What The Luck? You Can’t Deny It…the Boston Celtics Are Back
The end of an era came on June 28, 2013. Gone from the Boston Celtics were Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, two players who had helped put Boston back on the basketball map, via a trade to the Brooklyn Nets, who were hoping to duplicate Boston's success with the two future Hall of Famers. Three days earlier, head coach Doc Rivers had gone California Dreamin' and joined up with the Clippers. Left behind was a bunch of unproven talent, with Brad Stevens, who had brought Butler University to a couple of Final Fours, brought to oversee what was left of this once proud franchise. Needless to say, no one was expecting a repeat of the success Boston experienced over the ever so brief five season period from 2008-2012, which included an NBA Finals triumph in the first year.
Another landmark came on December 18, 2014, a season after Boston predictably slagged through a losing season upon the departure of Pierce and Garnett, winning a mere 25 games during the 2013-14 season. Celtics braced themselves for a long period of rebuilding, and they were right to do so as the 2014-15 season started off more of the same. On that date of December 18, the Celtics stood at 9-14. The final piece of the magic of 2008 title was shipped away, as Rajon Rondo, who had long campaigned to get out of Boston, finally got his long desired wish was dumped off to Dallas in a trade.
Thus began the great Boston migration of 2014/15.
Over the next few weeks, names would filter in and out of the Celtics' lineup. Some were former foes during the heyday, like Tayshaun Prince and Jameer Nelson, both of whom didn't spend much time Beantown. When the shifting finally ended on February 19, Boston's biggest new acquisitions included Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, and Jonas Jerebko. Many viewed the movements as simply another sign of Boston's rebuilding process. And you certainly couldn't blame them, as many of the returns Boston received in their trades were draft picks. It was as if the Celtics were doing anything they could to get out of contention.
But then something weird started to happen...the Celtics began to win.
Under the guidance of Stevens, who knew a thing or two about getting who weren't supposed to win do the exact opposite, the Celtics gradually began improving. Over the final three months of the season, the Celtics finished 24-13, their first winning months since February 2013. Boston even made the playoffs, a throwaway playoff trip (that ended in a sweep against Cleveland) they could afford because GM Danny Ainge had built up Boston's arsenal of draft picks. A mere year and a half after the Pierce/Garnett trade, not only were both players out of Brooklyn, but the C's had a better record than the Nets.
Some doubted Boston's instant rebuild, believing that the success was owed merely to a weak Eastern Conference. That argument was slashed during the 2015-16 season, as, unlike the presumed superior Western Conference, each current playoff team in the East has a winning record. Boston still hadn't worked the kinks out...late December/early January saw a 1-6 stretch that include losses to the Nets and Lakers...but they were keeping pace with everyone else in the conference.
That is, until Friday February 5, 2016...the official end of the Celtic rebuild.
Avery Bradley, a mostly ignored first round pick during the Rivers era, sank a game winning three pointer as time expired on the game night, giving Boston a 104-103 win over the aforementioned Cavaliers, the apparent kings of the Eastern Conference. The message wasn't outright stated, but it was still clear nonetheless.
The Boston Celtics were back.
Boston, its frigid winters notwithstanding, became a hot trade destination. Names, All-Star names like Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard, were linked to Ainge and his front office magic. Thomas, once a mere afterthought in Boston's flurry of trades, will be heading to Toronto to represent the C's on All-Star Weekend. Green is a popular color in Boston again, with Marcus Smart and Jared Sullinger jerseys casually blending in with the Tom Brady, David Ortiz and Tuukka Rask equivalents.
The scariest part of this whole scenario? Boston could very well have the #1 pick this summer. Even in their departures, Pierce and Garnett helped out the Celtics, as their trades earned the Celtics Brooklyn's 1st round pick for this season....unprotected. With Brooklyn standing at 13-38...it was supposed to them in this position right now, remember...they own the third worst record in basketball, meaning Boston could very well feature Ben Simmons next season.
Call it what you want...the "weak East" excuse is gone now. Call it good timing, call it an aberration, heck, call it the stupidity of Brooklyn Nets management.
But whatever it is, the luck of the C's is alive and well, and Brad Stevens may just have another little underdog that could on his hands here.
Geoff Magliocchetti recalls the first time everyone thought the C's were back, during the 2002 playoffs against New Jersey. Tell him your memories of that team on Twitter @GeoffMags5490
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