|Kris Humphries and the faces of Celtics death||01.30.14 at 1:23 am ET|
The Celtics hit a new low with a buzzer-beating loss to the 76ers. They’ve lost four in a row, wrapping up January with a 2-15 record after losing to the only team that stood between them and the Atlantic Division basement.
Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?
On the bright side, the Celtics have three days off before traveling to Orlando to take on one of two teams that owns a worse record than them in the entire NBA, and somehow they’re only 5.5 games behind the hapless Eastern Conference’s eighth-seeded Bobcats (THE EIGHTH-SEEDED BOBCATS!). Oh, and the C’s possess a 15.6 percent chance at the No. 1 pick, a 46.9 percent at a top-three pick and a 96.4 percent chance at a top-five pick on the night Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins scored a season-high 29 points on 16 shots. So, there’s that.
Here’s how various Celtics are dealing with their dire situation heading into the final 10 weeks of the season.
|Irish Coffee: When Rajon Rondo returns, Jerryd Bayless should bump Jordan Crawford down the Celtics depth chart||01.14.14 at 9:31 am ET|
Since winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week for Dec. 2-8, Jordan Crawford is among a handful of the NBA’s worst shooting regulars (46.5 TS%), and yet his usage rate ranks second only to Jeff Green on the Celtics.
By no coincidence, the C’s are 3-14 in that span. We have a sample size of 215 games in Crawford’s career, and his teams are now 71-144 when he takes the floor. That’s a .330 winning percentage. And that’s bad.
Rajon Rondo has hinted that his return could come as soon as Friday against the Lakers, and Celtics coach Brad Stevens will be forced to adjust his backcourt depth chart. Assuming Rondo and Avery Bradley start and each play 30-plus minutes a night, that leaves somewhere around 25-30 minutes to split between the remaining guard corps.
Who deserves those minutes more? Crawford or Jerryd Bayless. Friday night’s loss to the Rockets offered the answer: Jordan Crawford is the odd man out. As Crawford forced shot after shot through three quarters, Bayless bided his time, taking only two in 11:31. Then came the fourth quarter, when Stevens stuck with Bayless over Crawford for all 12 minutes, and the newly acquired guard asserted himself as the game demanded, ultimately scoring 15 points on 11 shots and making a game of what was once a mockery.
|Celtics make Jerryd Bayless for Courtney Lee trade official, waive Ryan Gomes||01.07.14 at 12:11 pm ET|
As part of the deal, the Celtics acquired Ryan Gomes from the Thunder and subsequently waived him. The remainder of Gomes’ $884,293 salary would have become guaranteed had the C’s not released him on Tuesday.
Bayless, 25, averaged 8.0 points (41.9 FG%, 35.3 3P%, 83.6 FT%), 2.0 assists and 1.9 rebounds in 20.8 minutes per game in 30 appearances for the Grizzlies this season, but his $3.1 million contract is Danny Ainge‘s biggest acquisition. While Bayless becomes a free agent this summer, Lee is owed $11.1 million over the next two seasons on top of the remainder of this season’s $5.2 million salary.
We discussed the trade’s impact on the salary cap and how Ainge might exercise his newfound flexibility going forward here.
Bayless arrived in Denver on Monday and is expected to be available against the Nuggets, according to the Celtics public relations staff. He will wear No. 11, same as Lee.
“We’ve always like Jerryd,” Ainge told the Herald. ‘”He’s played really well against us, and we’re intrigued to see what he can do now. We like that he can play some point guard.”
As for Lee, Ainge added, “Courtney has played real well in a limited role for us this year. I also know he was not happy with his role. But I think he’s a good player for Memphis to acquire.”
|How a Courtney Lee for Jerryd Bayless trade affects Danny Ainge’s Celtics future||01.05.14 at 7:10 pm ET|
Lee addressed the trade on his Instagram account.
“Would like to thank every1 in the celtics organization for the opportunity to be a celtic, I enjoyed my time in Boston and am grateful. Would also like to thank @celtics for showcasing my desire to give back to the community and also making me look good in the pictures lol. Would also like to thank the fans for the amazing year and a half journey, we started off a little rocky but I got my game back right so thanks for the extra motivation. #allgoodthingscometoaend!!!”
As a result of the deal, the Celtics save $2.1 million this season and shed the $11.1 million owed Lee over the next two seasons, since Bayless is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Of course, the C’s also acquire a 25-year-old point guard who has averaged highs of 11.4 points, 4.0 assists and 2.5 rebounds with a 52.2 true shooting percentage and 13.5 Player Efficiency Rating for five teams in his six NBA seasons. Bayless averaged 8.0 points (46.8 TS%), 2.0 assists and 1.9 boards while producing an 11.2 PER in 20.8 minutes over 30 games for the Grizzlies this season. He has totaled 57 points in his last three games against the Celtics.
The trade effectively ends a disappointing Boston tenure for Lee. While the 28-year-old has scored 7.4 points on 57.3 true shooting (49.2 FG%, 44.2 3P%) in 30 games for the Celtics this season, he never quite lived up to the four-year, $21.5 million deal he signed in 2012.
Most importantly, the Celtics cut their guaranteed payroll to just $42.5 million next season — well below the projected salary cap of $62.1 million — offering Celtics president Danny Ainge even more flexibility to re-sign Avery Bradley, acquire anyone on the free-agent market and/or make any trade under the sun. The Celtics now also have some wiggle room to add another player this season to fill the roster at 15.