Although much of this blog is football focused as we’re entering the second half of the 2017 NFL season, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my thoughts on how another Boston team is making the most of their season so far. This is Boston Sports, hardly anybody likes us, most despise our teams and our rabid New England fanbases, but the Boston Celtics are having a truly special run to start the year. After ten games and just about an eighth of the way through an NBA season, that with the drawn out playoffs which seems to last an eternity, the Celtics are doing what few expected. Yes, they were obviously slated to be contenders with big offseason additions such as Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, and Jayson Tatum. And the hype train was steamrolling its way into the Quicken Loans Arena for the tipoff of the season against the Cavs. An ECF rematch from the previous year, the team that has knocked my Boston Celtics out of the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, I couldn’t have been more excited. Along with the past few years of contention between these two teams in a league full of “super teams” loaded with stars, these two rivals pulled off a blockbuster which sent two All-NBA point guards in opposite directions. Even with Isaiah Thomas out for the start of the season, the game meant a lot to Boston. It was a chance to show a new flash of legitimacy and prove to the rest of the league that Boston has all the makings of a championship contender.
Tipoff ensues, and fans see what they’ve been waiting for. Kyrie’s first few buckets as a Celtic, Jaylen and Jayson running around the court like 6’7 puppies ready to cement their place in the dog park elite, and of course, Gordon Hayward’s first Celtic score. But then of course bad luck struck the leprechaun and their pot of gold seemingly vanished away in minutes. FIVE MINUTES into the game we’ve all been waiting for, and Gordon Hayward, the hair of this team, takes a gruesome fall on an attempted lob, and millions fell silent. Twitter and its faceless attention seekers aside, the entire league looked away from their devices. A fan base with so much hope in their team lost so much so quickly, our own “big three” had fallen to just two and even they were in tears on the Celtics bench. With the stories of the injury taking over the night, the results of the game seemed to play second fiddle. After losing big in the first half, the Celtics team sacked up and gave a hell of a shot at the King on his throne in the second half. After coming up short, the team has taken that momentum and ridden to the tune of 7 straight wins and an 8-2 record. All of the pieces that mastermind Danny Ainge took so much time to put together, promising fans only good was to come have all paid off bigger than many were expecting.
Two years ago the team picked Jaylen Brown #3 overall out of Cal, a player many critics claimed was “too raw” for the league and merely a physical specimen, but by god has he proved them all wrong. Starting in the ECF last year in just his rookie season, Jaylen impacted this team in a way few rookies get the chance to do. As for this year, he is currently THIRD in the NBA in plus minus, behind only Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. While that stat is for sure controlled by the teams effectiveness, Brown has the ability to make the team better, along with his play style that makes him so fun to watch.
Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier were picked in the first rounds of the 2014 and 2015 drafts. Neither were considered game changers to a playoff contender. Marcus Smart was a “reach” to many with the 6th pick, with high defensive upside and many offensive and physical question marks. Rozier was deemed too small and not gifted enough on either side of the ball to be anything special. Both were endlessly thrown into trade talks, but Dealer Danny refused to budge on the pair of combo guards. Flash forward to 2017 and both are major pieces to a team ranked in the top 5 of just about every NBA power ranking.
Perhaps the biggest question mark of this Celtics season came on draft night, and this was a special night for not only the team, but in NBA history. Never before had a team with the #1 seed in their conference that year ever had the #1 pick in the draft, and everybody knew the front office had something up their sleeve. Instead of taking who many considered the clear cut top player in the draft Markelle Fultz, or the highly anticipated social media wonderkid in Lonzo Ball, Ainge opted for Duke’s own Jayson Tatum. A player with All-Star level talent but questionable athleticism, the front office shocked the league and traded down for their guy. Many think Danny saw something in Fultz that led him in a different direction, others thought he knew all along that either Isaiah was staying or the team had a more for Irving ready long before the Draft. Regardless they took their guy and good lord, did Wheeler Dan do it again? Through ten games, he’s averaging 31 minutes for one of the league’s premier teams, 14 points and 6 rebounds. He is firmly in the R.O.T.Y race and has given Boston flashes back to The Truth.
Along with many new additions to a team with just four returning players and a fallen superstar, this team can flat out play. This is Boston, this town only knows how to win, and we’ll do it in any damn league you give us a team.
Long Live the Leprechaun, Trust in Danny, and the Road to Banner #18
Image from NBA.com