In the beginning of the NBA season, the Boston Celtics were, in a word, terrible. Not terrible in the sense that no one had them going into the playoffs. (The Bobcats would kill to have their subpar record) But terrible in the sense that 3 Hall of Fame players and one of the best point guards in the league were struggling to pull off a .500 record. As a fan, there are few things worse than watching fellow fans jump ship on your team. Watching analysts jump ship is one of those things. Suddenly every journalist with a microphone and an audience heralded the end of the Boston Celtics. The Celtics were too old, too slow, too shallow, and just a shell of their former selves. It was time to blow up the team, fire Doc Rivers, and get Rajon Rondo out of there before he threw a bottle of Gatorade at something else. Everyone believed that, except the Celtics. After the All-Star Break the Celtics suddenly returned to their dominant selves. It was as if someone told them they regular season started after the All-Star game. KG grabbed boards like it was his job, Rondo found a jump shot, and Paul Pierce returned to his title as “The Truth”. The Celtics were back. And so were the analysts. Once again, everyone talked about how great the Celtics were. They were experienced and powerful team laden with wily, talented veterans. The playoffs rolled around and the first two rounds added fuel to the sudden fire of Celtic-worship. That is until, the third round. When the Celtics went down 2-0 to Miami, ESPN was writing their eulogy. It was time to say goodbye to the Celtics as we knew them and brace ourselves for a painful year of rebuilding. Once again, the Celtics would hear none of it. They came back to win two at home and even steal a victory from Miami on the road. Suddenly, up 3-2 on the Heat, the Celtics were the best team in the History of the NBA. Magic Johnson just about swallowed his coffee cup after game five. Everyone loved the veteran led, playoff-savvy team. Thankfully for Miami fans, and unfortunately for Celtics fans, the rest is History. LeBron James carried the Heat on his back to tie the series with a 45 point eruption, and the Celtics fell short in a Miami game 7. Guess how almost every commentator in the country felt about this? Yup, you guessed it. Once again the Celtics were too old, too slow, too shallow, and just a shell of their former selves. It’s time to blow up the team and move on. Boston will be lucky to see the eight seed next year, and the rebuilding project shall commence. Right? Maybe not. There are three very big reasons that the Celtics will still be an elite team next year.
1. Doc Rivers
After taking the almighty league darlings, Miami Heat 7 games, I am convinced that there is nothing Doc Rivers cannot do. In my opinion, if you can keep Rajon Rondo relatively out of trouble you are superhuman. Doc still has four left on his contract with the Celtics. Regardless of how bad or good the roster gets, they will play to the best of their abilities under the instruction of Doc Rivers. Besides winning a championship, two finals appearances, five division titles, and 13 seasons as a coach, Doc genuinely connects with his players. The Celtics postseason run should make that perfectly clear.
2. Cap Space
Cap space has been the consolation prize for Celtics fans since the postseason. The Celtics have almost no players under contract for the 2012-2013 season. The only very notable ones are Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce. Should Kevin Garnett and/or Ray Allen come off of Boston’s payroll, Danny Ainge is looking at a golden opportunity to land a superstar. Names like Javale McGee, Roy Hibbert, and Serge Ibaka have been thrown around in the free agency conversation. The Celtics would love any of these players. All of those players would love plenteous amounts of money. The Celtics now happen to have plenteous amounts of money. This has to potential to work out very nicely for both parties involved.
3. Draft Picks
At this point the only people that are paying much attention to the draft are Bobcats fans and people named Anthony Davis. Now that the whole business of his location is out of the way we can focus on far more important things like conspiracy theories or Jim Rome beating his wife. Not so fast. The Celtics are in a very nice, and somewhat rare situation, They are a very good team, with very good draft picks. With 21 and 22 first round picks, the Celtics can’t miss. With a gaping hole in the roster needing to be filled by big bodies, they are in a prime situation to draft players like Fab Melo or Festus Ezeli. The Celtics need youth and size, and the draft is the perfect place to get it.
Will the Celtics blow up the big three? I don’t know. Is there going to be a rebuilding year? I have no idea. Can we say goodbye to Paul Pierce? Your guess is as good as mine. The only thing I am sure of is the return of the Celtics. Next year, the Celtics, whatever they look like, will be an elite team and a force to be reckoned with.