So here we are, in the 2013 postseason. James and Wade are a consecutive championship away from becoming the next Kobe/Shaq, and Ray Allen’s name is spat out on the streets of Boston. The aging legends of Garnett and Pierce are moving on to Brooklyn, and sports fans all over New England are reluctantly getting into hockey. The Boston Celtics that rocked the world in 2008 have disappeared as suddenly as they came. While some are ready to denounce these as dark times, I could not be more excited.
You see, the Celtics ended their current era as a shadow of their former self. Buoyed by an increasingly awful Conference, they slipped into the playoffs one game above .500. With Ray Allen already gone, Rajon Rondo was forced to step up his game. He stepped so hard he tore an ACL and ended his season. Garnett’s incessant tenacity led to damaged knees, and limited playing time. Paul Pierce, the Celtics’ most consistent contributor, played more minutes in Rondo’s absence to less effect. The team was fading fast, and a large part of that was due to our older stars. Even if they weren’t traded away, Pierce and Garnett clearly didn’t have many years in the tank. The team required a rebuild.
So, as we move past the inevitable heartbreak of seeing Pierce wearing black and white, we can look towards a future that is deceptively bright. For one thing, the Celtics possess a potential All-Star in Jeff Green. Despite a turbulent career in Boston – missing an entire year to heart surgery – Green showed his full potential after Rondo was out, averaging 1.039 points per play in his final 22 games. In his first start of the season, Green scored 31 points. He scored 43 points on the mid-streak Heat, outscoring James and Wade, and turning some heads in the process. Green continued to excel in the playoffs, outplaying Pierce to become the leading scorer of the team. Although Green admittedly does have issues with consistency – pulling occasional disappearing acts – nay-sayers should note that Green is still on the course for recovery.
Accompanying Green is Avery Bradley, a 22-year-old Guard who already clawed his way to the Defensive All Star Second Team in 2013. In the last game of the Season, when the Celtics were down 26 points, Bradley delivered an inspired enough performance to make the game watchable. Stealing the ball three times in ten minutes, he helped close the game to a four-point margin.
Add in rising college star Jared Sullinger as a power forward, the summer league hotshot Kelly Olynyk as a Center, and you’ve got an admittedly sparse team. Add in Rajon Rondo, one of the top five point guards in the league, and you have playoff potential. Particularly in the East.
That’s not even touching on the plethora of serviceable players we gained from our superstar trade. Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace, though not fantastic substitutes for the Pierce/Garnett shaped hole in Celtics fans’ hearts, were former starters, and give the bench some much-needed breathing room.
To those who cry tanking season, take heart. We might be playing the Draft, but the Celtics also have a new team, bursting with youth and talent.