Although today it seems fiction, not too long ago the Celtics were the main alternative to take the title in a league tyrannized by the Warriors and LeBron James. Before starting the 2017/2018 season, the Boston franchise started as third force in the league according to Las Vegas experts. And not only that, it was probably the Eastern Conference team with the best short / medium term future.
They had just traded Isaiah Thomas for the star that would give them a leap in quality: Kyrie Irving. They had signed one of the best players available in free agency: Gordon Hayward. The most hopeful player of the last decade for the franchise had been chosen in the draft: Jayson Tatum. They had a young and highly valued coach: Brad Stevens. In addition, they had several of the best accessories for their stars such as Al Horford, Marcus Smart, a young Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris or Terry Rozier.
Just four seasons later, it is incredible how the reality of the team and its aspirations have changed. A squad that had absolutely everything to succeed has become an entity that roams the middle positions of the Eastern Conference. Only the most pessimistic could imagine such a negative scenario. Unable to maintain a competitive regularity and on the way to becoming a team that usually hovers around the positions of play-in.
Currently, the aspirations for the title are a utopia. Looking ahead, the reconstruction seems the most complex in recent times. Here’s how the Celtics disappointed their fans in just 15 steps.
Little more than five minutes
1. It was the time that the Celtics 17/18 had all their stars available. What it took Irving to serve him a alley-oop to Hayward that in the fall the tibia would break. Despite the unfortunate blow, the Celtics competed well that season. The Jays were progressing well and Kyrie led a team that finished second in the Eastern Conference, behind only the Raptors. The playoffs they were the most exciting moment of the whole project but (2), again the injuries struck. Irving injured his left knee and was left without playing in the decisive stretch. The Celtics were just one win away from reaching their first Finals since 2010. Who knows where they would have gone with him. roster healthy.
3. Summer was an ode to immobility, they did not want to touch anything. Management was fully confident that recovering the injured players would raise the necessary rung. Truth be told, it didn’t seem like a bad idea either, but it never worked out as expected. In the draft, Robert Williams was selected, probably the best pick of the last four years.
4. 18/19 was the most disappointing season in recent team history. At last all the pieces were put together, they had the perfect mix of youth and seniority and they worked much worse than expected. Without going any further, they had worse results than the injury season. After LeBron’s departure, almost all experts ranked the Celtics as favorites in the East. The team did not show any kind of interest in the matches of regular season and they finished with a 49-33 record, fourth in the East. 5. Rumors that the locker room was broken and a crushing 4-1 by the Bucks in the second round closed a season to forget.
A fateful summer
6. Kyrie Irving was leaving the Celtics. The (non) leader of the team was leaving the ship. Despite having stated that wanted to stay in the team, the frustrating season changed his mind and Boston lost their most valuable asset. 7. He would not be the only one to escape. Al Horford, one of the most respected players by the fans, was going to a direct rival like the 76ers. In addition, two of the most important add-ons, Rozier and Morris, were also moving away from the franchise. It was time to sign new players.
8. And the parts never gave the level. The stellar move was the signing of Kemba Walker as a free agent. Enes Kanter also arrived, a pivot completely contrary to what Brad Stevens asks of his “5”. 9. To complete a nightmare summer, the Celtics did not exchange any of their 4 picks from the 2019 Draft, despite rumors about the possibility of moving up. They added four first-year players, none was a “steal” and they were not prepared to add in their first season. Just before picking Romeo Langford at No. 14, Tyler Herro was selected by the Heat. How things would have changed.
The step forward of the Jays
The season marked by the virus was also the one of the quality jump of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Confirming the All-Star level of the two young men was the best recent news. The Celtics performed better than expected but, as usual, not a season without bad news. 10. Physical problems hit the team again, especially two of its stars. Kemba and Hayward never had the necessary continuity to show their best level due to different injuries and relapses.
11. Another negative aspect was the closet background, probably the direct cause of the Celtics falling 4-2 to the Heat and staying on the verge of the Orlando Bubble Finals. The lack of talent coupled with an excess of youth in the second unit was decisive. The squad was crying out for more competitive players.
12. But, for the third year in a row, the Celtics fared poorly in the offseason and they started with a worse squad than the previous season. Hayward, who should have been traded if they had sensed it, declined his player option and left the Celtics for the Hornets. In exchange, management added Tristan Thompson and Jeff Teague, who passed through Boston unnoticed. 13. Illusions were also generated with the salary exception created with the departure of Hayward and, at the last minute, Evan Fournier was hired. French was not differential either and only lasted a few months. The only positive news was the long-term renovations at Tatum and Brown.
14. The poor performance in the regular season forced the team to play the preliminary tournament and, despite qualifying, they fell to the Nets in the first substitution, leaving an image of helplessness.
The sad reality
By this season, all Celtics fans have lost the illusions they had a few years ago. Disappointment was widespread and the last step was taken. 15. Looking for a 180º turn that would change the bad dynamics, Danny Ainge left his position of general manager and Brad Stevens replaced him. In addition, Ime Udoka became the new coach of the team. Some movements that, until now, have not yielded results.
Stevens’ first summer as COO passed without pain or glory. Without great proper names. He got rid of a toxic contract like Kemba’s, but he also acquired Horford’s. He added Josh Richardson and Dennis Schroder as complements for his stars but, the truth is that he has not yet managed to complete the squad with players who deserve two stars like the Jays.
Meanwhile, Udoka has not found the key on the track either. The Celtics attack poorly and defend intermittently. His slate plays have not helped him win any game either and the team is among those who lose the most duels in the game. clutch time. Currently their record is negative (18-19) and they are not among the Eastern candidates. They are not under reconstruction either. The truth is that the Celtics, for a few months, have lived in the middle of an oasis. The real nothing that anyone would hardly save him from, not even the long-awaited Bradley Beal.
(Cover photo by Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)