Who Is to Blame for the Celtics' Struggles This Season?

The Celtics have been one of the biggest disappointments this season after being pegged to win the Eastern Conference. So who is to blame?
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From Kyrie Irving’s comments about his younger co-stars, Gordon Hayward’s health and the Anthony Davis rumors, this has been a complicated year in Boston. So what is wrong with the Celtics?

On the latest Open Floor podcast, Andrew Sharp and The Washington Post’s Ben Golliver discuss the Celtics' disappointing season and if Kyrie Irving or Brad Stevens is to blame. 

(Listen to the latest Open Floor podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

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Andrew Sharp: One of our listeners Seth wrote, ‘As a Celtics fan it pains me to ask this but to what extent is the current Celtics’ problems Brad Stevens fault? Obviously he can’t make Gordon Hayward recover faster or keep Kyrie from talking smack about the young guys but at the end of the day, I can’t see Coach Pop letting a team's morale get this low.’

What do you think Ben? What do you think of the job Brad Stevens has done this season?

Ben Golliver: I am not really here to pop shots at Brad Stevens. I think stuff like morale starts with the biggest personality in the locker room and it kind of trickles down from there. I think the Pop comparison—the masterstroke from Pop was having that relationship with his superstar player in Tim Duncan. And once San Antonio’s locker room had issues it was because Pop lost control of that relationship with Kawhi. He didn’t see it coming and no one else saw it coming but that is sort of the centerpiece of any team. And I don’t want to harp on Kyrie over and over again because I know it is going to bring me 500 more emails from his defenders. But the instability that we are seeing—the unhappiness we are seeing—even when they are playing really well on the court at stretches—their inconsistencies between their best moments and their worst moments in those wild swings goes back to Kyrie.

Because again, much like Kevin Durant, he has now put his organization in this limbo of what is he going to do and what does the future look like? And because they don’t have that much talent around him as Golden State assembled around Durant and they had presence before Durant got there, of course it is going to be shaky.

If everyone is wondering what Kyrie is going to be doing this summer, it’s going to be the same exact feeling people were wondering what LeBron was going to be doing in Cleveland for years that Kyrie used to complain about. Kyrie has sort of evolved into the person that he hated. You know what I mean?

Sharp: Well, they were winning the other night with Kyrie healthy and then they went out and blew a 20-point lead and Marcus Morris came out and said ‘It hasn’t been fun here for a long time’ and I think that resonated with a lot of Celtics fans because they have been watching this team and they have not been having fun. Maybe part of it is Kyrie but I don’t blame Stevens but I do think this is a reflection of the cost of doing business the way modern NBA business is done. If you are just going to have half the roster on the trade block and guys like Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum not knowing whether they are going to be there a year from now, eventually there is going to be a cost and I think that is part of what we are seeing in Boston this year. There is not a lot of cohesion and that makes sense. I wish I would have known when me and the half of the NBA media was predicting this team to win 65 games.

Golliver: Don’t lash yourself. This is their problem, not yours. Don’t fall on the sword for them.

Sharp: laughs.

Golliver: This team had everything to be a supertream. The door was wide-open and they have been one of the biggest disappointments in the entire league. I love watching them when they are playing well and when everything is clicking but they just don’t do it every night.

Sharp: I think they have the talent to be a superteam if Gordon Hayward is Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown is playing like the player we expected him to be and neither of those things have been true for most of this season. Brown has looked a bit better lately but additionally, we all should have been a little more conscience of the cost of the uncertainty.  And understanding that they were probably going to be spending eight months orbiting Anthony Davis and getting ready to trade for him this summer and I knew that in October. I didn’t totally consider how that would affect this team and I think that is part of it.