By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Celtics had a long flight home from the West Coast to think about what needs to change.
Brad Stevens should begin with his starting five.
The Celtics are now 7-6 following their poor 1-4 road trip. They have lacked an identity offensively and their once league-leading defense disappeared during too many stretches of play out west.
It’s time to shake things up.
Eventually, the Celtics best unit will be Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford. But that starting five isn’t the best team Stevens can trot out there right now.
Hayward has been a shell of himself coming off his leg injury. He is not contributing consistently on the offensive end and has been repeatedly attacked on the defensive end of the floor.
Hayward is hurting the team in his current role. It’s in the Celtics best interest and Hayward’s best interest for Stevens to move him to the bench.
The only way Hayward is going to return to form is by playing his way back into form, but it doesn’t matter whether those minutes come in the starting lineup or off the bench. By playing with the second unit, Hayward can be a more focal part of the offense. He can distribute and he can try to find his shot without taking away shots from better options at this point.
There are too many mouths to feed on the first unit and the Celtics haven’t figured out how to feed them all.
They need to figure it out without their prized 2017 free agent.
By moving Hayward to the bench, the Celtics can get more size in their starting five. Stevens and Danny Ainge might love the idea of “positionless” basketball and playing as many wings as possible, but it’s clear that is not working right now.
The Green are getting abused on the glass. Jusef Nurkic hauled in 17 rebounds against the undersized Celtics Sunday night. Rudy Gobert brought down 15 boards on Friday. If those types of outputs continue from opposing big men, the Celtics will continue to lose games.
Aron Baynes should be in the starting lineup for the time being. That move would give the Celtics some much needed size, would make Horford better by playing him at the four, and would give Stevens more scoring off the bench.
Perhaps most importantly, it would take the pressure off Hayward to perform at a starter’s level. He isn’t capable of that right now.
It’s time for Brad Stevens to make a change.
You can hear Matt McCarthy on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.