Sports

CHRISTOPHER L. GASPER

Celtics’ three wings can coexist and thrive, and other thoughts

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 06: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics celebrates with Jayson Tatum #0 after scoring against the Denver Nuggets during the second half at TD Garden on December 06, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeat the Nuggets 108-95. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FILE/MADDIE MEYER/Getty Images
Jayson Tatum (0), Jaylen Brown (7), and Gordon Hayward (not pictured) have formed a winning combination for the Celtics despite having similar skill sets.

Whether you’re firing up Netflix or a Spotify playlist, streaming has become the en vogue mode of disseminating and consuming entertainment. What you binge-watch or bop your head to is a matter of subjectivity and personal preference. The same holds true for sports opinions.

So, it’s time for a sports stream of consciousness. I’m sharing thoughts occupying bandwidth in my brain, starting with the Celtics changing my mind about their three wings fitting together.

1. The Celtics are making me a believer that Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward can function and flourish as players with overlapping skill sets and All-Star performance aspirations.

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For much of this season, I’ve been skeptical of the fit as the trio has treated the season like a relay race, taking turns with the basketball baton. The idea of dealing Hayward, who can opt out of the final year of his contract this summer, for a less-talented player capable of filling a more pressing need, say a rim-protecting big man, held appeal. The failure of last season’s Kyrie Irving-led collection of talent that never coalesced left scars. But since Boston’s blowout of LeBron James and the Lakers at TD Garden on Jan. 20, we’ve gotten a tantalizing taste of what the triumvirate can deliver together, piquing interest in what heights the Celtics can reach with Tatum, Brown, Hayward, Marcus Smart, and Kemba Walker, whom Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge called Boston’s best player.

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The trio of Tatum, Brown, and Hayward has a 16-7 record and a 13.6 net rating in 387 minutes of court time. But since Jan. 20, the trio’s net rating is 34.8 in 86 minutes with a 5-0 record. That net rating was No. 1 in the NBA among all three-man lineups that had played 80 or more minutes from Jan. 20 through Feb. 7, proof they can play together.

The question is, can the Green extract the full potential from their top five players when they’re all healthy, a rarity this season? The five-man lineup of Walker, Tatum, Brown, Hayward, and Smart has shared the court for just 13 minutes.

While the Celtics’ inactivity at Thursday’s NBA trade deadline was disappointing (more on that later), the upside of this group is undeniably intriguing — and worth exploring. If the Celtics can maximize and synergize the talents and the contributions of their three wings, they can challenge for Eastern Conference supremacy.

2. The Celtics didn’t need any seismic deals at the deadline. Keeping the core intact made sense. But . . . it would have been nice if Danny the Dealer had dipped into his passel of draft picks to upgrade Boston’s bench. Instead, he was Danny the Dormant at the deadline again. Entering Friday, the Celtics were 27th in bench scoring, ahead of only Philadelphia, Portland, and Houston. The 76ers augmented their bench with Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III, and the Rockets changed their mix by adding Robert Covington.

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There’s debate as to whether two first-round picks would have gotten a deal done with the Washington Wizards for sharpshooter Davis Bertans, an impending free agent. While its value has tanked, it would’ve been difficult to mortgage the Memphis pick for a rental. But it’s hard to believe that Ainge couldn’t have wrangled another bench piece using one of the three first-rounders the Celtics own in the 2020 draft — theirs, Milwaukee’s, and the Memphis pick.

Ainge told “Toucher & Rich” on 98.5 The Sports Hub that he didn’t want to give up too much for a rental player who would have been Boston’s ninth man in the rotation. That seems like a stretch. Rookie Grant Williams has played well lately, but a bench booster would have slotted ahead of him and, possibly, Enes Kanter. We’re really talking about the seventh or eighth guy. Ainge and the Celtics have a history of overvaluing draft picks or wasting them on players such as J.R. Giddens, JaJuan Johnson, and Guerschon Yabusele. This year’s draft is weak. The Celtics’ picks are all slated to land outside the lottery, and they don’t have room for three rookies. This was a lost opportunity for Ainge.

3. There was a premature rush to bestow franchise quarterback status on former Patriot Jimmy Garoppolo, perhaps, out of a desire to claim one Patriots victory this postseason. Jimmy G was a passenger for the San Francisco 49ers’ playoff run, and when they needed him to take the wheel and drive a fourth-quarter comeback in the Super Bowl, he posted the worst fourth-quarter passer rating in Super Bowl history (2.8). When pressured last Sunday, he was a disastrous 1 of 9 for 20 yards with two interceptions, two batted passes, and a sack, according to Pro Football Focus.

Garoppolo has the talent, smarts, and elan to be an elite quarterback someday. But he still has the training wheels on, as evidenced by how 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan shielded him and managed him like a stage mom in the playoffs. Like Lamar Jackson, who is 0-2 in the postseason, Garoppolo has to prove he can conquer the postseason proving ground.

4. One of the best story lines of the Kansas City Chiefs’ comeback victory in the Super Bowl was that Patrick Mahomes’s ethnicity wasn’t a major story line. Mahomes, the son of African-American former Red Sox reliever Pat Mahomes, became the third Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, joining Doug Williams and Russell Wilson. But the talk wasn’t about a Black QB lifting the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl MVP. It was simply about one of the game’s transcendent QBs taking his place atop the throne. That Mahomes’s status as one of the NFL’s best pure passers superseded his race is progress. So, is this: According to the New York Times, this past season featured the most starts ever by Black quarterbacks, 138.

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5. While the fallout from the Houston Astros’ illicit electronic sign-stealing scandal continues, with the Wall Street Journal reporting the Astros employed an Excel-based program to steal signs from 2016–18, one of the game’s all-time greats took a swing at Major League Baseball’s handling of the cheating. Count baseball’s true home run king, Hank Aaron, among those who think commissioner Rob Manfred whiffed by failing to punish the players involved.

Aaron said on NBC’s “Today” show he felt the punishment, or lack thereof, didn’t fit the crime.

“I think whoever did that should be out of baseball for the rest of their lives,” said Aaron.

It remains baffling that Manfred agreed to give the players complete immunity, especially because he stated Thursday at an owners’ meeting that he believed, “We have the right to discipline players right now. I’m absolutely convinced of that fact.”

He said it wasn’t done in the Astros investigation because to ascertain the facts, MLB had to grant somebody immunity.

The flaw here is that there is zero deterrent moving forward for players — who can win more games and get paid more money — to refrain from engaging in a sign-stealing scheme, especially if they know that if they’re caught, it will all fall on their manager and their front office.

Bonus tracks: A 17-game NFL regular season is player health and safety hypocrisy . . . What’s next for the Red Sox in this offseason of discontent, locusts? . . . Trying to equal Michael Jordan would have discouraged most athletes. It inspired Kobe Bryant. In the end, he was more than a spiritual heir to His Airness. He became something iconic all his own.

Christopher L. Gasper is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cgasper@globe.com.