Celtics

Everything that could have gone wrong has for the Boston Celtics

Everything that could have gone wrong has for the Boston Celtics

How exactly did the Boston Celtics get here?

As we ponder the question of how a team with a seemingly limitless future came unglued so quickly, our minds keep flashing back to September 1, 2017. Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward sat at a dais inside TD Garden for an introductory press conference — Celtics brass beaming beside them — before Irving leaned in to tell Hayward, “It’s about to be crazy, G.”

This isn't the craziness anyone expected. The Celtics were coming off an absurd summer in which they: landed Jayson Tatum at No. 3 and got a glitzy future Kings pick for moving down; won a tug-of-war for Hayward’s services, adding a second max free agent beside Al Horford; traded an injured Isaiah Thomas for Irving, giving Boston a top-10-caliber talent and the new face of a franchise that seemed ready for immediate title contention.

The Celtics and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge seemingly could do no wrong for a prolonged stretch leading to Irving’s arrival. But over the next 21 months, everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong.

And the summer of 2019 has become the anti summer of 2017. In the immediate aftermath of the rival Los Angeles Lakers landing Anthony Davis — the superstar that Boston had quietly lusted over in recent years — the Celtics find themselves bracing for the possible exit of All-Stars Irving and Horford, both potentially walking away with no recoup of assets.

The amount of things that had to go wrong to get to this point is flat-out staggering. But here’s a not-so-short list of how things came unraveled:

* Hayward’s ankle injury: Just 46 days after that introductory press conference, Hayward landed awkwardly after going up for an Irving lob five minutes into Boston’s season-opener and fractured his ankle. It cost him his first year in green and a follow-up surgery essentially sapped the following summer, leaving him still working his way back for much of this past season.

* False hope: Even with both Hayward and Irving sidelined for the 2018 playoffs, Boston’s young core surged to within four minutes of a trip to the NBA Finals. It might have been the worst thing that could have happened to the team. Young players bought into their own hype — even if part of their success hinged on a less-than-daunting East — and, combined with the impeding return of Irving and Hayward, raised expectations to dangerous levels.

* A disastrous season: Weighed down by that burden of expectations and an impossible lack of chemistry, the Celtics stumbled through a 49-win season, one in which Irving often brooded amid speculation about his future. The Celtics clung hard to the notion that they’d figure it all out in the postseason but they never did, getting bounced after four straight listless losses to the Bucks in the East semis.

* Twist of fate: The Kings pick, once seen as the potential jewel in any potential Davis trade package, turned into a stone. Sacramento exceeded all expectations and nearly made the playoffs out west last season and Boston settled for pick No. 14.

* Lucky Lakers: Los Angeles' 2019 first-round pick vaulted to No. 4 on lottery night, equipping a dysfunctional team with the centerpiece of an all-in package to land Davis and pair him with LeBron James out west.

* Power Position for Pels: New Orleans vaulted to No. 1 in that same lottery, assuring them the arrival of Zion Williamson, and strengthening their ability to extract max assets from teams in pursuit of Davis despite only one year remaining on his contract.

* Ghosting Kyrie: The uncertainty surrounding Irving’s future, and his seeming lack of communication in the aftermath of the dismal 2018-19 season, left the Celtics unable to put prime young assets on the table for Davis, effectively preventing them from even getting close to offering a package comparable to the Lakers.

* Plan J: Once the Celtics missed on Davis, and with Irving having one foot out to the door to Brooklyn, Boston essentially had to embrace a youth movement and had to be cautious in early discussions with what they could offer Horford for an extension. A team going young would be hard pressed to commit to four years and $100+ million for a player that would be 37 by the end of the deal and that, understandably, left Horford intrigued by a potential heftier payday, likely with a team that’s a more surefire contender.

The cupboards are not bare but, as the Celtics embrace that Plan J — building around the young tandem of Tatum and Jaylen Brown — the future is incredibly murky. There is no obvious path back to title contention. There is no obvious choice for the next star to target. There is a reputation to repair as star players flee Boston — or announce they don’t want to be here, in the case of Davis — for what they see as greener pastures.

