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Celtics rolling post Hayward injury


11/23/17



 The NBA is underway and those folks who gave up on the entire season after the season-ending injury suffered by free agent import Gordon Hayward five minutes into the season already appear to have been completely right to do so, as all the Cs have done since that injury is win 12 straight while compiling the NBA’s best record. Friday night was the best, when they had no Hayward, no Al Horford, no Kyrie Irving after two minutes in, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and Jaylon Brown were an unsightly 9 for 42 from the field combined, the team shot 35 percent overall and trailed Charlotte by 18 late in the third quarter and they still somehow won 90-87. 

It’s a long way to go, but these guys already have Tommy Heinsohn gushing over showing the same kind of spunk the team Danny Ainge completely turned over this summer had the last couple of years. Now, while I make a note to myself to always listen to the “the sky is falling crowd” going forward, here are some stories to keep an eye as the NBA season unfolds.
Guess I’m finally going to have to learn how to pronounce Antetokounmpo. I’ve been putting that off since 2013 hoping Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo would bust so I wouldn’t have to worry about it. Kind of like I did when the Who Man was playing for the Patriots. But, with him averaging 31 and 10 per it looks like the Greek Freak has moved into the NBA Top 10 players — at least. 
P.S. What would this Celtics team be like if they had the freak and Draymond Green? Coulda happened, as Danny passed on Antetokounmpo at 13 in favor of Kelly Olynyk in 2013, a year after taking the late Fab Melo at 22 with Green (and Jae Crowder) and still on the board. Those were major misses. 
Ditto for Kristaps Porzingis, who by averaging 30 per is justifying all the slobbering the New York media has done over him the last few years. His big jump in points just happens to have happened with Melo no longer around to hog the ball. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Since I think Chris Paul is among the most overrated players in NBA history, I thought Vegas made a big mistake dropping the odds from 30-1 to 15-1 on the Rockets’ winning the NBA title after he got traded to Houston in June. But with the vaunted Paul hurt and the team rolling behind an incredible start by James Harden at point, the talk now is, should he give the ball back to Paul when he returns?
From the I’m Not Always Right department: When Oak City made the risky trade for Indiana’s free-agent-to-be Paul George I said it could kill two franchises with one stone. Because if the two bonded, he might bring L.A.-raised Russell Westbrook with him when George headed to his hometown to join the Lakers as most everyone assumed he’d do this summer. Well, thanks to a whopper of a contract extension, Westbrook is staying put, which may help keep George there too. 
When healthy, Joel Embiid is a dominating player. But with visions of Greg Oden flashing in their heads you’ve got to figure the folks in Philly squeezed the pen pretty tight as they gave Embiid (gulp) $165 million guaranteed after he’s been only healthy enough to play 30 of 246 career games so far.  
While JR Smith is already back in the starting lineup, the Height of Hypocrisy Award goes to memory-impaired Famer and ESPN yacker Scottie Pippen. It was rich hearing him say Smith shouldn’t be ticked that his spot automatically was given to Dwyane Wade after he signed with Cleveland because “he should put team ahead of himself.” That’s the same Scottie Pippen who after Phil Jackson called for Toni Kukoc to take the final shot instead of him in the waning seconds of a 1994 playoff game quit on his team by refusing to take the floor.
I love when a player who does something wrong, as Bobby Portis did when he coldcocked Chicago Bulls teammate Nikola Mirotic in practice a while back, says “I feel like I let my fans down.” Aside from the self-absorption of saying that, my question is, how many “fans” could a stiff like Portis actually have? Meanwhile Mirotic says he won’t play until Portis is traded. 
Unless the lottery gods are really kind, forget getting the L.A. pick in the 2018 draft, because  they’re not finishing in the bottom five. So Celtic Nation’s focus will be on hoping Sacramento is as awful as usual in 2018-19. 
Lay off Lonzo Ball. Why boo a kid who hasn’t done a thing just because of his mouthy father LaVar? 
Not even George Steinbrenner fired anyone three games into a season. But that’s what Phoenix did to Earl Watson. Admittedly losing by 49 and 45 in two of them was a bad start. But that only happens if the GM blames the mess he’s created on the coach to save his own job. 
Could the Lakers retiring both 8 and 24 for Kobe Bryant be any more self-indulgent? But, of course, it is L.A. after all. Kobe made a choice; they should too.
If you’re wondering, Avery Bradley is off to a nice start in Detroit. But Jaylan Brown’s 14.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.9 steals averages are pretty close to Avery’s 16.4, 2.0, 1.3, 1.5 numbers in Motown, so he hasn’t really been missed.    
So what’s the X-factor in the fast start Brad Stevens somehow getting his team past the Hayward injury so quickly? Surprisingly mature play of Brown and Jayson Tatum, seven guys averaging double figures in points, or going from 26th in the NBA a year ago to fourth-best in rebounding this season? 
Imagine, I went a whole NBA column without mentioning LeBron James once. ESPN can’t go even a paragraph without doing that.  
 
Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com. 

 






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