There’s no joy in TD Garden.
So says Celtics forward Marcus Morris, who lamented the bad vibes around the team after it blew a 28-point lead to the visiting Clippers on Saturday.
The weight of expectations, along with individual agendas, has turned the season into a slog for the preseason Eastern Conference favorites.
“It’s about the attitude that we’re playing with. Guys are hanging their head,” Morris said. “It’s just not fun, it’s not fun. We’re not competing at a high level. Even when we’re winning it’s still not fun. I just don’t see the joy in the game. I watch all these other teams in the league, guys up on the bench, up on the court; they’re doing stuff that looks like they’re enjoying their teammate’s success, they’re enjoying everything and they’re playing together. And when I look at us, I just see a bunch of individuals.”
With LeBron James in the Western Conference, the Celtics seemed poised to become the next powerhouse in the East. They possess a nice blend of youth and experience, one of the league’s top guards in Kyrie Irving, a budding star in Jayson Tatum and arguably the conference’s deepest bench.
Instead, the Celtics have proved to be surprisingly vulnerable. Mainly due to struggles on offense, they were a .500 team after 20 games. They reeled off eight consecutive wins, then went 7-8 over their next 15 games before winning 10 of 11.
Just when things looked rosy, home losses to the two Los Angeles teams last week led to more uneasiness and prompted Morris to sound off.
Returning from the horrific leg injury he suffered during his Boston debut, Gordon Hayward hasn’t been able to recapture the form that made him one of the most coveted free agents on the 2017 market. Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier have struggled with reduced minutes after playing starring roles in the postseason.
Irving has delivered a career year, according to PER, but questions about his impending free agency casts a pall over the organization. The front office’s well-known desire to acquire Anthony Davis this summer also has to weigh on the minds of some players, not knowing whether they’re part of the long-term plan.
The good news is it’s only February. The Cavaliers often looked disjointed before the All-Star break, then flipped the switch and got hot in the playoffs. But the competition for this year’s Celtics has suddenly gotten stiffer with the powerhouse lineup the Sixers have put together, plus the rise of the offensively-gifted Bucks and the continued excellence of the Raptors.
That leads us to our question of the day: Will the Celtics live up to their preseason billing and make the NBA Finals or are they doomed to fall short of expectations?
Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.