Covering sports can be a pretty humbling experience. I follow this team daily and know the ins and the outs of the way the machine works about as well as an “outsider” could. Yet there are plenty of moments when I am blindsided by events and end up feeling downright stupid (or at least woefully short-sighted). In fact, there were at least 2 or 3 in this offseason alone.
If the offseason went as I expected from June forward, we would be looking at a core roster of Isaiah Thomas, Markelle Fultz, Avery Bradley, Gordon Hayward, Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown, and Al Horford. I’d have expected either Marcus Smart or Terry Rozier (or both) to be traded away for future assets or a cheaper big man. We’d still have the Nets pick and we’d be filling in the gaps with rookies and cheap veterans.
That’s... not how things went. I might as well change my name to Jon Snow because I know nothing.
In fact, I thought I was being real clever by planning my family vacation for late August, thinking that nothing interesting ever happens this time of year. So much for that. The truth is, things are never boring covering the Boston Celtics. Hope you’ll forgive me if I cover ground that has been tread already, but I’d like to get caught up by putting my thoughts on the page.
So here we are, with a brand new roster (pending the completion of the Kyrie Irving trade) and I’m still trying to wrap my head around the timing, rationale, and consequences. Here are some of my initial responses to the debates that have been surrounding the team in the last week.
Who “won” the trade? The Cavs got a better deal than I thought they’d get and the Celtics ended up with the best player. As usual, we’ll have to wait years to figure this out. Ainge has flat-out won so many deals in recent history that it is a little jarring to see him pay full price (especially in a summer where several other stars were traded at a discount).
Are the Celtics better now? I think they are more talented at the top of the roster, and talent wins in this league. Thomas had a better year than Irving last year but Isaiah was pretty close to his peak while Kyrie may have room to continue growing. It will take some time to gel and they may be a year away (or one more move away) from serious contending, but they are set up well for the future.
Are the Cavs better now? I guess the short term depends on Isaiah’s health and the long term depends on LeBron’s next Decision, but they set themselves up to be flexible for the future.
Did Ainge really just trade Isaiah Thomas? Yep. That’s a lesson I should have been prepared for but still really didn’t see coming. He’ll trade anyone if he thinks he’ll get good value. Antoine Walker, Kendrick Perkins, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, the list goes on. I’d say that Ainge is fast approaching Bill Belichick level coldness. He just smiles more often.
How will iso-heavy Kyrie fit within Brad Stevens’ ball-movement offense? I hope he’ll be just fine because talent wins and Stevens is very smart. But it is at least an interesting thing to see them work through early on.
Does Kyrie REALLY think that the world is flat? When he was with the Cavs, I was content to think of him as a nut. Now I’m really hoping he was making a very subtle long-con joke (if so, then bravo). I think the larger point he was making was that there’s a lot of manufactured (or “fake”) news. Let’s just leave it at that for now.
Are the Cavs really going to get another pick or player from the Celtics? I know nothing. This whole business is rather irritating though.
Let’s step back now and look at our roster.
Stars: Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford
Main Rotation: Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, Jason Tatum, Aron Baynes
Deep Rotation: Semi Ojeleye, Abdel Nader, Guerschon Yabusele, Daniel Theis, Shane Larkin
There’s still a roster spot open and we still have the protected Lakers pick (along with additional future picks).
That is a really good, young roster that is going to keep getting better just as LeBron either travels West or starts to decline. I can get behind that once I can get my brain wrapped around it. Or rather, once my heart decides it can move on.
That’s probably the hardest part about all of this. My heart was invested in last year’s team. I loved those plucky overachievers who brought a wonderful mix of smiles and snarls and truly bought into the us-against-the-world mentality. I knew that changes had to be made and I knew that a consolidating move would be made eventually, I just didn’t see Isaiah Thomas leaving and only 4 players returning.
Here we are though. The sports news cycle churns on and does not care about my vacation plans. The Celtics look a lot different now, but I’ll continue to root for that laundry (which also looks slightly different now too). I still know nothing, but I have to admit that covering this team is never boring and that’s pretty fun.