Making the playoffs any year is great. Knowing that you’re one of the 16 best teams in the league or one the 8 best in the your conference is something one should be proud of. But as a fan I don’t necessarily think I was proud of this Celtics season. That is not an indictment on the players, because I know that these guys wanted to win every single game, even if it didn’t always seem like it. Every welptics tweet I made this year was good-natured. It was mostly my way of coping with mediocrity, since being a fan of the Celtics this is almost foreign territory for me. I only had to endure the 06-07 year of historically awful basketball, so I guess you could say I’ve been quite the privileged basketball fan.
The beginning of the season was filled with optimism. I was almost certain that this team could give Miami a run for their money in the Eastern Conference. I thought Rondo would make the jump to elite-superstar status and finally embrace being both a scorer and facilitator. I had illusions that Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger would be huge contributors. (Illusions which eventually came true). I even had aspirations that Jason Terry would fill the shoes left in the wake of Ray Allen’s departure.
As the season went on, it became quite apparent that not all of my wishes would come true though. As it went on we lost more and more games, and it became clear to me that challenging Miami in the East was a distant and unlikely possibility. Rondo, while improving his jumper (shot 48% from 16-23 ft, up from 39% the previous year) proved to still be passive. Although his passiveness led to him almost breaking a record double digit assist streak,(which led to some frustrating moments from him) his season ended with a torn ACL in late January thus temporarily suspending his transition into superstar status. Jared Sullinger made an immediate impact, and while it took Jeff awhile to get his conditioning back, he’s had a huge impact on Boston as of late. Jason Terry on the other hand, has definitely, at least in my eyes, been a disappointment, never maintaining any sort of consistency to his game.
A couple things became very clear to me this year.
1. Celtics fans and writers around the league surely underrated the impact Avery Bradley has.
Last year when Avery seemingly came out of nowhere and stole Ray Allen’s starting spot, he was mainly thought of as a very solid perimeter defender. A perimeter defender that when locked in can check any one in the league all the way up the court. He’ll beat you to the spot you thought would be open, he’ll relentlessly hound you until he strips you of the ball and he’ll shrug off bonecrushing picks in the back court from opposing big men. All of those things are great and all, but who knew that it was such an importance to this team. Up until his return, the Celtics had the 14th ranked defense by Defensive rating with a Drtg of 102.2, well below the traditional Celtics defense. Since his return the Celtics have the 3rd best defensive rating at 98.6.
2.We should really be grateful of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
Not every franchise in the league or in sports can say that they were lucky to have one of the greatest players in franchise history and one of the greatest in NBA history on their team at the same time. It’s a bit nostalgic coming to the realization that these guys could retire or leave the team anytime in the next year or two. Next year only $4 million of Paul Pierce’s $15 million contract is guaranteed, which means it would be somewhat possible to see our captain play for another squad. While KG signed a 3 year deal this summer, it’s assumed that he and Paul are a package deal meaning if Paul goes, Kevin leaves (retires) as well. I realized this about midway through the year and kind of tried to take nothing for granted with this Celtics squad, as frustrating as they may be.
3. Jeff Green is pretty good.
While the present doesn’t seem too bright, a possible future with Jeff apart of it seems to be the light at the end of the tunnel. To start the year I was pretty unfair with my expectations of how good he’d be coming off heart surgery. I expected him to make a seamless recovery and forgot that he hadn’t played basketball in a year. He’s improved as his conditioning and feel for the game started to come back, and as his minutes increased he really impressed me. In 13 games as a starter this year Jeff has averaged 21.5 pts a game with a 104.8 offensive rating and a 65.3 TS% (True Shooting %).
Being a Celtics fan who was used to winning, I unfairly expected a lot from this team. They faced 3 season ending injuries to key players (Rondo,Sullinger and Barbosa). They were without their surprisingly most important defender in Avery Bradley for almost half the year. I had to endure countless Brandon Bass Post ups, Jason Terry PUJITs and Jason Collins getting rotation minutes. The highlight of my year so far has been seeing Jordan Crawford almost take over a 4th quarter in Memphis.
In most cases under those circumstances I’d be elated to have garnered a 7th seed and I still am, but I obviously wonder how good they’d be if healthy. But there’s no use in wasting time with hypotheticals, this is the team we have , these are the guys we have and you know what? I’m glad I got to watch them.