July 26, 2017

Riding the Bench: Celtics Must Take A Chance

Al Horford (left) and Demarcus Cousins (right) Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By: Jacob Hevenor ’17

Sports Editor

At the end of last season, Celtics GM Danny Ainge went out and clinched a big free agent signing: longtime Hawks center, Al Horford. Horford was not the star that many Boston fans were hoping for, however, but Kevin Durant hopped on the bandwagon and took his talents to Golden State. Durant’s decision left the Celtics in a tough spot.

In today’s NBA, you want to be one of the few either competing for a title (Cavaliers, Warriors) or competing for the 1st overall pick (76ers, Suns). Pretty much everybody else is irrelevant, and also stuck in the middle without the opportunity to rebuild.

Don’t get me wrong, Al Horford is a great player, and an even better person. Isaiah Thomas is an All-Star, and the team has a number of quality complementary pieces like Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder. But this Celtics team is not winning any titles. With that in mind, Ainge needs to go all-in for an elite player. Enter DeMarcus Cousins, a polemic player who has been heavily linked with the Celtics in recent weeks.

Cousins, a perennial All-Star on the lowly Kings, has had more than his fair share of issues. He’s often in foul trouble and racks up the technical fouls ( hence the suspensions). He’s renowned in the league as a poor sport and wasted talent. What I’m arguing here is that a change of scenery could turn his 25PPG and 12RPG into crucial contributions to a championship-caliber team. Cousins should want this trade, making it all the more plausible. The Celtics hold the Nets’ first-rounder (likely a lottery pick) and several appealing players (Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley).

Recent reports reveal that Coach Brad Stevens has shut down any inquiries into Cousins’ availability. If Stevens really believes that Cousins’ attitude would cause locker room problems and derail the team, he is admitting that he’s not a confident coach and that he doesn’t care much about winning. If he genuinely fears adding a potentially vital piece, Stevens discounts his own ability, acknowledging that he does not think he can manage the player. By shying away from an elite big man, Stevens raises doubts over his commitment to winning at all costs. It’s time for Celtics fans and management to reassess their irrational glorification of Coach Stevens, a coach who has never won a playoff series and provided only incremental improvement despite a wealth of assets.

Cousins may arrive in Boston and flop harder than LeBron James after feeling a finger on his hairline. But, even a small possibility that he could turn them into contenders should be enough to convince the Celtics that he’s worth the risk. Without taking a chance, Boston will not be competing for championships.

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