Jul 5, 2013; Waltham, MA, USA; General Manager Danny Ainge talks about hiring new Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, center, as owner Wyc Grousbeck, right, listens in during a news conference announcing Stevens new position. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Can The Boston Celtics Actually Endure A Long-Term Rebuild?

Earlier today, I came across a piece entitled, Is Eric Bledsoe an Option for the Boston Celtics?

I’m not here to discuss whether the Celtics should trade Rajon Rondo to the Phoenix Suns for Eric Bledsoe, although it is an interesting idea.  Let’s face it – we could speculate about Rajon Rondo trade packages all day long.

Instead, I finished reading the piece and the comments that followed, and left with one question burning in my mind: can the Boston Celtics REALLY commit to a long-term rebuild?

You see, winning is in the Boston Celtics’ DNA.  While other teams seem to be perfectly content to adopt a long-term rebuilding strategy that relies heavily on the draft – those tanking Philadelphia 76ers, for example – the Celtics remind me of that crazy uncle who is always trying to hit it big with his next “Get Rich Quick” scheme.  Sure, the Celtics SAY they are happy with how their summer has gone, and that they are excited about a rebuild . . . but you know the front office is just DYING to hit a home run that would bring in an All-Star talent in order to instantly transform the franchise.

While the willingness to swing for the fences is commendable – it did result in a championship back in 2007-2008 -such lack of patience has also hurt the Boston Celtics from time to time.  As a few fans over at Celtics Blog pointed out, the Celtics’ uncertainty over which position to play Chauncey Billups at, and lack of patience with the development of his game, caused them to ship the eventual 2004 NBA Finals MVP out of town in exchange for Kenny Anderson.  Chauncey Billups 1, Boston Celtics 0.

Brad Stevens > Rick Pitino

No, Brad Stevens is not Rick Pitino, so you would think that this iteration of the Boston Celtics are more prepared, and more patient, to allow young talent such as Marcus Smart and James Young to figure out which positions they are more adept at playing.  Still, some recent comments made by co-owner Wyc Grousbeck hint at the Celtics’ desire to build a contending team sooner than later:

“No, if you go back and look at what I said, I said we were hoping for fireworks. I didn’t promise them,” said Grousbeck in a telephone interview Monday. “We tried as hard as we could. July 4 has come and gone, but there is still a lot of effort and hope that eventually with all those first-round picks and other possible assets that at some point I would imagine something would happen, whether it’s this year or next.

“Our effort level on improving the team has been extraordinary, and [president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] and his staff and Brad have worked essentially around the clock to improve the roster. We’ve made some progress. I’m very happy with the effort. I’m still hoping for more improvement, either this year or next, because I’m impatient to get back to the level we were at.”

I’m not a fan of watching the Boston Celtics lose 50+ games a season, obviously, but if I have learned one thing in life, it is this: patience really IS a virtue.  I don’t know if the Philadelphia 76ers are establishing a model worth copying – that franchise is practically handing players to teams for a bag of Swedish Fish and a handshake – but as I have written before, the San Antonio Spurs have exhibited patience, a keen eye in the draft and overseas, and extremely smart free agent pick-ups for over a decade now.   No, the Spurs don’t own as many titles as the Celtics do . . . but they have set the gold standard on how to build a dynasty in the current NBA, so the Celtics would be wise to slow down and actually commit to a long-term rebuild.

Roadblock: Boston Celtics fans?

Let’s face it – we Boston Celtics fans, especially those of us who date back to the Larry Bird era or farther, are spoiled.  In a way, we are the New York Yankees fans of basketball: very quick to point out that the Celtics have won the most titles in NBA history, and very unaccustomed to losing.   (Fortunately, that is where the similarities end, because Yankees fans are Satan’s spawn.)  There’s a very vocal number of fans out there encouraging the Boston Celtics to do something, anything, to make the team better, now!

“Trade all of our picks and half of our team for Kevin Love!”

“Trade Rajon Rondo for Eric Bledsoe!”

“Trade Rajon Rondo for anyone!  Just trade somebody!!!”

However, based on the article, Do Celtics Fans Have Patience for Another Terrible Season?, it sounds as if a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race approach may be EXACTLY what Boston Celtics fans want this organization to take:

The refreshing thing about Celtics fans is that they are an informed and realistic group. They know basketball, know Danny Ainge’s track record, and can see exactly what the team is trying to do here long-term. With that mindset in place, it is clear that the vast majority of this fan base will have the patience for another terrible season if that’s what we get next year. In fact, based on the response during the Kevin Love pursuit, many of these fans prefer to go the patience route with this rebuild rather than overpaying for a player like Love in a trade.

Right now, the Celtics have all the elements of a potentially successful rebuild in place. You have a head coach that is on the same page with the team’s front office and has his players working hard for him every night. You have promising young players up-and-down the roster, and you have the allure of the future where a treasure trove of future first round draft picks and salary cap space await. Celtics fans can add all this together and overlook another avalanche of losses next season as a necessary step in the rebuilding process.

The other important factor to remember here is that this fan base really doesn’t have the right to be impatient about the rebuild. The Celtics only won one championship during the Big Three era, but that team was a contender for several seasons and outlasted the window in which it was expected to be seriously competitive. After six straight postseason appearances, Celtics fans are smart enough to know that rebuilds take longer than one year most of the time and it is foolish to be up in arms about two straight down seasons when it’s expected.

So if upper management is rushing to put together a product for fear of fan backlash or disappointing ticket sales, their fears are misguided.

There are still holes that need to be filled on this Boston Celtics roster, for certain, but there is no doubt in my mind that the 2014-2015 Celtics will be better than last year’s squad.  If the Celtics’ front office can remain patient, allow Brad Stevens to nurture his young players, and look to next summer’s crop of free agents, we Boston Celtics fans should have a team that can contend for championship banner number 18 within a few years.   Fireworks might be impressive, but they are gone before you know it.   I hope the Boston Celtics’ front office can see that what the team currently has can be bigger and better, if given time.

 

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