Good riddance, 2018-19 Celtics' regular season

Good riddance, 2018-19 Celtics' regular season

Good riddance to the Boston Celtics' 2018-19 regular season.

You will not be remembered fondly. Brad Stevens ought to take a page out of Bill Belichick’s playbook and, when the team huddles Wednesday, bury a basketball or some game film somewhere beneath the Auerbach Center.

A season that started with such unbridled optimism turned bleak in a hurry. We hyped up the team’s talent-filled (and finally healthy!) starting lineup, gave it a snazzy Warriors-like nickname, and it fizzled before Thanksgiving. We gushed about Boston’s depth and yet no one could figure out their roles. Instead of playing like the beasts of a LeBron-less East that they were widely pegged, the Celtics routinely crumbled under the heavy burden of expectations.

There were more closed-door meetings than signature wins. By January, cameras caught Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown shoving each other in frustration in front of the Boston bench. Kyrie Irving got so fed up with Boston’s younger players that he called LeBron James. Before the All-Star break, Marcus Morris said the season hadn’t been fun for a long time.

In hindsight, he was pretty spot on.

Before real games started, it was all sunshine and puppy dogs. Kyrie Irving declared his desire to re-sign in Boston and basked in the afterglow for a few months. But, fueled in part by Boston’s struggles, speculation about his future returned to headlines over All-Star weekend. Film of him talking to good friend (and fellow free-agent-to-be) Kevin Durant was dissected with Zapruder-like intensity. Irving grumped in the aftermath and Terry Rozier noted it weighed on a team that often fed off Irving’s energy.

These Celtics had an uncanny ability to fumble away double-digit leads. They often crumbled at the first sign of adversity. Stevens gave his team every opportunity to play through their issues and, ultimately, he waited so long that even Stevens ended up in the crosshairs of angry Celtics fans, something that seemed unfathomable during his tenure.

Every time it seemed like the Celtics couldn’t produce a worse loss, they somehow found a new way to one-up themselves. A loss to the lowly Knicks was dubbed rock bottom in November. That was wildly premature. The Celtics broke out their shovels and dug deeper on multiple occasions. Now, we're not even certain that Knicks loss would crack the Top 5 worst of the season.

OK, you get the point. The regular season was brutal. But here’s the good news: It’s over! Bring on the playoffs, baby.

We’d like to welcome back all the readers that got so fed up by mid-March (if you hung around that long) that you basically just checked out on the regular season. You missed some great stories (just kidding, they were as inconsistent as Boston’s play).

But we’re harping on the negative here. A funny thing happened the past few weeks: The Celtics quietly started playing better. Aron Baynes elevated to the starting lineup and jump-started a defense that had been sliding backward for two months. Gordon Hayward, his post-All-Star momentum twice stunted by injury, found both his confidence and his aggression, and has played like someone who could be an X-factor in the postseason. The Celtics have seen long glimpses of Playoff Kyrie and Playoff Al Horford, and — so long as Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum can get healthy — this team has all the necessary parts to make a legitimate postseason run.

Yes, for all the consternation about how downright infuriating Boston’s regular season was and as much as we rode the highs and lows of the roller coaster, it will be merely a footnote to the season if the Celtics surge in the playoffs.

Truth be told, this season was never going to be judged based on what happened in the regular season. The Celtics didn’t always inspire confidence and they made their path to postseason success a bit more daunting, but they still have the talent to compete for the berth in the Finals that slipped away a year ago.

Farewell, regular season. It was an 82-game slog that didn’t come close to matching expectations. Fortunately for the Celtics, there’s still time to right some wrongs. 

Bring on the playoffs.

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NBA Rumors: GMs in favor of play-in tournament when season resumes

NBA Rumors: GMs in favor of play-in tournament when season resumes

On Thursday, the NBA took another step toward figuring out the best way to return to action.

Commissioner Adam Silver held a conference call with the league's general managers to review a survey that was delivered to teams last week. In the survey, GMs voted on potential formats to resume play.

Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer reports about 75 percent of GMs were in favor of a play-in tournament between bubble teams rather than a World Cup-style group stage. Front-running teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks favored the play-in tourney as it would give them a far easier path to the NBA Finals.

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More from O'Connor:

General managers were surveyed about a 'playoffs-plus' format—either a play-in tournament between the bubble teams to determine the final seeds in the playoffs, or a World Cup–style group stage, which would replace the end of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs with a round-robin format. About 75 percent of teams voted in favor of a play-in tournament, sources said, while 25 percent of teams voted in favor of the group stage.

Although many GMs are in favor of the play-in tournament, that doesn't mean the league will go in that direction.

“Adam [Silver] isn’t taking the results seriously,” a team executive told O'Connor. “Every team is obviously gonna vote for what’s best for them.”

Still, it's a noteworthy development and one that could not only impact how the NBA proceeds with its 2019-20 campaign, but also how it approaches future playoff formats.

For more details from O'Connor, check out his full article here.

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Celtics At Home: Daniel Theis recalls experience playing games without fans

Celtics At Home: Daniel Theis recalls experience playing games without fans

The Boston Celtics hosting a playoff game in an empty arena would be a bizarre experience.

Take it from the guy who's played in front of empty arenas.

Celtics big man Daniel Theis played several years of professional basketball in his native Germany before joining the C's in 2017. On the latest episode of NBC Sports Boston's "Celtics At Home," Theis explained that preseason games often didn't have fans, which created an atmosphere he didn't exactly enjoy.

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"It's definitely weird just thinking about it," Theis told host Brian Scalabrine. "Thinking back for me, playing in Germany in preseason games when you have scrimmages and no fans in there. You hear every voice, every word, every step. It's annoying."

Games without fans could be the NBA's new reality as it aims to safely resume play amid the coronavirus pandemic. Germany's top soccer league, the Bundesliga -- which Theis has been following intently -- is already playing games in empty arenas.

But while Theis wants to get back on the court, he doesn't sound thrilled about playing games without fans again -- especially if that means losing the home-crowd advantage that Boston provides.

"When I watched the soccer games this weekend, it was just -- it didn't feel right," Theis said. "Especially in Boston, when it comes to the playoffs and the fans at TD Garden are so important and so loud ... Then I can imagine now just playing a playoff game with nobody in there, it feels probably like a practice game or scrimmage."

Theis also discussed some of the Celtics' best Zoom guest speakers during Episode Three of "Celtics At Home," which includes guest appearances from C's legends Tommy Heinsohn and Bill Walton.

Check out the full episode of "Celtics At Home" below or on our YouTube page: