BOSTON – The Fourth of July won’t bring about the kind of fireworks Boston Celtics fans saw a year ago, but there’s still plenty of reasons to be fired up about this team.

After finishing within a game of getting to the NBA Finals without their two best players for the entire postseason run, the areas in need of improvement were very few for Boston.

The Celtics already came to terms on a two-year, $11 million deal to keep Aron Baynes in the fold at center.

Retaining restricted free agent Marcus Smart remains a priority, a prospect that looks better and better as time goes on as the market for big-spending teams begins to dry up.

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Forget for a moment about the Golden State juggernaut being even more formidable with the addition of DeMarcus Cousins and the return of Kevin Durant.

Even if Boston put together a package for the best available player (Kawhi Leonard), would it make the Celtics better than the Warriors? Would that significantly close the gap?

Probably not.

    But in the NBA, the first step towards dethroning the champs is to put together a team that can at least compete at the highest levels relative to the rest of the NBA.

    As you start to examine the landscape of the league, the Celtics are part of a pool of elite, title-contending clubs that’s becoming more and more shallow.

    One of the keys to Boston being in the position it is in is its ability to secure key elements to the franchise around this time in recent years.

     

    The Celtics announced the hiring of Brad Stevens on July 3, 2013, just days after agreeing to trade away Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets for a slew of draft picks that eventually netted Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, in addition to one of those picks being included in the deal with Cleveland last year that netted Kyrie Irving.

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    On the free agency front, it was on the Fourth of July last year that Boston got a commitment from Gordon Hayward, who agreed to a four-year, $127 million deal.

    Acquiring Hayward did more than just reunite the All-Star forward with Stevens, his college coach. It was proof that the image of Boston as being this desolate place where no top-shelf free agent would want to play, was a mirage.

    Hayward’s signing came almost a year to the day after Al Horford came aboard in what was, at the time, one of the biggest free agent signings in franchise history.

    So when you look at this team and most of the key players to its success, this summer wasn’t about creating fireworks on the free agency front. It was about solidifying a roster that has a slew of talented players who collectively have Boston at the top of the Eastern Conference food chain.

    Fireworks? 

    Save that for the regular season and playoffs, when it really counts.

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