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With 20 games remaining, the Celtics have gone from a pre-season projection as a top Title contender to mediocre playoff team. What happened? Boston has some good-to-excellent players, but as a team they are just good - not very good or excellent. Here's a quick chemistry lesson as it applies to the Celtics.


Carbon monoxide (CO) is poisonous
, but the two components, carbon and oxygen, are not. We are composed of carbon and breathe oxygen. Both are necessary for life. With all the finger-pointing going on with the Celtics, many are calling the individual players toxic to what the team is trying to accomplish.

Al Horford is too old. The team is better without Kyrie Irving. Jaylen Brown is too passive. Terry Rozier is an ineffective gunner. Gordon Hayward will never be what he once was. Brad Stevens can't coach star veterans. Really? I don't think so - at least for most of that. If most of these are true, how did this crew almost make it to the Finals last year minus two All-Stars.

This mix of talent is going nowhere in the playoffs without a personality check for each and every player. In the chemical world, you can even have two toxic elements, like sodium and chlorine, come together to form an edible compound - table salt (NaCl). If chemicals can do it, so can human athletes. The problem, though, is that unlike chemicals, basketball players have personalities that often prohibit coexisting in the same environment. That would be our current crop of Celtics players.

The skills and talent are in place. The coexistence part is not. It needs to be found. Celtics legend, Tommy Heinsohn, had part of it right when he said the Celtics have a split personality. They play one way with Kyrie on the floor - and another when he is off. But often they don't switch back to Kyrie-mode when he returns. Irving is not the toxic element. It is the team's reaction to him, and he to them.


Kyrie is a ball-dominant point guard that can score in many ways. He is Rajon Rondo with skills on the offensive end. Opponents expected Rondo to pass off, but he had Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen as targets - skilled, seasoned vets. Not so with Kyrie. Most of his assist targets are still learning.

Take a quick look at the Championship 2008 Celtics. The starting five of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins combined for 72.5 points and 17.7 assists per game in the playoffs. A potential starting-5 of Irving, Horford, Hayward, Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum are averaging 72.0 PPG and 20.0 APG. Pretty similar to 2008 - right?

That 2008 group had some spats and disagreements, but they still came together on the court. This present crew is still learning how to get along. But it needs to be mentioned that the 2008 Champs also had guys by the name of Eddie House, Tony Allen, James Posey, Sam Cassell, P. J. Brown and Leon Powe - a nice blend of experience, maturity, savvy and the will to adapt to a team concept.

The carbon monoxide detector has gone off with our present team, and the toxic environment needs to be ventilated. Stop talking - clear the air - and coexist as a true team. It can be done.

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC, @CelticsSentinel and Facebook

Photo via Maddie Meyer/Getty Images



Tom Lane 3/01/2019 06:03:00 AM Edit
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