It’s ironic, of course, that Horford’s arrival seemingly broke the stigma that free agents didn’t want to come in Boston. Kevin Durant ultimately elected to sign with Golden State that same summer but the fact that Boston got a meeting with two top free agents, and landed one, suggested that the Celtics were a destination again.

Not a whole lot has gone right since then. The Irving trade seemed like a low-risk, high-reward situation when it happened. But, if you believe in karma, it might just be the demarcation point of when things started to go sideways. While Irving’s play was undeniably excellent — the 2019 playoffs notwithstanding — the Celtics might have underrated how his temperament and attitude could impact this team. And, yet, Boston brass couldn’t have any idea it would go south as quickly as it did.

It’s a reminder that you need a little luck along the way. The Celtics have typically been a franchise that swims in good fortune but it’s evaded them for the better part of the past two years.

The Celtics can still be competitive with the players that remain, at least it seems that way with uncertainty around the league. Still, this team is not a contender as currently constituted. With Horford, they had a puncher’s chance. Now? Boston can examine sign-and-trade options with Horford that could recoup assets, or sign free agents to short-term deals while positioning themselves for a chance to chase top-tier free agents in future summers. The Celtics still have assets that can potentially be used to chase stars but it’s hard to find the next surefire target.

This isn't where the team expected to be. Two years ago, the future was limitless. Now it’s shrouded by the clouds of uncertainty.

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Celtics' Jaylen Brown organizes peaceful protest in wake of George Floyd's death

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Celtics' Jaylen Brown organizes peaceful protest in wake of George Floyd's death

Jaylen Brown is one of the many Americans speaking out against the death of George Floyd and the racial injustices that remain prevalent in this country.

The Boston Celtics star has been outspoken about the issues over the last several days, and on Saturday he took to social media to organize a peaceful protest in Atlanta.


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Brown also posted an important video message urging those who witness acts of racism to speak up or act on it.

“Being a bystander is no longer acceptable," Brown said. "If you and your friends are around or are witnesses to cultural biases, micro-aggressions, subtle acts of racism, actual racism etc. and you don’t speak up on it or do something about it, you are part of the problem. We’re past the point where if it’s not in your governance space so you have nothing to do with it. If you don’t speak up on these issues, you just as bad.”

Watch:

In addition, the 23-year-old posted an Instagram photo of himself holding a sign that reads, "I can't breathe," referencing the words said by Floyd before he was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Along with Brown, several athletes including Tom Brady and members of the New England Patriots have used their platforms to speak up about George Floyd's death.

Another Larry Bird milestone to assert his place among the all-time greats

Another Larry Bird milestone to assert his place among the all-time greats

BOSTON -- The 1986 Boston Celtics are considered one of the greatest teams of all time, having run through the regular season with ease towards a dominant postseason that ended with the team hanging Banner 16.

But weeks before the franchise’s triumphant conclusion to the season, there was another historic milestone.

Larry Bird was named the league’s MVP 34 years ago this week for the third straight season, a feat that only two others - Bill Russell (1961-1963) and Wilt Chamberlain (1966-1968) - had ever done.

It’s significant because it serves as yet another reminder of how historically great Bird was; not only for the Boston Celtics but for the entire league.

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To carve out a spot in history with such an elusive group speaks to Bird’s greatness as a player who at the very least should be in the conversation as one of the greatest power forwards in NBA history. 

And what made that season even more special was that during the playoffs, the elite level at which Bird played during the regular season did not waiver or lessen up in the games that mattered the most. 

In the playoffs that year, he averaged 25.9 points (0.1 points less than his season average) while increasing his field goal shooting (51.7 percent in the playoffs, 49.6 in the regular season), assists (9.8, from 8.2) and steals (2.1, from 2.0).

And when the game was on the line, the only thing larger than Bird’s ability to come through in the clutch, was his confidence.

“There’s no doubt I’m in control of what I do out there,” Bird said in an interview in 1986. “I can score any number of points my team wants me to if they give me the ball in the right situations.”

And he did, over and over and over again before finally calling it quits on his Hall of Fame career in 1992. 

Throughout his time in Boston, Bird had a number of stretches of brilliance as a basketball player. 

But the three-year run in which he was the league’s best player, resulting in three consecutive league MVP awards, stands out in a career that was filled with standout moments.