CelticsHub: A midseason 5-on-5
* Hayes Davenport: Maybe a reach, but JaJuan Johnson. For the first time in six years, the Celtics have seen a player drafted in the first round show significant potential in his first season. Johnson can shoot, score inside, and get around quickly. His defense and rebounding have visibly improved in 18 games. He seems to be capable of withstanding the emotional firing squad of KG, Doc, and the Boston media. Ultimately, the move to deal MarShon Brooks straight up for him may actually not look as dumb as it currently does.
* Brendan Jackson: Avery Bradley has gotten so much playing time this season out of necessity, he’s actually starting to look like an NBA player. More importantly, his confidence has skyrocketed.
* Chris Forsberg: The defense. Probably not the best answer the day after allowing a 72-point first half, but the Thunder will do that to you. And maybe it’s only because the defense looked so disjointed out of the gate and we were all wondering if they had simply lost it. Boston played its best ball this season when its defense was clicking (and masking the persistent offensive woes). Boston needs that familiar defense to make any sort of a run this season.
* Bran Robb: Almost every rotation player on the roster has shown — over a stretch — that they can still play at a high-level. Whether it was Pierce turning back the clock to 2006 over 10+ games, Allen starting the first quarter of the season shooting over 50 percent from downtown or Rondo exploding for 35 points, these things tell me this team should be able to compete once they get their act together. They should be able to go a round or two deep into the playoffs and give an Eastern Conference contender a run for their money. That alone makes me feel a bit excited about this squad being a massive underdog in Round 1.
* CelticsHub Reader Michael Javid: This may seem counter-intuitive, but the most encouraging development of the first half is the fact that everything isn’t working right. It’s not a secret, and it’s out in the open. Rondo seems to be very unhappy. We may not see another game where KG, Pierce and Allen each score 20 points in the same night. No one has to guess whether or not changes have to be made, but rather, the question is: which direction is best? Danny Ainge has proven to be fearless and unconventional, and time will tell whether his next move was the right one. Any informed Celtics fan will acknowledge that this bunch will not win it all this year. I’m looking forward to the future.
Hop HERE to read this week's 5-on-5 on CelitcsHub.
Play Podcast The ESPN Boston High School football crew preview the 2015 High School football season.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL reporter Field Yates covers expectations for Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots' outlook, LeSean McCoy's injury and Alex Smith's contract negotiations with the Chiefs.
Play Podcast Buster Olney and Justin Havens discuss how teams that made major deals have fared since the deadline. Plus, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer on the strange circumstances caused by weather.