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2013 was a very hard year for the Boston Celtics

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2014 has to be better, almost by default.

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Tis the season to look back and reflect.

Let's get it over with.

The year began with high hopes.  Probably too high, all things considered, but there was reason for optimism.  The first few months of the season had gone pretty rough.  But Avery Bradley was set to play his first game after shoulder surgery.  Plus we were used to the team struggling at points in the regular season and "flip the switch" in time for the playoffs.  Besides, they were just months removed from being oh-so-very close to eliminating LeBron James and the Heat from the playoffs.  It was finally time for one last run (again).  Or at least we thought.

Things kinda went downhill from there.  Let's just rip the band-aid off all at once here, shall we?

Rajon Rondo got hurt, Jared Sullinger needed surgery, Leandro Barbosa got hurt, the Celtics were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Knicks, Doc Rivers bolted for Los Angeles, and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were traded - effectively ending an era.

Yeah, that's what you call a pretty bad year all around.  It will be one I won't soon forget, though I won't remember much of it fondly.  Any one of those things would have been difficult to stomach, but all at once was a bit much.

Losing Rondo (and realizing at that moment that the season and perhaps the era was over) was the most gut wrenching, but I think getting news that Paul Pierce was being traded away from Boston was the moment of deepest sadness.

Obviously it wasn't all bad.  There were some great moments (like the inspiring win over the Heat before the players had heard the news about Rondo) and a lot of what happened will be critical for the long term.  Brad Stevens was hired this year, and that has already paid some early dividends and appears to be a really good thing for the future.  The picks we got from the Nets and Clippers will be critical for the rebuilding project.

It seems like there's been a lot of growth and maturity happening this year as well.  Rondo has had plenty of time to get focused and see the game from another perspective - even thinking about his post playing day career as a coach.  Sullinger has emerged as a legit bigtime prospect.  Avery Bradley has re-invented his offensive game.  The team as a whole has swatted away talk about tanking and given top notch effort in most of their games (drawing praise from coaches and scouts around the league).

Danny Ainge enters the new year with a bevy of tradable assets and plenty of flexibility and options.  If he's presented with a value deal to get better right away, I don't think he'd hesitate for a moment to make it.  If he finds future value for players that don't fit into the long term plans, he'll pull the trigger on that as well.  Or maybe he'll just bide his time and wait till the offseason where we'll know better where we'll be drafting.

He has to make some kind of move either at the deadline or in the summer and if I had to guess I'd pick the offseason.  There's just so many more chances to re-invent your team when there are free agents and other teams looking to make wholesale changes.  The changes might not be as dramatic as this past offseason (or say 2007), but there's no way we'll enter next season with such an unbalanced roster as we have now.

And lest we forget, there's still a season to play out before we get to the summer.  We are officially on Rajon Rondo return watch.  When he returns everything and everyone will be impacted in some way.  Lineups, style of play, game planning, all different when you throw the biggest enigma in the game into the mix.  Frankly I can't wait to see what Stevens comes up with (not to mention what Rondo himself adds to the plan).  We might have to wait another month or more, but his return is coming.

Sitting in the Titanic Division we could very well be positioning for a postseason 4 seed in the Spring.  That could end up being a matchup with a team like Charlotte or Washington or Detroit.  All beatable opponents and a couple of rounds of postseason basketball could be very valuable learning tools for this team going forward.

Or perhaps the other teams in the East will figure out how to win basketball games again and the Celtics will wind up watching ping pong balls in the Spring.  Most years that would be kind of depressing but this year it could be quite an event.

Regardless, it should be a very interesting year ahead of us.  If nothing else, it can't go much worse than it did this past year.