Gary Dzen asked a very logical question in yesterday's Globe. A question that has been in the background of my mind since the trade. Will the fans stick around for this rebuilding? I mean, we know the diehards are always going to be here. If you have this website bookmarked and check it often in the summer, you qualify as a diehard. But what about the slightly less obsessed fans? What about more casual fans?
But what about the fans paying for tickets, the fans choosing to watch Celtics games instead of Bruins games, the fans choosing to delve into the box score rather than read another article about yesterday's big Patriots win? Ownership seems resigned to letting the process play out, but that's a harder sell to the paying customers. Stevens will need time, and Rondo won't be back for a while. It's too early to pass judgment on these Celtics – camp hasn't even started yet – but it's not too early to ask what will happen if the team fails to match its recent success. How long until the fans stop coming?
I think clearly there are some that will simply tune this team out and focus more on other sports or other interests. That's fine. It doesn't make them "bad fans" - just less serious than some of us are about it. I'm a casual fan of the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, and Syracuse Orange. I don't think I could name you the starting lineups for any of those teams right now. I'm just too focused on the Celtics. But I'll be into each team in the playoffs and some during the more interesting points of the offseason (draft, free agency, trades, etc.).
So maybe we'll lose some percentage of fans that same way. It is possible that we'll even see some of the traffic numbers on this blog ease up a bit. Though I'll note that it has grown every year and I don't think we've fully tapped even the diehard population yet. Besides, I cut my teeth in the last rebuilding phase with the likes of Ricky Davis, Mark Blount, Marcus Banks, and Wally Szczerbiak.
Of course those weren't the fun guys to cover. I was a lot more interested in Al Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins, Delonte West, Tony Allen, and of course Rajon Rondo. There were others too that I had high hopes for that didn't exactly pan out. Gerald Green, Orien Greene, Sebastian Telfair, Jiri Welsch, and Kedrick Brown come to mind. Obviously there were hits and misses but that uncertainty is part of the fun. I take great pride in the fact that I've followed Rajon Rondo for his entire professional career. I still root for Al Jefferson and Tony Allen and keep tabs on guys like Delonte West and Gerald Green because they were once part of the family.
We have the chance to start from the beginning with this new group. They are young, talented, and some will have bright futures in the NBA and we'll get to see them grow and develop from square one.
Danny Ainge, for one, is excited.
"[The start of camp] gives me a sense of excitement," said Ainge. "I’m anxious to see how the competition goes and how the combinations work together. I’m very excited about this year. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I think we’re going to have great energy. I honestly don’t know who the starting 5 will be or who the second 5 will be or any of those things. I’m very confident that we’re going to have some pretty good competition. We have a deep team, but how they all fit together, I just don’t know yet."
We will know soon enough and we'll figure it out together. We'll find out just how good Jeff Green can be. Same with Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger and all the rest of the young players. We'll watch them grow up before our eyes and we'll take pride in that.
Maybe we won't be hanging a banner this year, but we very well could be starting down the road that will lead to raising one in the future.
I really do think this could be a lot of fun.