Mike Shalin's Working Press: Celtics crash after riding high
Like life in general, sports can give you a slap in the face to snap you back to reality.
That’s what happened to the Celtics Wednesday night.
The high of finishing off the Wizards in seven games was quickly shattered by the reality of having to face the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The game was basically over just after it started. Led by LeBron James, the best player on the planet, they are just better than the locals. Does that mean a sweep? It might, but I did think coming in the Celtics would win one game — and I’m not necessarily sure that victory will come at home.
While the clear focus is on the games, the Celtics’ off-court news is almost as interested.
The Celts, as you know, got the top pick in the draft lottery. That likely means Markelle Fultz. But count Paul Pierce among those who don’t think that should be the case.
"You trade this pick, because (Markelle Fultz) cannot help the Celtics get over the top," Pierce told ESPN. "The window is now."
He was talking about potential deals for either Paul George or Jimmy Butler, or signing Gordon Hayward.
Thursday, George and Hayward both failed to be named All-NBA, which erases their ability to get the mega-max money. Clearly, Pierce thinks his old team needs more star power.
"You’re a 50-win team, you’re the No. 1 seed. You have to build on this momentum," said Pierce. "If you can acquire a Paul George, Jimmy Butler, or Gordon from Utah, you have to do it."
After the lottery, Pierce, who will join ABC for the finals, tweeted, "And look what I leave behind for the Celts on my way out #1 pick."
Brad Stevens spent 20 minutes watching the lottery with his kids, celebrating with them and then going back to work.
"I think it’s been very well-documented, and rightfully so, all the great things that Danny (Ainge) has done to help put us in a position to be as competitive as we’ve been, "Stevens said, adding, "and also hopefully the way that we’ve all looked at it, we’ve had a lot of talks about it, hopefully sustainably competitive, which is a hard thing to do. So we’ll see how it all shakes out."
Olynyk a problem
The Cavaliers reportedly reacted with surprise when told of Kelly Olynyk’s Game 7 explosion.
"Are we supposed to double-team Kelly Olynyk? Is that crazy? Am I going crazy?" said coach Tyronn Lue. "I honestly can’t tell anymore. Even considering the idea of Kelly Olynyk being a problem for us pretty much melted my brain."
Olynyk, of course, has a history with the Cavs — yanking Kevin Love’s shoulder out of its socket and knocking Love out of the playoffs two years ago. The Cavs didn’t want to talk about it heading into the series.
"I’m not about storylines," James said. "I’m just going to play basketball. You guys are trying to create storylines. The only storyline is Celtics vs. Cavs and who can win this series."
And oh did Olynyk come crashing back to earth Wednesday, when his only two points came in the final minute.
Hitting the wall
Washington’s John Wall flexed his muscle after a third-quarter basket in Game 7 and then failed to hit another shot as he went into his final shooting slump of the series and the season. Still, the guy is a special player.
"I love him. I love how he plays. That guy is a true winner," said his coach Scott Brooks, "He’s exactly what you need to lead your team. He’s exactly what I need for being my point guard. The future is bright because he’s leading us."
As far as that future, with Wall and Bradley Beal at the helm, Brooks said, "Brad and John, it’s almost like having two first-round picks. They’re going to keep improving for the next five years."
Just too many
The retiring of Derek Jeter’s No. 2 last Sunday night not only wiped out the last Yankees single digit but also raised their ridiculous retired number total to 22 (all between 1 and 51). That’s one more than the Celtics, if you don’t count Jim Loscutoff, who is in the rafters but asked that his No. 18 be work in the future. It was later worn by Dave Cowens and then retired.
That’s 43 numbers between the two great franchises.
No wonder they both have a No. 99 (Jae Crowder, Aaron Judge).
In the first inning of the game following the Jeter ceremony, the Astros’ No. 2, Alex Bregman, hit a grand slam, the third homer of the inning against Masahiro Tanaka and Bregman’s first homer of the season.
Bregman, who wears No. 2 because Jeter was his idol, tried the change his number before the game but was denied — and then pointed to the number on his jersey as he rounded the bases.
"I guess it was the No. 2 magic tonight," he said. "It was a really cool moment, Sunday Night Baseball. I was at dinner (Saturday) night with (ESPN announcer) Aaron Boone, and I told him, I said, ‘Hey, you never know. No. 2, Derek Jeter Night, it might happen.’ When I hit it, I was like, ‘Holy cow.’"
It wasn’t long ago that we brought you a team made up of disabled players that could compete. That team, however, had shortcomings, like a lack of left-handed power.
Our new team, updated through Wednesday’s disabled lists:
1B – Adrian Gonzalez
2B – Robinson Cano
SS – Troy Tulowitzki
3B – Josh Donaldson
LF – Yoenis Cespedes
CF – A.J. Pollock
RF – Hunter Pence
C – Geovany Soto
DH – Adrian Beltre
SP – Madison Bumgarner, David Price, Corey Kluber, Felix Hernandez, Noah Syndegaard, Cole Hamels
RP – Zach Britton, Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon, Jeurys Familia, Sean Doolittle
Bench – Trevor Story, Steven Piscotty, Carlos Gomez, Logan Forsythe, Chris Iannetta
Now we have a perfect balance of right- and left-handed hitters and this team has all kinds of power.
Take your chances with this group? And we didn’t count Prince Fielder, who has retired but is still officially on the DL. Oh, and Freddie Freeman got hurt Wednesday and was headed for the list.
Oxford, Mass. has announced plans to name a stretch of road off Main Street Palermo Drive after umpire Steve Palermo, who grew up there. Palermo died last weekend.
"He’s a local hero," Selectman John G. Saad said Wednesday night, addressing the Board of Selectmen. "And his family gave so much to the community."
The vote was 4-0.
Here and there
MLB Network’s Mark DeRosa has a theory on Hanley Ramirez’s offensive struggles, saying, "He’s disinterested without Papi in my opinion." … The Indians, built on pitching, got just 11 innings from their starters in three games against the Rays this week — Tampa Bay setting a club three-game series record with 10 homers while winning the series 2-1. … The Orioles improved to 6-1 in extra-inning games Tuesday, after playing eight extras all last season. … Not sure this is their training regimen, but Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota and some of his linemen slammed beers on camera to fire up the crowd at Game 3 of the Predators-Ducks playoff series. … Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post tweeting as the Celtics were officially getting the Nets’ lottery pick: "(GM) Billy King really should be fired all over again. #Nets." … Jaylen Brown after Game 7 Monday night: "Two years ago, I was in high school. Tonight I was playing in Game 7." … Joel Embiid was the most-entertaining part of the lottery-cast. … Gisele Bundchen says husband Tom Brady has had concussions, one last season. The NFL says he didn’t. I’m going with Giselle on this one. … Lonzo Ball’s dad now wants $3 billion for a shoe deal, saying, "If they want to talk to me now, it just went up to $3 billion. Triple Bs — billion, billion, billion." Hope this kid is worth the trouble his dad clearly brings.
Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.