In the early summer of 2008, Boston Celtics fans learned “Anything is Possible.” Kevin Garnett’s words echoed the TD Garden, capturing the aura surrounding Boston’s 17th championship in the organization’s history after it had been a bottom-feeder for years before that.
We are now approaching the year 2024, and the Celtics have gone without a Larry O’Brien trophy for 15 years. But that’s not to say they haven’t had their chances. The Cs were one game away in 2018 when 19-year-old Jayson Tatum nearly dethroned LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. In 2020, the Miami Heat edged the Celtics in the bubble with a chance of a 2008 rematch with the Lakers on the line. Cs fans all know what happened in 2022 when Tatum and the team ran out of gas against Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Last season, it was heartbreak yet again.
Banner 18 has been on the tip of Celtics fans’ tongues for quite some time.
Despite the pain and agony of the recent shortcomings in Boston, fans have remained optimistic. They said a team headlined by up-and-coming stars Tatum and Jaylen Brown is young, and their window hasn’t opened yet. And maybe that was true, in 2018 and in 2022.
Not anymore. The window is here, and the time is now for Banner 18 to be hung in the TD Garden rafters.
Boston Celtics fans have used the age of Tatum and Brown as reassurance that their time hasn’t come with Tatum at 25 and Brown at 26. When LeBron James and Curry won their first titles at age 27, it appears as though Boston has all the time in the world to assemble the perfect roster for Banner 18 in 2023-24.
However, that may not be the case.
New CBA leaves little wiggle room for the Boston Celtics to improve
The primary reason Celtics fans should be yearning for a championship, even more, is the new collective bargaining agreement; particularly the implementation of the “second apron.” Starting this season, teams that are $17.5 million over the tax line of $165.294 million will be charged with additional penalties. The Celtics, who are expected to have an active payroll of $181,367,920 according to Spotrac, will be one of the few NBA franchises to experience new limitations that include a loss of the mid-level exception as well as including first-round draft picks in trades that are seven or more years down the road. In other words, the Celtics aren’t going to be able to carry a stacked roster forever.
As of right now, Boston is perfectly fine regarding their financial situation. In fact, majority governor Wyc Grousbeck didn’t hold back on media day last week.
New additions of Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis only put Boston deeper into their salary hole, who are both slated to earn about $36 million this season. Between Tatum, Brown, and Boston’s two largest off-season acquisitions, there isn’t much room left between the salary cap and the tax line. Although Grousbeck admits the organization has no problem with it, the team will face serious implications in the near future if the team doesn’t get under the tax. When it’s time to add a depth piece to the roster in free agency next summer, the Celtics will be held back.
Health is still a problem for the Boston Celtics
With the departure of Robert Williams, the Celtics depth took a huge hit at the center position. Heading into opening night later this month, Boston will be rolling with Porzingis, Al Horford, and Luke Kornet at the five.
While Celtics fans don’t want to hear this, Porzingis hasn’t exactly been durable throughout his time in the NBA. After dealing with a foot injury this summer, the Celtics sure hope No. 8 can stay on the floor all season.
During a stretch between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons, Porzingis suited up for just 94 out of 164 games. If he were to go down at any point this season, the Celtics would be left with 37-year-old Horford, Kornet, and possibly Jordan Walsh, and suddenly what was looking like the missing piece to the puzzle is just another roadblock to Banner 18.
Tick-Tock Boston Celtics…
Quite frankly, the Celtics can’t take anything for granted. Just because they wound up in the finals with the Golden State Warriors in 2022 doesn’t mean they’ll get their ticket back automatically punched.
Look at the 2012-13 OKC Thunder, where Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden were defeated by the Miami Heat in five games. It’s been a decade, and that Big Three has evaporated, leaving the Thunder nowhere near a finals berth since. Boston’s window won’t be open forever, and you never know when it could close at a moment’s notice.
Take a Deep Breath, Boston Celtics fans
This isn’t to make you panic. As the Celtics head into the 2023-24 NBA season, their roster is looking as good as ever. Tatum and Brown are just entering their prime, and the team has already experienced what it takes to reach the pinnacle of the league. They’re clearly the best team in the Eastern Conference on paper, and if all goes according to plan, there’s a good chance Boston will be in the mix come June. If not, they have at least a few more years to run it back with this current group.
With that said, why wait? The Celtics have a chance to do something special with the group Brad Stevens has put together. While Banner 18 is the team’s top priority, they have an opportunity to do something a whole lot more.