Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It's Zero Hour In The NBA: Do You Know Where Your Celtics Are?

-- Buckaroo Banzai
So, where exactly is it that our beloved Boston Celtics find themselves as General Manager Danny Ainge ushers in season #1 of “The Causeway Construction Project?”

Short recap: Coach Doc Rivers? Gone. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry? Gone, gone, gone.  Era of Ubuntu and Championship aspirations? Gone.  Anything better than a weak puncher’s chance of even making the Playoffs? Gone.

The sole surviving member of the five who famously “never lost a playoff series together?” Gone – at least until December, but I’m hedging on Rajon Rondo returning at or after the All-Star break, if you must know.

After witnessing the tail end of the “New Big Three” era during last year’s Playoff series against the Knicks as the Celtics were dispatched in the first round, prompting their Championship window to slam shut so hard that the glass shattered, Ainge made the unpopular but inevitable and intelligent decision to take a keg to the team and blow things to kingdom come.
With the trade that sent 15-year veteran, All-Star and Celtic original Pierce – along with the iconic Garnett and Terry – down to the Brooklyn Nets, Ainge signaled the beginning of a reconstruction project that will take, at minimum, three years to begin bearing fruit.    

Returning as the only holdovers from last year are Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Courtney Lee, and Jordan Crawford who join draft pick Kelly Olynyk, rookie Phil Pressey, free agent signee center from Brazil Vitor Faverani, and the members of other end of the Brooklyn Nets trade Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Marshon Brooks and Keith Bogans. Not necessarily what you would call a “Championship Driven” lot, right?  

The team is now comprised of more
youth than age (only two players – Wallace and Bogans – have ten or more years in the League) and new coach Brad Stevens has approximately zero experience in the pro ranks, so any hopes by Greenheadz for a winning season or even an 8th Playoff seed should be of the faintest variety. This is not a team built to win, nor should it be. In possession of six first-round draft picks over the next five years, the goal of Danny and Co. should be to assess current talent for cultivating in either a new Championship core or trade value, develop a winning culture (even though actual winning may prove to be elusive at first), and make savvy moves that improve the team and add to that “Championship core.”

So, to answer the opening question, “where do the Celtics find themselves?” Talent-wise, this team will actually be able to compete with anyone on a strictly night-to-night basis. What it won’t be able to do is sustain any kind of consistency to speak of from night-to-night and certainly not enough make, let alone win, the Playoffs. Record–wise? I always shy away from this kind of prediction, mainly because there is no way to project things like the return of Rondo and other injuries to key players. But, if I were a gambling man, I’d place their wins in the high 20’s. Kind of an upper-middle of the bottom tier of the NBA.  I hesitate to use the label “mediocre” because for me, it implies a sustained level of lackluster play over more than one season. No, the Celtics will be a scrappy, never-say-die running basketball team that can take the New York's, Houston's, Golden State's and even (on occasion) the Oklahoma Cities and Miami's by surprise for a game.

What should we look for in this team? Commitment, measurable improvement and the building of bonds that are forged in the leaner times between players with character. For me, watching the development of Kelly “The K.O. Kid” Olynyk, Brooks, Pressey, Faverani and even Sullinger and Green, as well as the steady return to form of a healthy Rondo should provide me with enough entertainment to deal with the losses.  Wallace and Humphries have proven to be proud competitors as well as veteran leaders alongside Bogans, so any reports about tanking should be met with a portion of skepticism. Unless, of course, any two or all of these players happen to be shipped out of town by the trade deadline in February.

A suggestion that I would like to make to Greenheadz everywhere, if I might be so bold and yet humble: Just sit back and watch this young team without any expectations or frustration. Enjoy every learning moment for the players as much as you will their inevitable moments of success – however fleeting. You are now on the ground floor of a project that will ultimately lead to our #18th and maybe even #19th and #20th banner.
While the road may be bumpy and fraught with wrong turns and steep curves, when they finally arrive at their planned destination, you’ll be thrilled that you decided to come along for the ride.

Game #1…Hoo Rahhh!

No comments:

Post a Comment