The tumbleweeds rolled down Causeway Street at 3 pm Thursday on yet another quiet trading deadline for the Boston Celtics.
It was a quiet one in a lot of cities. Given the parity of the NBA this season, one might have expected more activity, but it wasn't to be.
The biggest waves crashed out West, where a favorite to be the last team standing in June, the Clippers, bolstered their depth, rebounding and toughness with the addition of Marcus Morris. Meanwhile, the Rockets re-wrote the script on the fly because the movie wasn’t good enough, trading their only elite rebounder and post defender in Clint Capela to sell out on small ball.
The Heat and Sixers were the only teams to make a move among the East contenders. Philadelphia added some shooting, but failed to address the chemistry issues that have so far kept them in the back half of the playoff picture. Miami is putting a lot of stock in Jae Crowder and a 36-year old who hasn’t played since June.
In the end, Milwaukee is still the top dog, with a rockfight from two to six. Indiana had an in-house acquisition with the return of Victor Oladipo, and the Celtics and Raptors stood pat.
Was it a missed opportunity for Boston?
Despite Danny Ainge’s recent reluctance to shake things up in February, some hoped they’d land a scorer to anchor a bench unit currently populated by inexperienced players who haven’t consistently filled it up outside of the SEC or Big Ten.
But Ainge told Toucher & Rich “there were no good deals to be made,” and I believe him. While some may characterize Ainge as picky, there are reasons the Cavs still employ Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. Or why the Wizards still have Davis Bertans, a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent who was another potential target heading into last week.
If you think Boston whiffed on Drummond or Capela, that’s your opinion to have. Other teams blended picks and expiring contracts for those players. The Celtics ultimately would have had to part with Gordon Hayward or Marcus Smart to make the money work. Some may think that was a reasonable proposition. Ainge and crew ultimately decided such a disruption wasn’t worth it.
The Miami and Philadelphia additions were marginal at best. The Celtics have as good a shot in the East as they did a few days ago. There are still some scary matchups, but other teams have plenty of reasons to be scared of Boston's balanced attack anchored by an emerging superstar in Jayson Tatum (who averaged nearly 30 points on almost 53 percent shooting from downtown in four games last week).
The attention now turns to the buyout market. Marvin Williams will be the first name to pick a new address, heading to the Bucks. Other potential targets include Thompson, professional shooter Wayne Ellington and old friends Evan Turner and Isaiah Thomas.
Danny Ainge's draft history in the mid-to-late first round comes under fire from time to time. This year, some critics cited Sixers rotation piece Matisse Thybulle (drafted at number 20 with a traded Boston pick) as a missed opportunity while Romeo Langford (the 14th overall selection) toiled in Portland.
With multiple starters out, Brad Stevens gave Langford some minutes this week, and he ran with them. He provided solid-to-spectacular defense (three blocks Friday night), efficient scoring (8-for-15 shooting across the two games, with a career-high 16 points against Atlanta), and a crunch time presence, with a big three in a five-point game in the waning minutes last night.
Maybe Langford is just what the bench has been looking for.
A New Tower in Chicago
Tacko Fall might not have made the All-Star team or Rising Stars Challenge, but he will be in Chicago next weekend, coaching for Basketball Without Borders alongside Pascal Siakam, Lauri Markkanen and Davis Bertans.
For the midseason showcase itself, Kemba Walker will start for LeBron James' squad, while Jayson Tatum will come off the bench for the opposition.
I know the NBA needs star wattage in the dunk contest (I suppose Dwight Howard was once a star), but who'd say no to Javonte Green jumping over Tacko for a showcase slam?
Coming Up Next
After a week of cupcakes, the Celtics face three tough opponents before a lengthy All-Star break. The C's who don't head to Chicago will get seven days off.
With the NFL down for its long winter’s nap, basketball is back on Sunday afternoons. The Green will be in Oklahoma City this weekend to face Chris Paul and the Thunder. CP3 is just the fourth leading scorer (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dennis Schroder, Danilo Gallinari) for an OKC team playing .600 basketball for the first time since Kevin Durant skipped town.
That will be followed by back-to-back TNT games as the Celtics visit the rebooted Rockets Tuesday and host the prohibitive Western Conference favorite in the Clippers at TD Garden Thursday night.