Celtics fans can’t deny that this year has been fun. Bostonians have grown accustomed to watching Kyrie Irving’s handles bewilder opposing defenses, they’ve seen the team reel off 16 wins in a row, and they’ve experienced the highs of big-time wins over the NBA’s elite in Golden State and Houston.
But the most memorable part of this season may prove to be the lack of luck allocated to the team with the shamrock logo.
Injuries have hit Brad Stevens’ squad hard. The latest ailments to Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Daniel Theis have dampened the expectations of even the most optimistic C’s fans. But those expectations had already taken a serious hit just six minutes into the new campaign when Gordon Hayward went down in Cleveland.
People have joked about Hayward possibly returning this year, but that was never going to happen unless the Celtics made it to the Finals, and even then it would seem unwise to rush him back. Gordon’s rehab has been encouraging, and he should be back for training camp in September.
Danny Ainge could always make another blockbuster trade, but it seems more likely that the Celtic’s core won’t be shaken up too much. Kyrie will be even more comfortable with his teammates, Brown and Jayson Tatum will have had another year of promising development, and hopefully the front office can add a bit more depth to the end of the bench through the draft and free agency.
That depth is being tested to the extreme right now, but still the Celtics haven’t folded. Brad Stevens is one of the best coaches in the league partly because he always gets the best out of his players. It would be unfair to give up on this team going into the playoffs.
But the Raptors look really good, and Boston has still struggled heavily with the Cavaliers. Getting to the Finals always seemed like the ceiling for this season. Despite some impressive victories, it’s tough to see this Celtics team being able to beat the Warriors or the Rockets in a seven game series.
A loss in the first two rounds of the playoffs would be seen as a failure, but nothing past that should be. The Celtics’ future is arguably the brightest of any team in the league.
Judge this project on next year, and the year after that, when they’ll hopefully have a full squad for more than just five minutes of the NBA season.