The Celtics find themselves in a bit of a gray area with the Feb. 10 trade deadline just more than three weeks away. They improved to 23-22 with Monday’s 104-92 win over the Pelicans, and are certainly in need of improvements, but they’ve also been mediocre enough to consider selling and turning their focus toward the future.
The only certainty is that multiple players will likely hear their names tossed around in trade rumors.
“A lot of them have been around, and it’s part of the deal,” coach Ime Udoka said. “You’ve got to stay focused on what you can control. As I mentioned last week, 90-95 percent of the stuff that you hear doesn’t happen, and I think a lot of our guys, being some veteran guys, have probably heard their names before. So it’s nothing new as far as that.
“We’re focused on what we’re doing here and trying to improve and run off some games. Get consistent and worry about that stuff you can control, and not rumors going on.”
Nesmith a difference-maker
With the Celtics scuffling in the first half Monday, Udoka turned to second-year wing Aaron Nesmith to provide a jolt of energy. He had a brief but effective stint, then played nearly 15 minutes in the second half, as the Celtics completed its comeback.
During Nesmith’s 19:18 on the court, the Celtics outscored the Pelicans by 16 points.
“He brings energy and effort on every play at both ends of the floor,” Udoka said. “So it was really his energy in the first half. We were searching for something with the guys we brought in, and in the second half he really got it going with that unit. He was guarding well, he was rebounding well.
“Whether shots fall or not, the energy and intensity that he brought changed the game with that group, so we rode them longer.”
With the Celtics leading, 80-74, early in the fourth quarter, Nesmith attacked and converted a floating bank shot before soaring in for a dunk as he was fouled just 18 seconds later, pushing the lead to double digits for the first time. He finished with 5 points and 5 rebounds.
“That’s big,” forward Jayson Tatum said. “Especially with Aaron, just always staying ready. I can only imagine how tough it is to not always get the opportunity, but one thing we can count on is when he comes in the game, he’s going to compete. He’s going to do the little things.”
Forward Jaylen Brown addressed the crowd prior to the game in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “It’s important to emphasize his life’s work and what he sacrificed, his life for his message to get across,” Brown said. “Systemic racism is real. It plagues the city of Boston as well as the rest of our society … Rest assured, the fight is continuing.” … Guard Marcus Smart missed his third game in a row because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols, and center Robert Williams missed the game because of the birth of his child. Grant Williams started in place of Robert Williams.