself, and that can be hard.”

It may be a little easier in Boston than other league locales. The no-show against the LeBron-less Lakers last Thursday notwithstanding, the Celtics are under no pressure to act this week.

“It definitely didn’t look good for a team that needs to prove it’s tough enough to fight all the way through the playoffs,” said one general manager. “But if I overreacted to every game, I’d be trying to trade my whole team about five or six times every year. That’s the way it goes for teams these days. A team you don’t think should be on the floor with you starts making shots, and then you start missing your 3’s. All of a sudden you’re stuck in the mud. You don’t like to see your guys deflate like that — you want to see them dig in and punch back — but human nature has gotten different in the NBA over the years.”

‘Laker Game Was Ugly’

Said a pro scout with years of front office experience, “That Laker game was ugly. A team at Boston’s level can’t allow that to happen against a team that’s that depleted. That can be a red flag. But you’ve got to think there’s too many good veterans there to let that be a thing.”

Celtics’ president of operations Brad Stevens has said he’d like to find another “big wing,” though he allowed that player may already be on the club’s roster. That corresponds with what people around the NBA are learning.

“They’re open to talking, but there’s no urgency there,” one league executive told Heavy. “You have to see what’s available, even if it’s just something small. At this point with all the money they’re going to spending in the tax, if they could even do something small at the fringe of their roster than would save them on the (salary) cap, that’d be worthwhile. You always want to look out for the bottom line in case you have to go back to the owners for something later.”

Another league source believes the Celtics should tread lightly.

“I’d be afraid to mess up what they have,” he said, adding later that the loss to the Lakers “might end up being a good wake-up call for them. They seem like a real together group from the outside, and I’m getting the same thing from a few of their guys that I’ve talked to. I mean, if you can go out and get someone who you’re sure is going to make an impact on your rotation, you’ve obviously got to do that. But how many of those guys are going to be available? And what’s it going to cost you?

“At this point, either they’ve got enough or they don’t.”

Oshae Brissett the Answer?

As for Stevens’ remarks about a wing, it appears 6-7 Oshae Brissett is up for the challenge. He’s been giving the Celts good energy and toughness off the pine when presented the opportunity.

“The thing I like about him is he plays hard all the time, and he’s not out there looking for his shot,” said an opposing coach. “You throw him out there, and he’s going to give you hustle and aggressiveness. He hits the boards, and he plays hard defense.

“I think he’d be even better with a more consistent role, but it’s hard with that group. They need to get scoring off the bench, and they’ve done a good job getting that with their rotations. (Joe) Mazzulla’s been making sure his shooters like (Sam) Hauser get their looks, and I think he’s been big for them. He comes in, and he doesn’t hesitate.

“The thing about Hauser is he’s not a good shooter; he’s a great shooter.”

He added that “Boston’s smart with the way they’re being careful with even the small injuries. They’re holding guys out when they get something — even when those guys could easily play through it. That’s good two ways: it gives the guy a chance to get more treatment and keep something from lingering, and it also gives more minutes to the guys a little ways down in the rotation. And they keep winning.

“You have to have a really solid roster to do that, and Boston does.”

Solid enough, perhaps, to sit out the trade deadline.


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